This Land Is Our Land – How Music Helps Protect, Honor, and Heal a Nation

Holly Lambert, Music, Morgan School



Music that protects, honors, and heals a nation is what my students will be discussing in this unit. Through this unit, I want my students to understand that music can be a powerful resource in creating a nation, healing a nation, or sustaining a nation. I want them to also see that music can be used as a non-violent tactic to help those who are suffering to be heard by the powers that be. The students will hopefully grasp a better understanding of these concepts by learning about other nations (specifically Tunisia and Estonia) that have used music as a means of surviving, healing, and coming together. They will also learn more about their own country of America and how music has bound us together through times of crisis. Through this unit they will be able to improve their musical skills, reading comprehension and fluency skills, and raise their level of critical thinking. This unit can be used with any middle school or high school music class and could also be interconnected with a World History or U.S. History course.


If you are like me, hearing a certain song can take you back to a certain time and place. When you hear this song, you remember exactly what you were doing, who you were with, and where you were. Some songs bring out certain emotions. Songs can remind us of happy times or sad times. A few songs can bring back a feeling of fear or being scared. Then, there are those songs that remind us of where we’ve been, what we’ve survived, and how we got to where we are today. In this unit, my students will explore how music can play a vital role in making a nation and how music can spark nationalism during times of crisis. With my students, one thing I strive to teach them about music is that all music should have meaning. I feel that in today’s society, at least in the Western world, music is not produced or made with meaning. Many times it is made for fame, money, and success. Many of the songs today either have lyrics that make no sense or have lyrics that have no meaning. My students are always discussing the lifestyles of their favorite musicians here in America. However, they rarely sit and take time to find meaning in the lyrics. Why did the artist write this song? What was the artist trying to say? Was the artist trying to make a point or just make money? At the culmination of this unit, I hope that I will hear my students talking about the meaning of music, how powerful a song can be, and how music can be an agent of change in a nation.

I want my students to understand that music is not just for entertainment. I want my students to see music as more than just money and fame. I want them to see music as a way of life that opens doors and tears down barriers. I want them to see music as a cultural tool that can bring people from opposite sides together, when words and violence fail to do so. Many times in history music has been used as a non-violent approach to end injustices. For example, many of the messages delivered during the Civil Rights Movement were best done so by song. Music has many different purposes and can be the sender of very powerful messages. In this unit, we will look at how music can unite people through a common language and foster nationalism in the hearts of a nation.

I teach K-12 General Music at a public separate school in Charlotte, North Carolina. A public separate school is designed for students who need a more restrictive setting, but is also still part of the public school system. Charlotte is the largest city in North Carolina, and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System is one of the twenty-five largest school districts in the United States. CMS is an urban school district with a very diverse population. The school where I teach is centrally located in the city, as our enrollment includes students from every part of the district. My school is designed for students with severe emotional and behavioral disabilities, and is one of only two separate CMS schools for exceptional children. All students that are enrolled are entitled to, and ensured, a proper public education which is accommodated through their Individualized Education Plans. The average class size is eight to ten students with one teacher and a teacher assistant. These students have been found to be best served in the most restrictive setting, due to their need for a highly structured environment, the use of a behavior plan, and the need for a small class size. A very high percentage of these students receive free and/or reduced lunch and live in poverty. Additionally, most of these students come from a background of intensive restrictive settings and residential facilities, where they have fallen behind in their academic achievements, as well as fallen behind socially. Although I teach K-12 Music, this unit would be geared towards my high school and middle school classes due to the amount of research and critical thinking that will need to be done.


In this unit, I have chosen specific national events in which music was created to foster nationalism in some way. We will begin by discussing the historical context of these events so that students will have a foundation for their new knowledge. We will also discuss the context and meaning of the songs and lyrics and how music can be used to express feelings and begin the healing process in a nation. Through various activities I want my students to understand that music can be an agent of change. I want them to understand that they too can use music and lyric writing as a coping skill for events happening in their lives. In many of the situations we will cover, many of the people writing the music are oppressed. Many of my students can relate to this feeling and on average do not handle their situations in a positive manor. Therefore, I want them to see music as a means of healing and coping with stressful situations in their life and their nation. Students will have the opportunity to strengthen music skills they already possess and challenge themselves to develop new music skills. First, students will learn how to use music to express feelings about their nation. They will also learn how to compose music and write lyrics for a certain purpose. Students will also be required to examine different styles and genres of music, listening for commonalities and contrasting differences. Lastly, students will be asked to relate music concepts to those concepts learned in their core academic classes.

