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Arts Toolkit

Arts Toolkit: Music Idea File



Idea File:

Purposes of Music

Grass Dance Song

Students categorize the purposes of different pieces of music as ceremonial, recreational, or artistic expression. Then they select one or more songs in each category for a “Purposes of Music” program.


"Grass Dance Song" performed by Dennis Banks

Teaching Concepts:

  • Reasons for creating music include ceremonial purposes, recreational purposes, and artistic expression.
  • A composer or musician may have more than one purpose in mind when composing/performing a piece of music.

Academic Content

  • Music: purposes of music, singing

Lesson Idea

Resources: In addition to “Grass Dance Song,” include other selections from Old Music for New Ears such as “Rosebud-Trinidad” by Paula Larke, “Go Rabbit” by the Reel World String Band, “ABCs et 123” by the Doucet Family Band, and “Keep On Movin’ On” by Odetta.

Open: Draw a “Purposes of Music” chart on the board or overhead with three columns labeled “Ceremonial,” “Recreational,” and “Artistic Expression.”

View: Selections from Old Music for New Ears.

Categorize: After each song, have the students tell how they would categorize the purpose of the song and why. Have them create their own charts and think of more types of music as well as specific songs or musicians that fit into each of the categories. After the students have completed their charts, ask them to add examples to the classroom chart.

Perform: As a class, select at least one song from each category to perform. Then divide the class into small groups and have each group write an introduction to one of the songs: where it came from, who wrote it (specific person or cultural group), and what the group thinks is the song’s purpose or purposes. Present a program of songs illustrating the purposes of music for other classes or parents.

Extend: Create a program for the concert with notes and lyrics for each song. Invite the audience to sing along.

Author: Sara O’Keefe


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