Keeping Music in Memphis Classrooms

Posted on May 28, 2015



Schools across the nation have recently been forced to continually make major budget cuts, and when schools around the U.S. are forced to make such financial sacrifices, the Arts programs, deemed unnecessary, are usually the most impacted. Most school administrators do not see the importance of arts programs, but instead they see these programs as hobbies and breaks from the important subjects. A large section of arts programs include music, yet schools view music as an elective and specific subject that is not applicable to the majority of students’ future professional careers.

Luckily for music programs in Memphis, many students, teachers, and the STAX museum are trying to keep music an important part of education. The STAX museum recently released “The Sounds of Change,” a four-week lesson plan free to teachers all across the world. These lessons include introduction to lyrics, context of the songs, questions for discussion, and film clips all while covering the common core standards. “The Sounds of Change” shows that musmusic 2ic is more than something people like to listen to, but there are lives, stories, and histories behind every song and many of them were life changing.

The lessons show the educational importance and value of music and how it can be incorporated effectively in the classroom. Lyrical analysis can be incorporated into Language Arts because of the poetic nature of lyrics. In Social Studies, students can discuss the historical context of the music, such as the Civil Rights Movement. The lessons help students to find evidence, develop the central ideas, analyze the plot and characters, compare and contrast different media, and interpret information; all necessary and useful life skills. This idea is also useful in comparing past and current climates through historical aspects of the music. In teacher discussion groups, teachers began making connections between the lessons they were showed and the current struggles, such as the event in Ferguson, Missouri. One of the collaborators on “The Sounds of Change” project, Lisa Allen, voiced that lessons like these would have made a huge difference in her years in school in West-Memphis, for she was persecuted for her father’s Jewish last name.

However, not all teachers have ceased to see the importance in music. Karen Vogalsang, a 4th grade teacher in Memphis and Tennessee’s 2014 teacher of the year, was recently named a Local Hero for her work in the classroom. In other words, she is not the average 4th grade teacher. Karen Vogalsang plays music, such as the Black Eyed Peas, in her classroom while her students work. As the music plays, the students are encouraged to walk around the room and talk and work on the material with other students. She believes that the students can learn more from each other than they can from her.

“The Sounds of Change” lesson plans and the structure of Karen Vogalsang’s classroom show that music is a useful tool that can be incorporated into many other core subjects and help students in drawing connections between them. Music is something that students find relevant and interesting, and therefore engages them and gets them excited about learning. With creative thinkers and teachers, such as the creators of “The Sounds of Change” and Karen Vogalsang, music may be invited into more classrooms and administrators may begin to rethink the importance and relevance of music and arts programs in schools.

Posted in: Music