The best books about orchestras

3 authors have picked their favorite books about orchestras and why they recommend each book.

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A Child's Introduction to the Orchestra

By Robert Levine, Meredith Hamilton (illustrator),

Book cover of A Child's Introduction to the Orchestra: Listen to 37 Selections While You Learn about the Instruments, the Music, and the Composers Who Wrote the Music

This engaging book introduces classical music to children in an interactive and brilliant way. By providing readers with hilarious stories about musicians, composers, and conductors while introducing instruments, composers, and musical pieces, the children become exposed to history and the classical music world. Readers also have access to musical examples through audio tracks provided in the book. I introduced my young cousin to classical music with this book, and he became fascinated with the cello and ultimately joined his school orchestra.


Who am I?

I’ve been playing the violin since I was 3, so as of 2022, it’s been 15 years. I believe that music unifies, and is a catalyst for social change, social justice, and equity. I’ve written two children’s books about different powers of music: Bailey Brings Her Friends Together with Music and The Aria in Me. With both of these books, I donate 100% of my proceeds to Kidznotes, a local North Carolinian organization, which provides underserved youth ensemble-based music instruction for personal, social, academic, and musical development and growth. I chose this list to inspire and captivate young readers and hopefully help them fall in love with music. :)


I wrote...

Bailey Brings Her Friends Together with Music

By Kali Bate,

Book cover of Bailey Brings Her Friends Together with Music

What is my book about?

Seven-year-old Bailey finds herself in the middle of a fight over the last pair of ice skates while visiting the Rockefeller Center in NYC. As the kids fight and fight, it seems like a perfect holiday on the ice will be ruined. But then, Bailey discovers a group of musicians playing beautiful melodies nearby. Will Bailey be able to use the power of music to end the fight and bring holiday cheer to all? 100% of all sale proceeds are donated to Kidznotes, a North Carolina non-profit organization that empowers students to thrive with the power of music.

This Magical, Musical Night

By Rhonda Gowler Greene, James Rey Sanchez (illustrator),

Book cover of This Magical, Musical Night

This book not only introduces readers to the sections and instruments in an orchestra, it does so in lyrical, rhythmic, rhyming verse. Readers will love saying – and hearing – sounds like “pling…plung,” “lootle-oots,” and “bumble, boom…crash!” As a bonus, readers learn musical terms like “arpeggio,” “glissando,” and “diminuendo.” The illustrations are colorful and dynamic and remind me of a movie I loved as a child – Fantasia!


Who am I?

I’m a children’s book author with a Master of Education in Language and Literacy who loves the musicality of words. Growing up in a musical family, I started piano lessons in second grade, clarinet lessons in fourth, and dabbled a bit in saxophone in high school. Clarinet was the instrument that really stuck for me – I played in bands, pit bands, and orchestras all through school and beyond. My picture book Clarinet and Trumpet blasted forth from my own band experiences. 


I wrote...

Clarinet and Trumpet

By Melanie Ellsworth, John Herzog (illustrator),

Book cover of Clarinet and Trumpet

What is my book about?

Clarinet and Trumpet are best friends, but their friendship falls flat when a new instrument (a double reed!) comes between them. The tension crescendos as the brass and woodwinds face off in an ear-splitting musical duel. With humor and musical puns, this book highlights the important role music plays in creating empathy and community. A rain stick built into the book’s spine allows young readers to shake the book and join the band! 

The Grand Tradition

By J.B. Steane,

Book cover of The Grand Tradition: Seventy Years of Singing on Record

J.B. Steane’s massive book, over 600 pages, is one of the most comprehensive books on historical singers ever written. My copy is riddled with text underlining and notes in the margins. His evaluations of singers are always honest, but fair. I have read this book at least 3 times and have re-read sections many more times. It invaluable.

Who am I?

Having been a professional singer for about five decades and having grown up with, and studied the early recordings of operatic singers for just as long, I feel that I am in an unusual position when it comes to analysing their art. The ability to describe a singer’s voice on paper is a unique challenge but one that I enjoy solving – especially since each voice is a law unto itself. When done correctly, analysis like this should make the reader want to go and find the recording so that they can listen for themselves.


