On Saturday, May 4th, 2019, we had Dr. Marie McCarthy of the University of Michigan come in to present to us on musical folk stories and how to apply them in our classrooms. It was a blast, and there was so much to take away.
Dr. McCarthy not only gave us four very practical stories to put in our teaching rotation right away, but she also gave us tools and advice on how to find and develop more stories on our own. This was an excellent way to spend our Saturday! Check out the quick review of what we covered below.
For more information on what these are, check out our post on musical folk stories.
Legend of Mackinac Island by Kathy-Jo Wargin
The first story we dove into was a local legend based on the Native American myth of how Mackinac Island came to be. This beautifully illustrated story was the basis for a musical telling Dr. McCarthy guided us through.
She combined some authentic Native Americans songs that were about water and traveling with soundscapes to breathe life into the story. One of the big takeaways from the workshop was that you could use stories as a way to make inroads to the recordings of authentic performers in various cultures.
The Japanese fairy tale of Urashima Taro is well-loved by its native people and even appears on stamps in Japan. For this, we did a similar music storytelling of the tale with authentic Japanese music and musical sound effects this time.
The elements of the story really lent themselves to music and movement. We also discussed how the character traits in stories (such as kindness) can provide our troubled students some much-needed context for life in general. Stories are a place to practice the complicated aspects of life in a safe way.
It was during this project we also talked about how stories can be windows into different cultures. Dr. McCarthy shared the story of how one teacher told many stories from around the world.
This teacher made it a big deal to share these stories with the students by creating passports for them. Whenever they experienced a story from a different part of the world, the teacher then marked their passport as having “traveled” there.
Melissa Stouffer (current President of MiKE) loved the idea so much that she used her talents to create a free printable passport for anyone to use. Thanks, Melissa!
Anansi the Spider: A Tale from the Ashanti by Gerald McDermott
For this musical folktale, we traveled to Africa (Ghana specifically) to hear the tale of Anansi the spider. As we explored this story, Dr. McCarthy broke us into groups and guided us in creating our own musical telling of the story.
When our groups shared with each, it was all smiles and laughter. We could easily see how much fun and creativity our kids could have done this same activity.
Dr. McCarthy also offered some great advice on how to find if songs are authentic or not. Besides going to original sources, she talked about “verification.” If you can verify the song in several places that have a strong reputation, then you can safely use it. By verifying it with other sources, you have done your due diligence as someone who isn’t an ethnomusicologist.
Always be on the lookout, though, for new information from experts who disprove the authenticity of your songs.
Children of Lir
Children of Lir was the last story Dr. McCarthy led us through. Our time was almost up at that point, so we didn’t go deep into the music. But she did give us great resources and notation to take home with those of us that attended.
We also discussed how many stories have similar elements such as the turtles in Mackinac Island and Urashima Taro and growing old in the Children of Lir and Urashima Taro. Drawing the connections between different cultures with your students can go a long way toward developing the empathy our students struggle with today.
It was a great workshop that gave some practical resources to expand on our teaching activities. Those of us who came enjoyed a ton!
Remember to download that free passport from Melissa Stouffer!
If you missed out, we hope you keep following the Michigan Kodaly Educators on Facebook or sign up for our email list, so you don’t miss the next one.
Have a good one and keep on singing!
Have you heard the phrase “musical folk stories” around, but you’re not sure what it means? Do you love the cultural connections built with folk music? Do you also love sharing folk stories, legends, and myths of different cultures?
These are parts of what makes up musical folk stories, but what exactly are they?
Musical folk stories come in two forms:
If you’re interested in adding this dynamic (pun intended) cultural and cross-curricular activity to your music classroom, read on for more information.
What is a folk story?
A folk story is a story told by a group of people through oral tradition. The story comes in different variations, but it offers unique insight into the minds of the people who spread the story.
Different cultures have different names for folk stories. They include:
Folk tales have been around since the dawn of mankind in various forms for a reason. The stories helped to explain the unexplainable, and they captured the imagination of us as humans.
A marriage of music and story
Sharing folk stories with your students allow them to become more empathetic with other cultures or the history or their own culture. It gives them experience with others on a deeper level that sticks with their little minds for the rest of their lives.
How many of us fondly remember the stories from our childhood days? Maybe you enjoyed the “Tortoise and the Hare” or “The Legend of Paul Bunyan.” I’m sure all of us remember hearing about Johnny Appleseed or Hercules and his trials.
We can give this gift to our music students on an even deeper level by including music with these folk stories or by finding ones that already have music in it. As we all know, music increases that sense of empathy and emotional connection even further.
If you haven’t included stories in more music classroom before, you’ll be surprised by how engaged even your middle schoolers can be. It’s a beautiful thing.
How to teach musical folk storiesI
Personally love integrating stories in my classroom. Check out my video with storytelling tips for more information.
But if you want to hear from a true expert, come to our workshop on May 4th, 2019. Dr. Marie McCarthy from the University of Michigan is presenting her research and arrangements of musical folk stories from around the world (including Michigan specific ones).
Click here for more information or email us at email@example.com