DEN Gone Country – Some Parting Thoughts

This past weekend 35 educators descended on Nashville for Discovery’s DEN Gone Country mini-institute.  In spite of the fact that there was a Titan’s game on Sunday, A Taylor Swift concert Friday and Saturday nights at the arena, the Nashville Symphony playing on Saturday night, a brand new food festival going on Saturday, and a plethora of educators and lobbyists from both sides arguing about Common Core at the state legislature, we owned that town.

Friday we set out on the General Jackson for a 3 hour cruise.  By the time we docked at the end, we were in the middle of a torrential downpour and flooding of the parking lot.  But we didn’t let that dampen our spirits.  We had just spent the evening making new friends and new connections, enjoying the sites of Nashville lit up at night, and listening to the history of three distinct brands of music, all born in Tennessee.

And that summed up our purpose: new friends, new connections, and music.

Saturday we were hosted by Nathalie and Alice at the Country Music Hall of Fame.  Docents from the museum took us on a guided tour (something that is ONLY done with education groups).  Each of us had our “moments,” I believe.  For one, at least, it was getting to stand in front of the 11 grammies won by Roger Miller.  For others it was finding the perfect acoustics smack dab in the center of the Hall of Fame dome.  For me it was learning that Elvis’ gold cadillac had 40 coats of paint with gold flecks and crushed fish scales in it to really make it shine in the sun.

We also learned that we were the first group of educators that came from around the country for this type of training!

Then we got down to business.  Two violin/fiddle players came to demonstrate how they introduce music to students by comparing and contrasting the difference in styles between classical and fiddle music.  They played exactly the same make and model of violin.  But each style of music has its own mood, its own cadence, and its own purpose.

After lunch we spent time with a young, talented songwriter named Misty Rae Carson.  She led us through the songwriting process (or at least one process) that looked a lot like brainstorming for writing prompts.  She assigned sections of the song to small groups to write what they wanted related to to theme of “Fly to Paris.”  When the groups were finished, she collected all of them, sorted them, and immediately began to sing the words back to us in a song written on the spot.  It was incredible.  And the Hall of Fame does this as a classroom project where your students can send in their lyrics and a volunteer song writer will put as many of them to music as they can in a week.

We learned about the Bakersfield sound that came out of California.  They have Common Core lessons available for use in your classroom.

Sunday morning was spent talking about the DEN and connecting teachers to the relationship side of learning.  Powerful stories from our DEN STARS.  Lots of tears (including the ones started by me).  And then more collaboration as we talked about the ways we would take this back to our schools and our districts.

It wouldn’t be a DEN Institute if someone didn’t get taken to the hospital at some point.  This time around it was my car as a piece of metal on the highway punctured the gas tank of my car.  And another was towed to make room for Taylor Swift concert-goer parking (even though others in our group parked in the same lot were not).

The TN Leadership Council would like to thank every teacher that took time from their busy schedules to join us on this remarkable journey.  And we would like to thank the Princess herself, Porter Palmer, for having the courage to approve our meeting, spend some money to make it happen, and the pleasure of gracing us with her presence for the weekend.

Flying to Paris on YouTube

Tim’s pics from DEN Gone Country

Catch up on the Twitter conversation with #DENGC.



  1. Molly Hay said:

    It was an amazing weekend. Thank you to the TN Leadership Council for all of your work and organization. 🙂 Also, thank you to Discovery for sponsoring this event.

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