Singer/songwriter Chris Vallillo says that "Lovers of acoustic music, history buffs and especially the educational audience". Valillo, who is from Illinois has studied Lincoln's life and Illinois folk traditions. The album seems like a natural progression. A link to his website is below.
The album was released on Lincoln's birthday, February 12, and can entertain and educate. If you're studying the Civil War, I might recommend playing this album as the kids are entering the room. Have them listen to the music and the lyrics and give them a journal entry, or a sponge, or whatever you're calling it these days asking them to write about the songs and the music.
Play "Battle Cry of Freedom," which was inspired by Lincoln's call for Union volunteers to join the Army.
Challenge the students to try and recognize the melody of "Aura Lee." Written in the 1860s, it is the melody for Elvis Presley's "Love Me Tender." There are songs about Lincoln's funeral train and a runaway slave. On a side note, "Dixie" is said to be Lincoln's favorite. Valillo says it was played by the White House Band the day peace was declared as a way to inform the crowds of the news.
Just opening the conversation to music is a good way to make the lesson more authentic by asking them what their favorite artists are writing about and what messages they're trying to convey. Music is a universal language.
As a teacher I've used music in my classroom on various occasions.
Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire" was a good way to teach the modern era of American history by challenging the students to learn all of the people, places and events that are highlighted in the song. I followed that by having them come up with their own verse of what has happened during their lifetime. Which was approximately 1990 - 2007, which worked well because Billy Joel's song went to 1989. Click here to see a video highlighting the song's events and read the comments left by my students.
I used the Beatles's "Revolution" to start a dialogue on what exactly is a revolution, and what message were Lennon and McCartney trying to convey? This works well in civics and American history. And everybody likes the Beatles.
Bob Dylan's 'Blowin' In the Wind', James Taylor's "Carolina on My Mind", John Denver's "Rocky Mountain High" and Brad Paisley's 'Mud on the Tires' inspired thought on American transcendentalism, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and what the true meaning of life is. This was followed by students bringing in and sharing their own music of that emphasized living a simple life and celebrated the truth found in nature and in personal emotion and imagination, as opposed to an organized belief. They liked sharing their music with everyone in the class. They brought in everything from Led Zeppelin to 311. And they made pretty good arguments for their choices.
I used Garth Brooks' "Belleau Wood", which is about the World War I Christmas truce on the Western Front in 1914 during a World War 1 unit. It was cool when all the students started to sing along. For the lyrics to this song, click here. (It's not 100% historically accurate, but a good starting point to understand the human factor of war). You can buy the album here.
And of course, I've used a few songs from the famous School House Rocks collection. "I'm Just a Bill", "The Shot Heard 'Round the World" and my favorite... "The Preamble" to the American Constitution. I like using this during the first week of an American Government class. To this day, our government still holds true to the promise in the preamble. Or do they? It makes for good class discussion.
And I'm sure this counts as music, but the movie '1776' is a musical. I've used that as well. That movie is a great way to personify the Constitution Convention and the seriousness of the Declaration of Independence. The kids like to see Mr. Feeney (William Daniels) from Boy Meets World, who plays John Adams.
And there are dozens of other ideas I've had about using music in the classroom. I would love to hear more ideas. And I know that people read this blog, my statistics tell me so... so please leave a comment and share your thoughts.