Lesson # 7 Music and Religion

Time: 40-50 Minutes

Creator: Betsy Nolan, Musical Educator

Institution: Edmunds Elementary, Burlington, VT



In this lesson students will look at how music can be used to express people’s religious and spiritual beliefs.

Learning Objectives:

Students will listen to and describe a songs from Tibet and from the Somali-Bantu Wedding Band.

Students will compare and contrast songs from different religions.

Students will explore how music can be used in religion to express belief systems, teach myths and stories and strengthen community.

Lesson Plan: NNP #7

Section 1: Listening & Responding

Before saying anything about it, play the song once and ask students to listen with an open ear/mind, perhaps write down any reactions/thoughts/feelings they notice come up.

1. What do you hear? Using the word bank, describe what you hear.  Do not share your feelings or opinions about the music.


Melody, harmony, major, minor, instruments, loud, soft, dynamics, tempo, beat rhythm, timbre, crescendo, decrescendo, form, verse, chorus, bridge, mood

2. Emotional Response:  Based on our group description, talk about how this music makes you feel and why.

3. What do you think this song may have been used for?

4. Provide contextual (i.e. historical, cultural, regional) information about the song and listen a second time.

5. Repeat this process using a song from a different religion.

6. How is this song similar and different from the first song we listened to?

Section 2: Engaging

1. Many religions include music as a part of their spiritual practice.  Some of the elements of religion are belief system/ world view, myths/ stories and community.  Answer the following questions:

  1. Choose a song that is connected to a specific religion.
  2. What religion(s) is it based in?
  3. How do you know the song?
  4. Where did you learn it?
  5. Is the song part of your personal religious practice?
  6. Does the song convey a belief system or world view?
  7. Does the song incorporate a myth or story?
  8. How might this song be used to build community?

When done, report out your answers to a partner.

Section 3: Collective Reflection

Facilitate reflection, possibly stepping back except to record responses on the board.

Possible prompts to give:

1. In your partner share what similarities did you encounter with songs from different religions? What differences did you encounter?

2.  Why do you think so many different religions use music in their worship? How might spiritual practice be different without music?

Section 4: Taking it out into the World!

Offer students the opportunity to continue the conversation with their friends and family.  What experiences have they had with music in religion?  Was it part of their personal experience with religion?  Did the music serve to strengthen their beliefs? Community? Understanding of the myths and stories in the religion?

Vermont Framework of Standards


Students show understanding of music CONCEPTS and VOCABULARY by…

Describing aural examples of music using appropriate terminology (e.g., pitch, rhythm, tempo, dynamics, form, timbre, texture, articulation, harmony, phrasing, style).

A7-8:14 Students analyze, interpret, and respond to art by…

Explaining qualities (elements, principles of design, expression) that may evoke emotion and meaning.

Relating varied interpretations of works of art using some or all of the following (e.g., observation, personal experience, cultural context).

Comparing/contrasting works of art, which may include a student’s own work.

A7-8:17 Students show understanding of how the arts impact life by…

Demonstrating an understanding of how the arts contribute to physical and mental health (e.g., self-expression, such as anger, joy, confusion, frustration).

A7-8:18 Students show understanding of how the arts shape and reflect various cultures and times by…

Researching and describing how the arts reflect cultural values in various traditions throughout the world.


H&SS7-8:16 Students examine how different societies address issues of human interdependence by…

Analyzing how shared values and beliefs can maintain a subculture (e.g., political parties, religious groups). 

After examining issues from more than one perspective, defining and defending the rights and needs of others in the community, nation, and world (e.g. AIDS in Africa; One Child Policy in China; nuclear waste disposal). 

Analyze differences and similarities among people that arise from factors such as cultural, ethnic, racial, economic, and religious diversity, and describe their costs and benefits.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people.

This is a Tibetan song, which is originated from the north part of Tibet. It is referring to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, but in a form of different ways because its not allowed to sing any Tibetan songs related to the Dali Lama in Tibet so he wrote the song referring to [alluding to] His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Tenzin Mingyur