Back To The Notes (for 6th Graders)

The “Beyond The Notes” unit in the 6th grade Open Court Anthology examines the role of music in the lives of composers, performers, and audiences from varying backgrounds and cultures. Ken Cooper’s program, “Back To The Notes,” directly links the musical artists, stories, poems, and themes included in the Open Court curriculum by using original recordings, rare video clips, authentic musical instruments, live music demonstrations, and historic facts and legends.

“Back To The Notes” introduces 6th grade students to African American music, musicians, instruments, and culture from their African roots up to the present, exposing them to a unique view of American Blues and Jazz music of New Orleans and the Mississippi Delta. Topics include the birth of Blues and Jazz, the early days of phonograph records and the recording process, and traditional musical instruments. The classic songs, styles and lives of influential musicians Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, Robert Johnson, B.B. King (pictured), Ray Charles and others are used to illustrate the Open Court subject matter. Standard 12 bar blues song structure – both lyrics and chord progression – is presented and analyzed.

Mr. Cooper conducts three 45-minute sessions with each 6th grade class. An 8 page handout of maps, song lyrics, and photographs of all personalities is provided to all students. Each class is assigned the lyric writing prompt “Homework Blues” which is then compiled into an original song and performed at the concluding afternoon assembly. Along with the student created “Homework Blues,” a live 4 piece band featuring Mr. Cooper and friends plays blues songs introduced during the residency.

This program takes 6th grade students beyond the written material contained in the Open Court Anthology and “Back to the notes.” By listening, watching, and writing, they become part of the rich tradition of American Blues and Jazz music and experience a unique cultural view of history and the musicians who lived it as expressed by authentic music of the period.

Cost: determined by number of classes and availability of extra musicians.