Using The Academy Awards Music In Your Classroom

The Academy Awards were on Sunday night are in the news and minds of the public. Time magazine said the music “saved the broadcast” and a number of performances were stellar. Here’s how you can use each of the music and sound winners in brief lessons with your students.


Best original score: The Grand Budapest Hotel – Alexandre Desplat (Listen on Spotify)

Given for the best underscoring of a motion picture, movie scores are the closest thing we have to full-fledged orchestral music in the national consciousness. There are a multitude of ways to interact with movie scores. Use this YouTube video to show the importance of the score in Jaws:

You can also give students a chance to compose their own score to a short video clip (lots of clips are in the public domain for you to use like this Charlie Chaplin clip you can trim to whatever length you’d like.

Best original song: “Glory” from Selma – music and lyrics by John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn (Listen on Spotify)

The Best Original Song category is for songs that were not written before the movie. Lots of movies use music, but these songs are written specifically for the movie. These songs sometimes play vital roles in the film themselves but often are written for the credits and not used in the film at all.

A powerful song for equality, “Glory” takes inspiration from Dr. Martin Luther King’s speeches and, like the movie it comes from, talks of a day when we won’t worry about race anymore. It’s a great song to dissect lyrics or watch the stirring performance from the Oscar telecast.

Sound editingAmerican Sniper — Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman

This award is given to sound editors, who create the sound components in the film. In a movie like American Sniper, you have elements of dialogue, special effects and gunfire, and orchestral music all required to make the sound aesthetic of the film.

Sound mixing: Whiplash — Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley

The mixing award is given to the folks who ultimately decided how loud or soft each of the sound components should be throughout the movie. When that dialogue, special effects, and other sounds are all thrown together it can be a jumbled mess. It’s up to the sound mixer to bring out the more important elements at any given time.

Read this to get a better understanding of the difference in the two categories. Here’s a handy YouTube video from the Les Miserables to exemplify what sound editing and mixing can do:

More Oscars Musical Performances:

– Lady Gaga crushed a performance of songs from The Sound of MusicA traditionally trained singer, Gaga sang in a beautiful head voice with excellent vowels and articulation. Being so rare on today’s radio, it is a great example to show your voice or chorus students some excellent singing technique by someone they actually know.

– “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” performed by Tim McGraw was an especially poignant moment of the broadcast. Written by Glen Campbell who is suffering from Alzheimer’s, the tears that filled multiple stars’ eyes and set Twitter on fire during the show show the power a song can have. It ultimately didn’t win, losing to “Glory,” but the song and performance are worthy of showcasing.

– Each of the Best Song nominees were performed including “Glory” and “I’m Not Gonna Miss You.” “Lost Stars” from Begin Again, “Everything is Awesome” from The LEGO Movie, and “Grateful” from Beyond the Lights all had their own charm with Rita Orr‘s performance of “Grateful” drawing positive reviews.

– The opening number, “Moving Pictures,” was written by Frozen composers Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez and replaced the traditional opening monologue. Anna Kendrick as Cinderella and Jack Black as bombastic Jack Black joined host Neil Patrick Harris. It was good, not great.

– The only other performance followed the “In Memoriam” segment when Jennifer Hudson skillfully and soulfully presented “I Can’t Let Go.” 

images (1) @MattWarrenMusic

Using The Academy Awards Music In Your Classroom

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