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That old, sweet song

Dartmouth professor Hafiz Shabazz connects Ray to the classroom
Hafiz Shabazz
Hafiz Shabazz (photo by Joseph Mehling '69)

Hafiz Shabazz's contribution to the movie Ray is subtle. In fact, it's not technically part of the film itself. Shabazz, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Music, developed educational materials for middle and high school teachers who want to use the movie in their classrooms. His background as an expert in the history of the blues and jazz, as well as his role as educator, suited the curriculum project perfectly.

"I am a fan of Ray Charles's music," says Shabazz, "That was the music of the day when I was growing up, Ray Charles, Chuck Berry, Little Richard."

Shabazz worked with Walden Media, a company that connects education with entertainment to facilitate learning and exploration. A team of experts was convened to address many different themes in Ray, and Shabazz's work focused on the music. Others developed materials about poverty, racism, disabilities and civil rights.

"The material I wrote concentrated on the blues and gospel music. I told teachers where to find CDs, where to go to listen to blues, how to find artists to visit their schools. I explained that Ray Charles's music ushered in the genre of soul, a blending of blues and gospel."

Shabazz, who has taught at Dartmouth for 20 years, explains that his curriculum highlights the importance of Charles's role in the history of American music.

"He's an amazing and important artist. I'm very proud to help young students and their teachers better appreciate his music and his life."

By SUSAN KNAPP

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Last Updated: 12/17/08