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 “Where words fail, music speaks.”  --Hans Christian Andersen 

If you are like me, when you read, you do not see words merely printed on a page, but see before you a brilliant film complete with a stunning setting, sound effects, and maybe even a soundtrack or score. There is no doubt that when Atticus Finch is standing before the jury in his closing statement—we are holding our breath. When Harry challenges Voldemort in their final duel—we are nervous. When Juliet realizes she has missed her true love by mere moments—we are heartbroken. As seasoned readers, we use the author’s word choice and literary devices to transport ourselves to an entirely new world.  


However, there may have been a time in your life when you, too, needed a little extra encouragement to truly “see” stories as you do now. Through text only, students may not fully comprehend the extent of Atticus’s words, what a climatic moment Harry has reached in his plot, or the irony of Juliet’s last speech.  


But, everyone understands music. 


Music is powerful. This is one of the reasons why audiences remember poignant moments in film.  Jaws is nothing without the duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh. Without music, the battle scenes of superheroes are just a lot of "glok," "fa-thud," and "klunk." What is Rose and Jack's first kiss without the orchestra behind it? Our emotions are closely tied to that music. More amazing is how we can connect to other people over music.  


The creation of Music Speaks started years ago with my desire to have my students become immersed in a classroom novel's setting, feel empathy with the characters, and notice the connections that an author made with word choice and mood.

Music Speaks utilizes music to regularly connect with literature. Here's some examples:
From The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

Music Speaks is a time-tested, successful practicum that includes: 

  • Demonstrations on how to effectively use music repeatedly throughout a novel as a teaching tool 

  • Prompts that connect music to writing responses and classroom discussions 

  • Exemplar "playlists" included with any literary unit plan 

  • Supplementary music-and-writing activities 

Chapter 1: Introduction to characters and 1960's setting. The reader meets the greasers, who are proud to be rebellious troublemakers, yet have numerous social obstacles stacked against them.  

To create characterization and familiarization with the book's setting, play:

"We Gotta Get Out of This Place" by The Animals. 

Chapter 5: Hiding out in the church, Ponyboy and Johnny escape their personas as greasers for a moment as they await news from Dally. Ponyboy recites "Nothing Gold Can Stay" by Robert Frost to Johnny.  

To connect to the book's theme, play:


"Yesterday" by The Beatles. 

Chapter  9: The Greasers pump themselves up for their upcoming rumble with the socs. Each member of the gang has a different reason for fighting, but all are confident and looking forward to the rumble. 

To build the mood of the scene, play:


"Green Onions" by Booker T. & the M.G.'s.

Want to know more?  

Contact me or my colleague, David Stone, M.Ed., to learn more or book us for a speaking engagement. 

Julie Rushton 
English Department Chair

Cambria and David [have] so many good ideas! They provided great examples. When I went back to school the next day, I was able to use the information they gave me to use as a starter in my 9th grade class. My students were very engaged and really enjoyed it. Cambria and David were wonderful presenters and I think more teachers should take advantage of the message [Music Speaks] shares.

Jill Hansen 
English Teacher and Media Specialist

Music Speaks was a creative and meaningful [presentation] about bringing music into the classroom and allowing students to connect with the emotional and physical power of a song.  I loved all of the ideas that were shared, especially the examples of songs that could be paired with books.  It got me thinking and inspired to incorporate music into a lesson, which students will love


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