Music Ed Monday – Assignments for Days Without Playing

Hey team. I’ve been thinking about ways to help my fellow teachers in these uncertain times, especially considering that we won’t be playing very much to help stem transmission of COVID-19. So, I thought I’d share some of the materials/assignments that I’ve got for when we’re not playing.

1959 – The Year That Changed Jazz

Four big jazz albums were released in 1959: Kind of Blue by Miles Davis, Time Out by Dave Brubeck, Mingus Ah Um from Charles Mingus, and The Shape of Jazz to Come by Ornette Coleman. There’s this tremendous documentary about that one year, which I’ve included above. I find that it’s a great way to introduce what and who to listen to for my Grade 10 Jazz students when they start my program. The assignment has two parts: Firstly, comprehension questions (with timecodes for each answer, so they can make the connection between the question and the correct answer) and a long answer response at the end, where they need to listen to one of the four albums from to back.

(Also important: The timecodes are for the video above, but I don’t think it’s available on mobile. That being said, other ones are)

1959 – The Year That Changed Jazz Assignment

Eric Whitacre (Oxford Union) Response

One of the things I love above Eric is hearing him speak about his musical experience and craft. He’s very eloquent and well-spoken, but also talks about composition in a way that’s easy for people to relate to.

Here’s a response that I’d give to my Composition class (but is applicable to anyone).

Eric Whitacre (Oxford Union) Assignment

Jazz Profiles (NPR) Assignment

There is this amazing series from NPR called “Jazz Profiles” that’s made up of one-hour episodes about jazz musicians of the 20th-century. Each episode focuses on a different artist and is a great way to introduce students to some of the masters.

Here is the link to show.

Here is a link to the assignment.

Miles Davis Album Review Assignment

A few years back, one of my bands went through a big Miles phase, especially his later stuff, so I tried to follow their interest with an album review assignment. In the end, it turned into a project done in pairs as a sort of “gallery walk” through Miles’ discography. It also engaged the kids in listening to some of the difficult fusion stuff, which was a good exercise in itself.

I can’t find the rubric right now, so you might be on your own for that one, but here’s the assignment anyway.

Miles Davis Album Review Assignment

Bach and Beethoven – Being Subversive in a Culture of Polite Music

This assignment explores how Western culture has made Classical Music more “respectable” by wallpapering over this less-than-savoury parts its composers life. CBC’s Michael Enright did an awesome interview with Ted Gioia that explores how Bach and Beethoven were more subversive than history often tells, but also that said subversion also informs so much of their art-making.

You can listen to the CBC Interview here.

And here is the assignment.

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Okay, team, it’s a start! I hope that helps!

Let’s do our best and get through this.

-K