Music is the main focus in this unit, but will not be the only subject that students will be engaged in. Through this unit, students will have the opportunity to strengthen their literacy skills and fluency by reading and sharing song lyrics. Reading comprehension skills will also be reinforced through the use of various articles, questions about texts, and discussions on what lyrics mean in songs chosen. Interdisciplinary connections will also be apparent and will help students to link learning to their core content classes. For example, students will be able to link their learning of reading and writing lyrics to their English classroom. Also, students will be learning various world historical events that they can connect to their History and Social Studies classrooms. This unit also includes many opportunities to tie in global education and 21st century skills. Lastly, this unit will help students with their critical thinking skills by forcing them to think outside of the box and see things from other viewpoints.



When we think of the word “nation”, we tend to over generalize and assume that a nation has to be a country with physical borders. However, this is not always true. There are various definitions for what constitutes a nation which leads to several different strands of nationalism. It can be a belief that citizenship in a state should be limited to one ethnic, cultural or identity group, or that multi-nationality in a single state should necessarily comprise the right to express and exercise national identity even by minorities. In the modern world, nations usually try to create states, governing structures, which constitute political authority for the nation. Another view of a nation is simply a group of people with a common culture, language, history, or ethnicity. In this version, a nation has no borders or boundaries separating it from others.


Nationalism to most is a political ideology that involves a strong identification of a group of persons with a political entity. Many times this word, nationalism, is explained in different ways but all definitions usually have a common idea. According to Anthony D. Smith, the most common definition of nationalism “is an ideology that places the nation at the centre of its concerns and seeks to promote its well-being”. However, Smith argues that this definition alone is hazy as there are “main goals under whose headings nationalism seeks to promote the nation’s well-being”[i]. He suggests that the three main goals of nationalism are national autonomy, national unity and national identity. To survive as a great nation, one must have all three of these components. Another important fact that Smith makes is that nationalism can exist prior to a “nation” existing. Many times nationalism is used as a movement that forms a nation, as can be seen in the postcolonial states of Africa and Asia.

Musical nationalism

This term refers to the use of musical ideas or motifs that are identified with a specific country, region, or ethnicity, such as folk tunes, rhythms, and harmonies inspired by them. Nationalism in music is generally described as a late nineteenth century phenomenon where countries or regions aspiring to nationhood would have composers writing music to join a national musical idiom to existing conventional genres.[ii] Most feel that musical nationalism started with the Russians with great composers such as Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov, Modest Musorgsky, and Aleksandr Borodin. Others feel that musical nationalism began in Germany in the early 1800’s by Carl Maria von Weber. In 1821 Weber wrote an opera entitled “Der Freischütz” using folk songs, fairy tales, and traditional German horns to depict “German music”. Before the 19th century, the goal of an artist/musician was to express ideas universally. However, ideas began to move towards embracing things that were unique to one’s own country, in turn creating musical nationalism. Many people were excited about musical nationalism because it gave the audiences a chance to peek into distant and exotic cultures through music, since many of them could not afford to travel to these places.[iii] First, this music can have a political motive. This is where music celebrates a shared language and/or culture to portray the appearance of a unified nation. One modern example of a song with a political motive is Public Enemy’s “Prophets of Rage” from 1988. In this song, the group sings about the importance of expression and declaration of cultural identity in the lines “they tell lies in the books that you’re readin’/It’s knowledge of yourself that you needin’…we have a reason why to debate the hate.”[iv] Secondly, this music can have a cultural motive where the music celebrates the distinctive expressions and culture of a social group, creating a sense of a national identity. This can be seen in Bela Bartok’s composition entitled “Dance Suite” from 1923 which emulates Hungarian peasant music.

Popular Nationalism vs. Official Nationalism

Popular nationalism in relationship to music includes those songs that are ordinary people’s expressions of sentiment about the nation. These popular songs can include concern for the nation, anger about a decision the nation has made or an event that is taking place, or the exact opposite – support of the nation.

One great example of a popular nationalistic song that I will introduce to my students is “Rais Lebled” by the Tunisian rapper El General. El General posted this song to Facebook and it soon became the anthem to Tunisia’s revolution. Hip-hop was one of the vehicles of change that brought down a dictator in Tunisia. On November 7, 2010, Hamada Ben Amor (El General) uploaded his song called “Rais Lebled” to his Facebook page. This date was significant as it was also a national holiday commemorating the moment in 1987 when Prime Minister Zine El Abidine Ben Ali ended the thirty year reign of the previous president, Habib Bourguiba, with a bloodless coup. However, this song was not a celebration. “Rais Lebled” loosely translates as “President of the Country” and was a cry of injustices that were brought upon the Tunisian people by the President. Many thought Amor was “unbelievably stupid” for releasing this song, as the dictatorship at the time did not tolerate public opposition of the government. Amor knew he could be killed for speaking his mind, but he stated he was ready for the consequences of his actions. “Rais Lebled” did not have an official release date or party like here in the United States. It was mostly listened to online, specifically Facebook, which had become the place to go for underground rap in Tunisia. Then, on December 17, 2010 a fruit vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire outside the government headquarters to protest his mistreatment by the police. This one act caused those who were fans of the song “Rais Lebled” to release their rage they had been holding on to and ignited a nationwide uprising. When asked if he was going to give up after being arrested for publishing the song, El General said, “I had to continue. A rapper here is like a journalist. Rap reflects the reality of Tunisian society. It’s the only music that supported the revolution. The youth appreciate that.”[v] It is songs like these that are used to rise up against the injustices in a nation. It is songs like “Rais Lebled” that are used as a sense of protection for those suffering in a cruel and unjust nation.

