Artsource - Vocalworks

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Artsource The Music Center’s Study Guide to the Performing Arts ENDURING VALUES















Title of Work:

About the Artwork:

Vocalworks Radio Hour

The Golden Age of Radio lives again with the sounds of the Vocalworks Radio Hour. From the


Boswell Sisters to the Mills Brothers, the swing

Bruce Cooper, Michael Geiger, Dave Eastly, Tim and Debbie Reeder

music of the 1930s and ’40s is reborn as Vocalworks recreates a live radio broadcast, taking

Background Information:

students back to an era before television, video,

Since 1983, Bruce Cooper, Michael Geiger, Tim and

cable, the internet and faxes when people gathered

Debbie Reeder and Dave Eastly, of Vocalworks have

around the radio in the living room to hear news,

brought the music of the 1930s and ’40s to audiences

music, drama or comedy programs. The performance

throughout the United States and abroad. They are

features five singers accompanied by string bass,

proud to note that Vocalworks has lasted longer than

four-string and six-string guitars, and a washboard

the swing era itself. According to Cooper, swing music

with various attachments. Even President and Mrs.

appeals to the group because it “was designed to lift

Roosevelt put in appearances as they briefly address

people’s spirits. The Depression and World War II were

the nation in this simulated broadcast. Students are

very difficult times for the American people. They were

introduced to scat singing, call and response,

concerned about their future and what would become

improvisation, repetition, and syncopation, all

of them and our country. Swing music was a wonderful

characteristics of swing music. And since no production

escape that allowed people to lift their spirits and forget

would be authentic without a commercial, students

their troubles for awhile. Our group shows the importance

hear one from the era advertising Colgate

of music in that role and how it can still function in the

toothpowder and Pepsi Cola.

same way today.” Vocalworks’ distinctive style has been

Creative Process of the Artist or Culture:

featured on Garrison Keillor’s American Public Radio

Swing is just one style in the long continuum of

program, A Prairie Home Companion.


jazz that includes the blues, ragtime, Dixieland,



boogie-woogie, and bebop.

performances of the Fantasy on Ice show at the Dorothy

Many jazz specialists cite

Chandler Pavilion, with the Disneyland Jazz Band at

the 1935 Benny Goodman

the Orange County Performing Arts Center, and at the

appearance at the Palomar

Open House at the Hollywood Bowl in a series of

Ballroom in Los Angeles as





the opening of the swing era.

programs for young people. Other credits include an appearance with recording artist Michael Feinstein at the Greek Theater.

(continued p. 2) “Swing music was a wonderful escape that allowed people to lift their spirits and forget their Bruce Cooper. troubles.” California

Continuation of the Creative Process:

Multidisciplinary Options:

Others say it began earlier, noting that Fletcher

• Using Arthur Dove’s painting, Swing Music (Louis

Henderson’s and Duke Ellington’s bands were

Armstrong, 1938), or Archibald Motley Jr.’s painting,

already well established and that Kansas City was

Blues, have students create their own visual

already known as a center for swing bands. Because

interpretation of Louis Armstrong’s swing music.

of Prohibition in the ’20s, people met in

Additional References:

speakeasies, places that served bootlegged liquor

• Hennessey, Thomas J. From Jazz to Swing. Wayne

but were too small to house big bands. With the

State University Press, Detroit, 1994.

repeal of the Volstead Act in 1933, large ballrooms

Sample Experiences:

were built to accommodate the popular craze for


dancing. Swing bands fulfilled the public’s need to

* • Listen to the Vocalworks audio of Pennies from

forget their problems caused by the stock market

Heaven. Discuss its distinctive attributes and its positive

crash and the Depression which followed. Some

message. Drawing from the subject of family, self, or

who listen to swing today feel that all swing bands

school, create new lyrics to the song. Add gestures,

sound alike, but during the swing era there were so

pantomime, and movement.

many bands that each one sought individuality by

• Do scat singing by creating a dialogue consisting of

developing its own trademark sound.

nonsense syllables. Working in pairs, converse with


notable differences distinguish swing from

each other using this style of vocal improvisation.

Dixieland. Because they were two or three times

• Find a recording of the song, Chattanooga Choo Choo.

larger than Dixieland bands, they produced a fuller

Show the swing pattern of contrast and repetition by

sound. In addition, swing music had a written score

creating corresponding patterns of movement to

for every instrument, making it less improvisational

accompany the song , e.g. large steps / small steps, for-

than Dixieland. While not confined exclusively to swing, the following are characteristic of the style:

ward / backward, side step / return to place, body turns. LEVEL II

scat singing, ostinato, syncopation, call and response.

