MUSC 486-20



Social, Political, and Protest Songs: 

Music with a Message


Instructor:  Dr. Vicky V. Johnson


Phone: Ext 9238




Syllabus       Blackboard       Finale       Staff Paper       Links   

   Compositions       ePortfolio     Performances      Writing

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Week 1

Jan 17 - 20


Tuesday:  Inventory

  • Syllabus

  • Semester plans

  • Short list of possible issues

  • Use of technology



Why was this song created? 

What were the conditions that lead to the creation of the song?

Who were the "we" and who were the "them" (if applicable)?

What effect did the song have?


Music as a vehicle must carry the message

to the intended audience

to achieve the intended purpose


If that is the prime concern, it governs the word flow

the style of music

the acceptability to the venue


You want the song to be heard



Reflected upon


Assignments due:


Blackboard setup

  1. Log on to Blackboard

  2. Choose your course

  3. Click "My Settings" in the upper right portion of the screen.

  4. Select "My profile" tab and edit the profile to include the email address you actually check.

  5. Click Save.

  6. Now click on "My Tool Option" tab and scroll to the Mail portion of the screen.

  7. Select the box "Forward all mail messages to the e-mail address in my profile."

  8. Click Save.


Assignment 1

  1. Present one song that you consider to have been effective in carrying a message.

  2. Be prepared to explain how the song (both music and lyrics) effectively carried that message.

  3. Explain the background of the issue and of the songwriter

  4. Do enough research to share the consequent effect of the song











Week 2

Jan 23 - 27


Discussion of collaborative technology tools to be used in the course.

Assignments due:


Assignment 2

  1. PowerPoint presentation of 10 singer/songwriters (include both contemporary and historical, national and international):  1 per slide

  2. Include their most famous songs

  3. What they were protesting (their message)

  4. The effect (if any) and why or why not



Week 3

Jan 30 - Feb 3


Public domain protest songs

Assignments due:


Add 3 more slides to your PowerPoint

  1. one person/group from a country that does not speak English

  2. one from a time at least 75 years ago

  3. your choice of another in category 1 or 2





Week 4

Feb 6 - 10


Synthesis and Choices


Serious, humorous, innuendo, sarcastic, hidden meaning

Pop, rock, country, folk, rap (and subgenres)

Added visuals (art, video, costume, body language)

Imitative or original

Target audience

Self-absorbed or effective (or both)





No class on Thursday because of TMEA

Assignments due:


List the 3 issues upon which you would like to comment through your songs.  Put them in priority order (not in order of the importance of the issue, but in order of which song you want to do first).

You will write them on the board and briefly explain the message you hope to convey through your songs.



Make a Wordle on each of your 3 ideas (

  1. put in words (size will be determined by the number of times you use a word; Ex: war war war war will make that word larger)

  2. to keep words together, use a ~ (Ex: Music~with~a~Message will all appear together)

Since there is no class on Thursday because of TMEA, post your Wordle on the MWAM Facebook page.





Week 5

Feb 13 - 17


We have 3 categories of resources to use:

  1. student

  2. professor

  3. technology



Assignments due:


First draft of first song to share











ePortfolio Guide

Week 6

Feb 20 - 24


February 27 is Anthology deadline



How do you compose?  What is the process?


1.  New

2.  Revision

3.  Finished (Performable)

4.  Notated

Assignments due:


Final draft of one poem to submit to Anthology



Revise and submit poem to Anthology











Week 7

Feb 27 - Mar 2


Choose prompts for mid-term reflection


PJ:  Finale notation for Song 1 (Song #1 complete)







Direct message/hidden message

Assignments due:















Week 8

Mar 5 - 9


Mid-term reflection


How has the class helped you grow?

What effect has it had on your awareness?

How would you define a protest song?

Describe the context that leads you to protest through song.


Double spaced, 12-pt Times New Roman in a Word document, 3-5 pages

Submit in Blackboard by class on Tuesday.

Assignments due:


Mid-term reflection

Last revision of first song



First song notated












Week 9

Mar 19 - 23


Song rubric assignment:

Fill in the rubric with appropriate performance indicators


Upload Anthology poem into Blackboard

Upload Finale files into Blackboard  Song #1 must go in before next class meets


Assignments due:











Week 10

Mar 25 - Mar 29


Revisions of Song #2

Score for Song #2 due


Upload to Blackboard


1.  One Wordle (your choice; pick the one you like the best) - see Note below

2.  Score #1 in Finale format

3.  The poem that you submitted to Anthology

4.  Your midterm reflection in Word format

5.  The PowerPoint that you did at the beginning of the semester (13 slides)


Note:  The easiest way I have found to pull off the Wordles is to download Jing (it's free).  It is a capture software that saves whatever you select on the screen as a .png.  Then just attach upload it in the submission as an attachment.  I need the Wordles to be in some graphic format (.png, .jpg, .tif, etc.)

Assignments due:


Song rubric assignment

Upload past assignments to Blackboard (see list in left column)


Score for Song #2 due in Blackboard











Week 11

Apr 2 - 6


Revisions of Song #3


Tuesday, we will meet with Doug Hanna for Chalk & Wire training.

Assignments due:


First draft of mini-tour poster











Week 12

Apr 9 - 13


Score for Song #3 due

Assignments due:


Finalize mini-tour poster


Score for Song #3 due in Blackboard











Week 13

Apr 16 - 20


Final rehearsals

Assignments due:


Posters out











Week 14

Apr 23 - 26



Assignments due:

FriLiterary Lion 7:00pm


(TSU) 12:00pm, Beans & Franks 6:00pm


Barefoot Market 7:00pm


The Pub 8:00pm


The Aardvark (FW) 7:00pm


Week 15

Apr 30 - May 2

Last day of classes is Wed., May 2

Assignments due:











Final Exam

Tuesday, May 8 9am


Note:  You can take back notated assignments for revision until your final exam


Final Reflection

Due by Tuesday, May 8 at 9am

Include in your Final Reflection the following:

  • Students will analyze how this applied learning experience enabled them to apply what they learned from their courses, both in major and core curriculum areas, and from their extracurricular experiences to the real world.