Official nationalism in correlation to music looks at songs that governments use to reinforce nationalism. Perhaps the best example of this would be the national anthem. A national anthem is generally a patriotic musical composition that evokes and lauds the history, traditions and struggles of its people. The anthem is recognized by a nation’s government as the official national song or by convention through use by the people. National anthems became popular in the late 1700-1800’s. However, the oldest national anthem recorded is the “Wilhelmus”. This is the national anthem of the Dutch and was written during the Dutch Revolt sometime between 1568 and 1572, although it did not become the official national anthem until 1932. Which leads me to the question – how does an anthem become a nation’s anthem? There are three ways in which an anthem can become the official national anthem – by a provision in the country’s constitution, by a law ratified by its legislature or by tradition.[vi] Most anthems are in the common language of the nation/country. However, if more than one language is spoken, the anthem is usually offered in various languages. Anthems can be used in many different ways. The most common way anthems are used is for sporting events and the Olympics. Other nations use the anthem at festivals, holidays, to begin a radio or television broadcast, before a movie or a play, and at schools to start the academic day. States within nations, such as the United Kingdom, may also have a separate “national anthem” and it may be officially recognized alongside of the nation’s official anthem. Recently, there has been debate in the European Union on whether countries in the EU should keep their nation’s anthems or conform to an “EU national anthem”. The sentiment among most of the EU’s members is that they are happy to recognize an anthem of the EU but only if they can maintain their own nations anthem as well.

Perhaps the greatest example of how official nationalistic music can protect, honor, and heal a nation is the Singing Revolution in Estonia. For more than fifty years Estonia was occupied by the Soviets. Estonians had no military force or weapons. They could not gain their freedom through fighting. So, they chose to gain their freedom through their nationalistic spirit, and they used music as the vehicle. The Singing Revolution is the name given to the process that led to the reestablishment of Estonian independence in 1991. It was given this name mainly due to the protest songs in the mid-1980’s. However, singing had always been a uniting force for the Estonian people during the fifty year reign of the Soviets in their country. Early in their history Estonians established a history of mass song festivals. These festivals were held in the city of Tallinn and were a nationwide sensation that would see anywhere from 30,000 to 200,000 people. During Soviet rule they were forced to sing praises to Communist icons such as Lenin and Stalin during the festivals. As an answer to these false praises Estonians would introduce patriotic songs disguised as love songs or folk music. However, all songs sung at the festivals had to be censored by the Soviets and many did not make it through. In 1947 a musical piece written by Gustav Ernesaks would slip through the cracks of the Soviet censors and become the unofficial national anthem for the next fifty years. Ernesaks set music to the lyrics of an old national poem written by Lydia Koidula entitled “Mu isamaa on minu arm” which translates to “Land of My Fathers, Land That I Love”. The Soviets soon discovered what had happened and banned the song in the 1950’s festivals. Fighting all the way, the Estonians still sporadically sang the song in the 1960’s at festivals and by 1965 it was again included in the festival program. In 1969, at the 100th anniversary of the song festival, the choirs on stage and the audience began singing the song a second time. Soviets produced threats and ordered everyone off stage. No one left. The Soviets then ordered a military band to play to try and drown out the singers. However, one hundred instruments could not deafen the sound of over a hundred thousand singers uniting together in song. By the late 1980’s Estonia was ready to boil over onto the Soviets. Thanks to new Soviet leader Mikael Gorbachev, and his policy of glasnost (free speech), protest songs and rallies were in full effect. National momentum continued to build and in the summer of 1988 a rock concert spilled into the grounds of the Song Festival, which resulted in six straight nights of massive crowds singing patriotic songs and waving the forbidden blue, black and white national flags. The people knew that as long as they drew no blood Gorbachev could not send in tanks to stop the protests and singing festivals. So, the people pushed as hard as they could with their voices in what is considered one of the greatest non-violent revolutions of all time. As of today, Gustav Ernesaks song still remains as the national anthem of Estonia.[vii]

Analyzing American Music

Another way to examine how music can protect, honor, and heal a nation is to use the above framework with iconic events in America and the music associated with each occasion. If you are a teacher, you probably know quite a bit about American history than that of other countries such as Tunisia and Estonia. Therefore, I am just going to give you some suggestions of songs to use to bring the idea of nationalistic music into the realm of American history.

