Did you know that traditional Native American call and response songs used nonsense syllables so that tribes of many languages could come together as a community to sing? That’s the kind of thing you can only learn from artists who are themselves embedded in the culture they’re representing. And it’s that kind of authentic, culturally diverse music that’s been missing in arts education. Musical Explorers, an incredible free program from Carnegie Hall, fills that gap.
How it works.
Carnegie Hall’s Musical Explorers is composed of four different programs (and with new ones every year, it’s always growing!). Each program features three artists who represent a different musical genre and cultural tradition. There’s everything from Argentine folk to Malian traditional to Indian classical. Each artist introduces themselves in a short video followed by two lessons that teach songs. The curriculum also includes a wealth of support resources, including audio and video recordings, sheet music, readings, and cross-curricular extensions.
Engaging kids from the beginning.
When I piloted Musical Explorers in 2019, I started with Program One: Georgian Folk, Freedom Songs, and Haitian music. My students were instantly engaged by both the movement activities and learning the songs. There’s something about a kid mastering a song in a foreign language that gives them so much confidence. And hearing my students sing Georgian folksongs—in a community with little to no representation of that culture—just goes to show how authentic music speaks to children.
Teachers learn, too.
Music teachers don’t get a lot of arts-focused professional development. It’s easy to get stuck doing what you’ve always done. Musical Explorers is an opportunity to break out of the box. As I watched videos and prepared my lessons, I found myself learning a great deal from the artists. There are amazing resources on every artist’s page to give you (as the educator) background information on the musical genre and culture, as well as online professional development seminars for each program. Unfamiliar with Puerto Rican music? Watch the recommended film, Bomba – Dancing The Drum.
Making it my own.
Another thing I love about Musical Explorers is how it’s a living curriculum. As an individual teacher, I can breathe my own life into it. You can do as much or as little as you want, and there are so many opportunities to make it your own. For example, you might integrate drumming into your study of South African Zulu music. As for me, although I love the pre-recorded versions, I also like to play a lot of the songs on my preferred instruments: piano and guitar.
The culminating concert.
At the end of your curriculum implementation, you will have the opportunity to host a digital concert experience, utilizing the on-demand video filmed at Carnegie Hall. Don’t think your kids can sit still for a concert? Believe me, they won’t be sitting. They’ll know all the songs, so they’ll be singing and dancing at this interactive event. Worried about the time commitment? I gathered all my K-2 students together at one time in the gym so they could watch the concert on the big screen.
Interested in the Musical Explorers curriculum?
Looking to incorporate more culturally diverse music into your classroom? Click the button to register for Carnegie Hall’s Musical Explorers, a free curriculum for elementary teachers. You’ll also get access to regular webinars focused on classroom implementation, webchats with other Musical Explorers educators, and other perks.