At that time, after being at Buckley for seven years, and under the suggestion and guidance of the Middle School Head, Neal Roden, and Music Dept. Chair, John Hendricks, I developed a new class called Experience Rock & Roll.
The class is designed to give students an experience with music outside of a regular ensemble, such as Band, Choir, or Orchestra, and encourages listening and sharing as its main component in student learning. Through weekly routines of listening and sharing music, as well as watching historical footage and oral histories of many rock artists, the class has encouraged civil discourse with young adults and continues to be popular, available to all students in grades 6-8, whether they are already in a musical ensemble or not. Throughout this experience, I have continued to make connections to social justice and issues of diversity and equity through music, as a form of expression.
One of the main goals of the class is to get students to recognize the diversity of Rock and Roll and to also become objective critics when they listen to music for the class, as well as music from the present on. Many young people want to disassociate themselves from the music of the past and many adults, likewise, want to disassociate themselves from the music of the younger generations. Hopefully taking this class will give insights to students about how each generation is actually tied to the one before and history does repeat itself. Our responsibility is to learn from history, and I am very encouraged and inspired by what I see young people willing to fight and stand up for in our current society. I see amazing leaders and feel confident they will take the next generation to where they need to be in an inclusive manner. Taking this class is another chance to look back in time, recognizing past leaders and artists that also led with the same motives, while recognizing how an original American music style created with both black and white roots, blended into a style that represented the next generation, while continuing to inspire new styles, artists, and songs in each subsequent generation.
Music is associated with emotion and the way we feel in our emotional lives often effects movements of solidarity with others for freedom, equality, and justice. The Blues, R & B, Gospel, and Jazz all were early styles that blended from the African American traditions in the South, Chicago, and Detroit, with rural white America’s Folk, Rockabilly, and Country roots’ plaintive story-telling lyrics and instrumentation. This potpourri of various musical emotional forms all came together at a crucial time in history, the 1950s, which is where the Middle School class curriculum begins. It was also the era of the Civil Rights Movement, which ran parallel with Rock and Roll. During the 1950s, the younger generation, being more progressive and having more economic freedom from the benefits of the US economy after WWII, embraced Rock’s diversity, and started throwing away the old biases and culture-set discriminations of the past generation. However, there were plenty of racial and segregated barriers put up by the older, Conservative generation of the time. As a result, the common culture of Rock ‘N’ Roll helped to erode long standing prejudices felt towards African Americans, by recognizing their amazing contributions in the music of early cross-over artists, such as Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Ray Charles, Ruth Brown, Bo Diddley, Louis Jordan, and Fats Domino. White artists also crossed over to embrace the raw emotional styles and expression of their fellow American musicians, with Bill Haley, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Pat Boone, Buddy Holly, Phil Spector, and the Rolling Stones leading the way.
Using great resources, including the Time Life History of Rock and Roll series, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, The Grammy Museum, Teachrock.org, and the Museum of Pop Culture (formerly the Experience Music Project in Seattle), I have attempted to reveal the integration and role of rock music in activism, protests, and marches, associated with social justice in my class. It’s important to spotlight how musical artists and movements have rocked and inspired the world with the songs expressing empowerment, hope and angst. This is a goal of my class and from it, I hope my students take away the validity of cultural diversity through music as a factor in creating and reshaping future American generations.
“Rock n’ roll seems to have changed society much more than any politician, I think it really has.”
-Roger Daltrey (lead singer of The Who)
"When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace."
— Jimmy Hendrix