Classical 91.5

Nine Ideas on How to Use Classical Public Media in the Music Classroom: Part 1

Aug 17, 2017

WXXI morning host Brenda Tremblay, WXXI intern Riesa Cassano, and NYSSMA High School Classroom Music Chair Laurence Tallman
Credit Brenda Tremblay

WXXI Classical 91.5 is thrilled to work with music teachers from the Rochester area and across New York State to support music education. Our Morning Drive host, Brenda Tremblay, gave a presentation at the New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA) summer conference on how music educators can use the power of public radio in their classrooms to enhance their students’ musical experience. 

Public radio and television began with the mission to educate. In Rochester, WXXI began in the basement of East High School in the 1960's solely to provide educational resources for students. Today, that mission of education continues on NPR news, PBS kids shows, and your classical public radio station. For music specifically, music educators and classical public media can work together to develop the next generation of music lovers.

Here's the first three of the nine ideas on how classical public media can enhance students’ musical experiences: 

Part 1: Classical radio in the classroom

1. Use the radio to help your students REALLY listen.

Why? The New York State Learning Standards for the Arts require students to listen to and comment on music.  More specifically, students "will relate their critical assertions about music to its aesthetic, structural, acoustic, and psychological qualities."

How?  Teachers, have your students keep a journal and ask them to listen to your local classical radio station for 15 minutes a week. Ask them to write down what they notice in the music, how they feel, and what the music reminds them of so they engage with the music in some way.  Most classical stations post their playlists on their websites. The students can access those playlists and see the details of exactly what they're listening to.   Students' reactions could be posted in an online blog shared by the whole class or a private journal.  Even a sketch book would work.

2. Use classical public media to teach history.

Why?  State Learning Standards for the Arts require your students to develop an understanding of the personal and cultural forces that shape artistic communication and how the arts in turn shape the diverse cultures of past and present society.  "Students will use concepts based on the structure of music’s content and context to relate music to other broad areas of knowledge."

How? Teachers, have the radio or streaming service on when your students come into class, and listen together for two or three minutes. Have them guess what era a piece is from or who the composer is, then have a short discussion on why they guessed what they did. This can help them to start to recognize the defining features of each era and idiosyncrasies of certain composers. You can then connect the music history to history from social studies class and discuss what was happening in the world at the time.

WQXR has an entire page for podcasts to introduce younger students to music history (also here). It covers a wide range of topics, like The Life of Georg Philip Telemann, The Story of The Nutcracker, and Copland's 'Fanfare for the Common Man'. Many classical stations also have blogs (examples hereand here) that often feature interesting historical tidbits, like the history of Black Death music parties for example.

3. Use classical public media to offer students new works and fresh interpretations of masterworks.

Why?  Again, this strengthens their ability to  listen critically and shows that classical music is a vibrant art form.

How?  Find a wealth of new music shows available that prove classical music doesn't live only in the past. For example, Relevant Tones is a weekly hour-long show dedicated to exploring what's new in classical music. Shows like Relevant Tones can show students the cutting edge of classical music--something that may not be part of the traditional classroom experience.

In addition, orchestras from around the country are always recording new interpretations of great works, and many classical stations re-broadcast full concerts. From the Top features young musicians bringing old masterworks to life and sharing their stories. Instead of listening to the same version of an old warhorse on Youtube, students can experience living and working artists interpret and present these works anew.

Coming soon--Part 2: Classical public media, beyond the radio