• Select a piece of swing music from the ’30s. Create a

Discussion Questions:

singing commercial for a contemporary product that

After listening to the audio clip:

can be linked in some way to the musical selection.

• To what senses does a radio show appeal? A television

Introduce the commercial as a “sound bite” in a radio

show? Which appeals more to the imagination?


• What elements of swing did you hear?

* • Read the first two stanzas of Carl Sandburg’s poem,

• How would you explain scat singing to a friend?

Jazz Fantasia. Notice how the words reflect the

• Improvisation is one of the attributes of swing.

different sounds and moods of jazz music. Form a

How did the group improvise in their use of

“kitchen band” (utensils) to accompany a choral reading

non-instrumental sound effects?

of the poem that includes call and response. LEVEL III

Create sound

effects for the following: fire, squeaking door,

• Find and listen to a recording of the song Route 66.

clinking ice cubes, rain. • How does swing differ from rap music in its tone and message.

Audio-Visual Materials:

Then, write a short paragraph telling how you get from home to school : by bicycle, bus, car, or by foot.

* • Select an event that helped shape the years between

• Artsource audio recording of Vocalworks Radio

1930 - 1945. Dramatize that event in a 5 -10 minute

Hour, courtesy of Vocalworks. Pennies from

radio broadcast that includes appropriate swing music,

Heaven courtesy of Warner Chappell Music, Inc.

dialogue, sound effects, and a commercial.


• Photos: Richard Hines.


Indicates sample lessons




LEVEL I Sample Lesson INTRODUCTION: The characteristics of swing music are not limited to swing alone, but are interwoven throughout the variant forms of jazz. By recognizing some of these attributes, students can begin to create simple lyrics that reflect swing’s uplifting, positive tone. This lesson focuses on the positive tone and lyrics of swing music in the ’30s and ’40s. Using Pennies from Heaven as a model, students will write new lyrics based on their responses to self, family, school, or community. OBJECTIVES: (Student Outcomes) Students will be able to: • Identify elements of swing: scat singing, syncopation, repetition (ostinato), improvisation. (Responding) • Create pantomime, gestures, sounds and instruments to accompany the lyrics. (Creating & Performing) • Describe, discuss, analyze and connect information and experiences based on this lesson. Refer to Assessment at the end of this lesson. (Responding & Connecting) MATERIALS: • Artsource® audio recording of Vocalworks Radio Hour, featuring Pennies from Heaven. • Musical instruments such as triangles and wood blocks, and those made from found objects. • Lyrics to Pennies from Heaven. Every time it rains, it rains pennies from heaven Don'tcha know each cloud contains pennies from heaven? (You'll find your fortune fallin' all over town) (Be sure that your umbrella) Is upside down Trade them for a package of sunshine and flowers If you want the things you love, you must have showers (So when you hear it thunder) Don't run under a tree There'll be pennies from heaven for you and me

Tim Reeder, tenor guitar and Debbie Reeder, vocalist Photo: Richard Hines


(Every time it rains, it rains) Pennies from heaven (Don'tcha know each cloud contains) Pennies from heaven? (You'll find you fortune fallin') All over town (Be sure that your umbrella) Is upside down PROGRESSION: • Listen to Vocalworks sing Pennies from Heaven. This song, with music by Arthur Johnson and lyrics by Johnny Burke was written in 1936. It was sung by Bing Crosby in a film with the same title. Identify and chart swing elements such as repetition, scat singing (use of nonsense syllables), improvisation, and syncopation. • Students write a paragraph telling about something that makes them feel good about themselves, their family, their school or their community. • Form small, similar - subject groups of three to five people. Ask volunteers to read their paragraphs to the rest of their group. • Ask students to circle key words in their paragraphs. Working in groups, students collaborate by offering key words to create new song lyrics for the music of Pennies from Heaven. First line examples might be: “Whenever it rains, it pours liquid pennies.” • Groups must include at least two of the following swing characteristics in their lyrics: repetition, syncopation, scat (nonsense verse) and improvisation. • Brainstorm how to convey ideas of lyrics in pantomime and gestures. • Create movement to accompany lyrics, and select/create instrumental and other sound accompaniment, e.g. bell, whistle, drums, wood blocks, triangle. • Have groups present their work to class. EXTENSION: • Keeping the same groups, select one of the “big band” leaders of the ’30s and ’40s and research his life, work, and the distinctive sound of his band. VOCABULARY: ostinato (repetition), syncopation, scat singing, improvisation, accentuate, Depression ASSESSMENT: (Responding & Connecting) DESCRIBE: Ask students to describe scat singing, syncopation, and ostinato. DISCUSS: Discuss the process of collaboration in creating group lyrics, and how it helped or hindered the creative process. Emphasis on: Common Core - CA State Standards for Language - Reading; Writing; Listening; Speaking 4



