Resource Menu: Music

Resource Menu: Music

Need help finding what you are looking for? Take a look at our Resource Menus; an annotated list of VMFA resources organized by subject area. Here is a curated menu of easily accessible selected offerings relating to music.

Grade Level:
Adult, College, Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12, Grades K-2
Subject Area:
Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, Fine Arts, Music, Visual Arts
Activity Type:
Resource Menu

Resource Menu: Music

The VMFA website offers many resources to support learners and teachers of all ages and many disciplines. Many are accessible through VMFA’s LEARN website. 

There are also valuable offerings on other sections of the website. This annotated list will help you locate the best matches for Music teachers. 

Performance and Related Art

TUNING AND PLAYING THE MAJORELLE PIANO: Watch the beautifully handcrafted piano designed by artist Louis Majorelle in 1903 being tuned and then played by Dr. Joanne Kong. Learn more about

Related Art: Louis Majorelle’s Grand Piano

PERFORMANCE OF JOHN CAGE’S THE PERILOUS NIGHTElse Olsen Storesund, Norwegian pianist and composer, performs John Cage’s “The Perilous Night.” Storesund performed on Friday, November 11, 2016 as a part of educational programming related to the exhibition Jasper Johns and Edvard Munch: Love, Loss and the Cycle of Life, (November 12, 2015-February 20, 2016).

Related Art: John Cage’s New River Watercolors, Series IV and The Missing Stone

EXPLORE ANCIENT CHINESE ART & CULTURE: Scroll down in this Art in Depth to find information about Chinese Bells and a link to a video of a performance.

Related Art: Bell, (Niu Zhong), Chinese, 6th century BCE, Eastern Zhou dynasty 

GIANT STEPS: Artist Enrico Riley, who teaches at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, was raised in Richmond. His art often concerns how visual art can represent sound. The sixty-one panels here refer to jazz saxophonist John Coltrane’s 1959 classic “Giant Steps.” Altogether, the squares and rectangles recreate the full score as shown in the Real Book, a compilation that reduces jazz standards to a single page of basic chord progressions and melody by leaving out solos and repetitions. Undertones of color lend subtle variations that relate to individual notes while a final white layer “harmonizes” the diverse parts, suggesting that color and whiteness, as much as visual art and music, are the work’s subjects.

“I am trying to work with the attitude that many sources and types of subject matter can influence me as I work and that this information can be deployed in a nonlinear fashion.” —Enrico Riley

Selected Instruments in the Collection

You will find images and selected information about these items by following the links below. Note: Only a few of these objects are currently on view.

African Instruments

Drum, mid 20th century, Unknown artist, Fante, Ghana, Wood, hide, fiber, Gift of Kenneth and Bonnie Brown, 2012.451

Drum, mid 20th century, Unknown artist, Lele, Democratic Republic of Congo, Wood, hide, Gift of Roger A. Provencher, 2007.114

Royal Drum (Pelambish), Early 20th century, Unknown artist, Kuba, Democratic Republic of Congo, Wood, leather, copper, raffia cloth, cowries, glass beads, fur, Gift of Kenneth and Bonnie Brown, 2012.447

Bell with Dangles, 19th-early 20th Century, Dogon, Mali, Africa, Iron, Gift of Mona Gavigan, 2014.425

Harp, 19th-20th century, Mangbetu, Democratic Republic of Congo, Wood, reptile skin, glass beads, string, Kathleen Boone Samuels Memorial Fund, 80.14

Side-blown Horn, ca. 1900, Mende, Sierra Leone, Ivory, brass, shell, Kathleen Boone Samuels Memorial Fund, 79.143

Flute, 19th-20th century, Nuna or Dafing, Burkina Faso, Wood, Kathleen Boone Samuels Memorial Fund, 83.63

Trumpet, 19th-20th century, Bamana, Mali, Wood, cloth, Gift of Dr. Hilbert H. DeLawter, in memory of his wife, Lori, 96.10

