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Louisiana Voices Educator's Guide  
Getting Started With This Guide  
Study Guide Summary  
Outline of the Study Guide  
Study Unit I Defining Terms  
Study Unit II Fieldwork Basics  
Study Unit III Discovering the Obvious: Our Lives as "The Folk"  
Study Unit IV The State of Our Lives: Being a Louisiana Neighbor  
Study Unit V Oral Traditions--Swapping Stories  
Study Unit VI Louisiana's Musical Landscape  
Study Unit VII Material Culture-The Stuff of Life  
Study Unit VIII The Worlds of Work and Play  
Study Unit IX The Seasonal Round and Life Cycles  
Educator's Links  
Educator's Guide Glossary  
Educator's Guide Credits  
Educator's Opportunities For Professional Development  
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Louisiana Folklife website Homepage  
Louisiana Folklife Program Home  
Louisiana's Living Traditions: Articles, Photos and Virtual Exhibits about Louisiana Folklife  


Unit VI Outline

Introduction - Louisiana's Musical Landscape

Lesson 1: Music Around the State: Sound and Place

Lesson 2: Listening Logs

Lesson 3: Generational Music Communities

Lesson 4: Moving to Music

Lesson 5: Music Is Business

Lesson 6: Louisiana's Legendary Musicians

Unit VI Resources





Unit VI Louisiana's Musical Landscape

Lesson 6 Louisiana's Legendary Musicians


Where you come from is what you are. Whatever you are, be that. Don't try to be more than you are, and you'll always make it. Don't go above your means. What fits you, stick with it, you know. That's what I did. I figured French music fit me and I stayed with it. Rock & Roll didn't get me that Grammy. Zydeco got me that Grammy. Maybe that's going to show some of the young ones that's where it's at, right here. People don't know that. It's here. Just got to do something with it, that's all.

--Clifton Chenier, zydeco musician, St. Landry Parish

Grade Level


Curriculum Areas

English Language Arts, Music, Social Studies


Purpose of Lesson

This lesson introduces students to legendary traditional musicians of Louisiana, allowing them to hear new genres of traditional music; consider what it means to be a legendary artist; and read, write, and create projects about these extraordinary figures.


Lesson Objectives/Louisiana Content Standards, Benchmarks, and Foundation Skills

1. Students gather information on Louisiana musical legends.

H-1D-M1 Describing the contributions of people, events, movements, and ideas that have been significant in the history of Louisiana. (1, 3, 4)

ELA-5-E3 Locating, gathering, and selecting information using graphic organizers, simple outlining, note taking, and summarizing to produce texts and graphics. (1, 3, 4)

M-HP-M5 Identify major works of great composers and recognize achievements of prominent musicians.

2. Students judge what makes a musician legendary..

H-1A-M3 Analyzing the impact that specific individuals, ideas, events, and decisions had on the course of history. (1, 2, 3, 4)

ELA-7-E2 Problem solving by using reasoning skills, life experiences, and available information. (1, 2, 4)

M-CA-M5 Use appropriate criteria and expanded music vocabulary to evaluate the quality of music and performances.

3. Students convey their research findings orally, in writing, and with technology.

ELA-2-M1 Writing a composition that clearly implies a central idea with supporting details in a logical, sequential order. (1, 4)

ELA-2-M6Writing as a response to texts and life experiences (e.g., letters, journals, lists). (1, 2, 4)

ELA-5-M4 Using available technology to produce, revise, and publish a variety of works. (1, 3, 4)


Time Required

3-5 class periods



If your students will be doing fieldwork, you may need digital cameras, audio recorders, or video recorders in addition to notepads and pencils as well as appropriate fieldwork forms. Print out and duplicate any worksheets or rubrics that you will be using.


Technology Connections

Internet Resources

The Treasured Traditions of Louisiana Music

Some Louisiana Musicians

Louisiana Music Recordings: A Select List

Louisiana Folklife Articles / Music Traditions

Sources of Musician Biographies

Louisiana's Legendary Musicians: A Select List

Louisiana Folk Artist Biographies

All Music Guide

American Roots Music / Oral Histories

American Routes / Archives / Browse by Artists  (audio)

Country Music Hall of Fame

Festivals Acadiens et Creoles

folkstreams.net (video) See list of Louisiana videos

The History of Rock & Roll

Jazz: A Film by Ken Burns / Biographies

Michael Doucet, Local Learning Master Guest Artists

Louisiana Music Hall of Fame

Louisiana Music Archive and Artist directory

Louisiana State Museum Jazz Collection

National Endowment for the Arts / National Heritage Fellowships

Red Hot Jazz Archive

River of Song / Louisiana

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (Select Inductees)

Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural History - Artist Spotlight 

Student Worksheets

Musical Legends Resumé Cards

Musical Legends Jeopardy

Jeopardy (blank)

