FOCUS ON ADVOCACY: Wanna Play Music Like Our American Presidents Did?

In This Article:

Beyond the rigor and relevance of teaching to the national music education standards, the tangible evidence of all that is learned in our classrooms is an incredible tool for showing why music is an interdisciplinary essential in American education. Making connections to 21st Century Skills and Common Core Standards aligns teaching across the curriculum through a musical lens. Finding creative ways to make this evident is key, and involving students in making a Presidential Podcast focused on music is both innovative and fun.

A multimedia collaborative student project about our musical American Presidents brings fresh perspective to Presidents’ Month activities. When finished, this in-depth student project serves an important dual role in advocacy initiatives and in school and community presentations.

Use Presidential Podcasts to Advocate for Music Education

Students engaged in Learning and Innovation Skills outlined by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills ( work collaboratively in student project teams (SPTs) to uncover historical knowledge and discover cool artifacts (pictures, audio, video). Students use their findings to create original Presidential Podcasts.

Students will create and publish podcasts informing their peers and the school community about the musical interests of the American Presidents. This authentic learning experience is rooted in music, and yet discovered through many of the Common Core Standards ( Students will be creative and innovative in their research and design as they discover their story angle and hunt for pictures, audio and film showing their President in musical action. Critical thinking, problem solving and communication skills will be used as students collaborate to create podcasts that synthesize their research.

An exciting component of the Presidential Podcast is the ability to share/publish student understandings with peers, the school community and beyond. Student podcasts may be used in numerous ways, such as:

  • Post podcasts to teacher and/or school district websites
  • Show a Presidential Podcast a Day during the morning announcements
  • Request air time for podcasts on the local School District TV channel
  • Submit podcasts for posting on the district-supported YouTube channel and the district Facebook page
  • Show podcasts before concerts, in the school cafeteria, at school board meetings, and wherever they can be viewed!
  • Upload podcasts to your teacher webpage and send emails to district administrators with links to the best of the best Presidential Podcasts from your class
  • Send an email home to parents directing them to your website so that they can peruse the Presidential Podcasts, and view the ones their children created
  • And, be sure to post your Presidential Podcasts on the SupportMusic Facebook page to inspire others!

Make sure students include a trailer indicating that the podcasts were created in a MUSIC EDUCATION classroom! This is tangible advocacy. It is Music Education in action, potentially seen and shared in every classroom and with all educational stakeholders in the community. Podcasts are very powerful tools, because they make evident how educators utilize teaching across the curriculum every day. The learning that begins in our musical classrooms infuses diverse disciplines and results in meaningful student understanding. Working together, students are empowered to research, learn, create and publish a product of their own which makes evident their learning through a musical lens.

Are Your Students Ready to Create a Presidential Podcast?

Anthony DeGregorio created this Presidential Podcast lesson concept for all K-12 Musician Educators to adapt and utilize with students. It’s easy to get started, right now!

If you are unfamiliar with podcasting, there are a multitude of resources on the web. You can search “How to create a podcast” to easily find many step-by-step resources and videos about creating podcasts and vodcasts. To get started, here are two resources:

Objective of the lesson

The objective of the lesson is for students to creatively demonstrate their learning about an American President. Students will create and present a “Presidential Podcast” that proves their understanding of the role that music played in the lives of many American Presidents. This assignment soars across the curriculum and allows students to be creative in a multitude of ways. From a computer lab (podcast or even a simple PowerPoint), to poster board and markers, this lesson can be adapted to work with whatever technology is at a teacher’s disposal.

National Standards for Music Education

Students creating a podcast/presentation have the potential to reach every standard. Imagine a group of students singing a tune that Franklin Roosevelt or Woodrow Wilson sang in the school choir or college glee club? (Standard #1) Or perhaps a duo of students in the school orchestra could play an excerpt from a piece that Thomas Jefferson would have studied on the violin and cello? (Standard #2) The possibilities are endless; however, at a bare minimum, the following standards will definitely be achieved:

#4 -- Composing and arranging music within specific guidelines
#6 -- Listening to, analyzing and describing music
#7 -- Evaluating music and music performances
#8 -- Understanding relationships between music, the other arts and disciplines outside the arts
#9 -- Understanding music in relation to history and culture

Three Major Components of the Lesson

     • Collaboration is key, and organizing the SPTs is the starting point. 
        o Make sure all the “tech savvy” kids are not in the same group.
        o Design student roles for each project team.
        o Each group should strive to have “experts” in as many project elements as possible, e.g., recording person, editing person(s) (audio and grammar), speakers for narration, artists, group leader, etc.
        o Get EVERYONE involved in the RESEARCH. Not everyone is an expert audio engineer, but research skills are core skills.

     • 5 W’s – Who, What, When, Where, Why
        o Gather important information about precedents for which the President is responsible, very brief biographical information, the current state of affairs of the country at the time, and what the president did musically.
        o E.g., Woodrow Wilson, created the League of Nations and played the violin and sang tenor in his college glee club, he lived 1856-1924…
        o Find out was happening musically in the country and who were the major musical acts at the time.
        o Collect pictures and audio for podcast (or video, if you’d like to make a “vodcast”).
           -  The audio should be pieces of music that the President would have played and/or from artists during that time period.
           -  The pictures should be of instruments that the President played, perhaps a picture of them actually playing, or historic pictures from during the President’s term.

     • Gather the pictures and audio.
             o Create a musical soundtrack for the podcast.
             o Students will splice together audio from the given time period.
             BONUS #1: Have students record themselves, alone or in groups, performing the music. (Standards #1 and #2)
             BONUS #2: What if the President was a singer/songwriter? Based upon their research, have the students compose an original song that they think the President might have written.
     • Arrange photos and write a script for the podcast.
             o The script should synthesize the 5 W’s, and any other pertinent information the students discovered, into a narration to be spoken/presented over the soundtrack and in sync with the pictures.
     • Create, record and publish the podcast!


Great resources to help get teachers and students started!

The Partnership for 21st Century Learning: align P21 Skills with the Common Core

Our American Presidents are musical… and so are you!

-- Elizabeth Sokolowski  is Division Head for Music Education at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia where Anthony DeGregorio is a Master of Arts in Teaching in Music Education graduate student. DeGregorio created this Presidential Podcast lesson concept for all K-12 Musician Educators to adapt and utilize with students.