Slit gong in the Form of a Woman, Dan (Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire), 19th-20th century, Wood, Arthur and Margaret Glasgow Fund, The Adolph D. and Wilkins C. Williams Fund, 2001.29

Sistrum, Ethiopian, n.d., Wood, brass, Gift of Robert and Nancy Nooter, 2012.303

Finger Bell, African, Mali, Niger Inland Delta Region, Africa, 14th-18th century, Copper alloy, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Philip M. Nesmith in Memory of Fisher H. Nesmith, Jr., 92.50

Tibetan Instruments

Drum (Damaru), (prayer drum), Unknown artist, Tibetan, 19th century, bone, hide, silver, coral, turquoise, and fabric, Gift of Berthe and John Ford, 91.537

Trumpet, Tibetan, 16th century, Conch shell, copper alloy, and copper, Gift of Berthe and John Ford, 91.546

Cymbals, Tibetan, early 20th century, Copper alloy, leather, Gift of Berthe and John Ford, 91.544.1-2

Japanese Instruments

Small Noh Drum with Crane Design, Japanese, 16th century, Muromachi (1392-1573) to Edo period (1615-1868), Lacquer and maki-e on wood, Kathleen Boone Samuels Memorial Fund, 2018.427

Small Noh Drum with Chrysanthemum Design, Japanese, 16th century, Muromachi (1392-1573) to Edo period (1615-1868), Lacquer and maki-e on wood, Kathleen Boone Samuels Memorial Fund, 2018.426

Ritual Chime (Kei), Japanese, 1185 – 1333 (Kamakura Period, Gilded bronze, Adolph D. and Wilkins C. Williams Fund, 73.8

Native American Instruments

Rattle, Tlingit or Haida, 19th century, Wood, pigment, Gift of Robert and Nancy Nooter, 2018.304

Drum, Apache, late 19th century, Leather, wood, From the Robert and Nancy Nooter Collection, Arthur and Margaret Glasgow Endowment, 2018.264

Drum, Blackfeet, late 19th century, Leather, wood, From the Robert and Nancy Nooter Collection, Arthur and Margaret Glasgow Endowment, 2018.265

Drum, Comanche, late 19th century, Leather, pigment, wood, From the Robert and Nancy Nooter Collection, Arthur and Margaret Glasgow Endowment, 2015.13

Buffalo Drum, Arikara, late 19th century, Leather, wood, Gift of Robert and Nancy Nooter, 2015.27

Drum Stick, Unknown Plains or NW Coast, Wood, with padded head wrapped with suede(?), Gift of Ann Stewart Belk in celebration of VMFA’s 75th anniversary, 2010.179

Drum and Drum Stick, Northern plains, late 19th century, Hide, wood, pigment, From the Robert and Nancy Nooter Collection, Adolph D. and Wilkins C. Williams Fund, 2016.123a-b

Dance Rattle, Salish, 19th-20th century, Deer hooves, wood, General Endowment Fund, 55.31.11

South American Instruments

Whistle, Paracas (Peru, South America), 700-200 BCE, Terracotta with polychrome pigments, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Ferdinand P. Abela, 79.44

Whistle, Nazca (Peru, South America), CE 200 – 500, Terracotta with polychrome slips, Gift of Dr. Juan de Dios Martinez, 74.1.1

Whistle, Nazca (Peru, South America), CE 200 – 500, polychromed orangeware, Gift of Dr. Juan de Dios Martinez, 74.1.13

Engagement Activities

The VMFA LEARN site offers 34 Engagement Activities that can be easily paired with any lesson plan or assignment to promote active learning. To see all 34, use the drop-down menu and select “Engagement Activity.” Many of these activities have been adapted from routines developed by “Artful Thinking by Project Zero,” Harvard University (used under CC BY-NC 4.0). Others have been adapted from VMFA interactive gallery exercises. 

There are downloadable worksheets for each activity. Five activities have been translated in Spanish. Writing to Learn: Sensory Inventory is also available in French and German. 