During the Civil War, singing was one of the soldiers’ favorite ways to pass the time between battles. Numerous songs were composed during the war and sung throughout the armies and at home. Many were inspirational marching tunes meant to keep soldiers’ morale high, while others were sad sentimental songs that were sung when thinking of home or loved ones they had left behind. Sometimes, if soldiers liked a tune they heard the enemy singing, they would write their own lyrics to the song and sing it themselves. For this reason, many Civil War songs have at least two versions. Songs from this time period are usually recorded into three separate groups – songs of the union, songs of the confederacy, and songs all soldiers sang. Some good examples of songs that helped to heal the hearts of soldiers and their family members are “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” by Patrick Gilmore and “John Brown’s Body” by William Weston Patton. Songs that were sang to honor the nation, or in this case the North or South, were also popular. Rousing rounds of songs such as “The Bonnie Blue Flag” by Harry McCarthy, “The Battle Cry of Freedom” by George F. Root, “Lincoln and Liberty” by Jesse Hutchinson and “God Save the South” by Earnest Halpin would often rally the troops after a long day. One comical song that students may enjoy is “Goober Peas” by A.E. Blackmar. This song is a depiction of life in the South at the end of the Civil War. The South had been cut off from the rail lines, their farms had been taken, and they had very little to eat. The most common emergency ration food was boiled peanuts, also known as “goober peas”.

World War II was the first major global conflict to take place in the age of electronically mass distributed music. Never before had states had the power to determine not only what songs were performed and listened to, but also had the power to control the recordings not allowing local people to alter the songs in their own performances. Though local people still sang and produced songs, this form of music faced serious new competition from centralized electronic distributed music. However, there was plenty of music to go around. No American war had spawned as much music as did World War I. So, rising music stars had an entire generation of their parent’s war music to search and inspire them. Patriotic themed music increased as Axis aggression increased. Songs about national healing became more prevalent after major events such as the bombing of Hiroshima and at the conclusion of the war. Perhaps the most influential patriotic song of this time was “God Bless America” which was revived by Irving Berlin. This song became the unofficial second national anthem of the United States and flag sales in America soared after its release. Other popular song choices include “The Marines Hymn”, “The Caissons Go Rolling Along”, and “We’re All Americans” (sung by Kate Smith).

Perhaps the most prolific event in American History that brought with it one of the greatest compilations of music was the Civil Rights Movement. The movement officially began in 1954 with the ruling by the Supreme Court in the case of Brown vs. the Board of Education that segregation in public schools was unconstitutional.[viii] The non-violent protests and fight for equal rights lasted for over eleven years and created a period of music that still moves people today. These songs were made to express the injustices and cruelties being carried out amongst the black citizens of America. However, most of these songs provided those who were fighting with the hope and courage to continue their efforts. Even during protests where blacks, and white supporters, would be beaten, spit on, cursed at, and humiliated they would rally together to sing songs of support, protection, and healing. Great examples of these songs can be found in popular tunes such as “We Shall Overcome” by Pete Seeger, “Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud” by James Brown, and “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize”, a traditional folk song that was covered by many famous artists.

Other events that have shaped America and its music that could be studied are the Vietnam War, Desert Storm, Hurricane Katrina, and most recent in our minds the events of 9/11. A great resource for the September 11th attacks can be found on A&E’s Biography Series. The special program entitled “When Pop Culture Saved America” looks at the reaction of television, film comedy, Broadway, and music to the 9/11 attacks. Many actors, musicians, and artists discuss and describe how the events affected and colored their creative processes.[ix]



The daybook is an excellent tool to use in the classroom for students to share their thoughts, ideas, and perceptions. It also allows students to expand on new objectives and new material learned. More importantly, the daybook is a safe space for students to write without the incorrect red marks of a teacher’s pen. Students can write a draft of a paper or in this unit a song, and let the teacher know when they are ready for it to be read. Then, the teacher uses post-it notes to make comments or suggestions, instead of writing on the students’ work. Research and findings on using the daybook can be accessed through the National Writing Project.[x]

Socratic Seminar

The Socratic Seminar method is based upon the Greek philosopher Socrates’ method of engaging his pupils in finding their own answers. He wanted his students to be able to think for themselves, rather than fill their heads with all the right answers. This seminar method calls for the facilitator to answer a question with a question, rather than answering a question with a definite answer.[xi]

Students are given a form of text, which can be a poem, short story, piece of art, or a song to examine. Students should read the text first and be able to let it soak in. Then, the teacher should give an essential question and have students re-read or refocus on the text with that question in mind. A group discussion, led by the teacher, is then developed around key questions about the piece. These questions, chosen by the teacher, should be formed to where they help guide the students’ opinions. The goal of a Socratic seminar is for students to carry on discussions with their peers, supporting or refuting statements made by one another while also learning to listen and respect the opinions of others. Before the first seminar session, it is a good idea to set a list of norms, or rules, for the session. One norm that should be set for example is how students will know when it is their turn to talk. A squish ball or talking stick is a great way to make sure students do not interrupt one another and only talk when they are holding the item (ball or stick). Also, students can take ownership of the seminar by choosing who they would like to talk next by throwing them the ball or passing the stick. It is also best practice to have students sit in a circle, whether it is around a table or just in chairs, to best emanate the feeling of a round table discussion.

