Popular sheet music is a valuable educational resource that can be included in lesson plans for a variety of educational fields for levels ranging from grammar school to college and graduate schools. While lesson plans or guidelines would need to be gauged to age or grade level, similar themes could be applied to all. Popular sheet music might be used to help teach music appreciation, music history, and music theory. Popular sheet music might be used to teach history, folklore and popular culture at all levels.
The IN Harmony sheet music bibliography includes sources specifically related to popular sheet music in Indiana and the Midwest as well as general and introductory references. The bibliography is organized by topics.
IN Harmony's collection is useful in shaping a narrative about music, particularly song, as a social activity. Comparisons between nineteenth-century popular songs and art songs are pertinent: classroom activities that emphasize who was creating these types of songs, who was playing or listening to them, and how they were distributed can help students to understand why these genres reflect their respective style traits. Popular sheet music from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries may be used to illustrate the development of new popular styles such as blues, ragtime, marches, jazz, and various dance forms. Discussion of the sheet music industry is relevant as well, both to explain how the public consumed popular culture in the era before television and radio, and to explore particular historical occurrences, such as the rise of Tin Pan Alley. For broader survey classes, the American sheet music industry might be compared with earlier models of sheet music consumption such as the printing industry for Italian and English madrigals in the late Renaissance. Popular sheet music also intersects with a variety of performance groups and venues, from marching bands and ragtime piano to Vaudeville and Broadway, and use of specific items in the collection would be pertinent to any of these discussions. Finally, the cover art, topics, and musical styles embodied in IN Harmony's sheet music may open the floor for discussions on depictions of race and exoticism in American culture.
Music appreciation courses generally include sections on music fundamentals (pitch, rhythm, notation, melody, harmony, and so forth). The simplicity and brevity of popular sheet music makes it appropriate for illustrating many of these concepts in a clear and accessible manner. Because much of the repertoire of Tin Pan Alley is still familiar, if old-fashioned, students may recognize these songs, or their styles, and better understand how they fit into a musical narrative.
Sheet music is an important part of the history of popular music throughout the twentieth century, though particularly in the years before radio. Discussion of Tin Pan Alley and the methods of marketing and distributing popular music would be necessary, as well as the inclusion and blending of popular musical styles represented, and types of instrumentation indicated, in sheet music. (For specific classroom ideas, see the two music-oriented guidelines previously mentioned.)
In this class context, IN Harmony's popular sheet music could be used as examples of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century harmonic language. In particular, it could illustrate differences in harmonic language and progressions between popular and art music, as well as the integration of other musical idioms such as jazz, blues, marches, ragtime, dances, and other ethnic styles.
Because popular sheet music relates to so many facets of American culture, the IN Harmony collection may be incorporated into courses in other fields as well. These may include, though are not limited to:
Grammar and High School