University of Pittsburgh
June 3, 1998



Sharon Blake


Cell: 412-277-6926

PITTSBURGH, June 4 -- The University of Pittsburgh's Center For

American Music is launching an ambitious educational program that will incorporate historic American music into the curricula of history, language arts and literature teachers throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Organizers of the "Voices Across Time" pilot project are currently seeking 20 area middle and high school teachers to participate in the program during the 1998-99 school year. Teachers selected for the project will be asked to attend a half-day workshop in August, use the curriculum guide all year, and provide periodic feedback to the project staff.

"The sound of history is missing from our classrooms," said Deane Root, curator of the Center for American Music. "Over the years, songs have allowed everyday people to voice their attitudes, opinions or beliefs and they are an especially important voice for the many ethnic groups who did not leave written accounts of their lives. Music provides a very real soundtrack to events throughout history," he said.

"Voices Across Time" is a curriculum guide which will allow music to be used as a classroom tool to teach students in grades 8 through 12 about the life and history of their nation. The guide, designed by curriculum consultant Susan Donley and reviewed throughout its development by a teacher advisory committee, is organized by units -- each dedicated to a different historical era. Within each unit, American music of that era will be used to shed light on six on-going themes: diversity, labor and protest, home and family life, war and peace, migration and immigration, and faith and ideals.

For example, students will listen to "Follow the Drinking Gourd" to better understand the Underground Railroad and other events leading up to the Civil War; they'll listen to "John Henry" to grasp the changes brought about by industrialization in the late 1800s; and John Lennon's "Give Peace A Chance" will help them understand the anti-war protests of the 1960s.

The pilot curriculum guide will include written and recorded music, video, discussion questions and proposed class activities. When possible, live performances and additional archival materials will be included such as posters, photos and engravings. Each piece of music will be accompanied by a brief text, explaining the song's background and its link to the period of history under study.

Plans are already underway to make "Voices Across Time" available to teachers and administrators via the World Wide Web. The ultimate goal is to form a National Teaching Institute to be held at Pitt's Stephen Foster Memorial each summer, where master teachers from Pittsburgh and around the world will be trained in techniques for using American song in their curricula and will be given the resources to train other teachers in their school districts. Teachers interested in participating in the "Voices Across Time" pilot project are asked to contact Deane Root at the Center For American Music at 412-624-4100 or

The project is funded by the Vira I. Heinz Endowment, one of the Pittsburgh-based Heinz Endowments, which together form one of the nation's largest philanthropic organizations. The Endowments' mission is to support progress in economic opportunity, arts and culture, education, health, human services and the environment.