Cleveland Music Oral History Project

What is oral history?

Oral history is the first-hand collection of historical information through an in-person interview.  This information can be recorded via audio or video technology, or as a written transcript.  Interviews are conducted with people who have personally witnessed or participated in historic or community events and are willing to share their memories and perspective.  This information is essential to providing a complete view of history (from multiple perspectives) and serves as a valuable resource for future generations.

Why is this important?

Cleveland has a rich and evolving African-American musical culture. Oral history can help students:

  • learn new historical content.
  • develop research skills.
  • support good writing skills.
  • learn valuable critical thinking skills.
  • feel included.
  • feel a personal connection to the past and to the life of their community.
  • develop valuable interpersonal skills.

Get started.

Ask your students to interview members of their family and community.  Have students ask open-ended (instead of yes/no) questions that will allow the interviewee to elaborate beyond basic details and will elicit new memories and ideas.

  • What local bands or artists did they listen to when they were younger? 
  • Did they go to any memorable concerts? 
  • Did they perform themselves? 
  • What do they remember about the Cleveland music scene throughout the decades?

You can choose to integrate this project into your classroom curriculum in the way that best meets the learning needs of your students.  Here are online resources to help guide your (and your students’) work:





  • The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum Library & Archives has a libguide for you to explore different resources with your students. 
  • Museum Box is a free software that allows you to build up an argument or description of an event, person or historical period by placing items in a virtual box.
  • Kid-Cast is a site for kids to make podcasts.
  • Prezi is a free cloud-based presentation software that provdes a zoomable canvas that makes it fun to explore ideas and the connections between them.
  • Glogster  is a free way to create interactive posters loaded with text, graphics, music, videos, and more.
  • Mindomo is a program that functions as a graphic organizer that helps students think about an argument, kickstart the writing process, or showcase their work.
  • Bubbl is a brainstorming and mindmapping software that can help students organize their research.
  • ZooBurst is a digital storytelling tool that lets students easily create their own 3D pop-up presentations.

Please share your students’ work with us.

  • Interested teachers can sign up to participate here.  
  • Click here for submission guidelines.

Rules and Regulations

  • See full rules and regulations here.


Email the Education Department at the Rock Hall here with your project questions!