Mississippi-Style Drum Corps
Grades 3-5, 6-8
Selections:Videos from Mississippi Delta & Hill Country
Activity 1: Images of the Fife-and-Drum Corps
1. Examples of the fife and drum are richly documented on the Video from the Mississippi Delta and Hill Country. Ask students “What image comes to mind when you think of fife-and-drum music?” (Answer: Various, including the small American military bands of the Revolutionary War; see, for example, the famous painting by Archibald Willard, “The Spirit of ‘76”.) Lead students into a discovery of the African American fife-and-drum tradition in Como, Mississippi, through video-images of the players, the dancers, and party-goers at the social gatherings known as picnics.
2. Play the video, P. 23, “Picnic with Napolian Strickland and the Como Drum Corps, Part 6 of 11)”. Ask students to look and listen, prompting them with questions:
“What instruments are being played?” (Answer: Bass drum, two snare drums, flute)
“Who is playing?” (Answer: A woman and several men)
“What is the response of people to the music?” (Answer: Some are dancing, others are watching and listening)
3. Re-play the video (of step 2). Ask students to choose a surface on which to tap the rhythm (lap, floor, desktop, chair rung) as they listen and watch.
4. Play the video, P. 23, “Picnic rehearsal with Napolian Strickland and Como Drum Corps”. Compare to the previous video. Ask the question, “How does this appear to be a rehearsal rather than a performance?” (Answer: The tempo is slower and there is absence of dancers and onlookers.)
5. Re-play the video (of step 4). As before, suggest that students tap the rhythm that they are hearing.
6. Play the video, P. 22, “Picnic night at Othar Turner’s farm (1 of 2)”. Ask students what Mr. Othar Turner, flutist, has to say about the cane flute and how to play it. Direct their attention to these items:
7. Re-play the videos to reinforce the images of sight and sound of this important fife-and-drum tradition of the Mississippi hill country.Activity 2: Fife and Drum History
1. Encourage students to seek out the historical development of fife-and-drum music internationally, and in particularly in the American northeast and south. See, for example, James Clark’s Connecticut’s Fife and Drum Tradition.
2. Comments by Alan Lomax are noteworthy in inspiring the curiosity of students to know something of the historical and social context of fife-and-drum bands.
(a) “Thomas Jefferson’s slaves formed a fife-and-drum team as their contribution to the War of Independence.” (p. 333)Lesson Plan by Patricia Campbell