WITNESS Launch: Orienting Teachers to Let Freedom Ring

The VocalEssence Education staff led the annual WITNESS Teacher Orientation Seminar on Saturday, September 27, 2014. This was a wonderful opportunity for teachers in our partner schools to learn all they need to know about their school’s participation in the WITNESS School Program.

Teachers who attended received copies of the 2014 WITNESS Teacher Resource Guide and Companion CD. With activities and lesson plans that meet state education standards and that are built around the theme of the WITNESS: Let Freedom Ring concert, the guide highlights both the contributions of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his lifelong promotion of racial equality through nonviolent resistance and the music that inspired him, including freedom songs and spirituals.

Sounds of Blackness Director Hines Sheds Light on Styles

Gary Hines, director of the 2015 WITNESS guest ensemble Sounds of Blackness, led an engaging presentation about Sounds of Blackness and their broad array of musical styles that celebrate the African American experience.

Gary was accompanied by WITNESS Teaching Artist Ginger Commodore, a founding member of Sounds of Blackness, and the two shared stories and played musical examples to highlight ways that music can bring about unity and peace for all humankind.

Curriculum Writer Shares Research

The WITNESS Teacher Orientation Seminar included a presentation by WITNESS curriculum writer Joanna Cortright, who shared highlights of her research on both Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Sounds of Blackness. Additionally, our partner school teachers had  the opportunity to engage with WITNESS Teaching Artists who discussed and demonstrated their workshop goals; they also tried out lesson plans and activities from the Teacher Resource Guide and learned strategies on incorporating WITNESS materials into school curriculum.

We currently have 45 WITNESS Partner Schools signed up, and requests keep rolling in. All participating WITNESS schools were required to send at least one representative to attend this half-day orientation seminar, which included up to 4.5 clock hours of professional development CEU credit.

Check sample lesson plans from the 2014-2015 Teacher Resource Guide:

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Meet the Artists: The Sounds of Blackness