Unit 1: Folk Music with Kaia
Melody will take us on a journey to Toronto, Canada to meet our first singer, Kaia. Use SG7–9 to meet Kaia and prepare students to learn about folk music.
American folk music is a genre that spans our country’s geography and draws on traditions that pre-date the nation’s founding. Broadly defined, folk music is the music of regular, everyday people, and is an integral part of daily life. Folk music functions as an accompaniment to specific activities associated with work, social gatherings, and religious celebrations and other rituals. These songs are easy to sing, are passed down through generations, and can often be traced back to origins in Africa, Europe, and indigenous communities. The folk revival of the 1960s brought many old folk songs to the fore as vehicles for social change, when artists such as Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly, Odetta Holmes, and Pete Seeger contributed to the popularization of the genre.
- “Rhiannon Giddens and What Folk Music Means” by John Jeremiah Sullivan (article in The New Yorker, May 20, 2019)
- African Banjo Echoes in Appalachia: A Study of Folk Traditions by Cecelia Conway
- Wayfaring Strangers: The Musical Voyage from Scotland and Ulster to Appalachia by Fiona Ritchie and Doug Orr
- Origins of the Popular Style by Peter van der Merwe
Listening & Viewing:
- Carolina Chocolate Drops, Dona Got a Ramblin’ Mind (Music Maker)
- Rhiannon Giddens, there is no Other (Nonesuch)
- Our Native Daughters, Songs of Our Native Daughters (Smithsonian Folkways)
- Kaia Kater, Grenades (Smithsonian Folkways)
- Kaia Kater: NPR Tiny Desk Concert
- The Max Hunter Collection is an archive of almost 1,600 Ozark Mountain folk songs, recorded in the late 20th century.
- Pete Seeger, American Folk, Game, and Activity Songs for Children (Smithsonian Folkways) and The Essential Pete Seeger (Sony Legacy)
Additional Teaching Resources:
- The American Folksong Collection at the Kodaly Center of Holy Names University, features curricula for Grades 1 and 2.
- Smithsonian Folkways has a number of lesson plans built around folk music of North America, including Elizabeth Cotten’s “Freight Train.”
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