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High School Music History!

I was asked to teach a "Music Appreciation" Class to our High School students. The description is mostly Music History but I will add elements of General Music knowledge. This class will be taken by non-music students mostly...but not exclusively...anyone can take the class. I would love to find a text book or workbook or some guide to help me with this class. It is a 2 Semester Course and they want me to cover Blues, Jazz and Popular Music by the end of the year. Please help me out with any ideas.
Replies (7): Threaded | Chronological
on August 27, 2015 11:07am
Hi April: 
I used a book from McGraw-Glencoe titled, "Music! It's Role and Importance in our Lives". You can check it out here:
Hope this helps!
on August 28, 2015 9:10am
Hi April
I have based a HS Music History and appreciation curriculum around Music: An Appreciation by Roger Kamien.  It works well, has an accompanying CD Rom.  Covers jazz, pop, world music at the end. 
Craig B.
on August 31, 2015 5:55pm
I work at the the K-6 level, and try to place all our songs and other activities in an age-appropriate historical and cultural context.  I offer the following ideas which might be adaptable to high school--
The big problem is how do you keep this from being a dry lecture and listening course?  Or, put another way, how can you get these non-music students involved in experiencing and making music in order to appreciate it?  Are there instruments available (or funding for) in your district they can play?  Not trumpets and clarinets, but something simpler, something from earlier in the evolution of instruments.  Possibilities--
   1.  World Music Drumming: This two-decades-old program of African, Caribbean and American Indian drumming was designed for middle school and has been extensively field tested.  I've used it with adults.  It's the work of retired music ed professor Dr. Will Schmid, who's also past president of MENC.  A few classes with Ensembles #1 and #2 would give your students a great introduction to African and African-American music.
   2.  Pennywhistles can be used to teach both Irish folk melodies and American and British fife music from the Revolutionary War Era forward.  These traditions are some of the roots of American band music, John Phillip Sousa, drumset, jug band, New Orleans instrumental jazz, Big Band etc; and a source of melodies for classical music in general--most composers looked to folk music as a source material at one time or another. 
   Bypass the entire subject of reading music, and use a couple of classes to play from simple number charts--  1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 fingers down (there is no thumb hole).  For example, The Star Spangled Banner is notated: 2 4 6 4 2 6* etc (6* = high 6, obtained by blowing a little harder).  Incidentally, there is a tradition of jazz fife and drum music in rural Mississippi, and an unbroken tradition, going back to the Revolution, of traditional fife and drum music in the fire deparments of Connecticut.
   3.  Marimbas and keyboards can be used to teach the concept of basic triad chords, 1-3-5.  I start with my five fingers extended horizontally (students copy me), and we number them from left to right, then fold under 2 and 4, and plunk the resulting 1-3-5 formation down anywhere on the piano or marimba, demonstrating various chords.  I make no mention of  major or minor, just 1-3-5 and translating into letter names, and emphasizing that the chord is labeled by the letter name of whatever note happens to be #1.  Next step is teaching the concept of I, IV and V chords as the basic harmony on which everything rests, from Bach to blues.
   4.  Teach the basic 12 bar blues chord progression, and have students keep the steady beat on the lap for the I chord, chest for the IV chord, and head for the V chord.  Do this while listening to different styles of blues.  Don't forget that a lot of music that we don't think of as the blues, still uses the blues form, like Glenn Miller's In the Mood.  Some students will be able to play these chords on the piano or keyboard, especially if you label the roots of the three chords right on the keys with a dry erase marker.
   Don't forget to introduce the various types of music that do not use chords, like the unaccompanied singing of ancient ballads and Gregorian chant; and those that use drone harmony, like bagpipe and hurdy-gurdy music and occasional classical pieces.
   5.  Can students make some simple instruments or take part in sound demonstrations?   Such as-- "oboe reeds" made from paper drinking straws, blowing on blades of grass held between lips, lip buzzing into plastic water pipe "trumpets", using an oscilloscope, classroom demos by students who play various instruments.
Three essentials:
   1. Put a timeline on the walls of your room.  Mine occupies the left side wall and the front wall above my white board.  The left wall starts at year 1 ("The year Jesus of Nazareth was born," I say), and every 2' there is a sheet of  8x11" cardstock with a century number on it.  At the corner with the front wall, about the year 1400, I switch to 5-6' per century, because there's more music happening.  Every piece of music, composer, instrument we mention goes up there either temporarily or permanently, depending on space and importance (I use double sided tape).  It might be a file card with a name, an illustration clipped from a magazine, or something printed from the internet.  Also on the timeline are important non-musical events like wars, 1492, Gutenberg, etc.
