Overview: Teaching the history of the civil war through the evolution of drum corps.

Today’s lesson plan is another one to honor the 150th Civil War Anniversary. In addition to, a patriotic lesson plan for Memorial Day weekend.  In this lesson, we work on combining the musical genres of rap and drum corps with JayZ’s Empire State of Mind. Students study these two contrasting musical art forms. Then, create their own “rap” to discuss the causes and effects of the Civil War.  Great for social studies and language arts areas, this can be used with lots of different age groups and extended to meet the needs of all learners.



Step 1. Students listen to fife and drum music from the 1800’s. Discuss with students the practical reasons for this music during the Civil War: to speed up the time it took to travel by keeping a beat, as a way to uplift the soldier’s spirits and because other instruments were too heavy. Explain this music was often performed by boys as young as 8 and up to 18.

Step 2. Look at the words that were later added to these songs: many had political and moral opinions.

Step 3. Then, have students listen to Jay Z’s Empire State of Mind. Listen for the same qualities: beat, uplift spirits, historical context clues to today. What is similar and what is different?

Step 4. Have students create new words that describe elements of the causes of the Civil War, important people during the time period, and a sequence of events from the War set to Jay Z’s rap “Empire State of Mind”

Step 5. Perform the new rap together as a class!