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Monday December 18, 2017 at 1:39pm Age: 363 days
Category: Middle School, District


To encourage a deeper appreciation and broader understanding of music as a universal language, music teacher Shane Peters has been exposing his sixth graders to some of the world’s most iconic musical traditions.

Last week, students were focused on African drumming, and we mean focused! Having learned how to read rhythms, they embraced the African tradition with lively bucket drumming. Following prompts from Mrs. Peters, they read the beat off of the smart board, and drummed on their neighbors’ buckets to help them keep a steady tempo as a group.

Student perspectives...

“I love the drums, especially when we get to do songs,” Declan said. “And it’s cool to learn about other countries and cultures. I have visited Ireland, so I knew a little bit about Irish music, but I didn’t know about the merengue from Dominican Republic. I really like the beat of their music. I was surprised how they make steel drums out of used oil cans.”

Through this learning unit, students are also learning about the traditional dress and staging that makes some of the world’s music so emblematic, and considering the cultural context behind those traditions.  

Skyla loves the sound of the drums and the Dominican Republic’s merengue, but she favors Indian music. “I was especially curious about Bollywood. I didn’t know about it and it was interesting to see how it compares to Hollywood,” Skyla said.  “I think it’s good to have knowledge about the music of other countries and cultures. This way, when you hear it, you can be a part of the conversation.”

Best buddies Daniel, Branden and Ryan wanted to express their views together. “Learning about music from around the world makes me want to try their instruments and beats,” Daniel said. “It makes me want to visit these countries,” Braden chimed in. “And when we encounter people from different countries in our lives, we have something to talk about, and we can understand each other better,” Daniel added.

But there’s more to the students' surprise than unknown cultures. “I can’t believe that music is now one of my favorite classes,” said Ryan. “Yes, it’s very interesting and a lot of fun, especially the drums,” Daniel agreed. “I go home and look for things to drum on,” Braden added. “I even drum on my desk with my pencils,” Ryan concluded.

Unit activities and objectives…

During a recent class, in between bucket drumming, students watched a video on Mexico’s mariachi music, and answered to listening-based quizzes identifying music of different origins and their specific characteristics. Jumping halfway around the globe, students paired up to play a hand game mimicking the Japanese mochi technique for making rice cakes. This fast game is a demanding rhythmic exercise.   

“I hope that, through this unit, students can develop an appreciation and understanding of other cultures," Mr. Peters said. "It would be great for them to be able to hold conversations about world music, and get a glimpse into different cultures.” 

The World Music unit spans the musical traditions of Ghana (Africa), Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Ireland, Japan, India, Mexico and Eastern Europe. At the end of the unit, students will complete a project about a country of their choice, not covered in class. They're encouraged to research a culture that is part of their heritage.