LEVEL II Sample Lesson INTRODUCTION: Both music and poetry share an underlying structure of the metrical unit, and both depend on sound to convey their message. In the poem Jazz Fantasia, writer Carl Sandburg appeals to the sense of sound that suggests the actual experience of hearing jazz: the aural effects of such words as “husha husha hush,” and such alliterative phrases as “Drum on your drums” and “batter on your banjos” supply the steady beat of the first two stanzas. These common elements of music and poetry create a natural transference from one artform to the other. The call and response, frequently appearing in swing jazz, had its origins in folk literature of the South. Reading a poetic line carries a music of its own, and the sound imagery of the poem invites students to improvise their own musical accompaniment. OBJECTIVES: (Student Outcomes) Students will be able to: • Identify the relationship between poetry and music. (Responding & Connecting) • Demonstrate the relationship between poetry and music through choral verse, call and response, and improvised musical instruments which correspond to sound imagery. (Performing & Responding) • Describe, discuss, analyze and connect information and experiences based on this lesson. Refer to Assessment at the end of this lesson. (Responding & Connecting) MATERIALS: • Artsource® audio recording of Vocalworks Radio Hour. • Improvised instruments from kitchen utensils and other found materials. • Carl Sandburg, Jazz Fantasia, Stanzas 1 and 2 Drum on your drums, batter on your banjoes, sob on the long cool winding saxophones. Go to it, O jazzmen. Sling your knuckles on the bottoms of the happy tin pans, let your trombones ooze, and go hushahusha-hush with the slippery sandpaper. 5

PROGRESSION: • Talk about the many sources of song lyrics. Recall from the Vocalworks audio how call and response originated in field work and folk literature before being transferred to swing jazz. • Pass out Carl Sandburg’s poem, Jazz Fantasia (Stanzas 1 and 2 only). Ask students how poetry is similar to music. Through discussion, they should see that both music and poetry have a metrical pattern and are meant to be heard. • Ask one half of the room to “call” each of the three lines of the first stanza, while the other half repeats the line with an echo “response.” Reverse roles for the second stanza, breaking each call / response section at punctuation marks (after “pans,” “ooze,” and “sandpaper”). • Ask students to name all of the things that create sounds in the poem. As students name items, list them on the board. They should include: drums, banjos, saxophones, knuckles on tin pans, trombones, sand paper. • Discuss the melodic contour of the lines. Explain that poetic lines are like musical lines, with their own beat and rhythm. Pay attention to phrasing; some phrases will be extended and slow, (“long cool winding saxophones”) while others will be short and clipped (“Go to it, O jazzmen.”) Instruct students to say the words as if they were music, exaggerating the contours and accents of speech (choral verse). • Ask students to sing the lines as if they were extensions of speech. • Divide the class into small groups of six. Each group explores how it can use kitchen utensils or other common objects as improvised instruments to accompany the sound imagery of the poem. • Groups perform Jazz Fantasia, either singing the lyrics or reciting lines in choral verse, using patterns of call and response and improvised instrumental accompaniment. EXTENSIONS: • Create a haiku poem using a jazz instrument as its subject. Improvise a sound accompaniment to the poem. • Research the role that women played in shaping the swing era: such singers as Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald and the Andrews Sisters added to the distinctive sounds of the big bands. The Sweethearts of Rhythm were a women’s big band, and Ina Ray Hutton had her own big band. Mary Lou Williams composed and arranged songs that Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman played. VOCABULARY: melodic contour, phrase, metrical, alliteration, call and response, choral verse, fantasia, improvise. ASSESSMENT: (Responding & Connecting) DESCRIBE: Describe the process of transforming words into music. 6

DISCUSS: Discuss the elements common to both music and poetry, and the purposes both artforms serve. ANALYZE: Compare and contrast a song that uses call and response (use your favorite call-and-response song) and as used by groups in their arrangements of Jazz Fantasia. CONNECT: Improvisation lies at the heart of jazz; many of its musicians “trade fours,” which is a succession of four improvised measures played first by the trombonist, and possibly followed by the saxophonist improvising the next four measures, followed by a third musician. What other professions rely on improvisation, either singly or in groups? When might it be permissible, or even essential, for a doctor to improvise? A lawyer? A scientist? Emphasis on: Common Core - CA State Standards for Language - Reading; Writing; Listening; Speaking

Dave Eastly, bass and Tim Reeder, tenor guitar Photo: Richard Hines




LEVEL III Sample Lesson INTRODUCTION: The origins of music lie in its ability to elevate the human spirit. From the Gregorian chants of the medieval period to the patriotic songs of war, music has been used to instill faith, courage, and hope in man. In order for students to better understand the swing era of the ’30s and ’40s and how it helped to lift people’s spirits during difficult times, students will work in groups to make an audio recording for a radio program entitled You Are There. Creating a radio show allows students to feel the persuasive power of the spoken word without the accompanying distraction of visual images. It allows them the freedom to synthesize historical fact, popular music, important personages, and even commercial advertisements. Because of the research, the script writing, and the audio production, this “lesson” will extend for a period of several weeks.

