Introduction to the First Edition

(Follow this link for the introduction to the digital edition.)

THE PAGES THAT follow represent both a culmination and a commencement. They are the tangible result of ideas and inspirations that spring from lifetimes of experience as students, teachers and consultants in American schools, and they are a step toward a new relationship between music and education.

All of us who worked to create Voices Across Time recall incidents of music's marginalization from the core processes and goals of education in the United States. We seek to counter that trend because we believe that music is one of the most important media of human interaction, and that its exclusion from the education process renders that process less effective.

We know that the materials in Voices Across Time help teachers and students overcome traditional barriers for using music in the classroom. An experience in the first pilot test is a favorite example. The eighth-grade music, social studies and language arts teachers in a suburban Pittsburgh public school coordinated their lesson plans around an early unit of Voices Across Time. Students in a Civics class amplified their understanding of the forces that shaped the U.S. Constitution through the words of songs written at the time; in Language Arts they studied the rhetoric, then wrote their own lyrics and a play to voice what they had learned in Civics; and the Music teacher helped them learn to perform the songs and compose new melodies for their lyrics. The students were running eagerly from one class to the next, excited that their lessons complemented one another, benefiting from the infusion of the music learning style into the more traditional linguistic and logical modes of learning, and enjoying how the music opened the possibilities for using kinesthetic, spatial, interpersonal, and intrapersonal modes as well. Together, the teachers and students infused music into education and thereby taught and learned across the curriculum, stimulating better involvement and performance by the students in all three courses.

Because many teachers and their supervisors are reluctant to incorporate anything not already in the curriculum due to the pressure of standardized testing, we designed Voices Across Time not as an add-on but rather as a tool for effective comprehension of U.S. History through multiple learning styles, and as a stimulus for reluctant learners. Voices Across Time draws on an understanding of music's historic role in education and brings together some of the best ideas from research and practical experience in the classroom. It was created by teachers working with scholars to solve classroom problems that are prevalent in American education.

To understand Voices Across Time and how its approaches compare with other uses of music in schools, it is helpful to briefly review the history of music in education in the United States.

The singing schools of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were, in modern terms, a social activity that reinforced religious and moral values. Their repertoire of hymns and their normative values were replicated in men's and women's preparatory schools. From the start, though, the teaching of music was polarized by two philosophies, one embracing the choicest music from Europe, the other advocating harmonies and forms that were distinctly new and American. By the 1830s, working with missionary zeal, adherents of the belief that music is the purest of the arts had established the first permanent orchestras, choruses, chamber music ensembles, and concert halls. Led by Lowell Mason of Boston, they also increased the listening comprehension of the general population through systematic music education in the public schools and the first institutions to train music teachers.

At the dawn of the twentieth century, schools were confronted with two powerful movements. The goal of one, led by the new Music Teachers National Association, was to "Make America Musical" by introducing every school child to the aesthetic models of the European masters such as Handel, Haydn, and Beethoven, so that the music could transform lives and inspire the spirit. The other was championed by the music publishing industry whose interest was to "Sell America Music," even if that music was dominated by Americana or was created in Tin Pan Alley offices and was not a paragon of European classical ideals.

Gradually in the twentieth century these groups allied with one another. The hitherto European-dominated music curriculum was opened up to what school administrators were willing to pay for, which was more often their own culture's middle-class popular music. That led to a sea change of music instruction in the schools, so successful that its current carried in "old-time" folk songs and marching-band medleys along with the classical compositions, coexisting in uneasy balance for decades.

The tide-swell ebbed in the last third of the century, as school populations and budgets retracted in the aftermath of the baby-boomer expansion; meanwhile, the Cold War and the Space Race focused resources on the sciences. Arts education was cut and relegated to electives and amenities. The "Arts in Education" movement countered by raising funds to present visual and performing arts to students in schools, instruct teachers in arts-based education, and train artists to work with teachers in the classroom. Meanwhile, individual teachers in subjects beyond music or art developed their own ways to incorporate these stimuli into their courses, and publishers created video and sound-recording packages rich with historical information. Efforts to reinvigorate music instruction in schools were led by the Music Educators National Conference and by VH-1, the television channel that raised funds to buy instruments for students. Studies of the value of music in brain development garnered national attention, as did lists of "songs every child should know. "

Yet, despite all these efforts and resources, music remained separated from the core curriculum and relatively inaccessible to most teachers. And because—aside from the utilitarian functions of school ensembles—the music was segregated from other classes and school activities, the objective of music education remained focused on musical literacy—the development of reading and performance skills in voice and instruments. The objectives of acquiring useful and satisfying knowledge through music and of opening its power to teachers of other subjects remained rare in American education.

This was also a period marked by new challenges to mainstream education. There were discipline problems in classrooms, and teachers struggled to engage disaffected students. Nationwide implementation of standardized testing and new state and federal "standards" focused teachers' attention on year-end measurements and left them feeling they had little time for anything not already specified in the curriculum.