  • Students will evaluate how the applied learning experience expanded their views of academic, political, social, cultural, and/or economic environments and prepared them to contribute more meaningfully to a global society.

Also include your own personal thoughts, opinions regarding anything else you found to be significant about the experience.


Requirements:  Double spaced, 12-pt Times New Roman in a Word document, 3-5 pages


Final Reflection

Due Tues. May 8 at 9am (Final exam time)

Upload to Blackboard and to ePortfolio



Class rubrics

Students will fill out rubrics on classmates







Upload to ePorfolio the following:

  1. Final Reflection
  2. One video link of your choosing
  3. One score (different song from your video link)

Song Rubric


Performance Indicators








(Ok . . .)















0 points

24 points

28 points

32 points

36 points

40 points












0 points

12 points

14 points

16 points

18 points

20 points











0 points

12 points

14 points

16 points

18 points

20 points












0 points

12 points

14 points

16 points

18 points

20 points

Total points


Performance indicators will be completed by students as an individual assignment and then revised as a group activity.

Reflection Rubric







Use the following databases to search for information about a particular song, the composer of the song, or the condition(s) described in the song .


Academic Search Complete
A comprehensive scholarly, multi-disciplinary full-text database, with more than 5,400 full-text periodicals, including more than 4,500 peer-reviewed journals. In addition to full text, this database offers indexing and abstracts for more than 9,300 journals and a total of 9,850 publications including monographs, reports, conference proceedings, etc. The PDF content goes back to 1865.


America: History and Life
Indexes articles, reviews, and dissertations for U.S. and Canadian history.


Historical New York Times
The Historical New York Times offers full page and article images with searchable full text back to the first issue. The collection includes digital reproductions providing access to every page from every available issue. Coverage begins September 18, 1851.


Contains fulltext backfiles of more than 1,000 core scholarly journals, many dating from the 19th century. Articles for most topics on Islam can be found in JSTOR.


Project Muse
Full text of 100+ scholarly journals in the humanities, social sciences, and mathematics from Johns Hopkins University Press and nine other academic presses.





The following is a list of websites on various protest songs. While some of the information from these websites is considered legitimate for academic purposes, the content should be thoroughly evaluated by the reader to detect inaccuracies, irrelevance, currency, and bias.


50 Greatest Protest Songs
This blog lists 50 of the "greatest" protest songs from the world.  A brief description of what is being protested is included.


10 Best Protest Songs of All Time


American Memory
"American Memory provides free and open access through the Internet to written and spoken words, sound recordings, still and moving images, prints, maps, and sheet music that document the American experience. It is a digital record of American history and creativity. These materials, from the collections of the Library of Congress and other institutions, chronicle historical events, people, places, and ideas that continue to shape America, serving the public as a resource for education and lifelong learning."


American Protest Songs 1928-1953
This record available on offers a list of protest songs.


Classic Protest Songs from Smithsonian Folkways
Provides a list of 22 protest songs from the Folkways record.  The site includes the liner notes for the CD that provides background information on the song.


Protest Songs (Songfacts)
List of 68 protest songs (worldwide) with a statement of what is being protested.


       Information on current event protest songs










Poetry assignment

One set of song lyrics (poetry form) will be submitted to the TSU Anthology


Background research on issues related to one song

5 pages, double spaced, 12 pt. Times New Roman, with citations and bibliography


MidTerm reflection (free form)



Final reflection

From the syllabus: 


Articulate how they have applied learning from music theory, political science, history, sociology, and writing in composing music with a message


Evaluate how this applied learning experience has expanded their views of academic, political, social, cultural, and/or economic environments and prepared them to contribute more meaningfully to a global society.



Compositions in progress may be in any written form:



Finale files


Lyrics with lead sheet symbols


Hand-written notation on staff paper


The final product, however, must be scored in Finale and converted to PDF for inclusion in the ePortfolio.

Students will employ a constructivist approach in setting criteria by which their compositions will be judged.


bulletEach song-writer will put together and rehearse the performer/performers for his/her song.  The song-writer must participate in at least one performance of his/her compositions.
bulletPerformances will be critiqued by the class and again, students will use a constructivist approach in setting criteria for evaluation.
bulletVideos are required for each composition performed to be included in the ePortfolio.  Videos do not have to be of the performance itself, but may be made 'in studio.'


ePortfolio Guide


Final Examination Schedule - Stephenville

Exam Time8:00-10:30 AM11:30 AM-2:00 PM3:00-5:30 PM6:30-9:00 PM
Thursday, May 3
All Freshman English, EDU 404 and 430
Friday, May 4
All Freshman ChemistryMWF 8
MWF 3:00 and other times not listed on exam schedule
M-F 5pm or later
Monday, May 7
MWF 10
MWF 11
M 5pm or later; MW 6pm
Tuesday, May 8
TR 8
All Math 107
TR 2:25T 5pm or later; TR 7:30pm
Wednesday, May 9
MWF 12
MWF 2W 5pm or later; MW 7:30pm
Thursday, May 10
TR 9:25TR 1
TR 10:50R 5pm or later; TR 3:50; TR 6pm




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Created and maintained by Vicky V. Johnson