   2.  A large, prominent chart of the Elements of Music:  melody, rhythm, harmony, timbre, dynamics and form.  I add "Words?" to acknowledge their importance in some pieces of music.  I mention at least one of these elements with each piece we sing, play or listen to.  "What are some of the instruments you hear?"  or  "Let's practice clapping the rhythm of the low drum before we play it"  or  "Which element or elements are not present in this piece?"  
   3.  Youtube videos--an incredible resource.  You can find videos of almost any piece in any style, in various performances by professionals, high school students, ethnic musicians, etc; videos of instrument makers; demos of instruments historical and modern; documentaries of historical events accompanied by period music; demonstrations of principles of acoustics; etc.  And, you can find these of most any duration from a few minutes to an hour or more.
   A related resource is the online catalog of Folkways and Smithsonian/Folkways recordings, which is primarily traditional, folk, jazz, blues and world music.  Almost every song or performance by every artist is available in mp3 or CD form, AND with a free 20-30 second excerpt available online.
Applauded by an audience of 3
on September 1, 2015 3:02pm
Wow, Bart! I'm not even teaching a class like this, but I love your ideas!! :)
on September 1, 2015 6:16am
Our school has a similar class, although ours sounds a bit heavier on the theory side, and lighter on the popular side.  Still, you might find our class webpage helpful, there you can see all of the course lectures, worksheets, extra reading, musical examples, and links to our textbook in different formats.  The link is here. Best of luck to you.
on September 1, 2015 3:42pm
Bart provided a wealth of excellent suggestions that got me thnking about how to apply them at the high school level. The mention of 12-bar blues reminded me of Leonard Bernstein pointing out that in the traditional form the lyrics are rhyming iambic pentameter couplets, the first line being repeated in measures 5-8. Students could bring in couplets from Shakespeare -- the last two lines of any sonnet or of many speeches from the plays -- to be sung to either an existing blues tune or one that they make up on the spot. Shakespeare and jazz: together again.
Bring in science and math. The 2:1 ratio of the octave and the overtone series can be easily demonstrated on a guitar, or build a monochord like Pythagoras used, How keyboard instruments, mainly the organ, ultimately led to equal temperament, with all intervals other than the octave out of tune compared to the harmonic series. The next simplest interval ratio after the unison and the octave is the 3:1 twelfth. Divide by 2 (3:2) and the fifth. Demonstrate the circle of fifths, then have them take their calculators and multiply 440 by 3/2 12 times (you have to divide by 2 once or twice extra to keep it in the same oactave) and see what they get for A at the end (neither A nor 440; it's actually G double-sharp).
By all means, make instruments. Maybe that could be a science fair project as well? I once made a few organ pipes from mailing tubes and even a spent toilet paper role (a little rohrflote). Cardboard and Elmer's glue. Pipe organs are the world's greatest Rube Goldberg gadgets.
Please let us know how it all works out.
on September 3, 2015 12:11pm
Anthony, how did you generate the sound in your mailing tube organ pipes--did you cut and shape the cardboard in the same way it is done in a standard wood or metal organ pipe?
Here are some more essential videos for a music history class, especially one that includes blues, jazz, and popular music----
1.  The PBS documentary American Roots Music.  One of the best videos ever on American music; covers most genres and regions of the US, with lots of historical footage and interviews with musicians.  Google "PBS American Roots Music" and watch the 6 minute "Intro".  I think the original was four 1-hr programs, but several sections are available on Youtube at 6-8 minutes each.  You can also buy the accompanying book,
2.   Also google Berklee College of Music's American Roots Music Program, and you can find a 3 minute video introduction to the program.
3.  Wynton Marsalis has a 4 DVD set (1 hr. each) called--I think-- "Marsalis on Music."  One is devoted to the connections between jazz and American band music, and is set at Tanglewood with a band of select high school students.  I think the title of that episode is "From Satchmo to Sousa."  I can't recall the other discs, but they're all outstanding.  One is devoted entirely to practicing.
4.  The Composers' Specials is a series of 6 one-hour DVDs, each devoted to an episode in the life of a major composer.  For example, Bach's Fight for Freedom dramatizes Bach's struggle to leave the court of an unsympathetic Duke who wants Bach's expertise but not his "new" music.  ("We like the old music.")  Set alongside this historical recreation is the fictional struggle of a 12 year old servant boy who would rather be a stone mason.  Lizst's Rhapsody portrays the pianist and composer as the world's first "rock star", turning the piano so the audience can watch his hands, and walking down the street as women faint.  The deeper story is his love of and use of Gypsy music, and to that end a fictional young Gypsy violinist is incorporated in the story.  Also on the DVDs are extra sections on "the making of" and further info about the composer.  These were designed for upper elementary and middle school students but are very well done and suitable for all ages.
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