The Recorder – Music and culture class at Mohawk Trail blends history, current interests

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Published: 3/24/2021 9:37:45 AM

In a new blended course offered this year at Mohawk Trail Regional School in Buckland, students in Catherine Glennon’s “Popular Music and Culture” class analyze the concepts of what makes something popular; what’s considered music and how society defines and contributes to culture.

After working with the school’s equity council and considering ways for students to think deeply about the development of the American experience and diversity, Glennon created this new, innovative history course. The class provides students with history lessons delivered in an engaging, fun, and relevant way.

“Music seemed to be an obvious place where this could happen,” said Glennon. “Bringing a connection between history, music, and modern culture.”

According to Glennon, the class was designed for students to dig deeper into the subject matter, but with an academic approach. Students focus on key questions including, what is popular music? What or who defines what is popular or classifies something as music. In addition to this deep, critical thinking and discussion, coursework has included watching a Motown documentary; and researching covers of popular songs and writing music reviews of the work, for example.

“It’s really so cool; students have so much expertise and experience that they bring to class,” said Glennon. “They have opinions and access the information in such different ways.”

During the first week of class, Glennon tasked students with creating a Spotify “playlist of their life” — sharing their favorite songs/singers/subjects that resonated with them. From the first day of the class, Glennon said she saw a spark in her students — increased student engagement and excitement, even in the remote setting.

“This is nothing like I’ve experienced before with remote learning,” said Glennon. “They’re turning on their cameras for class; they’re engaged; they’re making extensive notes in their work and writing music reviews. On the first day, I gave them homework and before the end of the school day, they’d already started turning it in.”

Glennon said for many of her students, they’re finding their voices and discovering new talents as well as taking agency and ownership of their work.

“They’re passionate about the work and that’s really rewarding,” said Glennon.

Avery DuPree, a junior at Mohawk Trail Regional School, said Glennon’s class is a great way to fulfill her passion for music during remote learning.

“It gave me the opportunity to talk about music; learn about different genres and artists moving through the decades, things I would not have been exposed to,” said DuPree. “It’s made me excited to keep learning more.”

DuPree said she’s even found herself furthering her research after class, Googling more about the artists or the lessons that day; doing a deeper dive into their daily lessons. And while she hasn’t loved every genre she’s studied so far, she loves the experience and opportunity to discover new music.

“This class is really amazing, ” said DuPree. “I felt like I had an ear for music (before), but this has really piqued my interest, discovering different genres I enjoy. It’s really helped to open the door to other interests and appreciate the history of artists (and) music — and it’s a really fun way to get in those history credits in a fun way.”

Glennon’s “Popular Music & Culture” course is one way students blaze their trail at Mohawk Trail Regional School, engaging in exciting and innovative learning opportunities. To learn more about the Trailblazer model at the Buckland regional school and the courses offered at the school, visitmtrs.mohawktrailschools.org and click on the “student services” page.

To check out the class Spotify playlist, visit: open.spotify.com/user/aodjkbpe09jxdlmzwi2vzbwwo. Disclaimer from Glennon: In studying pop culture, it’s not all considered “family-friendly,” so listeners are urged to use their discretion when listening. Songs with explicit lyrics are marked and can be avoided by listeners.

Carla J. Potts is the director of communications and grant writer at Mohawk Trail Regional School District. She can be reached at [email protected]

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