The teacher should open up the discussion with the essential question. Then, after responses, the teacher can use follow-up questions to assess students’ understanding of the essential question. The teacher should try to refrain from commenting and allow students to have dialogue with one another, without the input of the teacher. As students share their opinions of the text, they should be able to reference certain parts of the text to use as evidence to support their opinion. It is also important to note to students that there are no “correct answers”. This will help students see that everyone can have their own opinion without being right or wrong. At the end of the seminar, students should be asked to write their reflections in a journal or daybook. This will allow the students to process the session, or give them a chance to write down a thought that they may not have been able to verbally express.

Cooperative Learning Groups

Forming cooperate learning groups in the classroom is a successful teaching strategy where the teacher forms small groups that students will work in. Each group contains students with different levels of ability so that all team members are responsible for their learning and what their team mates are learning. This form of collaboration helps to create an atmosphere of achievement for the whole group. This strategy also helps the teacher by having “peer tutors” so that the teacher is not being asked questions from multiple students at the same time and can be more of a facilitator in the classroom. Students use a variety of learning activities to improve their understanding of a subject. The students work through the assignment together as a team until all members understand the concept and complete the task at hand.

Graphic Organizers

Students will use a variety of graphic organizers to help them better understand all of the history and facts given to them. They can also be used to help students organize their creative thoughts that develop through this unit. When students apply their knowledge to something that they have been creatively engaged in, there is a better chance of the brain recalling that information. The graphic organizers that will be used in this unit are the KWL Chart, Venn diagram, and a Cause and Effect Map.

KWL Chart

At the beginning of this unit, I will ask my students to begin a KWL Chart. The KWL Chart helps students realize what they already know, what they want to learn, and what they learn along the way. This chart can be used as a great pre-assessment piece for the teacher, as well as a post-assessment for students and teacher. The K stands for what you already KNOW. The W stands for what you WANT to know. Last, the L stands for what you LEARN. This chart would be displayed on a large piece of chart paper in the classroom where all students could see. As the lesson progresses, students can add to the “W” column if new content sparks a new idea and add to the “L” column as they learn new things.

What you KNOW What you WANT to know What you LEARN

Venn diagram

The Venn diagram is used when wanting to compare and contrast information. For this unit, students will use the Venn diagram to compare and contrast different songs, lyrics, or musicians. The Venn diagram could also be used to compare and contrast songs that protect the nation versus songs that honor or heal the nation. Two circles are drawn to where they overlap each other in the center. The left and right circles are used to display the differences between two things. The middle parts of the circles, where they overlap, are used to display what both things have in common.


Cause and Effect Map

Cause and Effect Maps will be used in this unit after discussion of iconic events that brought about nationalistic music. Many times our students can recite what happened in an event, but cannot recall or understand all of the reasoning behind the event. These maps can help the students to think through all causes of a problem thoroughly. The greatest advantage of a Cause and Effect Map is that it pushes the students to consider all possible causes of the problem, not just the ones that are most obvious.[xiii]

Cause and Effect Map:

Event: Tunisian Revolution

Solution Station

Due to the nature of my school, many of my students have a high number of absences. Therefore, it is important to have information readily available for students who miss class due to behaviors, suspensions, or appointments. I have found that the best way to catch students up from information or work they have missed is to have it available at a Solution Station. Students will have access to a solution station in the classroom where they can access information that they may have trouble with or have trouble remembering or have missed due to an absence. The solution station will include a timeline foldable, complete with important historical events and dates. Having a solution station will allow students to catch up on information missed without having to stop instructional time to do so. This solution station will also play a key role in the culminating activity for the students. When working on their final project, they can visit the solution station to remind them of information they may have learned at the beginning of the unit.

Multimedia Presentations

During this unit, students will also have the opportunity to create small projects using various multimedia technologies. It has been my observation that when students can create using technology they are generally more engaged and involved in the lesson. Therefore, I try to incorporate technology into every lesson or unit taught when possible. In this unit the students will create using platforms such as Wordle, Popplet, Glogster, and Audacity. All of these resources can be accessed via the internet.


