Themed Lesson: America

themed lesson thumbnails

Age Range: All Ages

Learning Objective: Students will have opportunities to create, perform, respond and connect to four pieces of music written by American composers.

Note to Teachers: As opposed to a sequential lesson plan, themed lessons are a pick-and-choose model. Select repertoire and activities from the lists below based on your time and needs.



CONNECT. Use the provided information on each piece to teach students a little about the composer and their composition. After learning, ask students the connect question at the end and then listen to the corresponding piece of music.

  • “Composer Florence Price (1887-1953) was inspired by the American landscape. She wrote a lengthy piece called the Mississippi River Suite, inspired by the great river that runs through the country. What rivers have you been to in real life? How might a river sound in music? Today’s piece by Florence Price is about a tree. It’s called The Oak.”

  • “Composer Augusta Read Thomas (b. 1964) wrote Fanfare of Hope and Solidarity with the intention of having it performed during celebrations like Memorial Day and Fourth of July. The piece had its premiere, of first performance in May of 2020, during a time of quarantine and social distancing. What about the piece makes it a song of hope?”

  • “Lou Harrison (1917-2003) was a composer who was very connected to the west coast of the United States, living in Portland, Oregon, and various places around the Bay Area in California. He was influenced by music Asia and incorporated a wide variety of instruments into his music. Listen to his Homage To Pacifica. Harrison was very politically active. In the piece below, you can hear parts of We Shall Overcome, a famous civil rights anthem.”

  • “Composer William Grant Still (1895-1978) wrote many pieces inspired by and influenced by the American landscape. Now listen to William Grant Still's musical depiction of these mountains, in The American Scene (The Southwest)–Grand Teton.

RESPOND. After listening to one or more pieces of music, journal or discuss the following questions:

  • Can you describe some musical characteristics of this piece?

  • Did you like the piece of music? Why or why not?

  • What music sounds like America to you?

CREATE. Create your own American Suite as a class. Give the class some parameters (such as ABA Form) to help structure the composition. Utilize any classroom instruments. If students are composing on pitched instruments, consider guiding their composition by giving them a set of pitches with a suggested ending note (i.e. Options of using C, D, E, G, and A - try to end on C.)

PERFORM. Use a ribbon, scarf, or students’ hands to “paint” in the air while listening. Prompt students to follow the highs and lows of the melody with their hands.

Related Lesson Plans

Logo YourClassical Class Notes

YourClassical is a public media organization and your support makes it possible.

Clean Water Land and Legacy Amendment

This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.

©2023 Minnesota Public Radio. All rights reserved.
Facebook icon
Twitter icon
YouTube icon
Instagram icon