Jackson Middle School
Bottom line, music with integrity is at the heart of everything we do in the classroom. I am including a new “Pick Six” of pieces we have found that really work with middle school students along with a “Pick Six” I presented at ACDA Summer Dialogue in 2014.
Traditional Spiritual arranged by Greg Gilpin
Also available for SAB and SATB
We did this piece this past year with all of our sixth graders at our Choral Exchange Concert at Champlin Park High School. This is a very up-beat spiritual that the students loved. Gilpin did a wonderful job weaving the word “chatter” through the choir, and we all know how much middle-level students like to chatter! Great arrangement!
By Ruth Morris Gray, words by Emily Dickinson
Also available for SSA
“If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain. If I can ease one life the aching, or cool one pain.” Oh my goodness this text! It is so inspiring and really connects with the students. When you add the overlapping melodic theme by Ms. Gray, this is an exquisite piece of music.
From Peter Pan, arranged by Sally Albrecht
This classic piece of musical theater is so wonderful for this age. The text states exactly what they are usually feeling at this point between childhood and adulthood. Ms. Albrecht’s use of echo and clever part writing makes this an extremely successful piece.
From The Sound Of Music, arranged by Mac Huff
Also available for SATB, SSA and 2-Part
This is such a wonderful arrangement of a piece the students love – even Julie Andrews said it was her favorite piece to sing from this musical. Mr. Huff’s part writing is great – especially in the second statement of the main theme where he writes it as a canon with staggered entrances starting with the altos (I’ve always sung alto, it’s fun when we get a rare chance to lead!)
Joseph Shabalala, arranged by Leanne MacDonnell
Also available for SAB
Mr. Shabalala formed Ladysmith Black Mambazo, a group that collaborated several times with Paul Simon. This singable piece is in Zulu and uses body percussion. Mr. Shabalala’s goal is to use music as a unifying force to bring people of different cultures together. Thula Klizeo truly succeeds in that goal!
Sotho Folk Song arranged by Ruth Morris Gray
Also available for SATB and SSA
Sotho is a Bantu language spoken primarily in South Africa. There is a wonderful recording of this piece by the Grammy and Emmy award winning Soweto Gospel Choir. The text encourages one to put their trust in prayer. There is solid a cappella three part writing by Ms. Gray and parts for wood block, shaker, and congas.
Traditional Jewish Folk Song, words by D. Shimoni, arranged by Audrey Snyder
This is an absolutely haunting piece with a fabulous text that inspires a wealth of musical expression and human emotion. This Hebrew text is a poem written by an award winning Israeli poet (there is a street in Jerusalem named after him) with some English included in the traditional melody. I really like the intrinsic integrity of this song. There is also a beautiful part for a solo instrument (violin, clarinet, or oboe) in the choral score that adds a stunning melodic line. Options for soloists exist at the beginning of the piece and the part writing prominently features each section. This is a wonderful piece for teaching phrasing and dynamic contrast.
Traditional Spiritual arranged by Greg Gilpin
Two-Part Treble Voices
I know there are many arrangements of this spiritual out there, but this one has been a perennial favorite for our sixth graders. The piece features soaring phrases in Part I and has wonderful ostinato rhythms in Part II. The three sections of this song are creatively arranged and have unique elements that are fun to sing. It is also in a wonderful range for sixth grade voices and has a great ending!
By Mary Lynn Lightfoot, text by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)
This is a beautiful original song by Mary Lynn Lightfoot and a wonderful text by Robert Louis Stevenson. This is another great cross-curricular teaching tool with literary integrity. Analyzing the beauty of the poetry (who is saying these words and who are they saying them to) and linking the text with the lovely melodies make this a song with which my students have truly connected. The dynamic contrasts in the final chorus create enough drama for any middle school student.
Words by Andy Beck and Brian Fisher, music by Andy Beck
This piece opens with two soloists singing “…one candle, one light, burning clear throughout the night…one candle, one symbol of peace. One candle, plus one, now a glimmer has begun…two candles, two symbols of peace.” The chorus then enters with the familiar ‘Dona Nobis Pacem’ text on a new melody that echoes between the two parts. It is absolutely beautiful. This is a great selection for the holiday season (but can actually work any time of the year). There is a wonderful transition to a key change, a strong last statement and a sensitive ending.
From The Wizard of Oz, music by Harold Arlen,
lyrics by E.Y. Harburg, arr. by Sally K Albrecht
Whoever arranged this piece obviously had one…a brain that is. Clever, clever, clever! This opens with a conversation between the two sections and features clever, singable part writing. The center section has some rhythmic choreography that nobody feels uncomfortable doing and an ending that parents will truly love. Add all of that to this classic piece of musical theater and you’ve got a winner! Absolutely delightful!
From The Prince of Egypt,
Words and Music by Stephen Schwartz, arr. by Audrey Snyder
There is a Concert Band and a String Arrangement available for this piece – both of which are arranged by John Moss, Grade 3, Hal Leonard. This piece has become a Jackson Middle School tradition. We end our eighth grade year with a Pop Concert featuring our eighth grade band, choir and orchestra. We close the concert with all three groups performing this piece together. It has an inspiring message (“there can be miracles when you believe”), a multi-cultural text (the middle section is in Hebrew) and a dynamic ending. The song was nominated for an Academy Award and recorded by Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. This is definitely a step above your typical piece of popular music.