Classical (punk) music for the classroom.

In the rural schools where I teach, they do not have music programs. I’m lucky they have art programs. A lot of the teachers play music in their classrooms, but from what I hear it’s along the lines of Renaissance, classical, new age and the like. That’s all very relaxing, but I want to expose my kids to a really broad range of music from the last 100 years.

I’ve been playing Cajun music, Arab/Indian techno, Brazilian, blues, reggae, 80’s New Wave, funk, old David Bowie – all over the place. I’ve stayed away from goth because these kids have shown a low threshold for music that “makes me depressed.” Industrial is usually too aggressive, and also probably too depressing. I love the stuff, but I am realizing their limits.

What I really want to play for them is real punk. Not Green Day, or whatever else claims to be punk these days. Punk punk. The difficult part is finding songs that don’t have swear words in them. I don’t allowing swearing in my classrooms, so I can’t very well introduce that language myself in the music I play. So the Sex Pistols are pretty verboten.

I’ve found a couple of classroom-safe bands so far.

The Buzzcocks have tame and actually pretty wholesome lyrics (except for “Orgasm Addict”).

The Dead Milkmen are pretty clean too. They did great social satire. I think I could get away with “Bitchin’ Camaro.”

The protopunk geniuses The Modern Lovers had lyrics which speak of pure and healthy intentions (except for “Pablo Picasso Was Never Called an Asshole”). They had only one album, but the band members went on to do other important music. Jerry Harrison was in the Talking Heads. David Robinson was in The Cars. Jonathan Richman – the “Godfather of Punk” – held a solo career afterward, and was most notably the sidewalk musician in the movie “There’s Something About Mary.”

I will be grateful for any other recommendations.

I’m going to throw together a punk playlist on my MP3 player for my students, and it’s going to be heaven for me.

UPDATE 1/20/07

Here are some other bands recommended by online friends:

Bad Religion
The Ramones
Stiff Little Fingers
Dead Kennedys (some songs are classroom-safe)
Pennywise (a little newer)

By Dawn Pedersen

Science advocate, web designer, educator, artist, and mommy.

One reply on “Classical (punk) music for the classroom.”

Why don’t you play The Clash, the greatest punk band ever!! Also how about Sub City Dwellers? Excellent indie band from Winnipeg, Canada. Keep up the good work Dawn, I’m an art teacher too and I like your lesson ideas.

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