Sixth, seventh and eighth grade students in Holly Grabowski's orchestra classes at Jonas E. Salk Middle School recently commemorated Black History Month by exploring prominent Black composers.
Ms. Grabowski presented a PowerPoint to her remote and in-person students which highlighted eight of these musicians. The students specially focused on Duke Ellington, Scott Joplin, William Grant Still and
Stevie Wonder and completed a packet about their lives while following the presentation. Students learned where and when each of these composers were born, the instruments they played, genre they wrote for
and any fun facts.
"I chose from a selection and wanted to make sure they were from a range of different time periods," said Ms. Grabowski. "As I move forward with this project in the future, I would love to add a greater selection of Black composers for students to learn about each new year."
In addition to the PowerPoint, students listened and analyzed one piece by each of the composers. This resulted in brief class discussions, either in-person or through Google Meet, regarding their feelings of the pieces. They were asked to write a few sentences about the music and included whether they enjoyed it or not, what the music reminded them of, what instruments they heard and more. Some students colored in the packet for extra credit. Furthermore, Ms. Grabowski has been playing short sections of music from other Black composers as students enter class. Together, both the lesson and exposure to other Black composers and musicians have furthered the orchestra students musical knowledge during this important month.