Students will create a “wordle” based on certain song lyrics that are examined in class. Wordle is an online activity where students can type in the words of a poem, story, or song and the words that appear more frequently in the text will be displayed with more prominence in the wordle. Students can change the font, color, and layout of their wordle (word cloud) to make it unique. Students will then analyze their wordle for words that are larger, or smaller, and why that may be.[xiv]


Popplet is another web-based application that students can use to create a presentation of their ideas, thoughts, or research. Students can add pictures, change the font, change colors, and create unique layouts for their presentations. This is a newer application and is still considered a beta-version application, so there are some bugs that still occur. However, this is a great fun, new way for students to present without creating the normal PowerPoint slideshow.[xv]


Glogster is another web-based application that will allow the students to create a free interactive poster, or glog. Glog is short for a graphical blog and is an interactive multimedia image Students can take information they have learned about from the Tunisian Revolution or Estonian Revolution, and create a poster with text, images, photos, audio, videos, special effects and various other elements.[xvi]


Audacity is a free web-based program that students can use to record, slice, or mix audio. Students will use this website when working on the national anthem contest. This program will allow students to directly record onto the computer and mix their music in with their voice.[xvii]


Image Explosion

In this activity the students will be given a copy of the translated lyrics from “Rais Lebled” by El General (Tunisian rapper). The teacher will read the lyrics aloud at least once. The teacher will ask students to circle words or phrases that speak to them in some way as the teacher reads aloud. Then, have students choose one word or phrase that they have circled and explain to students that they will free write about what they chose. Students should be given three to four minutes to write down any thoughts or ideas. The teacher will then step back from the writing for a moment and explain how the image explosion will work. The teacher will read the piece again slowly and each person will interrupt the teacher with their own words when the teacher reads aloud the word or phrase they circled. Give everyone another moment to go back to their writing with the idea that they will read it aloud. Then follow through with reading with image explosion. Encourage students to write down words, ideas, or thoughts from their other peers that they find interesting, disagree with, or want to know more about. Once the complete lyrics are read and everyone has a chance to interrupt with their free write, hold a round table discussion on those things that students wrote down about their peers’ responses.

Emotional Connections

In this activity we will look at how music heals a nation through emotional connections and responses from an audience. We will be using the instructional DVD entitled The Singing Revolution, which is a documentary about Estonia and their musical heritage. Explain to students that composers often write a song or music to capture a certain emotional perspective. The composer wants to evoke a certain feeling from the audience in hopes that the song/piece will cause a personal connection to the true meaning of the music.

As a warm up, the teacher will select a brief but suggestive section of a song to play for the students. This song section could be a relaxing classical piece (example: Pachelbel’s “Canon in D”), a pumped up rock song (example: “I Wanna Rock and Roll” by Kiss), or a beat heavy hip-hop song (example: “Imma Be” by the Black Eyed Peas, “Stronger” by Kanye West). Whatever piece is chosen, the teacher should make sure that the section clearly demonstrates an emotional tone. The section could have a sad, angry, exciting, calm, or relaxing tone; it just needs to be detectable. Students will write down five words which relate to how they feel while listening to the piece selected. After playing the song, the teacher will ask students to share examples of their emotional words and record them on the white board. By writing the words on the board the class can then have a group discussion to process whether most answers are similar or related, and to provide students with the idea that music often unites an audience by inducing similar emotions. I would also suggest that a list of emotion words (which can be easily generated from online sources) be available for those students who have trouble with verbal processing. These students can know in their mind what word they want to use but will have trouble verbalizing their thought. Providing a list of possible emotions will help these students to move along at an appropriate pace and not become frustrated when they cannot think of the right word to put on paper.

Then, review the difference between major and minor keys in music. Play examples of minor chords/scales versus major chords/scales on the piano or guitar to help the aural learners to understand the difference in sound. The teacher should then prompt students with thought provoking questions such as “What emotions do the different notes inspire? Do the emotions change depending on whether it is a major or minor note? What would be one benefit of a song in a minor key? What would be a benefit of a song in a major key? What could the composer gain from changing between major and minor keys in the course of a song?”

Next, have students view the 2004 Song Festival Performance of “Ilus maa/Beautiful Land” from the video The Singing Revolution. The teacher should instruct students to pay attention not only to the music but also to the gestures and motions of the conductor, as well as the facial expressions of the various singers. As students are watching, they should list words and phrases that represent how they feel during the beginning, middle, and end of the song (which are distinguished by the key changes). After listening to the song, students will then read the lyrics to “Ilus maa/Beautiful Land” and compare their word associations to the corresponding sections of lyrics. Students will then independently answer the question “Did your associated words offer any insight into why the composer would pair this music with these words? How do your words connect with the song lyrics?” When students have completed this question, divide students into small groups or pairs to discuss their answer. Groups will also collaborate to answer the following questions: 1.) Why do you think the composer chose to change keys in the middle of the song, and then back to the original key at the end? What emotional effect do the changes add to the music? 2.) Consider the expressions of the different singers who had close ups during the video selection. What do you notice about their expressions while singing? Is there a difference between young and old singers? Can you tell what the singers are feeling? How can you tell these things? 3.) How can you tell that the conductor is emotionally connected to the music? Which of his actions do you most remember? Do his mannerisms enhance or take away from the emotional effect of the music and why? 4.) Considering the size of the choir (very large!) and how defined the harmonies are throughout the song, can you draw the conclusion that harmony enhances the emotional power of music? Why or why not?

