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VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

'Rock In The Classroom' Founder Provides Songwriting Workshops For Teachers

Courtesy of Jerry Appell
Jerry Appell, founder of Rock In The Classroom, leads a workshop in New Orleans, La. Appell spoke to "Vermont Edition" about the teacher workshops he facilitates, and also performed songs with science and literature topics.

For most kids in Vermont, school is now back in session. Jerry Appell of Brattleboro is the founder of Rock In The Classroom, and a few years ago, he recorded a couple of CDs that taught and engaged high school and college students about a variety of subjects through the power of song.

Now, he's shifted his attention to teaching the teachers.

"In our workshop, what I do is try to find out the ways that teachers are using music and art to improve instruction," Appell told Vermont Edition on Friday. "And we end up writing songs in the workshop, as a role model for things that students can do back in the classroom."

Appell says he has a social studies background, but he has been working with teachers of all different subjects at conferences. He says while he thought science could be one of the trickier subjects to put to song, he's had a different experience.

"Those science conferences, I seem to have the most fun at ... They come up with some great songs," Appell says.

At the workshops, Appell says he tries to organize the teachers in attendance by those that have students of about the same age or perhaps teach the same topics within a subject.

"They get into small groups of three or four, so that's your songwriting team. And to make it easy and to make it quick, they just do a song parody – a piggyback song, setting it to a song that everybody knows. So, the first thing they do is they will come up with key terms that should be in the song," Appell explains.

"And they piece that together, and then we put it on large Post-it paper. And everybody gathers around each song that we post on the wall, and we sing them together a cappella. And then we talk about what each member of the group did to contribute to the completion of the song."

Listen to the full interview above, which includes Appell performing songs about chromosomes and George Orwell's Animal Farm.

Ric was a producer for Vermont Edition and host of the VPR Cafe.
A graduate of NYU with a Master's Degree in journalism, Mitch has more than 20 years experience in radio news. He got his start as news director at NYU's college station, and moved on to a news director (and part-time DJ position) for commercial radio station WMVY on Martha's Vineyard. But public radio was where Mitch wanted to be and he eventually moved on to Boston where he worked for six years in a number of different capacities at member station a Senior Producer, Editor, and fill-in co-host of the nationally distributed Here and Now. Mitch has been a guest host of the national NPR sports program "Only A Game". He's also worked as an editor and producer for international news coverage with Monitor Radio in Boston.
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