The Family tradition is strong in Appalachian music, a cultural treasure for Americans. The McLain Family Band from Hindman, Kentucky, performed in 62 countries all over the world for many years, acting as cultural ambassadors representing the United States of America with their music. A father and family of brothers and sisters offered their music as goodwill from their mountain home and their country. As a family they learned, rehearsed, traveled and performed together for over 25 years. Although the band members have all grown up with families of their own, they are still performing today, sometimes with symphony orchestras. Composers work with the McLains to compose symphonic scores such as the "Concerto for Bluegrass Band and Orchestra.

Optional Closing Activity: Listen to the excerpt of the Concerto and have students write personal responses to the mixture of sounds and instruments.

Ask students to imagine that they are cultural ambassadors representing the United States in other countries. How might they offer goodwill and hope to people all over the world using music? Create an improvised class concerto for Bluegrass and Orff Instruments by using contra bass bars for bass, glockenspiels for mandolin/banjo sounds, recorders or voices for melodies and body percussion for fun!

Homework for next lesson. Have students ask older relatives "what bluegrass music is" and if they know any bluegrass songs. Encourage students and relatives not to look on Internet, but think about what bluegrass music is based on their own experience and knowledge.


  • Look for explanation in group activity for how music has been a part of cultures and periods throughout history. Students might identify music in the Appalachian Mountains to provide breaks from work (recreational) or to express joy or goodwill (celebration).
  • Look for identification of roles of musicians as accompanists, story-tellers and cultural ambassadors.
  • Look for use of musical terminology discussion about Old Time and Bluegrass songs.
  • Look for recognition of musical instruments in listening selections in closure.
  • Look for discussion of vocal timbres when students refer to 3-4 part harmony in Bluegrass Music.