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Mountain Music in the Classroom

Old-time music is alive and well in the 21st century, and you can introduce your students to this music using both the “Mountain Music Gatherin’” program and the music performance clips on this web site. These resources can spur students into investigating the music of their families and communities and lead to an appreciation of music that has been handed down through generations.

Suggested Uses in the Classroom

  • Show “Mountain Music Gatherin’” to help students identify, learn about, and appreciate traditional music styles, instruments, and musicians as well as the culture from which this music originated.
  • Show the program in conjunction with social studies lessons on Appalachia, helping students discover how a region’s music, traditions, and arts help us better understand the people who live there.
  • Have students watch the first section, in which various performers define old-time music, and then write a definition.
  • Have students view the middle sequence, which shows the various fiddle styles and how they are being passed down, then analyze and describe these styles using the elements of music. You can do the same with the online performance excerpts.
  • Ask students about the music their families or groups they belong to listen to. How would they describe it? Do they play music? When, where, and why?
  • Use the program to explore the purposes of music within traditional communities.
  • Watch the segments featuring Rossi Clark, the young fiddler, and discuss her role in continuing a tradition. If you have students who are inspired by her story and interested in this music, you might want to refer them to the folk and traditional arts apprenticeship program offered by the Kentucky Folklife Program.

KET Resources for the Classroom

Several other KET resources present old-time music to a school audience:

  • The KET Music Toolkit is a multimedia resource for teachers containing more than 12 hours of instructional and performance video in 150 classroom-friendly segments, a CD-ROM entitled A World of Music that introduces styles and instruments from around the globe, 10 posters about music periods and styles, and a wealth of lesson plans and other teaching ideas—all tied to Kentucky’s Core Content in Music. See the ordering information page for details and a printable order form.

    The Music Toolkit contains several video segments featuring traditional music, including
    • two segments on old-time music from World of Our Own: Kentucky Folkways, an eight-part KET series exploring Kentucky’s traditional music, art, games, customs, and occupations. “Let the Fiddle Do the Singing” spotlights the traditional fiddle styles of Clyde Davenport, formerly of Wayne County, and Roger Cooper of Lewis County, and “A Full Sound” features the traditional guitar styles of Eddie Pennington and Jesse Aldridge from Princeton.
    • Several singalong performances from KET’s Old Music for New Ears series featuring Jean Ritchie, Mike Seeger, the Gray Eagle Band, the Reel World String Band, Malcolm Dalglish, and John McCutcheon, among others.
    • “Appalachia: There Was a Time,” featuring Ron Short, a fiddler and storyteller with Roadside Theater.
    • “Immigrant Instrument: The Mandolin,” featuring Chris Mullins performing several old-time fiddle tunes mandolin-style.
    All of these videos are supported by guides and lesson plans.
  • KET’s Old Music for New Ears series introduces children to a broad range of music—folk, blues, Cajun, traditional—and cultures: Native American, African-American, and Appalachian, among others. It offers opportunities for children to sing along with such artists as Kentucky’s own Jean Ritchie. In introduces them to a variety of traditional instruments, such as the hammer dulcimer, the lap dulcimer, and the jaw harp. KET’s online instructional resources catalog includes a broadcast schedule so you can watch and use the complete 22-program series (the Music Toolkit contains only a sampling of the performances) and a downloadable teacher’s guide in two parts: Part I: Programs 101-116 and Part II: Programs 117-122.
  • World of Our Own: Kentucky Folkways, KET’s eight-part series exploring Kentucky’s traditional culture, has information about a wide range of folk traditions, music, customs, and arts. The web site includes a downloadable teacher’s guide.
  • Mountain Born: The Jean Ritchie Story is a KET documentary profiling the dulcimer virtuoso, traditional singer, and American folk treasure.

For more resources, see Old-Time Music Links. Many of the organizations listed there offer educational materials, additional information, and grants.