Black Voices of American Music:
A Singing History
Choose a video lesson from the shelf to begin learning
Map of Ancient African Civilizations, 790 - 1900
Let's get started!
Welcome to our first lesson! In this video we will learn about some of the oral traditions of ancient Black civilizations from the western side of the continent of Africa.
In this lesson we will learn what a Griot is and some of the types of instruments that they used in their storytelling. Then, we will learn the ancient story of Anansi - a very tricky spider!
Listen carefully to Ms. Lauren as she tells the story and see how much of it you can remember.
ca. 1700's - 1900's
Field Hollers, Work Songs, and Spirituals
United States Map of Enslaved People in 1860
In our second lesson, Ms. Lauren introduces us to call and response music sung by enslaved Black people in America. We will also learn about creative ways these songs were accompanied using body percussion known as the "pattin' juba."
Miss Lauren will teach us the call and response gospel song, "A Train's A-Comin' (The Gospel Train)" and share with us several ways that we might perform the song - including with our own steps, pats, and claps to create a fun pattin' juba as we sing.
It might be tricky to sing the song AND do the pattin' juba at the same time. Is there someone you can teach one part to and then try to perform together?
Click for LESSON TWO pdf Guides/Activities
ca. 1890's - 1930's
In our third lesson, Ms. Lauren teaches us all about the Blues. We will learn about call and response patterns, the blues scales, a 12-bar song structure, and AAB song form. We will also learn to write and perform our own original blues songs!
Does singing about something that makes you feel blue help you feel better?
Click for LESSON THREE pdf Guides/Activities
ca. 1920's - 1950's
Jazz pioneer Charlie Parker playing his saxophone
Our fourth lesson is all about Jazz!
Starting in the 1890's we'll learn how African rhythms combined with Western classical music harmonies created a new form of music known as Ragtime. We'll then examine how Ragtime evolved into various forms of Jazz.
We'll also learn about Improvisation, and Ms. Lauren will teach us the Pentatonic Scale and how to use it to sing an improvised jazz melody. **Link to Ms. Lauren's accompaniment track HERE and on the Video player page.
Click for LESSON FOUR pdf Guides/Activities
ca. 1920's - 1950's
The Great Migration of freed slaves ca. 1915 - 1940
In the fifth episode of our multi-part series, Ms. Lauren introduces us to Black Gospel music.
We will learn a bit about the Great Migration and how it helped spread this popular style of music from the American South to the Northeast and Midwestern parts of the of the United States. We will also learn what a melody and harmony are, and how they work together to make the appealing sounds we hear in group Gospel singing.
See if you can create your own gospel group in your home or classroom by singing the different parts Ms. Lauren teaches you at the same time!
Click for LESSON FIVE pdf Guides/Activities
ca 1940's - 1960's
Rhythm and Blues
Bo Diddley - creator of the 'Bo Diddley Beat'
What would happen if we combined the Blues, Gospel, and Jazz with other traditions of Black culture? We would get a new genre of music in the late 1940's called Rhythm and Blues.
We will learn about the rhythms, instruments, and unique harmonies that helped to create and define this uniquely American style of music.
Finally, we will learn how to perform the 'Bo Diddly Beat' with Ms. Lauren. Listen carefully to see if you can distinguish the stomp and clap sounds, then get your feet going and see if you can add the claps. Then, we'll put it all together with a fun Call and Response tune we can sing with Ms. Lauren!
Click for LESSON SIX pdf Guides/Activities
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ca. 1970's - Today
In this episode of our multi-part series we learn about how Rhythm and Blues inspired several other genres of music: soul, funk, rock, and disco. These styles all became the backdrop for the emergence of Hip-Hop music.
Emphasis on strong rhythm beats, and rhythm and rhyming of text is a big characteristic of this genre. We'll learn about some of the initial creators and MC's in the genre and then we'll learn how to create our own rap verse.
Ms. Lauren will help us determine the rhythmic cadence to a sampled track and then create our own rhymes to add over the beat. Don't forget to count your text syllables to match the beats!
Click for LESSON SEVEN pdf Guides/Activities
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In our final episode of this series, Ms. Lauren reviews all of the genres of music we have studied and helps us reflect on how these various styles of music are all connected.
Make sure to open the digital guide to follow the reflection prompts. If you do not have access to a printer or you'd like to be paperless you can open the .pdf file in a program such as Adobe Acrobat Reader and click to type on the blank lines. You can also re-copy the questions onto a blank Google Doc and type your answers OR you can copy the question onto a blank piece of paper and write your answers there.
We hope you have had a fun time on our learning journey! Come back to our site often to see what Ms. Lauren and other Met Guild teaching artists have created for you to explore Opera-Based learning in your home or classroom.
Click for LESSON EIGHT pdf Guides/Activities
Lauren Scales, Teaching Artist
Lauren Scales (M.M., NYU) is a recognized vocalist, songwriter, and teaching artist. Past accomplishments include: 2nd runner up in the 2016 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Composition; participation in Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead of 2016, hosted by the Kennedy Center; the 2017 NYU Steinhardt Songwriting Scholar Award, presented in conjunction with the Songwriters Hall of Fame; and competitor in the 2018 UNISA Jazz Vocal Competition (South Africa). Currently, she is lead vocalist of the project Valipala, appears in various groups and shows across the NYC area, and is a teaching artist with the Metropolitan Opera Guild and WillYouLearn music studio.