Dave Eastly, bass Photo: Richard Hines

OBJECTIVES: (Student Outcomes) Students will be able to: • Script a radio show that is based upon a significant event between 1930 and 1945, write an eyewitness speech that relates to the event, and create a singing commercial for a product that can be linked to the period or the event. (Creating & Performing) • Select swing music that corresponds to the chosen event through its mood or lyrics. (Responding & Connecting) •Describe, discuss, analyze and connect information and experiences based on this lesson. Refer to Assessment at the end of this lesson. (Responding & Connecting) MATERIALS: • Artsource® audio recording of Vocalworks Radio Hour. • Audio recording devices for each group. • Audio recordings of swing bands that were popular between 1930 - 1945. Such bands might include, 8

but are not limited to, Fletcher Henderson, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Woody Herman, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Cab Calloway, Glenn Miller, Bob Crosby, and Count Basie. PROGRESSION: • Brainstorm with the students the following question: “ if you were writing a textbook on American history, what events/landmarks would you mention for the years 1930 - 1945?” The answers might include the following: the Depression, the Dust Bowl, Pearl Harbor, World War II. (Suggest WPA (Works Progress Administration), CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps), war bonds as additional activities). • Discuss with students how people got news of these events in the ’30s and ’40s, and how the radio brought the family together to hear and to imagine - but not to see - the news, drama, and music. • Play excerpts from the Vocalworks Radio Hour to show students the importance of swing music to the period; swing helped people forget their troubles and have a good time. Point out how World War II was the focus of one segment of the radio broadcast, with both President and Mrs. Roosevelt making a speech to the people. • Divide the class into groups of five with each group creating a 5-8 minute segment of a radio broadcast entitled You Are There. Each group will select a moment in history between 1930 and 1945 as the focus of their segment, which will include the following: a radio announcer to act as narrator, a selection of swing that illustrates the event, a speech or an eyewitness account of the event, and a singing commercial that ties in with the event. Assign roles to each group member. • Research significant facts about the event that the group has chosen. The event need not be limited to major historical events such as the Depression or the war. It might concern a moment of importance in the history of swing, such as the appearance of Benny Goodman and his band at the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles in 1935. The important thing is to establish the factual presence and mood of the event so that the radio audience indeed feels that it is there. • Research the swing music played during the years of the event. Select a work that can illuminate or highlight the event in its mood or lyrics • Select and name a product that can be related to the event, e.g., cologne or hair products that might be useful when dancing at the Palomar Ballroom; candy bars, gum, or stationery, to send to troops overseas; tires or car equipment in leaving the Midwest for California during the Dust Bowl. • Create short, snappy rhyming lyrics to be used in a singing commercial for the product . You may either create your own music or use the music of familiar songs such as Happy Birthday, or This Land is Your Land. Use sound effects as necessary. • Each group integrates the parts into a 5-7 minute script and makes an audiotape of the script for radio broadcast.


• Sequence each group segment in chronological order and present the entire You AreThere radio broadcast to the class. EXTENSIONS: • Ask students to critically evaluate each segment for its accuracy and its ability to establish a sense of place. Evaluate the commercials by asking students which product(s) they would buy on the strength of the commercial itself. • Rework individual segments of You Are There to create a unified historical overview of the period from 1930 - 1945. Work on transitions to segue from one segment to the next and include only those commercials that the class felt most effective. VOCABULARY: swing music, Dust Bowl, script, WPA (Works Progress Administration), CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps). ASSESSMENT: (Responding & Connecting) DESCRIBE: Describe your role in the group and how well you performed that role. DISCUSS: Discuss the historical event your group chose. Why was it significant? How did it fit into the larger events of the period? What was its relationship to the other events chosen? ANALYZE: Analyze the relationship of the parts to the whole presentation. Did each part serve to unify the entire segment? Was any part not connected to the topic? Did the swing selection capture the mood of the event? Did the announcer provide smooth transitions in his narration? Was the commercial cogent to the event? CONNECT: Discuss the differing effects of radio and television on the listener/viewer. Which one draws more on the imagination? Why? Emphasis on: Common Core - CA State Standards for Language - Reading; Writing; Listening; Speaking