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Creating a World Music Curriculum for Young Learners
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Creating a World Music Curriculum for Young Learners

by Maria Pondish Kreiter (Rosetree-Media Schools, PA) 

The experience of teaching cultural music as a curriculum consultant to the Detroit Public Schools was as much an October treat as one could imagine. As a public school teacher, I so rarely have the opportunity to observe the daily routine of other music teachers, and participating in this project allowed me to demonstrate mastery of elementary teaching with a colleague.

Society's ever-changing curricula needs yield the development of creative instructional units, which meet specific school related goals while addressing the Nationals Standards for Music. In this case, and similar to many other districts across the country, fostering multicultural awareness and addressing cultural diversity is among the goals of the mission statement the Detroit Public School system. Developing a lesson focusing on the National Standards appropriate for elementary school and stressing creative activities using cultural music was the objective of this researcher.

In preparation for the "Ethnomusicology in the Schools Project" at MacCulloch Elementary, the objective was twofold: 1) what are the criteria for selecting materials and 2) what does this teacher want the students to learn? When working with classes of students unfamiliar to the teacher, the selection was broad yet conservative. A planned menu of activities was decided based on these distinct categories:

1. Using "authentic music" for authentic music's sake. This is music I consider in its traditional sense, performed by a native or group and has some historical, traditional or cultural purpose. Lessons break down logically for listening, instrument identification, movement, and tying into interdisciplinary subjects like social studies and art.

2. Using "authentic music" to teach basic skills. Using this repertoire to teach basic beat, rhythm identification, improvisation, modal identification, and other skills applicable and age appropriate.

3. Using "non-traditional music" to teach basic skills. My definition is written or recorded music by a cultural artist performing stylistic music on non-traditional instruments, such as Native American flutist performing with a modern jazz combo.

At MacCulloch Elementary, I was delightfully reminded of the universality of children, inquisitive, eager and enthusiastic. The logistics of the classroom eliminated movement activities, so I decided to use a Native American lesson on rhythm identification and beat using cultural music. As the children had only participated in music class no more than five times this year, I decided to focus on the teaching process of basic skills.

The true challenge was tying the lesson on rhythm identification and phrases with a performance medium for the children. Native American flute music transfers quite logically to children's recorder, but unrealistic to introduce recorders to a third grade class and expect them to perform a song in less than an hour, even by rote. MacCulloch's primary music classroom is equipped with a keyboard lab readily accessible to the students, so we transferred the song notated and performed in C pentatonic to the easiest recognizable pentaton on the keys, G-flat. The class and I creolized a common language so the students could perform the song.

The experience, like all aspects of public school, was a tremendous growth opportunity for the children, the host and guest teacher.

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