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June 29, 2016

Community Music School: Exploring literacy through lyrics and song

June 28, 2016

Featuring Vaughn Watson, assistant professor of teacher education; Juliet Hess, assistant professor of music education; Will Langford, Verses Poet-in-Residence; and Jill Woodward, director of MSU Community Music School – Detroit.


MSU faculty and staff talk about Verses, a unique collaborative project for undeserved youth in Detroit that explores literacy through lyrics and song. The program is funded in part by The Marshall Mathers Foundation and Carhartt.

The inaugural 15-week Verses course began last February with 35 students, ages 12 to 15, who were recommended by public schools, family service agencies and shelters across the city. The students were mentored in hip-hop, spoken word poetry and music technology by a faculty that included a professional poet and Fulbright scholar, an acclaimed Detroit techno artist, a folk singer and a recording engineer.

To develop the program’s curriculum, MSU faculty members drew on their specialties, as well as their experience working in urban school districts. Lessons in songwriting, mixing, critical listening, recording and performance served as a vehicle to teach new skills in reading, writing, communication and critical thinking. Put together, these skills will help the students develop new ways of expressing themselves creatively, critiquing the world around them, and collaborating with one another in pursuit of positive results.


Video created by MSU graduate and cinematographer David Root (Spring 2016).

Text by Devon Barrett

For more information on making a gift to the College of Music, contact Ann Marie Lindley, associate director of development at or call (517) 432-7543.