Music is a bridge to learning, exploring, and creating in the classroom. Listening to the history of rock and roll and looking at its roots helps to paint a picture of how our country was shaped by such a diverse group of people with different backgrounds but with one thing in common: the desire to express and communicate through song. A quick look at Elvis Presley’s first release, “That’s All Right”/ “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” reveals his influences (rhythm & blues/country & western), his surroundings (black and white America in the south), and his ability to bridge the two distinct styles, exposing it to a larger audience. Addressing and breaking down racial barriers through music is a powerful and often overlooked fact in pop culture. The Summer Teacher Institute at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum shows just how it evolved. From the blues to hip-hop and beyond, a week at STI gives you the foundation for sharing the history of rock and roll with your students and the tools to apply it effectively in the classroom across subjects and disciplines. Prior to teaching art, I was a live music and event promoter showcasing upcoming and veteran talent to new audiences. Whether it was their first gig or their 1000th, the audience’s reaction, level of engagement, and participation was something that I always looked forward to seeing. It is this kind of excitement and participatory approach toward learning that I try to bring to my students through rock and roll-inspired projects. Attending STI (Class of 2008) validated what I had been doing in the classroom, but it also pushed me to find ways to incorporate my love for the history of rock and roll throughout the community. Think of when that song comes on the radio or shuffles on your iPod and how it instantly transports you to the time and place when you first heard it. Bring the impact that only music has to your students and electrify your classroom with a week in Cleveland you won’t forget. You and your students will be better off for it.
Pedro Mena is a K-8 Visual Arts teacher at Ring Mountain Day School in San Francisco, CA is a past Rock Hall Summer Teacher Institute participant.
Watch a video of Mena's students discussing some of their class music projects.