September 11th, 2000
Quincy Jones: What Makes an American Master?
Procedures for Teachers

Activity One
(One to two class periods.)

1. Introduce the lesson.

First, introduce the lesson to the class, giving some basic biographical
facts about Quincy Jones and mentioning that you’ll be studying the
history of black music in the 20th century. You can explain the first
two activities of the lesson, but you might want to leave the third
part a surprise.

2. Have students learn about the entertainer
Quincy Jones.

In this first activity, students learn about the life of Quincy Jones.
If you have the American Masters show on tape, you can use the first
class period to watch the show. Or, you can assign students to do
research on Quincy Jones as homework.

There’s a student organizer included in this lesson plan. It can
be the basis of a class discussion or can be used as the writing portion
of the research.

To enhance the students’ understanding and experience, you might
try these other ideas:

  • Borrow some Quincy Jones CDs from the library and play a few songs
    for the class. Play cuts that show that range of his work, i.e.
    early jazz compared to something very recent.
  • Select excerpts from his new biography & have the class read
    these out loud by turns. Discuss terms that come up in the text
    (what is musical arrangement, for instance?)

3. Lead a discussion about the biography
of Quincy Jones.

After watching the show or having students do written research as
homework, lead a discussion based on the questions in the organizer.
The idea is to get an overview of the biography of Quincy Jones, but
also to focus on some key questions. What did he do that was unique,
that hadn’t been done before? What are some qualities that make him
special and different from other musicians? What are some difficulties
that he had to overcome in his life?

As students discuss, you might want to keep a running list of qualities
that might define someone who could be considered an American Master.
(Make the list on a posterboard so you can bring it out again later.)
Qualities can include anything from "good at many different things"
to "has lots of friends" — i.e. career relationships are
important. You might also note that being an entertainer of such stature
takes a lot of hard work!

This list would be good to review before doing the third activity,
where students make their own imaginary career timeline.

Activity Two
(One to two class periods.)

In this activity, students learn about black music in the 20th century
during the life of Quincy Jones, in order to contextualize his work.
Jones was born in 1933, so students study the 1930s to the present.

1. Break into groups to study black music
in different time periods.

Have students break up into groups to study different decades. (Depending
on how many students you have, you can adjust the way the groups are
organized, but here is a recommendation for four groups:

  • Group 1: 30s and 40s
  • Group 2: 50s and 60s
  • Group 3: 70s and 80s
  • Group 4: 90s and current

Hand out the student organizer and have each group research black
music in the assigned time period. This can be done at the library
or on the Internet. Below are some suggested resources.

It would also be very useful to give a short talk on the adoption
of black music by white musicians, and inequities that resulted from
that, especially in the 50s and 60s, when white musicians became famous
and wealthy by basing their work on early bluesmen and pioneers like
Chuck Berry. This is something students can look out for as they do
their research.

2. Each group shares their research and
there is a short discussion.

In the next class, have each group share their research with the
others, and if time, have a short discussion that helps students thread
the decades together into a sequential history. Identify major trends,
and look at how things have changed from the 30s to the present.

Activity Three
(One to two class periods.)

You can keep this activity under wraps until it is time
to do it. This activity integrates knowledge gained in the previous
two activities, and students should really have fun doing it.

1. Review what has been learned
so far.

They’ve studied an "American Master" and the
changing cultural context in which he has worked. A good introduction
for this section is to review the American
Masters Quincy Jones career timeline
, and to go back over the
list of qualities of greatness from Activity One.

2. Start the timeline project, working as
individuals or in groups.

Now it is time for the students to imagine their own possible careers
as American Masters. Students can do this individually or in groups.

First, ask them to make up a special name for themselves. This can
be their first name, a nickname or their initials. (Quincy Jones is
known a Q, and Madonna uses only her first name.) Groups can pick
a name for their group.

3. Students imagine events that happen during
their future career.

Ask students to create a timeline starting with today — the day
their career as a future famous entertainer starts. They might want
to imagine they are a musician, film director, television producer,
or that they do some of all of these things like Quincy Jones.

Ask students to imagine events that might happen in such a career
— ground-breaking moves they might make, the day their album sets
the record for largest number of Internet downloads ever, they day
they accept an award for their charity efforts (if this award doesn’t
exist yet, they can make one up.) They can use the student organizer
to write down and organize their imagined career. Circulate and offer
help if needed.

4. Create a visual timeline.

Students can start by gluing yarn to the posterboard to represent
their timeline, then pencilling in the major events and years they’ve
imagined. Once they are happy with the layout, they can fill in with
markers and add other elements to enhance the presentation.

5. Share & discuss the timelines.

When finished, each student can share his or her timeline with the
class. You can also stage an exhibition of the "future famous
alumni" of your school.


Students will be assessed on the quality of their participation
in class discussions, the quality of their writing, and the quality
of their presentations.


Extension Activities

  1. You could include this lesson as an element in a larger unit on
    black history and/or black music.

  2. Instead of using posterboard, students could build their timelines
    as web pages.

  3. Connect this lesson plan to other American Masters lessons to
    develop the theme of "what makes an American Master."

  4. For younger students, you can scale down the research and do Activity
    Three, the timeline, as a class. (You can imagine that the entire
    class becomes famous as a music group!).

  5. For older students, you can include a full research paper on the
    history of black music as the context for an artist of their choice.


Inside This Lesson


Produced by THIRTEEN    ©2015 Educational Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.