How Can American Idol Help In Music Lessons?

American Idol winner Scotty McCreery has been making headlines recently, with his debut album “Clear As Day” debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 chart.  This achievement makes him the first country artist to debut at No. 1 in all genres with their first studio album, and also the youngest male singer ever to top the all-genre chart on the first week of his solo debut.

Although some of the American Idol hype has died down in the past few years, its impact on fans is still clear.  Idol hopefuls still line up by the thousands, for the chance to win America’s heart and catapult into celebrity status.

McCreery’s success got us thinking about how teachers can incorporate American Idol into music lessons.  After all, private music lessons are a great way to brush up on your technique before an audition for American Idol, X-Factor, or any of the other talent shows.

Yahoo! News Associated Content brought up just a few ways the show can be used as a learning tool:

1. Music History

In many weeks on American Idol, the songs chosen by the competitors must come from a particular artist or genre. For example, themes have included Elvis Presley, Motown, The Beatles, and songs from the movies. Each theme can be expanded into a lesson on how that artist or style impacted the development of popular music and how it fits into the context of today’s music. A music history lesson about Elvis could include an exploration of Southern roots music and its beginnings on plantations and in juke joints. The phenomenon that was The Beatles can be framed in musical influences that arrived in port cities in England like Liverpool and how it affected the popular music of that country.

2. Music Genres

While American Idol mostly focuses on finding an artist who can sell a bazillion albums that will chart as pop hits, the contestants often delve into different musical genres including rock, blues, country, and rap. Lessons surrounding American Idol performances can help students identify the defining characteristics of musical genres and understand the effects of merging genres on popularity and album sales.

3. The Business of Music

The audience of American Idol is voting for whom they enjoy the most, but the judges are looking for who can be effectively molded into a recording artist. One way to teach students about how the music industry works is to divide students up into groups. Each group represents a music publisher looking for a new hit maker. The publishers can rate the American Idol performers based on not only their singing ability but also their willingness to take direction and their professionalism towards the judges and other contestants. This is often most effective in the early parts of the season where some contestants fail to take judging feedback gracefully. Allowing students to contemplate how that behavior might translate into an artist that costs the publisher money rather than making it can expand a student’s understanding of the business of music.

Although critiques of the show are obviously out there, we think it’s important to have a good understanding of current pop culture in order to connect with younger students.  Teachers – what do you think?  Do you incorporate pop culture in out-of-the-ordinary ways to teach lessons?  We’d love to hear all of your ideas, so leave a comment below to discuss!

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