Beautiful Bluegrass

By Kelly Crum, Communications Manager


One of the many blessings of a smaller school is the ease with which teachers can collaborate. Middle School Language Arts teacher Katherine Slayton and Music and Band teacher Katie Kilroy recently teamed up to provide fifth grade English Language Arts students an engaging lesson to cap off their study of Appalachian literature.

“As part of this study, we explored the context of Appalachian history and culture, and we also listened to bluegrass music and analyzed lyrics to some classic country music such as ‘Country Roads’ by John Denver and ‘Coal Miner’s Daughter’ by Loretta Lynn,” Mrs. Slayton says.

She worked with Ms. Kilroy to expand this lesson by inviting two local musicians, guitarist Greg Clarke and fiddler Phil Dowis, to come and tell about their instruments and perform classic bluegrass. Ms. Kilroy, a talented and versatile musician in her own right, joined the visitors to play the banjo.

Each section of fifth grade gathered in our new outdoor amphitheater, and the results were magic. Students clapped along as they learned about the origins of bluegrass and listened to some classic examples of its impact on culture.

According to Fine Arts Director Angela Stefanini, research supports the benefits of incorporating music into lessons like this one.

“Our brains are hard-wired to connect music with long-term memory,” she says. “Using mnemonic tools, such as music, creates a stronger and more personalized, emotional connection to information.  This connection makes information more easily learned and retrieved from memory.”

Click here to enjoy a few moments of the music and here to see photos on Facebook.

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