Music and Storytelling at
Lowell Elementary (2012)

The Question

How does music resemble narratives? What elements do composers utilize to create settings, characters, and dialogue in music? How can music remind us of our own personal stories?

The Process

With help from the members of Fifth House Ensemble, fifth graders at Lowell Elementary School were introduced to concepts of chamber music and how it relates to telling a story. Through a series of lessons and writing workshops interspersed with live chamber music, students learned how music could create a coherent plot, including an introduction, rising action, climax, and falling action. They also composed music that resembled dialogues and used descriptive words to create vivid characters.

Students also explored the musical characteristics that create such vivid imagery and stories. Fundamental topics such as rhythm, timbre, melody, harmony, and instrumentation were made engaging and memorable through a number of interactive lessons that focused on creating new and relevant classroom connections while highlighting the beauty of the music.

The Impact

All three collaborating teachers reported much stronger descriptive vocabularies and public speaking skills. Both classroom teachers made changes to existing curriculums (one in creating a video project and one in poetry) to include the use of music, specifically in using it to enhance mood, emotion, and form.


The Final Project

In groups of six or seven, students composed their own personal narratives based on past experiences and prompts provided by Fifth House Ensemble. Throughout the writing process, students were encouraged to relate their writing to specific aspects of chosen musical selections. Artist Emmy Bean collaborated with the musicians and students to help create visual realizations of moments in these stories. The final performance featured selections from the 2012 signature series concert Caught: The Woods.