The last time I wrote about music in the classroom I was teaching K-12 students in a private school environment. We listened to a lot of Glee, Beatles, 50's du-wop, and classical music. My current middle school students would not appreciate that mix. Some of them do, I'm sure, listen to similar music. . .But not many.
My students love to brag about the different types of urban, underground, indie, rap, and hip-hop music to which they listen. Yet, at the same time, they talk about Carly Rae Jensen, Lady Gaga, and other assorted top 40 artists. This is to say, they aren't quite as sophisticated or hard as they would like me -and others- to think.
I struggled a bit last year to find playlists that were both amenable and appropriate for my students. We listened to a lot of classical music. The 6th graders liked this a lot. . .But, mostly, I think they just liked getting to listen to anything. My older students were over the classical music quickly.
My partner, Nick, is a former DJ. . . And, I didn't think to even ask him about this quandary! It was only when I was complaining one day about a lack of urban, modern music without sexually explicit and/or crude language that he swooped in with tons of aid. He suggested looking at transcendental house musicians (down tempo) such as Thievery Corporation and General Fuzz. It is the sort of pleasant, mellow, modern-esque music that you might hear at a spa or modern bar (not dance club). If you are a child of the 90's, it is very similar to the artist Moby. There is very little voice, and what voice there is tends to be quiet, uplifting, and appropriate.
And, my kids LOVE it. I mean they REALLY, REALLY, REALLY love it. The hardest of my male students will ask what "that beat was." Apparently, their intent is to find it, sample it, and make their own music using it. I think that's a pretty good endorsement.
So, I made a Pandora "Thievery Corporation" channel. It is pretty much 100% on the mark.
Additionally, I visited SoundCloud and searched for "transcendental house music." SoundCloud is a place wherein DJs and DJ hopefuls can upload their mixes and you can download for free (or sometimes for a very small cost). I found a ton of DJs on there that I love, and I am continually downloading and adding to my playlist. I quickly got immersed in sounds beyond transcendental and it is just. . .wow. Really amazing stuff.
You do have to listen a bit more to the mixes on SoundCloud as they aren't always as clean as the Pandora Thievery Corporation channel. . .But, if you have limited access to Pandora at school, it is still an amazing (and cheap!) option.
Here are a few of my favorite SoundCloud artists:
Bobby C Sound TV (my hands-down favorite!)
P.S. Yes. I do allow my students to listen to their own headsets (ipods, pads, shuffles, mp3 players etc. etc.). But, they can only listen to their own music, they may not share headphones, it must be on shuffle, and it must be in their pocket. Even thought I allow this, only about 5-6 kids in each class actually bring their device and/or bring the device and headphones or want to play their device. The majority of my students ask me to play music every day. :)