Lastly, as a way of assessing what the students have learned, provide each student with an “exit ticket”. On this ticket (small piece of paper), students will explain how music inspires emotional reactions from an audience. Students will need to respond with four to six complete sentences to show comprehension and understanding of the lesson.

National Anthem Contest

In this activity, students will be asked to create a new national anthem for our country. First, the teacher will review our national anthem and its lyrics. The class will also look at a brief history of the “Star Spangled Banner” and its composer, Francis Scott Key. As the lyrics are being read aloud, students will be asked to circle words they do not know the meaning of. These words will then be looked up in the dictionary and students will be asked to use the words in a sentence to show understanding of the meaning. Next, using what the students have learned about how national anthems are used to honor a nation (link to prior learning), they will need to write inspiring lyrics to the original tune of the “Star Spangled Banner”. Students should be encouraged to use modern language in their lyrics but to also remember to maintain the honor and dignity of our nation. To differentiate instruction for higher level students, requirements would be to write new lyrics and new music for the anthem. These students can utilize various instruments in the classroom, or may simply choose to create a melody on the electronic keyboards. Students should also write their new melody in music notation, making sure to use correct notes, rhythms, markings, and other basic music terminology. Judging should take place in the form of individual performances in the classroom or on a larger scale, such as a school-wide talent show. The teacher can choose other staff members as the judges or can have students choose staff members to sit as judges. To intertwine the Visual Arts into this activity, students could also be asked to create a cd cover/album cover for their new national anthem.

Appendix: Implementing District and State Standards

Throughout this unit, many district and state music standards will be addressed. New to the music classroom this year, the North Carolina state standards have been revised and rewritten. The music standards now focus on three components, known as strands, of the Arts Education curriculum. Those three standards are Musical Literacy, Musical Response, and Contextual Relevancy. There continue to be Essential Standards for each strand and correlating Clarifying Objectives that help explain and break down each standard.

In the classroom, standards and objectives should always be available for students to view. Also, they should be written in student friendly terms so that the students understand what they are to learn and what is expected of them. When providing objectives this way, the students know what they should be studying and what they should have learned when it is time for an assessment. Below, I have listed the state strands, standards, and objectives that will be addressed through this unit.

Musical Literacy

Essential Standard 1: Apply the elements of music and musical techniques in order to sing and play music with accuracy and expression.

Objective 1.1: Use characteristic tone and consistent pitch when performing music alone.

Objective 1.3: Interpret expressive elements, including dynamics, timbre, phrasing, and interpretation while singing.

Essential Standard 2: Interpret the sound and symbol systems of music.

Objective 2.3: Use standard symbols for pitch, rhythm, dynamics, tempo, and expression to notate musical ideas.

Essential Standard 3: Create music using a variety of sound and notational sources.

Objective 3.2: Construct short pieces within specified guidelines, using a variety of traditional and non-traditional sound, notational, and 21st century technological sources.

Musical Response

Essential Standard 1: Understand the interacting elements to respond to music and music performances.

Objective 1.2: Identify principles of meter, rhythm tonality, intervals, chords, and harmonic progressions using appropriate music terminology in analyses of music.

Objective 1.3: Evaluate performances, compositions, and musical ideas using a specified set of criteria.

Contextual Relevancy

Essential Standard 1: Understand global, interdisciplinary, and 21st century connections with music.

Objective 1.1: Use music to explore concepts in world history and relate them to significant events, ideas, and movements from a global context.

Objective 1.2: Understand the relationships between music and concepts from other areas.

Annotated Bibliography

Anderson, Benedict R. O. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the origin and spread

of Nationalism. Rev. ed. London: Verso, 2006.

This book provides insight into nationalistic theories. This book looks at the global

spread of the imagined communities of nationality and explores the events that built

these communities.

“Audacity.” Audacity: Free Audio Editor and Recorder. (accessed November 28, 2011).

This is a free site for recording, slicing, and mixing music/audio.

“Europe Nationalism in Music and the United States – Musicology And Nationalism, Nationalism And Art, German Nationalism, Features Of Nationalist Music, The Legacy Of Nationalism And The Special Case Of The United States.” Science Encyclopedia- JRank Articles. (accessed September 16, 2011).

This website is a good resource for comparing American nationalism in music and European nationalism in music.

“Glogster: make a poster online. It’s free!.” Glogster. (accessed November 22, 2011).

This is a free web-based program that allows you to create your own interactive posters.

Goldsmith, Martin. “Milestones of the Millennium: Musical Nationalism.” NPR :

National Public Radio : News & Analysis, World, US, Music & Arts : NPR.

(accessed September 16, 2011).

This website contains many music related articles, such as this one, on how nationalistic

music began and why it was so popular among audiences.

“Google Images – Venn diagram.” Google. (accessed November 22, 2011).

