Voices Across Time: American History Through Music

July 30th, 2013

The University of Pittsburgh has partnered with the Society for American Music to create lesson plans which analyze famous historical songs. The Voices Across Time series includes more than 60 in-depth lesson plans which combine songs from similar eras and weaves them into thematic units.

Themes of the lesson plans are diverse, with units exploring the colonization of the New World, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and the Civil Rights Movement. Each lesson plan is tailored to specific Common Core State Standards and includes a targeted grade and subject area along with learning objectives and guiding questions for students. Lessons ask students to consider the historical context of the songs in order understand their significance.

The Voices Across Time project was created in an effort to give students a greater appreciation for musical primary texts:  

Music is also a potent bearer of cultural ideas, attitudes, and movements. Like works of literature and art that carry indelible messages from the time and place of their creation, musical compositions—and particularly those with texts—are source documents loaded with historical meaning.

Beyond its cultural significance, the program notes that music is one of the eight “learning styles” codified by Howard Gardner of Harvard University, and its unique qualities can help engage students that may be otherwise disinterested.

For additional resources on patriotic hymns, browse our “Songs for Free Men and Women” collection which examines our major national songs in order to understand what they contribute to making attached citizens.

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