The von Trapp Traditions: Music and Homeschooling
- Monday, July 23, 2012
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the Winter 2010-11 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade magazine for homeschool families. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.
The Sound of Music, the 1965 movie based on the lives of Austria’s von Trapp family, is perhaps the best-loved family film ever made. Themes of patriotism, devotion to God, and love of family pervade the movie from opening scenes in the Alps to closing notes of “Climb Every Mountain.”
An overlooked aspect of The Sound of Music is the Von Trapp family’s homeschooling tradition. So far, no lists of renowned homeschoolers include the singing siblings. No printed T-shirts at homeschool conferences bear the von Trapp name, along with those of Lincoln, Edison, and Laura Ingalls Wilder. Nevertheless, generations of Von Trapps have been taught at home, and it’s an ongoing process for current family members.
The Original Von Trapps
In The Sound of Music, the Von Trapp children met Maria when she arrived at their Salzburg home as a governess. In reality, the real Maria Augusta Kutschera made a similar entrance into the lives of Captain Georg von Trapp’s family in 1926. However, Maria actually instructed only one of the seven children. The Captain’s second daughter, also named Maria, was temporarily too weak to walk to school. Therefore, young Maria was homeschooled by the aspiring nun from Nonnberg Abbey. The other siblings, Rupert, Agathe, Werner, Hedwig, Johanna, and Martina, were not Maria’s responsibility, although her guitar and songs brought all seven children together to sing.
Even before their mother died in 1922, the von Trapp children experienced home education. While the Captain was commanding an Austrian submarine in World War I, his wife and children lived in a lakeside home at Zell-am-See. School was reachable only by boat, so the children were taught at home. Agathe von Trapp, who was 98 years old on March 12, 2011, recounts her experiences as a homeschooler in her autobiography, Memories Before and After the Sound of Music.
“There was music in our house all the time,” says Agathe’s sister Maria, now 96. Their parents taught them violin, piano, guitar, and accordion. Early music sung by the siblings appears in My Favorite Songs: Maria Von Trapp’s Childhood Folk Songs.
The Captain and Maria married in 1927. Maria was delighted that her new family was musically inclined. A passionate singer herself, she taught the children all the folk songs she knew. Maria’s book, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, was the basis for the film titled The Sound of Music.
The Trapp Family Singers
Two daughters, Rosmarie and Eleonore, were born to the Captain and Maria. The older brothers and sisters sang constantly. They learned sacred music, classics, and more Austrian folk tunes. A musician and choirmaster, Dr. Franz Wasner, agreed to coach them. He transformed them from amateurs to professionals, with a repertoire of two hundred songs. A concert tour made them singing sensations through Europe in 1937. While the family sang of joy and peace, Nazi Germany prepared for war. In 1938 Germany invaded Austria. The von Trapps were at risk, being thoroughly anti-Nazi.
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