Assessment Tools

Production Rubric page 1, page 2


Evaluation Tools/Opportunities


  1. Musical Legends Jeopardy
  2. Game Show (e.g., David Letterman Show, To Tell the Truth)


  1. Production Rubric


  1. Musical Legends Cards
  2. Radio Programs
  3. Hallway Display
  4. Webpages
  5. Oral Reports
  6. Musical Legends Map
  7. Performing Famous Songs
  8. Posters
  9. Commemoration Models
  10. Music Legend Memorials
  11. Puppet Performances
  12. Social Studies Textbook Entries
  13. Musical Legends Survey
  14. Spreadsheet and/or Graph of Survey Results


Background Information for the Teacher

Students should complete some activities in Lesson 1 of this unit before undertaking this lesson so they will know that traditional musicians in the three major regions of the state differ. Louisiana's rich and varied culture has produced a host of legendary musicians from many different musical styles and from every region of the state. From North Louisiana, musicians play old-time country string-band music, bluegrass, gospel, blues, and rockabilly. In South Louisiana, there is Cajun, zydeco, and other ethnic music, such as Irish American and Laotian. And New Orleans has produced jazz, blues, rhythm & blues, brass band music, and more. Again, it important to remind students that the boundary lines between traditional, popular, and elite culture are not rigid. Many of Louisiana's legendary musicians began as traditional musicians but entered popular culture. A good example of how these different categories come together is in the music of Lucinda Williams. A native of Louisiana, Lucinda Williams' music is difficult to categorize. She is a popular musician who relies heavily on the folk styles of zydeco, blues, country, and rock. In other words, Lucinda Williams' music is a creolization of different styles.

Students are invited to research the names of musicians in the Musical Legends Jeopardy activity worksheet, but below are brief descriptions of three Louisiana legends:

North Louisiana
Country Musician
Born in Louisiana, Webb Pierce got his start with the Louisiana Hayride on KWKH in 1944. One of his most famous hits was a remake of "In the Jailhouse Now." He also wrote "Wondering," "More and More," and "There Stands the Glass." He became a regular with the Grand Ole Opry in 1952. In the 1950s, Pierce had more No. 1 records than any other artist. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001.
South Louisiana
Zydeco Musician
Born in Opelousas to Creole French-speaking sharecropper parents, Clifton Chenier, the "King of Zydeco," mixed Cajun music with Afro-Caribbean elements, blues, rhythm & blues, and rock & roll. He helped introduce zydeco, formerly known as la-la, to the pop music realm. Chenier played the accordion and was taught by his father. He won a Grammy in 1983.
New Orleans
Rhythm & Blues
Born in Ponchatoula, Irma Thomas is often called "The Soul Queen of New Orleans." She got her start in 1959 while working as a waitress. Her early hits include "It's Raining," "Ruler of my Heart," and "Time Is on My Side," made famous by the Rolling Stones. In 1993, she recorded her first gospel release. Irma Thomas has been nominated twice for a Grammy award.

Students may not have heard of many of the musicians in this lesson and, therefore, might not consider them "legends" because in students' worlds, the people aren't "famous." Legends can exist within groups and may not be known popularly to outsiders. The term "legend" need not only refer to someone who has entered the popular canon. It is important to stress the different contributions of each individual to the cultural mix of Louisiana music, even if they aren't "famous" to the students. These figures have attained legendary status because of their contributions to their musical genre, their awards and recognitions as musicians, their innovation within their traditions, and their significance to future generations of musicians.


To Prepare

Read some of the articles listed at Louisiana Folklife Articles - Music Traditions, especially The Treasured Traditions of Louisiana Music and Louisiana's Legendary Musicians: A Select List by Ben Sandmel. Some Louisiana Musicians provides a list of Louisiana musicians who could be researched in addition to or instead of those provided in the worksheets and resources. Review Unit IV Lesson 1. Think about which musicians you are familiar with and plan to bring recordings into the classroom to allow students to listen to the music. Visit the websites in Technology Connections above to familiarize yourself with some of the musical legends from Louisiana. Refer to Unit VI Lesson 1 for the appropriate vocabulary to describe the musical genres. The school librarian media specialist and the music specialist may have books, recordings, and equipment that will help you.


4th and 8th Grade Activities

1. Pique students' interest in starting research by first playing some excerpts from music by a traditional music legend from each region of Louisiana. You can use the Louisiana Voices Traditional Music Examples Resource Sheet if you don't have access to music in other formats. Before students can complete the worksheet for this lesson, they need to do research in the classroom listening center, school library, or at home and on the websites in Technology Connections above. Students who don't know any legends can use Louisiana Music Recordings: A Select List of Recordings. Eighth graders can use Some Louisiana Musicians to choose one. In Technology Connections above many websites are listed as resources for musician biographies, but these will be especially helpful: American Roots Music / Oral Histories, American Routes / Archives / Browse by Artists, Jazz: A Film by Ken Burns / Biographies, River of Song / Louisiana, National Public Radio / Audio Archives, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Red Hot Jazz Archive, All Music Guide, and Louisiana Folk Artist Biographies . If these are written above you students' reading ability, refer to the Adaptation Strategies for ways to adapt and modify them to levels that students can understand.

