American Roots Music Education offers interactive programs that can augment school music programs, school social studies programs, and youth/community center programs. We focus on styles of American popular music, such as blues grass, jazz, Tejano, blues, folk and Native American music, which are usually not well represented in textbooks or school music programs.
Our musician-educators are well-known, award-winning professionals who can tailor a program to meet the needs and abilities of almost any audience.
All of our programs include background materials and activity suggestions developed by professional educators. We provide all sound and audio-visual equipment, including set-up and operation, so that every program can be professionally produced at any school or venue.
Performances and educational materials are provided to Metro Nashville Public Schools at no charge, and to other schools and organizations at a minimal fee. We will gladly work with your school or non-profit group to help you secure funding to cover any expenses related to bringing our programs to your community.
Playing the Blues
American Roots Music Education and Project for Neighborhood Aftercare (PNA) are partners for this workshop project. The project serves elementary and middle school students who are enrolled in PNA after school programs and who fit the federal definition of “At-Risk” youth. ARME provides the program and materials free to the students and PNA teachers.
A professional musician-educator from ARME meets with a group of 15 students for one hour, one day per week for seven weeks to teach students the basics of playing the harmonica, how to improvise blues melodies and rhythms, how to compose blues songs in the traditional 12-bar format, and about the history of blues music and its influence on contemporary popular music.
Students each receive an instructional booklet, a practice CD, and 2 Hohner harmonicas to use during the workshops and to keep afterwards. The 47-page booklet and companion CD were written and produced by ARME specifically for this project.
The PNA teacher involved in the project works with students on Fridays to reinforce what students (and the PNA teacher) learned from the musician-educator. On the final week the students perform for other students, their parents, and teachers. The students will play classic harmonica songs, some original blues songs, and perform in an improvisational jam session.
Currently, six 7-week workshops sessions are scheduled for Spring 2006. ARME plans to expand the program during the 06/07 school year and offer nine 7-week sessions.
For grades 3-8.
Rhythm And Beat
This 55-minute interactive presentation is usually presented to the entire student body in an assembly setting. Through a program that includes 12 hit R&B songs, three musician-educators teach students about the musical roots of R&B music, the effects of changes in technology during the 1940s – 1960s on popular music, the concepts of the Billboard record charts, “crossover” by a record, and “cover” songs, the phenomenon of television dance shows and fad dances, how R&B music affected interaction between young white and black fans and helped to establish s receptive base among young Americans for the civil rights movement, the importance of Tennessee R&B artists and independent record labels, the styles of popular music (soul and rock ‘n’ roll) that evolved from R&B music.
James “Nick” Nixon and Shannon “Bayou” Williford are well known throughout the Metro Nashville Public Schools system for their award-winning interactive workshop about blues music, “What Did the Blues Do for You?” These two musician-educators, and Casey Lutton (another veteran musician-educator) are responsible for the presentations of “R&B in Tennessee.” James Nixon, who grew up in Nashville, has direct knowledge of the history of R&B in the minority community, and has personally connections to many of the musicians active during the 1940-1970 time period.
The program includes vintage video footage from the Country Music Hall of Fame’s “Night Train to Nashville” exhibitThe educational materials and program commentary were developed by Buffy Holton (MEd, Vanderbilt, 1997) who has developed educational material on blues music. The educational materials are provided to teachers 4 to 6 weeks prior to the interactive presentations. Teachers can use the background information and activity suggestions to prepare students for the presentation or to follow-up afterwards.
Carol Crittenden, Visual and Performing Arts Coordinator for Metro Nashville Public Schools has expressed her support for “R&B in Tennessee” and welcomes it into Nashville’s schools.
For grades 5-12.
Usually presented to the entire student body of a school, this 45 to 60 minute interactive performance highlights the history and social conditions behind the origin of blues music and demonstrates how it was influenced by other types of music (such as gospel and jazz) and in turn influenced most of today’s popular music (including country, zydeco, R & B, rock and rap). “Bayou” (Shannon Williford – harmonica and vocals) and “Nick” (James Nixon – guitar and vocals) perform samples of songs that illustrate the different influences and effects.
Students interact with the performers by responding to questions, singing along, clapping, stamping their feet, dancing, playing bucket “drums” and rapping. This is not a sit back and snooze assembly! Bayou and Nick usually also persuade some of the teachers to join the band.
The musical aspects of blues music (such as its rhythms, the 12 bar form, and the I-IV-V chord changes) and the lyrical devices (repetition, rhyming, subject matter) are explained to the students, with the explanation adapted to fit the grade level participating. Printed educational materials with background information, lesson plans, and activity suggestions are available for teachers to use with their students prior to, or following, the performance.
Musician-educators James “Nick” Nixon and Shannon “Bayou” Williford have been recognized by The Blues Foundation for their excellence in education with a Keeping the Blues Alive award, the highest award available in blues music education. This program has been presented to over 100,000 students in grades K-12 since 1997.
American Roots Music Education also provides more specialized workshops about blues music. Click here to learn more.
For grades K-8.