Primary Sources for Musical Learning: Workshop Opportunities

This post is by Carolyn Bennett, the 2018-2019 Library of Congress Teacher in Residence. Check out these opportunities to learn with Bennett, who will be facilitating three workshops this spring onsite at the Library of Congress. Registration is first-come, first-served, so act soon!

April 19: Exploring Choral Music with the Library of Congress

This workshop will focus on materials that will be immediately useful in school vocal ensembles of all ages, so choral directors are encouraged to register. Additionally, the content and strategies may inspire any music teacher and anyone who is interested in using music as a window into American history.

To register, email your name, contact information, and grade level and subjects taught, using the workshop title and date in the subject line, to [email protected].


Don’t be weary, traveler motet on a negro folk song motif : for six-part unaccompanied chorus of mixed voices, 1921

The Library of Congress offers online access to a wealth of copyright-free choral music. These collections become especially valuable when searching for American repertoire that reflects the diversity of our music-making traditions. This workshop will be a reading session. Participants will receive a packet of choral scores for two- to six-part divisi and online access to an annotated collection of further resources. As we read and sing through selections, participants will implement inquiry practices that can fit organically within the rehearsal process to encourage students to construct musical and historical understandings through their exploration of the score.

One of the many selections featured in the workshop is a favorite of Bennett’s: R. Nathaniel Dett’s six-part “Don’t Be Weary, Traveler: Motet, On a Negro Folk Song Motif.” Dett, a choral director of the Hampton Institute, was an early documenter of African-American spirituals who also used folk melodies to inspire his original compositions.  From both a historical and musical perspective, how can students interpret Dett’s choice to present this work as a motet? How can singers make performance choices that honor the duality of this work? On a more universal level, how and why do composers draw inspiration across disparate genres, and how can vocalists let these diverse inspiration sources inform their performance?

Read Bennett’s post about teaching with R. Nathaniel Dett here.

April 18: Songs, Games, and Dances with the Library of Congress

April 23: Songs, Games, and Dances with the Library of Congress

This event will be offered on two dates. The workshop will focus on materials that will be immediately useful in the elementary music or general classroom. Additionally, the content and strategies may inspire any music teacher, and anyone who is interested in using music as a window into the cultural traditions of American communities.

To register, email your name, contact information, and grade level and subjects taught, using the workshop title and date in the subject line, to [email protected].

The Library of Congress’s collections document American cultural communities as well as music and dance resources from around the world. These collections become especially valuable when searching for teaching tools that reflect the diversity of  music-making traditions. This workshop will actively explore songs, games, and dances from various communities and time periods that can be used in the elementary music or general classroom. Participants will receive a packet of materials and online access to an annotated collection of recorded and transcribed materials. Selections will include children’s games from Cuban-American and other immigrant populations, folk songs from around America, Civil War melodies, Renaissance dances, and more.  As we explore, participants will implement inquiry practices that can encourage students to construct musical and historical understandings through their exploration of a primary source.

Here’s one of Bennett’s favorite selections, one of many featured in the workshop: In 1940, Irene Williams met with Ruby and John Lomax to describe her early years in slavery.  In an audio recording, she recalls church services and sings “Keep Your Lamp A Trimmed and Burning.” Almost as an afterthought, she remembers “Little Emma,” the baby’s nurse:  “After the baby was tucked in bed [she] was often called into the kitchen to do the churning. And this is the song that she sang to the milk.” The song has a characteristic strong steady beat, and its tone-set makes it suitable for students’ early musical experiences. Students can connect their music-making with history by wondering about the life of Irene Williams, Little Emma, and unique opportunities to honor their voices through music.

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