Musical Road Trip at
Decatur Classical School (2015)

The Question

What things do you remember from vacations?
What unique traits to cities from different parts of the country have?
What role does music play on a road trip?
What is an ostinato?

The Objectives

  1. Students will work in groups to write a class journal about a road trip to a selected city.
  2. Students will understand the definition and application of ostinatos in music.
  3. Students will write ostinatos to serve as the soundtrack to their roadtrip.
  4. Students will understand how music can be altered to reflect mood.
  5. Students will perform their stories as a class at their All School Show at the end of the year.

The Process

Musicians from Fifth House Ensemble visited Ms. Cohen’s (4th grade), Ms. Allegretti’s (5th grade), Ms. Sharping’s (5th grade), and Ms. Drake’s (6th grade) classes 7 times over a 3-month period. We started by sharing our favorite road trip stories and songs and talking about what makes a good road trip song. The idea of an ostinato, or repeated rhythmic figure, came up, and was a main focus of our residency work.

Students were split into 5 groups that focused on one paragraph of the story each. For example, one group was in charge of the introduction, and they described the personalities of the people that were going on the trip. The groups had to communicate with one another to fully understand how the story was developing, which sometimes led to heated debates over what should happen next.

Once the stories were written, we added music and sound effects to them to enhance the already exciting narrative. Short ostinatos were written by the students and arranged into short musical excerpts by Fifth House members that fit between paragraphs, commenting on what just happened in the story.

If you click HERE, you can see all of our class’s road trip stories! Ms. Drake’s class created a road trip set during a zombie apocalypse.

The Final Project

Our final project took place in front of parents, students, and faculty as a part of Decatur Classical School’s end of the year performance featuring all of its students. The students shared the stage with Fifth House musicians as they read through their stories with musical accompaniment in between paragraphs. At one point in each story, the entire class was involved in a group sound effect, emulating the sound of an earthquake, a tropical storm, or a sandstorm.

This residency was made possible through the generous support of Ingenuity Inc.’s Creative Schools Fund.