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Ryan Tessier
Ryan Tessier shows his illustration inspired from the song "Follow The Drinking Gourd"

  

Students study the work of Black musicians

In music classes during February, Black History Month, students at Tinc Road Elementary School are learning about the powerful impact and groundbreaking musical contributions from Black musicians.

In grades 2-5, different Black musicians and genres were studied, spanning 100 years of popular music. The work of artists such as Scott Joplin, Count Basie, and Duke Ellington, for example, was examined not only for genre, tempo, dynamics, and instruments used, but also in its context of music history. Modern Black artists such as Beyoncé and Rihanna were also later discussed. While Black History month put the focus on Black musicians and singers, their contributions and cultural impact are regularly mentioned.

“Every month in my music class is Black History Month,” said music teacher Vincent Buzzelli. “We talk about Black musicians all throughout the year because their contributions have been so significant. So much of the music we love today and appreciate today is attributed to Black artists. It has depth and artistic value, and it draws from so many musical influences. We should recognize that.”

Fifth-graders also examined “Follow the Drinking Gourd.” According to folklore, the song helped fugitive slaves navigate the Underground Railroad. Symbolic lyrics served as reminders and markers of the path northward; the drinking gourd itself is considered a symbolic reference to the North Star. As a companion activity, students were asked to illustrate some of the more significant lyrics.

In January in honor of Martin Luther King Day, Buzzelli discussed with students the important function of music during the civil rights movement as an outlet for the expression of the desire for freedom and equality.


Valentina Habib shows the website with Amanda Gorman's inauguration poem

Analyzing a celebrated poem 

The day after Lynda Daly’s class wrapped up its six-week unit on poetry, the country buzzed with accolades about a new poem and a young poet thrust into the limelight. The timing couldn’t have been more fortuitous. The Inauguration Day poem by Amanda Gorman, the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate, would serve as the ideal unit review for the third-graders – as well as an example of the power and beauty of words.

“I got very excited about it, I thought the poem was phenomenal,” said Daly after watching Gorman read “The Hill We Climb” at the Capitol ceremony. Daly immediately decided to use the poem in class. “It was the perfect ending to the unit. It showed what you could do with poetry.”

Achieve 3000, the web-based language arts platform used by the third grade, posted the text of the unity-themed poem and the video from the inauguration the following day, as well as a biography of Gorman. After Daly read aloud an article about the poem and some excerpts, the class watched the video recitation and analyzed the passages. The students pointed out examples of some of the techniques they had learned in the poetry unit such as repetition, alliteration, onomatopoeia, and sensory language.

“They were so engrossed, it was such a beautiful piece,” Daly said. “I told the kids that she [Gorman] is going to become amazingly famous, she’s going to be epic. ‘You should remember where you were when you first heard her.’”

Gorman, 22, is the youngest poet ever to speak at an inauguration. She will have an even larger television audience on February 7 when she delivers a poem at the Super Bowl pre-show.

Daly’s class had watched some of the inauguration coverage live on a streaming special for students, but missed the swearing-in and poem while at lunch. The special, hosted by popular actress and singer Keke Palmer, was produced by the Presidential Inaugural Committee and included segments with historians Doris Kearns Goodwin and David Kennedy, and a Nickelodeon segment on presidential pets.

The broadcast is available on YouTube at https://youtu.be/eiojaVjtSs8.


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