Meet the Composer: Jean-Baptiste Lully

CN thumbnail Jean-Baptiste Lully

Age Range: Elementary

Introduction: Composers write music, just like authors write books. In the Class Notes “Meet the Composer” series, we will learn a little bit about the achievements, backstory, and influences of a variety of composers. Get ready to learn about these influential composers and listen to some of their music.

Free Download: Printable Lesson Plan and Visual Aids: Jean-Baptiste Lully


Jean-Baptiste Lully [ZHOHN bah-TEEST loo-LEE] was born in Italy in 1632. He was a natural entertainer and studied music at a young age.  As a teenager, he was hired as a servant for French royalty. This began a lifetime of working for the French courts in various positions, including Director of Orchestras for the French king. He eventually became a French citizen.  Music and dance were often very connected in the French courts. Lully was well-known as a dancer and composed a lot of dance music. He also wrote a lot of operas and music for the theater.  

Jean-Baptiste Lully composed music during a time called the Baroque (buh-ROHK) period, which lasted from approximately 1600-1750. He died in 1687 at the age of 54.  


  1. Dance was an important part of court music and Lully was a good dancer himself. There were many different kinds of dances during this time, each with its own unique set of dance steps. One popular dance style was the sarabande. Lully composed this music to go along with the sarabande dance steps. As you watch and listen, notice how the music and the steps go together.

  2. Lully wrote a lot of operas and many of them were composed for the King. Opera gave Lully a chance to showcase many of his skills. Notice that the piece below includes dancing, singing, and orchestra. The costumes (and wigs!) show the fashion of Lully’s time.  

  3. Jean-Baptiste wrote a famous march for his opera Thésée. Over the years, the march has been arranged for many different combinations of instruments, which means there are different versions played by different instruments.  This version is for organ and trompes de chasse, an ancestor of the modern French horn.

  4. Jean-Baptiste Lully spent his career working for the French courts. During this time, conductors used a heavy staff to establish and keep the tempo, or the speed of a piece. Eventually, conductors switched to using a conducting baton. The conductor in this video uses a staff, just as Lully would have. This piece was composed for a play that was written by a friend of Lully’s. The piece also features a percussion instrument called the Turkish crescent. See if you can guess which instrument this is. (Hint: it doesn’t come in until toward the end of the piece.) 


  1. Jean-Baptiste Lully composed music during the Baroque period. Many instruments used during that time were slightly different than what we might hear today. Listen and watch violin player Marc Levine compare and contrast a modern violin with a Baroque violin in this video. 

  2. Dance was an important part of Lully’s work and closely connected to his music. Explore connections between music and dance in the lesson Dance Party: Music Through the Ages.  

Related Lesson Plans

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