Nearly 100 music and social studies teachers recently had the opportunity to learn from leading luminaries and scholars from the go-go genre of music during the "Teach the Beat: Go-Go" seminar. The daylong event was held Feb. 16 at the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities (DCCAH) in Southeast.
Renowned go-go teaching participants included Christopher "Geromino" Allen, Sugar Bear, JuJu, Sweet Cherie, JB, and several others.
"For D.C. to embrace go-go in a classroom is huge, because there was a time when go-go was looked down upon because of the violence," Nekos Brown, son of the late go-go legend Chuck Brown, said. "This is the highest honor."
After JB provided an introduction to the history and key aspects of go-go music, participants joined an interactive gallery walk that foucused on themes and issues in go-go. Music teachers rotated to three small workshop groups with the performers, and social studies teachers role played to introduce students to the artists and issues aligned with go-go.
They also heard from a panel facilitated by Kenneth Carroll on history, politics, economics and the media. In addition, many of the participants shared their own about go-go history and culture.
District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) music and social studies curricula directors Ben Hall and Scott Abbot, who planned the seminar, recognized D.C. as one of the few cities in the country with musical and cultural institutions that span decades and generations.
They noted however, that go-go is not found in the District's history textbooks. Hall and Abbot also said that while the early days of go-go were nurtured in DCPS' music programs, instructors who were new to the school system often didn't' know how to play or teach the art form.
Hall and Abbott partnered with Charles Stephenson and Kip Lornell, authors of "The Beat," the first book on go-go, and the non-profit, "Teaching for Change," to develop a plan for professional and curriculum development and classroom coaching by performers.
While Hall and Abbott stressed DCPS' commitment to infuse go-go in music and social studies classes, Duane Arbogast, acting chief academic officer in Prince George's County, shared his interest in bringing "The Beat's" concept to the county's public schools.
The day culminated in a live go-go performance with all the musicians and attendees. This not only ended the day on high-spirits, with everyone swinging their hips and taking photos, it also gave those teachers who are new to DC, a first-hand understanding of the spirit of go-go.
"For me, this is like how we now have a Black president.,' Nekos Brown. "The program was put together so nicely and the idea of putting go-go in class is amazing. I don't think anybody imagined that happening."