On March 9th, the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation, in partnership with the PBS series Soundbreaking, presented a panel discussion and workshop at SXSWedu in Austin, Texas. This was the Foundation’s first appearance at the annual conference, which has become one of the premiere events in the nation to discuss intersections between education and innovation.
The panel featured RRFF Executive Director Dr. Warren Zanes in conversation with partner teacher Ben Wides of Manhattan's East Side Community High School, who has been teaching with the Rock and Roll: An American Story curriculum for the past three years. Their conversation centered on the upcoming PBS series Soundbreaking, for which RRFF is the educational partner. The series, which focuses on the history of recorded music, airs in November.
Dr. Zanes and Mr. Wides showcased exclusive clips from Soundbreaking including segments on the influence of Caribbean culture in early Hip Hop, the radical politics of Public Enemy, and the role of Dr. Dre in developing a distinct West Coast Hip Hop sound. Through these clips, Zanes and Wides highlighted connections between popular music and such classroom subjects as immigration patterns, urban communities, and race.
The panel was immediately followed by a workshop, which was co-presented by RRFF Senior Project Manager Adam Rubin along with partner teachers Dayna Orlak of Waldwick High School in Bergen Co., New Jersey and John Soi of Roundout Valley High School in upstate New York. Each presenter led attendees through a sample lesson and student-centered activities tailored to bring Soundbreaking resources into the classroom. The group examined several clips from the series, including segments focusing on the work and artistic legacy of Beatles producer George Martin, who served as executive producer of Soundbreaking before his passing. In addition to watching clips, attendees listened to songs, studied historical timelines and archival photographs, and discussed questions relating developments in music recording technology with popular culture.
The Foundation would like to thank PBS, the Soundbreaking production team, and our partner teachers Dayna Orlak, John Soi, and Ben Wides, in helping to make our SXSWedu presentations possible.