Local Learning: The National Network for Folk Arts in Education features online residencies of legendary traditional artists who have received the National Heritage Award from the National Endowment for the Arts, including Cajun fiddler Michael Doucet. The online residency includes background information, music samples, and classroom connections. Use this webpage in class to highlight Cajun music and provide a model for how to present research about a musical legend.

2. Musical Legends Resumé Cards help students understand exactly what a "legend" is, and provide examples of what makes a traditional musician legendary. They also give them a format to interpret information that they find. Students can make their own charts with names and accomplishments of legendary figures they have researched by using word processing softweare and inserting images.

3. After students have become familiar with the legendary figures covered in this lesson, play Musical Legends Jeopardy. This activity is based on students' research done for this unit, so they will need to research musicians and their lives before playing the game. Using the information gathered in this lesson, students must formulate "Jeopardy-style" questions. For example, for musicians on the Musical Legends Jeopardy worksheet one student's "Answer" could be: "This Louisiana artist is called the "Father of zydeco." Another student's "Question" would be: "Who is Clifton Chenier?"

Divide your class into pairs or teams and have them compete against each other tournament-style. Suggested categories would be: Artist's Dates; Hometowns & Regions; Musical Styles; Significant Contributions; Instruments Played; Song Titles & Lyrics. Some examples for these categories are:

  1. Category: "Song Titles & Lyrics"
    Answer: "This Louisiana artist writes songs about her native Lake Charles."
    Question: "Who is Lucinda Williams?"
  • Category: "Significant Contributions"
    Answer: Clifton Chenier is known for a song that named this style of music.
    Question: "What is zydeco?"
  • Category: "Hometowns & Regions"
    Answer: Isleño décimas are associated with this Louisiana Parish.
    Question: "What is St. Bernard Parish?"
  • The chart on the Musical Legends Jeopardy worksheet provides the names of a few legendary Louisiana musicians whom students can research in their activities and use in this game. For other categories, duplicate the blank Jeopardy worksheet and write appropriate names or titles in the squares. You may select musicians from your region or from a cross section of the state. Louisiana's Legendary Musicians: A Select List has biographies of 35 Louisiana musicians.

    4. After they have researched legends, have students prepare a summative activity that shares their results with others. Examples would include a radio program, hallway display, webpage, oral report, or written paragraph.

    5. Use the Production Rubric to evaluate performances for one or more of the suggested activities in this lesson. After introducing an activity, such as producing a radio program, writing an essay, or performing a song with a puppet, review and explain the rubric, making sure students understand the performance standards. If desired, have audience members provide feedback statements on page 2 of the assessment after the production or performance.


    4th Grade Explorations and Extensions

    1. Make your own musical legend sheets and attach them to a map, locating where the musicians come from, genre, and short bio.

    Technology Option: Use a word processing software to to make a large wall map showing musicians' pictures in the region where they were born.

    2. Research the most famous recordings or songs of a chosen musician. Perform or play one of these songs for your classmates.

    3. Research whether there is a local musician in the community who is considered a legend and whether the community has commemorated him or her with a plaque, statue, exhibit, hall of fame, museum, festival, or event. Create your own poster, presentation, model, or website representing the significance of the monument or commemoration.

    Research whether other communities have commemorated their local musical legends. Examples include Baton Rouge Blues Week, the Delta Music Museum in Ferriday, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and the Festivals Acadiens et Creoles in Lafayette. Louisiana Folk Roots produces the Dewey Balfa Cajun and Creole Heritage Week. The Foundation for Arts, Music and Entertainment of Shreveport, Bossier Inc., or FAME, sponsored four bronze statues of Buck Owens, Johnny Cash, Hank Snow, and Hank Williams, Sr. to commemorate the Louisiana Hayride Radio Show. National examples of commemorative websites include the Country Music Hall of Fame and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

    4. Design a town memorial for your favorite traditional music legend. Which town would it go in? Where would you put it? What would it be made of? Would you charge admission? How would you raise money to commemorate the musical legend? You may create a drawing, model, or plan for your memorial, or you may design a website.

    5. Make a puppet of one of these legends, and perform a song using the puppet.


    8th Grade Explorations and Extensions

    1. Use a "David Letterman Show", "To Tell the Truth," or "Name That Artist"--some kind of game show format--and prepare a set-up to role-play a "guest legend" segment. For "David Letterman," do a one-on-one interview and a lip-sync performance (or a live performance). For "To Tell the Truth," prepare questions to quiz a guest performer about the facts of his or her life. For "Name That Artist," present factual clues to a game show contestant who will have to guess the name of the artist.

    2. Are any of these music legends in your textbooks? If so, how thorough and correct is the information? Write a social studies textbook entry on one or more traditional Louisiana music legends. You may illustrate it with a photo, drawing, map, or other graphic.

    3. Design and conduct a survey to see how many students in your school have heard of these musicians. You may also survey school personnel, family members, and other adults. Tabulate results in graph form or on a spreadsheet. How would you increase people's knowledge of these musicians and their importance to musical and social history? Students can learn how to sort and tabulate results on a spreadsheet.

    4. Design a website for your favorite musician.


    Unit VI Resources

    Unit VI Outline


    National Endowment for
            the Arts.

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