A Bold and Beautiful Collaboration

Quaver’s quest to celebrate the history of Black music

by Kristin Clark Taylor

***

In times of uncertainty, it sure feels good when something certain and bright and beautiful emerges.

Quaver’s recently-announced collaboration with the National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM) is that perfect “something” – a glorious, groundbreaking digital partnership that celebrates the extraordinary power of music in general and the rich, multi-faceted history of black music in particular.

Renderings of the National Museum of African American Music, located in downtown Nashville, Tennessee!

Another certainty: The time for such a powerful partnership is right now, at this precise moment in our living history, when not just Nashville but the entire nation can recognize and celebrate black music for its history, its healing power, and its ability to educate, uplift, and coalesce.  

Quaver, already the leader in music education and the premiere provider of content and curriculum to K-8 music teachers across the USA, will help bring the museum’s online curriculum to life.

It’s a match made in heaven: Quaver’s comprehensive music curriculum is already built on cutting-edge, cloud-based technology – the colorful, creative lessons and songs are a simple click away for more than 14,000 music teachers nationwide – and now, the company will lend its digital and creative expertise to museum-goers eager for an interactive learning experience. 

NMAAM’s curriculum, called “From Nothing to Something,” uses instruments, story-telling, historical artifacts, and the musicians themselves to guide visitors through the lush, living history of black music. The interactive component includes a lively, illustrated character named “Zara” – a hip, music-loving teenager who also appears in Quaver’s highly popular Social and Emotional Learning curriculum; it is Zara who guides museum-goers through each of the interactive lessons. And Lucius “Spoonman” Talley – a real-life mainstay on the music scene in Nashville – also appears as an animated character!

***

Each lesson focuses on a different instrument that played a pivotal role in black music, from the spoons, to the harmonica, to the cigar box guitar, the wash tub bass, and the banjo. The interactive lessons are fast-paced, finely-textured, and just plain fun – the perfect recipe for learning. Each section was carefully designed and thoughtfully crafted to offer not just a history lesson on how these instruments came into being but a comfortable platform from which conversations about uncomfortable topics such as racism, slavery, and oppression can occur.

And though the actual brick-and-mortar opening of the museum has had to be delayed because of the global pandemic, this innovative, shareable curriculum can reach – and teach – people from wherever they are. This is what living, breathing history looks like in the digital age.

On a regular basis, when creating a curriculum and developing new lessons, Quaver relies on skilled researchers and dedicated staff to ensure that the content is accurate, representative, topical, and sensitively presented. They also bring in culture-bearers, musicians from various races and ethnicities, and storytellers to share their experiences and provide creative input.

Quaver’s devotion to music education — whether that learning takes place in a classroom, in a living room, on a laptop, or in a museum — is constant and unyielding. It is clearly their passion and their purpose; their reason for being.

It’s about as powerful a passion as passion can get. How powerful?

Not even a global pandemic can stop it.

***

Kristin Clark Taylor is an author and journalist.

***

QuaverEd and NMAAM’s From Nothing to Something lessons will be added to the QuaverMusic curriculum this October, expanding the reach of the museum into Quaver’s network of 11,000 schools and 14,000 teachers (reaching 4 million students!) in this unique time.