In celebration of Black History Month, we’re highlighting special content in PULSE that was created based on the award-winning film Take Me To The River, with curriculum developed by Dru Davison, Ph.D., Fine Arts Advisor for Shelby County Schools, Memphis, TN.
The PULSE team spoke with Cynthia DeJesus, an instructor at the Berklee City Music Boston Preparatory Academy, about how she uses the Take Me To The River content in her classroom:
How did you introduce the TMTTR elective?
My objective for this lesson was to bring cultural awareness of music from the south and study how music has transformed over time. I introduced Take Me To The River to my students with discussions on the history of Rock and Roll and Blues. PULSE provided enough resources and information to allow me to teach these lessons to the class.
How did you share this theme of cultural and generational collaboration with your students?
My students listened to different arrangements of famous tunes in the documentary such as “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers, and learned about the history and influences behind the songs. We had discussions on the TMTTR videos, listened to related music in the Jam Room, analyzed the form and instrumentation, and talked about how the tunes were arranged by Stax.
What did your students think about the TMTTR content?
Overall my students were very engaged from the beginning until the end, and enjoyed watching the musicians recording in the studio. They were very interested to know more about Stax Records, and the fact that Terrence Howard was the narrator of the documentary sparked their attention even more. In learning about the background and history of Stax Records, they recognized the significance of Stax Records occurring at the same time as the Civil Rights Movement.
Were you able to utilize any of the Teacher Guide lesson plans Dr. Dru Davison provided?
Dr. Dru provided significant resources to assist me with my lesson planning. I found his instructional activity projects to be very helpful. By the end of the lesson the students worked in groups, listening to existing pieces of music and discussing different ways they might arrange it regarding style and instrumentation from what they’ve learned throughout our TMTTR studies.
About the teacher: Cynthia DeJesus
Cynthia DeJesus is a vocalist and recent graduate of Berklee College of Music with a degree in Music Business and a concentration in entrepreneurship. While enrolled as a voice major at the Boston Arts Academy, Cynthia participated in the Berklee City Music High School Academy and Berklee’s 5-Week Summer Performance Program on a City Music Summer Scholarship. In an interview, Cynthia mentions that the City Music program prepared her for college at Berklee and provided her with the opportunity to take Berklee courses while still attending high school. She currently teaches PULSE classes, assists the ensemble teachers, and works with the vocal students at the Berklee City Music Preparatory Academy. Her weekly PULSE classes are 30 minutes long; her students range from 4th-8th grade, and represent a large variety of experience, instrumentation, and age in the same class, which challenges her to develop creative solutions in order to fulfill each student’s needs.
About the site:
Berklee City Music Boston—the founding site of the City Music Network—provides music education programs and scholarship opportunities to 1,400 underserved students annually throughout Greater Boston. With year-round instruction, expert faculty, and a comprehensive curriculum based around Berklee PULSE, City Music Boston gives students the tools and support they need to reach their full potential.