I wrote...

Early 20th Century Opera Singers: Their Voices and Recordings from 1900-1949

By Nick Limansky,

Book cover of Early 20th Century Opera Singers: Their Voices and Recordings from 1900-1949

What is my book about?

In the first book of this kind to appear in decades, Nicholas Limansky explains why critical listening is important and describes the merits of analyzing and comparing the recordings of previous generations of singers with those of the present. He also recounts how markedly record collecting has changed through the decades-especially in large cities like New York-mainly due to technological advances. He not only treats collecting 78 rpm disks, but LPs and CDs as well.

With an emphasis on today's student and collector, Limansky provides information about where, how, and on what labels given recordings can be found. He discusses printed resources that offer the interested even more information. Beginners and veterans alike will find much of interest in this far-ranging book.

Play This Book

By Jessica Young, Daniel Wiseman (illustrator),

Book cover of Play This Book

Play This Book is a rhyming, rhythmic read-aloud with plenty of fun-to-say onomatopoeia. With full-spread illustrations of instruments and text that encourages readers to “play” the instruments, toddlers will be tapping on the book and hopping around to their own beat! I love the bright colors and energy of the illustrations. Toddlers who enjoy this book can explore more instruments in the board book, Hello, World! Music by Jill McDonald.


Who am I?

I’m a children’s book author with a Master of Education in Language and Literacy who loves the musicality of words. Growing up in a musical family, I started piano lessons in second grade, clarinet lessons in fourth, and dabbled a bit in saxophone in high school. Clarinet was the instrument that really stuck for me – I played in bands, pit bands, and orchestras all through school and beyond. My picture book Clarinet and Trumpet blasted forth from my own band experiences. 


I wrote...

Clarinet and Trumpet

By Melanie Ellsworth, John Herzog (illustrator),

Book cover of Clarinet and Trumpet

What is my book about?

Clarinet and Trumpet are best friends, but their friendship falls flat when a new instrument (a double reed!) comes between them. The tension crescendos as the brass and woodwinds face off in an ear-splitting musical duel. With humor and musical puns, this book highlights the important role music plays in creating empathy and community. A rain stick built into the book’s spine allows young readers to shake the book and join the band! 

Welcome to the Symphony

By Carolyn Sloan, James Williamson (illustrator),

Book cover of Welcome to the Symphony: A Musical Exploration of the Orchestra Using Beethoven's Symphony No. 5

I included this picture book because it was one of my daughter’s favorites. Through Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, the book introduces orchestral concepts such as “concertmaster,” “pitch,” and “dynamics” and teaches readers about the various sections that make up an orchestra. Newer books like How to Build an Orchestra by Mary Auld and illustrated by Elisa Paganelli, also do a wonderful and comprehensive job introducing all things orchestra-related, but what my daughter loved about Welcome to the Symphony was the button panel on the side of the book. With a push of a button, she could listen to the sound of different instruments playing snippets from Beethoven’s Fifth. Pair Welcome to the Symphony with classical music pieces like Benjamin Britten’s The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra or Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf for additional fun identifying musical instruments!


Who am I?

I’m a children’s book author with a Master of Education in Language and Literacy who loves the musicality of words. Growing up in a musical family, I started piano lessons in second grade, clarinet lessons in fourth, and dabbled a bit in saxophone in high school. Clarinet was the instrument that really stuck for me – I played in bands, pit bands, and orchestras all through school and beyond. My picture book Clarinet and Trumpet blasted forth from my own band experiences. 


I wrote...

Clarinet and Trumpet

By Melanie Ellsworth, John Herzog (illustrator),

Book cover of Clarinet and Trumpet

What is my book about?

Clarinet and Trumpet are best friends, but their friendship falls flat when a new instrument (a double reed!) comes between them. The tension crescendos as the brass and woodwinds face off in an ear-splitting musical duel. With humor and musical puns, this book highlights the important role music plays in creating empathy and community. A rain stick built into the book’s spine allows young readers to shake the book and join the band! 

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