The circumstances call for a new approach to using music in education, one based not primarily on (though not excluding) music's religious and moral values, transformative powers, commercial potential, appeal, development of motor skills, or place in the national culture, but rather founded on its potential as one among the eight primary and complementary modes of learning.

In the early 1990s a group of American-music teachers and historians sought a new way to provide every K-12 school child in the United States with exposure to music from our nation's history. As an Education Committee appointed by the Board of Trustees of the Sonneck Society for American Music, they envisioned an annual teaching institute and related workshops around the country.

At its annual meeting in March, 1995, the Society charged the University of Pittsburgh, with its American-music research center housed in the Stephen Foster Memorial, with developing a program of teacher training in American music and widening the scope beyond traditional music education in order to augment it, not to undermine it.

The first step was to examine the most widely distributed textbooks for middle- and high-school American history courses. Members of the Education Committee helped scour not only the textbooks, but also the educational literature and School of Education curricula for any content concerning the use of music in education beyond formal Music Education. We were surprised to find little mention of music, even though arts-infusion techniques were comparatively well developed for visual arts.

We soon realized that the sort of materials we sought to use for workshops did not exist, and that we needed to articulate a new vision and create the materials. We also realized that what we were creating would not only serve American-music teachers and historians (who initiated the project), but also provide teachers in other disciplines with classroom techniques that would enable them to incorporate music as a learning style alongside the other modes of intelligence. In so doing, we would address the needs of teachers to stimulate and involve all students in the classroom, teach to the new state and federal standards, raise students' comprehension and retention of course material, improve performance on standardized tests, and help achieve the goal to leave no child behind.

In 1997 the Heinz Endowments provided funding to add an arts-infusion and education specialist to the project, and to create a prototype of the classroom materials we envisioned. One of the nation's leading arts education specialists, Susan Donley, enthusiastically joined the team and adapted for music the proven techniques she had developed for visual arts in education. We assembled a teacher advisory board of master teachers in social studies, language arts, and music from a range of schools in southwestern Pennsylvania, including public and private; inner city, suburban, and rural; big budget and small; racially diverse and homogenous.

The teachers on the advisory board worked with us to decide the nature and format of the classroom materials so that they would be most useful for surmounting the many challenges faced in the classroom: standards, tests, student behavior, access to equipment, strategies for lesson plans, suitability of materials for age groups, hot-button issues ranging from race to politics and religion, and more. They suggested how to incorporate the government standards for the arts and humanities and the social sciences. And they advised that we focus on a particular topic and age group, the U.S. History curriculum used normally in secondary schools (most often in 8th and 10th grades). Perhaps most important, they helped us design materials so they would not add a burden to already overstressed teachers, but instead give them the tools needed for teaching their curriculum more effectively. The American Council of Learned Societies featured our project at their meeting of executive directors in Denver in 1999, citing Voices Across Time as a model educational project for bringing together educators and scholars to plan together.

In building the prototype we widened not only the participation in the project, but its mission as well. By focusing on the subject of U.S. History in secondary education, we were consciously creating techniques and materials that were adaptable not only to pre-Kindergarten through adult education, but also to other geographical areas and to other disciplines. Our ultimate aim had become to make music available as a classroom tool for all teachers.

The creative process involving classroom teachers, arts educators, and scholars in designing and building the prototype taught us several lessons about music as both a cultural and an educational force.

Because music is omnipresent in modern life, reflecting and shaping attitudes and personalities, it has prominent importance along with spoken language as a bearer of oral culture. And yet the classroom curriculum materials for teaching about our nation's language and history (i.e., courses in American literature, civics, and U.S. history) have never incorporated music either as subject material or as a teaching tool. By contrast, within the past generation the textbook publishers for social studies have responded to arts infusion by integrating literature and the visual arts liberally throughout their newest books, and making them immensely more attractive, stimulating, and informative for students. They have given teachers additional tools to work with, and added important learning styles to the teaching of these subjects.

Why was music not also incorporated at the same time? One impediment is that few teachers can read music, and fewer still have training in articulating its meaning. Moreover, music is not a tangible medium like art or literature, and without specialized equipment it cannot be used by individual students working simultaneously but separately in the same classroom space.

Most teachers we interviewed when creating the prototype of Voices Across Time lacked methods of bringing this resource meaningfully into their lessons. Students and teachers alike felt they lacked the tools to unpack the multiple meanings embedded in music, even for songs with words. There is in America a listening illiteracy, an inability to articulate the meaning of sound, not only within the general public but also in teacher training.

And yet nearly everyone recognizes the immense appeal of music to all age groups. Our demand for music has made it more available than at any time in human history, and has driven the development of new technologies. Moreover, students tell us that taste or preference for one style or another of popular music is one of the foremost means of interaction among teenagers, and is often employed by them as a strategy for defining their group and differentiating themselves from others. Ease of access to music is a high priority for students, and the efforts of the Recording Industry of America to stem illegal Internet file sharing in 2003-2004 reflects that fact of life. Americans are involved with music every day and it is ubiquitous in our lives. Except in our classrooms.

