Is there anything funnier than the third grade recorder concert? My daughter’s third grade recorder concert came the day after the CLiF Community Literacy Conference – a full day for our small staff running a conference for 130 Year of the Book teachers, librarians, and school staff. I am not sure what came over me, but I could not stop giggling through the wonder of all those nine-year-olds trying to play Ode to Joy in sync on the recorders. I continued to giggle through the grand finale when all the kids and parents stood in a circle, held hands, and sang We Are the World.
My daughter sang with a lot of enthusiasm. After the concert, I asked her if she had talked about what the song meant. Sadly, the answer was no. While I applaud the music teacher for finding a meaningful song that connects kids and parents, I wish there had been some discussion about how important that song and the album were at the time they were produced.
I might be biased as We Are the World debuted when I was nine (1985!), right when you start discovering and forming your own taste in music. In fact, I found my tape (!) and a tape player (!), and we listened to the album. My daughter’s mind was blown by many aspects of this experience:
- How the tape player works, and that it actually takes time and effort to get a certain song
- The idea of an album – she really had a hard time buying into listening beyond the title song
- The connection to world events – we have talked about music telling stories but that the artists could be collaborating to help other people made her think (sadly I could not think of a more recent example although I am sure there has been one!)
- A shared problem with the fact that the song list was not in order of appearance on the album (hence my penned-in numbers)
It made me think about the parallels between songs/albums and books. CLiF believes that literacy programming and books can bring people together – we have seen it in a whole new way through our Community Building grants. Music offers the same opportunity to open channels of communication. Thinking about the dialogue that could happen around We Are the World:
- What happened in the world to bring all these artists together? Could this happen today?
- Why did the artists themselves participate and how did the song choices reflect the “mission” of the project? (It reminded me of a TKPodcast with the writer Laura van den Burg when she discusses the process of putting together a book of short stories.)
- We watched the video and talked about the fashions and the other music the artists made. How was the time period reflected in the cultural elements?
Incorporating music into curriculum can really help kids to connect with the content and to make the content relevant to their lives. In the same way that books can open up conversation, so can music (but maybe not the recorder music).