Music Appreciation ~ by Jessica Fielding

A WFS Faculty Blog post by Jessica Fielding (Music Teacher)
Published Thursday, April 7, 2022


Music AppreciationWe can appreciate music at all ages. We can sing, dance, babble, and play starting in our early childhood. It is easy to identify what genre we love or what artist. However, would you be able to answer the question, “Specifically, what about the voice, instrumentation, or context speaks to you?” To think critically about what you hear and identify the “why” is a skill we develop through music education. To describe the tempo, meter, timbre, context, history, texture, etc. are skills that we acquire through collaboration, listening, and experience. 


Music Appreciation is a weekly enrichment class that Lower and Middle School attend separately to listen to and explore all genres of music in age appropriate ways. It is a moment to discuss history, social context, artists, instruments, and pieces that supplement our classroom lessons. Topics this year have included discussion of Latin American music, the history of a cappella, the origin of barbershop quartets, influential Black female musicians, Native American music (The Pueblo People of Zuni), contemporary classical music, and currently, the relationship between poetry and music. 


We are always listening for the music theory elements that build a song. However, the historical and social contexts are just as significant when forming an opinion. I tell students that you can always love or dislike any musical material, but only if you can describe why


This week, students are exploring how the writings of Shakespeare hold significant similarities to Hip Hop music. These two vastly contrasting art forms, created in completely different time periods, possess a surprising amount of similarities. 


I asked students two big questions: 

What specifically makes Shakespeare and Hip Hop similar and different? 
What is the purpose of each art form? 


We explored The Hip Hop Shakespeare Company and excerpts from their TedX Talk which demonstrates and explores these questions. Take a look:

The Hip Hop Shakespeare Company Youtube

Music Appreciation is a time during which students can hear music for the first time, make thoughtful decisions about their opinions, and widen their understanding of what makes music meaningful. These skills are meant to be taken with them through High School and beyond, so that if someone ever asks them to explain why, they will certainly have an answer. 


Below are links to my favorite pieces we have explored in Music Appreciation this year. 

Ziang Xu, piano, plays Florence Price’s “Nimble Feet”Composer Florence Price Signature - Somebody to Love (Queen cover)Contemporary Barbershop Quartets
   0:02 / 1:24   Joplin: Treemonisha / Act two - No. 16 We will rest a whileOpera Treemonisha
Jennifer Higdon: blue cathedral | The Orchestra NowContemporary Classical Composer
Jennifer Higdon