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Patriotism & Politics | Teaching Notes

September 30, 2020

Welcome to Teaching Notes - a blog series written by a teacher to help other teachers #TeachtheSongbook. 

 By GASF Volunteer: Sue Ackley 





What's it about?


From matching bands to rock anthems, candidates use music to rally their potential voters. Sometimes they’re successful and sometimes they’re not. Rushing to use a song oftentimes results in a backlash from the artist who doesn’t share their political views. It’s all part of politics and it’s especially relevant today.



Start a discussion.


  • What is the relationship between music and politics?

  • Why are some campaign songs affective and some are not?

  • How has the use of music changed over time when it comes to campaign use?
  • How has social media influenced the use of music in political campaigns?



What's been said about campaign songs?


  • Campaign songs and songs of political parties can help to spread particular points of view and build solidarity around candidates and platforms. Read more here.

  • Any advertising executive will tell you that the right song played at the right moment will subliminally evoke emotions of trust and empathy in the listener.  Music is such a key element of swaying the hearts and minds of people that quite often campaigns will rush to play songs they don’t have permission to play.  It seems like every election cycle features at least one artist having to stop an overzealous candidate with opposing views to stop using their material at their events. Read more here.



Useful lesson plans and ideas




Where can I find out more?


The New Yorker: What campaign songs tell us about Presidential Candidates



Bernie Sanders joins Vampire Weekend for "This Land is Your Land"



Madonna: Rock the Vote! Advert (1990)






Happy Teaching! Please share your success in the classroom with us by posting about your lesson plan using the hashtag #TeachtheSongbook and tagging us @songbookfoundation.


Up next:  Randy Rainbow became “internet famous” with his sharp political satire using musical parody that pokes fun at politicians and public figures. How did the YouTube era usher in this new medium for parodists?


A Note from the Author: I can’t imagine life without music. When tunes float by, memories flood in. My foot starts tapping, fingers start snapping, and I get caught up in the emotion of the song.  For 28 years, music was always a key component in my classroom. It never failed to grab the attention of my students and made past cultures come alive with connections to daily life.


I’m excited to open up a discussion about the new Songbook exhibit, Of Thee I sing Politics on Stage. It’s a storytelling device where cultural values are seen in the context of music. Including musical theater in your classroom has never been easier. Join me in this forum where you can share your lesson plans and get ideas from others. It’s your point of access for creative ways to engage your students through music. Tell me what works and what’s missing. Let’s start a conversation and get those toes tapping.


 Sue Ackley

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