Smith MS Students Create Podcasts
To celebrate Black History Month, students at Smith Middle School (SMS) created podcasts celebrating Black musicians and their impact on music history. This project, designed by SMS Band and Orchestra Teacher, Robin Neville, allowed students to combine their creativity with their writing and research skills. “I like for my students to be able to do something substantial and something music-related, but usually something that doesn’t involve playing their instrument,” Neville said.
When Neville developed this project for her students, she was inspired by the timing of Black History Month in February and Music In Our Schools Month in March, and she decided her students could create podcasts showcasing Black musicians to share each weekday of March. The podcasts recognize musicians such as Valerie Colman, Valaida Snow, Bill Withers, as well as musical groups like Black Violin.
Neville encouraged her students to consider choosing musicians who played the same instrument as they do, and to aim for a 5-10 minute podcast, using information from their research. Since early March, Neville has posted a podcast every weekday on Twitter.
Creating a podcast involves several steps, including research, material preparation, audio recordings, editing and then eventually downloading and exporting the files to make them available online. “In class, we often use an online program called ‘FlipGrid’ where students easily create videos, usually of themselves playing their instrument. Some of the students are also familiar with the program ‘WeVideo,’ so many of my students already had the technical skills needed for making a podcast,” said Neville.
CHCCS Arts Education Coordinator, Dr. Brenda Whiteman, said, “Often when we think about music education, we focus on the performance aspects, but the music education standards are intended to be comprehensive. They include ‘learning standards’ for making connections to history, culture and other disciplines, as well as ‘responding standards,’ which encourage students to listen to a wide variety of music and respond.”
The students did a tremendous job and embraced the opportunity. “I started grading the sixth grade band and orchestra projects first,” Neville said. “I was amazed at how good they were! I was really pleased with all of my classes when I listened to their podcasts, and I was excited to learn about many different musicians I had never heard of or listened to before.”
Sixth grader Vivian Atkins created the first episode in the podcast series which highlights the artistry of the Washington, D.C. based trio called The String Queens who are known for their soulful and orchestral sound. Atkins described the most fun aspect of the project as “listening to all the different types of music and researching the different musicians.” She also mentioned being inspired by The String Queens’ musical achievements and all that they accomplished both as individual musicians and as a group.
These student-developed podcasts provide a thoughtful and informative lens for their audience to appreciate the musical contributions of these important artists. They also feature instrumental samples and fun facts that make it possible for anyone, regardless of their musical knowledge, to leave each podcast feeling engaged and informed. To hear and lealrn more, check out the SMS Music Website. Listeners can find the students’ podcasts located underneath the “Podcasts” tab on the website. Or follow Smith M.S. Music on Twitter.
Contributions from UNC intern, Grace Morse.