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Bringing Music and Primary Sources into Your School

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Did you know that March is Music in Our Schools month? Sponsored by the National Association of Music Educators, Music in Our Schools encourages schools to make sure their students have access to music and the opportunity to learn and use music in their schools.

A childrens’ rhythm band in a music class

The Library of Congress website has lots of resources that will help you combine music-related primary sources and other classroom activities. Here are just a few places to look:


Lyrical Legacy – Provides teaching ideas on how to use music and poetry to tell the story of the United States.

Songs for Our Times – Helps students learn how songs document the times in which they were created.

Lesson Plans:

Music and Reform History: Stand Up and Sing – Helps students learn how music can be used to rally supporters and sway opinions.

Natural Disasters: Nature’s Fury – See how music helps document natural disasters.

Online Presentations:

Patriotic Melodies – Created by the Library’s Performing Arts Reading Room, this presentation tells the story behind many of the songs that celebrate our country.

Stars and Stripes Forever

Also be sure to visit the Music Division’s Blog “In the Muse” to learn more about their collections.

Pick a song from one of the Library’s sheet music collections and have your school’s music teacher or a volunteer from a local music organization come in to teach the song. Have students think about why the song was created and what words or phrases in it may have been an attempt to sway public opinion. How might students update these lyrics to make this song relevant to a public issue today?

Have students look at some examples of popular music of the past and some of their favorite music from today. How do the values and beliefs presented in historical song lyrics compare with those presented in lyrics of current songs?

Students can compose a song expressing their opinions on a specific event or issue of importance from the past or today.

How will you bring music into your classroom?

Comments (9)

  1. Let’s hear it for music! yeah! nice post.

    • I wish we could have included all of the wonderful music and performing arts resources that the Library of Congress has online. Here is another version of Stars and Stripes Forever played by the Imperial Marimba Band and recorded by Thomas Edison

  2. I am delighted to have a music source of this kind. What an excellent idea and wonderful source to use across all levels in school!

    As I am in the UK I would love to see a few sources from UK, Europa and other World Music countries as well, sometime in the future.

  3. I agree, great post. Sadly, the Patriotic Melodies does not work.

    • Hi Susan,

      I checked the link for Patriotic Melodies and it along with some other links on the Performing Arts Encyclopedia page appear to be broken. I’ve sent a message to the appropriate staff and hope that the repairs are completed soon.

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  5. Thank you for the Lesson Plan links. They are quite helpful. As a music educator in grades 3 thru 8 I also celebrate Music In Our Schools Month each March. I plan lessons for each grade level and have an overall theme connecting them. I made a banner for my room that announces March is Music in our Schools Month.

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