Black History Month in the Piano Studio!

Charlie Parker Book

I LOVE February because of Valentine’s Day and Black History Month! There are so many great activities for music learning that can be used with these themes as a backdrop. So, with Valentine’s Day behind us today’s focus is a simple and fun music lesson with a nod to Black History Month.

In this lesson, the student will learn how to play a jazz tune about legendary jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker using the 5-finger scale. It is designed for 3-6 year olds.

You will need a copy of the board book Charlie Parker Played BeBop and a recording of the song by Louise Rogers.

Away from the piano, play the recording of the song while reading the book with the student. Feel free to dance around, snap fingers and tap toes. Encourage your student to sing along with the call and response in the song.

Now, announce to your student that they are ready to play this song on the piano! If the student already knows some or all of the 5-finger scales have him/her play one for you. (The recording uses the Bb scale). Even if the student has not learned any scales, you can still use this activity to teach them the scale.

Your student will play the chant “Charlie Parker played BeBop” which occurs again and again in the song.

Here are the notes: C D E F G E

Once you have done this a couple of times, you are ready to play along with the book. Allow the student to turn the page and play at the appropriate time. You can even do this as a duet since it is in call and response style. Be sure they sing along!

Afterwards you can ask a couple of review questions –

“Who was Charlie Parker?” Ans. Charlie Parker played bebop.

“What instrument did Charlie Parker play?” Ans. Charlie Parker played alto saxophone.

Spring Break Music Travel


Family vacations and day trips are great opportunities to explore each other’s interests. For musical families or families with anybody who is musical this can mean adding an additional adventure to an already planned trip. That’s what we did on our most recent trip. Although not everyone in my family is musical we all enjoyed it. We didn’t have to take a huge chunk of time out of our vacation to do it either. It was just another memory making moment in time. So, families, make the most of this Spring Break and visit a music related display, concert, or anything else musical you can think of!!! You never know what it could lead to.

Before There Was Mozart on Amazon

Before There Was Mozart

Here is another great read about music in Black History that I found at my recent trip to the library.

Before There Was Mozart on Amazon
This literary offering by Husband and wife team, Lesa Cline-Ransome and James E. Ransome tells the interesting story of Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-George who was the son of a slave and Slave Owner on an island in the West Indies. He became a great musician who played for the King and Queen of France and inspired Mozart himself with his beautiful music.

Click here to purchase on

Black History: Music Picture Books

Books On Songs and  Singing:

 What a Wonderful World

By: George David Weiss & Bob Thiele

Illustrated by: Ashley Bryan

Age Level: 3-6

Reading Level: Beginning Reader

This book  can be used while listening to Louis Armstrong’s famous recording of the timeless song. Children and adults will enjoy the colorful pictures.

Hush Songs by Joyce Carol Thomas (Aug 2, 2000)

A collection of African American Lullabies including music notation, pictures, and brief descriptions of many of the songs’ origin and uses.

All Night, All Day: A Child’s First Book of African American Spirituals

By: Ashley Bryan

Age Level: 3-6

Reading Level: Beginning Reader

When Marian Sang: The True Recital Of Marian Anderson, The Voice Of A Century 

by: Pam Munoz Ryan

Age Level: 6 and up

Books On Piano and Pianists:

Piano Starts Here: The Young Art Tatum 

by: Robert Parker

Grades 2-4

The Little Piano Girl: The Story of Mary Lou Williams, Jazz Legend by Ann Ingalls, Maryann Macdonald and Giselle Potter

DUKE ELLINGTON, The Piano Prince and His Orchestra by Andrea Davis Pinkney (1999)
Video Picture Books: