For Teachers

What is the goal of the Musician of the Month (MotM) Listening Curriculum?

The goal of MotM is to inspire students to be life-long, active music-makers. The featured musicians act as musical role models for students of all cultural, ethnic, and gender identities.

What are the guiding principles of MotM?

  • MotM aspires to be an anti-racist curriculum that challenges the prevailing Euro-centric and white supremacist bias in education.
  • Just like the folk music repertoire we choose for our student body, there should be some connection between the cultures of our students and the cultures represented in our music listening selections. Students need to see themselves in the curriculum in some way.
  • In our multicultural country and global community, it is our moral imperative to teach about music from many different styles with respect for their cultures of origin and those cultures’ particular standards of artistry.
  • There should be equal gender representation.
  • “If Europe had not existed between the years 1600 and 1900, there would still be music in this world” (Anonymous).

What are the main features of MotM?

  • Each month, a different composer, performer, or ensemble is featured.
  • Throughout the year, different styles that exist in the world’s musical tapestry are explored.
  • Musical styles often repeat from year to year, though the featured musicians change.
  • There is an equal balance of genders, races, and cultures represented.
  • There is a balance between living and deceased musicians presented.
  • Special consideration is given to musicians who reach across cultural boundaries and/or who have overcome significant challenges.
  • The whole school or district studies the same musician at the same time, with different listening activities modified by grade level.
  • Students and families are provided with some means of engaging with the Musician of the Month at home (such as through a website or playlist).
  • Students review the “Musicians of the Month” at the end of the school year and vote on their favorites.
  • Music both in and out of the teacher’s comfort zone is taught.
  • Listening activities are meant to involve or inspire active-music making, rather than acting as a “music appreciation” curriculum.

How do I plan a year of the curriculum?

To plan the year of featured musicians, start with a month-by-month formula of musical styles or categories that are reflective of your country’s population, with a special emphasis on your own school’s or district’s student population. There should be a balance of styles, genders, and cultures represented. If you work in a larger department or district, you may choose to coordinate with your colleagues on this. For example, each music teacher could take charge of one month to choose a musician, develop materials, and suggest classroom listening activities for different grade levels. This allows everyone to share our expertise, and it also spreads the workload across the whole team. The below table shows one possible formula for a sequence of styles and a sample year of featured musicians. You can also use our handy Yearly Planning Template. To edit the template, you can click File>Make a copy (if you are logged into a Google Account) or Download the file and edit it on your own device.

MonthStyle or categoryMusician (sample)
SeptemberLatinxCelia Cruz
OctoberFolkThe Chieftains
NovemberEuropean classicalYo-Yo Ma
DecemberCivil rights/protest musicSweet Honey in the Rock
JanuaryPopPentatonix
FebruaryBlues/R&BB.B. King
MarchWildcard (based on student or teacher interest)The Wailin’ Jennys
AprilJazzTrombone Shorty
MayMusician with a disabilityEvelyn Glennie
JuneReviewVote for “Musician of the Year”

A working formula and a sample year of featured musicians

How do I find existing MotM units?

Search our growing database of units contributed by music educators from around the country and the world.

How do I create and contribute my own MotM units?

The Musician of the Month Project depends on contributions from music educators worldwide to grow our database! To contribute a unit to our website, please fill out the Display and Unit Template and send it as an attachment to musicianofthemonthproject@gmail.com. To edit the template, you can click File>Make a copy (if you are logged into a Google Account) or Download the file and edit it on your own device.

Please note that units will be reviewed and may be edited by our editorial team before publication on our website. Authorship will be recognized on each unit, but the unit will be available, free-of-charge, on the MotM in perpetuity.

How can students contribute ideas?

Students can suggest ideas for future MotM units on this page. Their suggestions are on view here.

How can I engage families?

It is suggested that you create a webpage with information about each musician of the month and links to listening selections that can be accessed at home. For example, a playlist on a streaming service such as Spotify is an expedient way to provide this to families. Such a playlist would also be accessible to the general education teachers in your school or district.

Here is an example of the Somerville Public Schools Musician of the Month Spotify Playlist for the 2019-2020 school year.

For more information, check out this article.