Monday, November 19, 2001

Nothing moves the heart like a good song.To celebrate some of the best music of the past 100 years, the Recording Industry Association of America, along with the National Endowment for the Arts, Scholastic Inc., and AOL@School created the Songs of the Century curriculum to help youngsters develop an appreciation for music, history and the arts.
Patrick Finley’s fifth-grade class at Oyster Bilingual Elementary School in Northwest is one of 9,500 classes across the nation that received the program. Each of the students was given a “Songs of the Century” CD with a sampling of eight selections from the greater list of 365 songs.
“I incorporate music in the classroom a lot,” Mr. Finley says as the radio in the classroom plays “I Hope You Dance” by country singer Lee Ann Womack. Miss Womack’s song, released in May 2000 by MCA Nashville records, is one of the Songs of the Century.
Some of the other songs on the list include Kate Smith’s “God Bless America,” Louise Homer’s “America the Beautiful,” Mahalia Jackson’s “Move on Up a Little Higher,” Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me,” Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” Bob Dylan’s “The Times They are a-Changin,” Amy Grant’s “El Shaddai,” U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You,” and Lauren Hill’s “Doo Wop (That Thing).” The Recording Industry Association of America separated them into decades by release date.
A.B. Spellman, deputy chairman at the National Endowment for the Arts in Northwest, says the curriculum is like “a spoonful of sugar that helps the learning go down.”
“Imagine the possible lessons that could go along with a song like ‘Swing Low Sweet Chariot,’” he says. “You could touch on slavery and the civil rights movement.”
Mr. Finley used the program to teach an English lesson about similes and imagery. As his example, he chose Miles Davis, the jazz musician who first gained fame in the 1950s.
“I wanted to play something they hadn’t heard before,” Mr. Finley says. “I asked them to describe the places the music made them see. They created a poem from the list of images.”
On Oct. 31, the students received a special visit from staff members of Scholastic Inc., says Sandra Ledoux, Mr. Finley’s Spanish teaching partner at Oyster.
“Scholastic asked the children what life would be like without music,” she says. “A lot of the children answered by saying, ‘Very boring.’”
Ten-year-old Jamaal Blackwell of Northwest, who is in Mr. Finley’s class, says his favorite song from the list is “Respect” by R&B legend Aretha Franklin.
“I like the way it sounds,” he says. “I like the rhythm of the music and the way she sings.”
Maria Mooney, 10, of Northwest, says Mr. Finley’s lesson featuring Mr. Davis inspired her. She has been playing the piano for three years. “I practice 15 minutes a day,” Maria says.
Ten-year-old Pablo Kaminsky of Northwest says he also enjoys learning through music. “I listen to the radio a lot in the car,” he says.
Ben Grant of Northwest says he writes songs in his head. He balances his musical interests with his love of baseball.
“For musicians who have become famous, I’ve heard them say, ‘You can never give up on something you believe in, that you really want to accomplish,’” the 10-year-old says. “I wrote a song about my dogs, Speck and Dr. Bone. I got this rhythm and just started rhyming words.”
Victoria Cortez, 10, of Northwest says her favorite song on the list is “Bills, Bills, Bills,” by pop trio Destiny’s Child, which records for Sony Music. “Sometimes I sing in my mind,” she says. “I sing all the time, but I try not to let anyone hear me. My sister loves U2. She plays that CD all the time.”

Suzan Jenkins, senior vice president of marketing for the Recording Industry Association of America in Northwest, says her organization was looking for a way to help promote the value of music. The curriculum is not a program for music teachers, but rather one to help other teachers use music to teach broader subjects.
“Music is woven into culture and history,” Mrs. Jenkins says. “It doesn’t stand apart.”
She approached music-industry organizations and asked them to choose the most socially significant songs of the past hundred years. The groups involved included the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers; Broadcast Music Inc.; the Society of European Stage Authors and Composers; the National Association of Recording Merchandisers; and the Music Education National Conference.
“They gave us 18,000 songs,” she says. “We had to come up with a more manageable list. Out of that list was chosen 365 songs.”
Ann Amstutz, manager of new business development at Scholastic Inc. in New York City says her company sent the first group of curriculum materials to a variety of rural, suburban and urban schools across the country in September.
“They are cross-curricular lessons, including creative writing, research skills, comprehension, math skills and graphic skills,” she says. “There also are family activities to do at home. The second set of materials will go out in January.”
Because Scholastic Inc. was unable to send course materials to every school, they are available through the Internet at “We hope it takes off so we can share these programs with more students and educators,” Ms. Amstutz says.
Mark Nixon, executive director of education at America Online Inc. in Dulles, Va., says he loves how music mirrors society. He hopes this program will instill in children a love for history.
“This is the difference between reading about the anti-war movement in the 1960s and learning about it through artists,” Mr. Nixon says. “Which would you rather do?”
Nathan Morris, the founder of the R&B group Boyz II Men, says having “One Sweet Day” on the list of the Songs of the Century means a great deal to him and the other members of the group, Michael McCary, Wanya Morris and Shawn Stockman. The Grammy Award-winning act recorded the hit as a duet with pop singer Mariah Carey.
“When vibes come together like that, the word ‘destiny’ is what you use,” the Arista Records artist says. “Mariah was in the process of writing a song, and I was in the process of writing a song of similar fashion for my road manager, who passed away. It was kind of ironic. When she sang her lyrics and I sang my lyrics, they were completely different lyrics, but about the same subject matter. We basically just tied both of the songs in together.”
Grammy Award-winning songwriter Wayne Kirkpatrick from Franklin, Tenn., co-wrote the song “Change the World” with Gordon Kennedy and Tommy Sims. He is excited that his tune appears on the Songs of the Century list, especially because a music industry executive once overlooked it.
“Gordon Kennedy was told, ‘I don’t think we hear the hit,’ in a package of songs that included ‘Change the World,’” Mr. Kirkpatrick says. “Once Eric Clapton and Babyface recorded it and released it as a single in 1996, it just had a life of its own. It took off. We were all thrilled about it. We thought that it can’t get any better than this. Then it was nominated for a Grammy in 1997. Then it won the Grammy. It was definitely out of our control. Besides writing the song, we had absolutely nothing to do with its success. We didn’t pursue it or push the song on anybody.”
Mr. Kirkpatrick, who has his own album called “The Maple Room” on Rocketown Records, says he never tries to force inspiration when writing music. He keeps a book of possible song titles and takes drives in his car when he’s stuck on a song. Country singer Garth Brooks recently recorded Mr. Kirkpatrick’s song “Wrapped Up in You” for his new album “Scarecrow.”
“When you first start out in songwriting or in any other occupation, you think everybody else knows so much more that you do,” he says. “In reality, very few people feel like they are masters of whatever it is they are doing. That’s something they don’t tell you in school. I always thought that if I got into the big pond of songwriters, producers and singers that I would be so unqualified.”
Mr. Finley of Oyster Bilingual Elementary School says it’s essential for his students to learn about music for a full education. He is looking forward to the arrival of the rest of the program in January.
“The connection between music and poetry, and music and literature, are important,” he says.

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