In 1997-1999 we built a prototype around two watershed events in American history — the Revolutionary War and the Civil War — which are taught in all history curricula and which both generated tremendous numbers of distinctive songs. Twenty-two teachers in Southwestern Pennsylvania, reflecting the diverse types of schools on the teachers' advisory board, volunteered to try out the materials in their classrooms and were ecstatic with the results. They offered valuable critiques of the design and content of the materials, and fascinating stories about how Voices Across Time enabled them to reach their goals in the classroom.

After evaluating the results of the prototype, in summer 1999 the Vira I. Heinz Endowment and the Grable Foundation provided funds to create the materials for the full chronological sweep of U.S. history, and to test portions of them nationally to assure that the resulting materials would not only be suitable but would be used by teachers.

As a result of teachers' responses, we expanded the essays containing historical background information about each of the songs, and determined to provide not only lyrics for each selection but also recordings and a music score (or—when copyright permissions could not be secured—at least references to the most suitable and easily available copies of these essential materials). We also provided visual organizers as tools for analyzing the meaning of the songs, and assembled an extensive list of relevant teachers' resources—in print, recordings, and on the Internet—that will help educators and students alike to extend their learning process well beyond the confines of this volume.

In addition to the song materials themselves, we offer teaching strategies adapted from visual arts-infusion techniques. These are very useful for developing students' historical imagination, and for tapping into music's ability to help us understand issues in the humanities.

The main task of creating Voices Across Time was to select the songs themselves. To cover the subject matter in most social studies textbooks as well as to reflect the state and federal standards, we created a song grid representing nine chronological units from pre-colonial to the present; each era embraces six general themes derived from the Social Studies standards. We assembled a group of specialist advisors in key areas of American music history including the colonial era, Hispanic history, African American history, and American Indian history. For each theme in each period, we mined the knowledge of our research team and specialists, probing literature and recordings to create lists of pieces of music that are outstanding original sources representing history themes and events; then we pared those lists to the two or three most useful songs, and launched intensive searches for appropriate copies of the music and lyrics, recorded performances, and related archival material. Meanwhile, we wrote background profiles on each piece, a list of discussion questions, possible links to other pieces in other units of the curriculum, key terms from the lyrics that teachers might want to discuss, and suggested learning activities.

In addition to the hard copy of Voices Across Time containing all these materials, we built a Web site containing general information, reference lists and hotlinks to related materials on the Internet, and a site for teachers to contribute lesson plans and share ideas with one another.

The Grable grant funded a plan for creating teacher-training workshops. The project team tried out workshop techniques at two annual meetings of the Society for American Music (formerly the Sonneck Society), in Lexington, Kentucky, and Tempe, Arizona, in 2002 and 2003, at the SummerWind Seminar at Georgia State University in 2002, and in the Social Studies Curriculum Development course of Professor Kay Atman of the School of Education at the University of Pittsburgh in fall term 2002. Our materials were tested and used by a full range of teachers in different backgrounds and teaching situations: pre-service through teachers with more than 30 years of experience, urban through rural settings, from California to Georgia to rural Pennsylvania.

The enthusiastic responses from teachers in these experiences led to submission of a grant to the Education Division of the National Endowment for Humanities, which funded a five-week NEH Summer Teaching Institute in July and August 2004, Voices Across Time: Teaching American History Through Music. The Institute was repeated in June and July 2006 and we hope to make it a biennual event.

All of us who have worked on creating Voices Across Time—and all our school-age children—hope that teachers throughout the country adopt it readily, and that it serves the needs of both educators and students. May it unleash the power of the music learning style for all children and adults involved in the educational process.

—Deane L. Root
June 24, 2004

Musical Archaeology

How do we know?

How can we authenticate original musical sources, especially when song and performance practices exist in oral tradition? THE TRUSTEES OF THE BRITISH MUSEUM, ART RESOURCE

Music historians scour newspapers, diaries and other documents of the time for evidence and descriptions of songs. We often find the words but no melody, and descriptions of the style and affect of particular performances. Ethnographers amplify this evidence by collecting stories or recollections of the earlier music that still exist within the society. When the combined evidence indicates a connection between a given text and a melody printed elsewhere during the era, we can reunite the words and music.

Another type of source is the first printing of songs known to have been performed years earlier. Beginning in the mid-19th century, historians and anthropologists began writing down oral-tradition songs. Although the European notation system caused changes in pitch, rhythm and form, these versions approximate the original. Examples include Slave Songs of the United States (1861) and the Jubilee Songs of Fisk University (1872). Voices Across Time avoids arrangements and harmonizations of oral-tradition melodies by classically trained musicians.

Uncovering an authentic version of written words and music is only part of the task, for the recorded performance must also be faithful to the original sound. We selected musicologically informed performances true to the voices of the period, free of anachronistic elements. Research tells us what kinds of instruments, harmonies, and performance styles the original performers used. Anglo Americans in the early 19th century, for example, picked each note on the guitar, so performances that include strumming are inauthentic. So are recordings of pre-Civil War African-American spirituals that included twentieth-century gospel singing styles or electronic organ.

 

 
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