Each activity fits within one of the following categories:

  • Sketching to Learn 
  • Writing to Learn
  • Moving to Learn 
  • Looking to Learn 
  • Interactive Exercise

Distance Learning Resources

In this free program, your class may video-conference with a museum educator for a facilitated experience in the galleries exploring on-view works of art. The program is free to all grade 3 – 12 classrooms. Visit the Distance Learning page to learn more. 

There are many additional Distance Learning resources and prompts. A selection is listed below.

LESSON CONCEPT: WHY LOOK AT ART?: Students practice engaging with art, making meaning from that interaction, and considering how art can connect us to people and ideas across time and place. Use this before a museum visit to set the stage for a rich in-gallery experience.

LESSON CONCEPT: SEEING AND SIFTING

INTERACTIVE EXERCISE: DJ THE ARTWORK: Artists throughout time have come to their work with stories to tell, concepts to explore, and puzzles to work out. Looking at art made in our own century lets students consider complex ideas about our shared global experience. This interactive exercise invites students to slow down their looking and generate ideas as they creatively interpret an artwork from the VMFA’s 21st Century collection.

INTERACTIVE EXERCISE: QUESTION INTO MONOLOGUE: Artworks can offer an opportunity to consider different perspectives Artists are intentional about how they depict people alone or in groups. Spending time to look carefully at expressions, body language, and contextual clues in figural artwork can help students consider ideas about identity, community, and belonging. 

Use this interactive exercise to guide students as they explore a work by Kehinde Wiley, creatively document the ideas it presents to them, and consider how their thoughts connect with the artist’s own ideas and intentions.

INTERACTIVE EXERCISE: BE THE ARTIST: Artworks can offer an opportunity to consider creativity in places and times that may be different from our own. Spending time to look carefully at form, imagery, texture, and patterns of a work of art can help students consider and become curious about the materials and techniques, artistic conventions, and cultural contexts of unfamiliar objects. Use this interactive exercise to guide students as they examine an Ancient American work of art, document the ideas it presents to them, and consider how their thoughts connect with what we know about the artist’s own ideas and intentions.

INTERACTIVE EXERCISE:THOUGHT LADDER: Spending time with a work of art can be an opportunity for thoughtful inquiry and ideation. For students, documenting their ideas as they work to interpret an artwork offers the chance to exercise metacognition. The Thought Ladder activity helps students build their interpretations step by step while giving them insight into the way they are processing their observations and forming their ideas.

CREATIVE EXPRESSIONS: PROMPTS FOR EXTENDED THINKING: Use these prompts after your Evans Distance Learning Program (Evans DLP) session or museum visit to activate creative, critical, and reflective thinking.

WHAT’S THE BIG IDEA? PROMPTS FOR EXTENDED THINKING: Use these prompts after your Evans Distance Learning Program (Evans DLP) session or museum visit to activate creative, critical, and reflective thinking.

ARTISTRY AND GEOMETRY PROMPTS FOR EXTENDED THINKING

EUROPE: AFTER THE REFORMATION: PROMPTS FOR EXTENDED THINKING

LOOKING FOR 18TH CENTURY AMERICA: PROMPTS FOR EXTENDED THINKING

AMERICA’S MID-19TH CENTURY LANDSCAPE: PROMPTS FOR EXTENDED THINKING

CHINA: QING DYNASTY PORCELAIN AND GLOBAL EXCHANGE PRE-VISIT

INDIA: MUGHAL ART AND ARCHITECTURE: PROMPTS FOR EXTENDED THINKING

AFRICA PROMPTS FOR EXTENDED THINKING

ART UP TO CODE: MAASAI: PROMPTS FOR EXTENDED THINKING: Use these prompts for extended thinking after your Evans DLP session or museum visit to activate creative, critical, and reflective thinking.

HISTORIC MESSAGES AND MODERN MIXES: PROMPTS FOR EXTENDED THINKINGWhy look at art? Art is one way humans communicate ideas to one another. Sifting through the information art presents takes careful and purposeful looking. Before a museum visit or Evans Distance Learning session, students can practice connecting to art as intentional inquirers.

GALLERY PREVIEWS