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Celebrating Black History

In honor of celebrating Black History year-round, we are shining a spotlight on the ways our music teachers are recognizing Black artists, culture, and history with their students. Scroll down to see how we are celebrating!

learning black american sign language


ETM-LA Music Teacher Kimberly Cox Johnson dives deep into the history of Black American Sign Language, and teaches her students to sign along with Bill Withers’ classic song, “Lean on Me.” She shares more about the origins of Black American Sign Language, the meaning behind her selection of “Lean on Me,” the importance of communication, and how she thinks outside the box for her Black History Month lessons.

Read interview here

View Kimberly’s Black History Month/ BASL lesson

View Kimberly’s BASL demonstration

exploring black american music


ETM-LA Music Teacher Joshua Wen explores Black American Music and its wide-ranging influences on American culture. Instead of drawing genre boundaries in music, Wen and his students discover how Black American Music belongs in many musical spaces. He shares more about this lesson and its main goal of giving students the ability to listen to music more critically and independently, and for them to recognize and appreciate the sound of Black American Musiceven beyond their time in the classroom.

Read interview here

writing the blues


ETM-LA Music Teacher Angelica Rowell showcases Blues music and its key figures through aural identification, lyric study, and compare and contrast. Students also explore song structure and AAB form, and even write their own Blues-inspired poem!

Read interview here

View activity here

“Midnight Blues” by Bessie Smith – Listen Here

Explore the impact that African-American Music Educators had on numerous artists:
“If I know anything about music, I learned it because of the Defender.”

– Lionel Hampton

Major N. Clark Smith
 led the Chicago Defender Newsboys’ Band with “a vivid and commanding personality”. One of his more famous students, Lionel Hampton, remarked in his autobiography that Smith was “about the greatest musician I guess I have ever known”. Major Smith developed Hampton’s musicianship, and Hampton ultimately shaped the American jazz scene of the ’40s and ’50s with his bands, and launched the careers of Dinah Washington, Quincy Jones, and Charlie Parker. Hampton was recognized with the National Medal of Arts and Kennedy Center Honors.


Reprinted with permission from Give a Note Foundation. The original article published on Feb. 15, 2021 can be found here