Music Motivates

6, 7, 8

Students will experience the aesthetics of music and tie that experience into how the "freedom songs" may have motivated the Civil Rights activists as they sought to aid the common good.

Lesson Rating 
PrintOne Forty-Minute Period and Optional Field Trip

The learners will:

  • explain how music can motivate and move its listeners to take action.
  • describe how sharing his/her musical talents is a form of philanthropy in the community.
  • Paper and pencil for list making
  • Piano for performance
  • Musical instruments and music
  • Permission slips
  • Transportation request form
  • Roster of students attending field trip
Home Connection 

Your parent chaperone volunteers will be the school/home connection.


“Music and Language.” Chris Dobrian, 1992. Go to: and type in “dobrian chris.” Click on “Music and Language.”

  • “The Effects of Music on the Mind: Beyond Soothing the Savage Beast.” Kristian David Olson, Feb. 22, 1996. [no longer available]
  • “Music and How It Affects Our Lives.” ENERGYPowr [no longer available]
  • Goldman, Peter. Civil Rights: The Challenge of the Fourteenth Amendment. New York: Conrad-McCann, Inc., 1970. ISBN: 0698200241
  • Steiner, Rudolph and Eileen J. Southern. Music of Black Americans: A History, 3rd Edition. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1997. ISBN: 0393971414


  1. Anticipatory Set:Ask students to remember the first day of the unit when they heard the song “We Shall Overcome” playing in the background as they entered the room. Ask them to share with each other their thoughts and feelings as a piece of music was used to focus their attention on something important.

  2. Identify an appropriate need in the neighborhood or local community whereby music can play a role. Let students discuss if they can share their musical talents to motivate or help individuals in the community. Would this be an act of philanthropy in any way? Why or why not?

  3. Ask students to list any individual or group musical talents they possess. Can anyone perform a prepared piano solo, vocal solo, choreographed dance, poem, or any other talent they can share? 

  4. Compile a list of students and their talents in the form of a short program based on the music and philanthropists of the Civil Rights Era.

    Songs of the Era could be interspersed with information learned in Lesson One: Introduction to Music of the Civil Rights Era or quotations from Civil Rights leaders. 

  5. Ask the students to brainstorm a list of individuals or community groups that would benefit in some way from a musical presentation. How is sharing their talents an example of a benefit for the common good? What results would students like to achieve by performing for others?

  6. Teacher Notes:

    • When students have decided for whom and where they would like to perform, obtain permission from the school administration and make arrangements directly with the location the students have selected.
    • If your principal does not want the class to leave the school building, ask if you may invite a community group to the school. In either case, arrangements for transportation will have to be made. The performance could also be done in school for other students.
    • Make sure you call the day prior to your field trip to reconfirm your times and destination.
    • Obtain parent volunteers to chaperone. Contact the parents personally to confirm all details of the trip. Tell the chaperones exactly what your expectations are for their supervisory responsibilities.
    • Permission slips must be provided, signed by parent or guardian, and returned prior to the field trip. Tell students they will not be allowed to board the bus without a permission slip.
    • A list of all excused students, attending this field trip, should be sent to all teachers at least two weeks in advance.
    • Rehearse your program in the order it will be performed. Well-rehearsed and organized groups will feel successful and secure about their performance.
    • Review concert and performance etiquette with your students. Describe the procedures and the importance of sensitivity to the people with whom students are working.
    • Make sure students are quiet and polite upon arrival to your destination. When the performance is over, thank your host for allowing the students to share their talents. Leave in the same quiet and polite manner you arrived.
    • Inform the school office that students have returned from the field trip. Keep your principal informed of the events of the day.

The assessment for this lesson will be the effectiveness of the performance. Ask student performers how their music may have motivated and affected the moods of their listeners. Do they feel that they contributed in some way to the good of the community by their performances?

Cross Curriculum 

Students will perform for a local community group, such as a Veteran's or retirement home as a philanthropic event. This may lead to interviews with individuals who were active in the Civil Rights Movement.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Define philanthropy as individuals and organizations providing their time, talent, and/or treasures intended for the common good throughout history and around the world. Give examples.
  2. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.
    2. Standard VS 02. Service and Learning
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Select a service project based on interests, abilities and research.
    3. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark MS.6 Describe the procedures and the importance of sensitivity to the people with whom students are working.
    4. Standard VS 05. Integrating the Service Experience into Learning
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Evaluate progress on the service-learning project before, during, and after the project.