This is an image of a Venn diagram used from Google Images.

Kidd, Sam. “Nationalism.” UTS Bachelor of Sound and Music Design 2010. (accessed October 4,


This article explains the motives in nationalistic music.

Levin, David P. “When Pop Culture Saved America.” A&E Biography Series. New York

City. A&E Television Networks. Originally aired on September 5, 2011.

This is a commercial-free program that was aired on A&E’s Biography channel. This program discusses how the events of 9/11 changed the way artists, actors, and musicians shaped their crafts.

“Lyrics.” Lyrics. (accessed October 4, 2011).

This website is a good resource for finding lyrics to songs.

“Mind Tools – Cause and Effect.” Mind Tools – Management Training, Leadership

Training and Career Training. (accessed November 22, 2011).

This website is a great resource for ideas on graphic organizers and strategies for the


“National Writing Project.” National Writing Project – Improving the Teaching of

Writing in the Nation’s Schools. (accessed September 16, 2011).

This website provides research-based writing strategies for the classroom, including the daybook.

“National anthem.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (accessed October 4, 2011).

This website provides the history of national anthems, including how they are chosen and how they become official in a nation.

Peisner, David. “Inside Tunisia’s Hip-Hop Revolution.” Spin, August 24, 2011.

This is a great article in Spin Magazine that looks into the life of El General, a rapper

from Tunisia, and how his one rap song revolutionized his country.

“Popplet.” Popplet: Collect, curate and share your ideas, inspirations, and projects. (accessed October 27, 2011).

This is a free web-based program that can be used to create presentations in a new and

exciting format.

Smith, Anthony D.. Nationalism: theory, ideology, history. 2nd ed. Malden, Mass.: Polity

Press, 2001.

This book provides a foundation for the many concepts and ideas of theories in


“Socratic Seminars.” Study A Resource for Parents, Students, and Teachers. (accessed November 24, 2011).

This website explains and gives examples of a Socratic seminar.

“Songs of the Civil Rights Movement”, National Public Radio,, (accessed November 24, 2011).

This website lists and discusses the most influential songs of the Civil Rights Movements.

Vesilind, Priit. The Singing Revolution: How culture saved a nation. Tallinn: Varrak,


This book explains in detail the history of Estonia and how the country saved itself from

Communist rule by holding singing festivals. There is also a corresponding video that

tells the story.

Williams, Juan. Eyes on the prize: America’s civil rights years, 1954-1965. New York,

NY: Viking, 1987.

This book looks at the Civil Rights Movement in America from the beginnings.

“Wordle – Beautiful Word Clouds.” (accessed October 27, 2011).

This is a free website resource that allows one to create “word clouds” using various



[i] Smith, Anthony D.. Nationalism: theory, ideology, history. 2nd ed. Malden, Mass.:

Polity Press, 2001, pg. 9.

“Europe Nationalism in Music and the United States – Musicology And Nationalism, Nationalism And Art, German Nationalism, Features Of Nationalist Music, The Legacy Of Nationalism And The Special Case Of The United States.” Science Encyclopedia- JRank Articles. (accessed September 16, 2011).

[iii] Goldsmith, Martin. “Milestones of the Millennium: Musical Nationalism.” NPR :

National Public Radio : News & Analysis, World, US, Music & Arts : NPR.

(accessed September 16, 2011).

“Lyrics.” Lyrics. (accessed October 4, 2011).

[v] Peisner, David. “Inside Tunisia’s Hip-Hop Revolution.” Spin, August 24, 2011, pg. 72.

[vi] “National anthem.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (accessed October 4, 2011).

[vii] Vesilind, Priit. The Singing Revolution: How culture saved a nation. Tallinn: Varrak,


[viii] Williams, Juan. Eyes on the prize: America’s civil rights years, 1954-1965. New York,

NY: Viking, 1987.

[ix] Levin, David P. “When Pop Culture Saved America.” A&E Biography Series. New

York City. A&E Television Networks. Originally aired on September 5, 2011.

[x] “National Writing Project.” National Writing Project – Improving the Teaching of

Writing in the Nation’s Schools. (accessed September 16, 2011).

[xi] “Socratic Seminars.” Study A Resource for Parents, Students, and Teachers. (accessed November 24, 2011).

[xii] “Google Images – Venn diagram.” Google. (accessed November 22, 2011).

[xiii] “Mind Tools – Cause and Effect.” Mind Tools – Management Training, Leadership

Training and Career Training. (accessed November 22, 2011).

“Wordle – Beautiful Word Clouds.” (accessed October 27,


[xv] “Popplet.” Popplet: Collect, curate and share your ideas, inspirations, and projects. (accessed October 27, 2011).

[xvi] “Glogster: make a poster online. It’s free!.” Glogster. (accessed November 22, 2011).

[xvii] “Audacity.” Audacity: Free Audio Editor and Recorder. (accessed November 28, 2011).