Youth Gospel Choir With The Staple Singers

Youth Gospel Choir With The Staple Singers

The clip below reflects this month's featured lesson as Grammy award winning artist Mavis Staples reflects on the history of the song "Wish I Had Answered", written by her father Roebuck 'Pops' Staples. Listen and watch carefully for the musical collaboration that ensues in the more contemporary version of this song. Then sing and experience the song with your students.

Create a PULSE account to view the full Take Me To The River Elective within the Berklee PULSE site, which includes a year's worth of original materials designed to provide teachers with resources that engage students in curricular activities that inspire creativity and collaboration.



Students will be able to:

  • Understand and discuss the socio-political factors that gave rise to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s with connection to The Staple Singers' music
  • Understand the rhythmic and melodic intervals in the tune "Wish I Had Answered"

Materials and Resources:  


  • Informal – class discussion and participation
  • Formal – practice and performance of their part in the "Wish I Had Answered" Youth Gospel Choir Arrangement


Exposition of Material

1. Teacher asks, "What was the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s?"

2. Teacher asks, "Who were some key figures during this movement?" "What were some key events that took place during this time?"

3. Teacher directs conversation to the piece of music they will be studying. "Is anyone familiar with The Staple Singers or Mavis Staples?" Teacher explains that The Staple Singers played a large part in the Civil Rights Movement through their powerful and influencial music. In fact, Mavis Staples marched and sang side-by-side with Martin Luther King Jr. for racial equality.

4. Read through the history of "The Staple Singers and Home of the Blues" handout.

5. Watch the movie clip above that features information about the Civil Rights Movement, Mavis Staples involvement with this movement, and footage of her and other musicians from the film learning "Wish I Had Answered".

Identifying Key Concepts and Terms

6. Teacher passes out the lead sheet to the tune "Wish I Had Answered" and projects the Lead Vocal part from the PULSE Notation Mixer (link in "Materials and Resources" section above) on the projection screen.

7. Students listen to the song while following along with their lead sheets.

8. After establising tonality and tempo, the teacher will instruct students to sight-read the music (lead vocal melody) using audiation only, accompanied only by a steady beat in duple meter (half note = 89 BPM).

9. Following this, the teacher will review rhtyhms and melodic intervals pervasive in the song.

10. Next, students will sing the lead vocal part in unison, repeating until the ensemble has consensus in pitch and rhythm.


11. Call on a student to share what they like about this tune and some difficulties they faced while reading through the melody. 

12. Pass out respective parts in the "Wish I Had Answered" Youth Gospel Choir Arrangement. Students such study their part for your next class or ensemble rehearsal. 

Lesson Closing

  • Students will prepare and rehearse this work to perform for a concert or event.
  • Follow-up activities also include written assignments for students to evaluate student performance of piece, how learning this piece improved their playing ability, expressive capabilities, music-cultural practice and what they learned to do that was new or different, and have them give an explanation about the influence of Gospel music in the music they hear today from previous topics of discussion while learning this piece.