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Middle Schoolers Learn African American History through the Blues

Middle Schoolers Learn African American History through the Blues
Norwich Public Schools

Middle Schoolers Learn African American History through The Blues

Students at Kelly STEAM learning via Zoom instructors. 

Over the course of 12 US History classes, students at Kelly STEAM Magnet Middle School and Teachers Memorial Global Studies Magnet Middle School have learned some unique lessons about African American history and its influence on the genres of music we hear today. Both middle schools are collaborating with The Blues and Beyond, a remote learning program that tells stories of African Americans’ history in North America through music, narration, video and photographs. 

The program culminates with students writing their own Blues Song lyrics, reflecting the influence of history on music. The best of the lyrics will be set to music and performed by professional blues musicians for a district-wide, web-based celebration on February 16, 2022 at 6:00pm



The Blues and Beyond program brings world class musicians and artists directly into classrooms to share their talents and introduce students to American History reflected in the evolution of African American music. Highlighting both historical and musical legacies, this interdisciplinary and culturally responsive program gives students a new appreciation of how far we’ve come as a country, and how far we still have to go. 

The Blues & Beyond poses this essential question– “As African Americans have struggled to overcome injustice and achieve equality, their story has been told many ways. How has music reflected that story and changed the course of American History?” 


Through answering that question, students learn to:

  • Compare and contrast the way American History has been documented– from white European settlers versus African Americans first brought over as slaves. 

  • Explore the evolution of African American music and how it gradually entered and influenced popular culture.

  • Analyze and explain the impact of African American music through different musical genres.

  • Infer connections and relevance of African American history and music to society today.



Through this program, students are not only learning about Black History, they are learning the ways in which it has transformed the arts and culture of our society.

“I really like learning how different music genres are derived from older genres, and how they changed over the years," said Genoveve Perez, US History student at Kelly Middle School. Classmate Ian Redanz-Swett added, "I enjoyed how we explored how music played, and still plays an important role in people's lives throughout history." 

Students also enjoyed having these classes as a creative outlet to express themselves and collaborate with others.

“I loved how excited students got about writing their own blues lyrics!” said Nancy Rollinson, 6th grade teacher at Teacher’s Memorial Global Studies Magnet Middle School. “Even students who have difficulty engaging or staying focused, jumped into this assignment. It was great to see students collaborate, be creative, have fun and be proud of their finished product. It is also a great avenue for students to express themselves.” 



As students continue to find areas of overlap between history, music, and their own personal lives, songwriting became a great outlet. 

“Some students are really taking advantage of the original songwriting, and sharing some pretty strong emotions,” said Jennifer Jepsen,  K-8 Social Studies and Humanities Specialist. “Students who like to write, and even those that don’t have come to find writing their own lyrics to be really empowering.”



We welcome the Norwich Community to attend this virtual event.

The Blues & Beyond Dinner & Show

February 16th at 6:00pm