Teach the Beat!

Bringing the distinctive D.C. sound of go-go into the classroom.

Teaching for Change is honored to work with D.C.  area schools and the authors of The Beat! Go-Go Music from Washington, D.C. to develop lessons and share teaching ideas for infusing the history and music of go-go in middle and high school social studies, language arts, math, music, and/or D.C. history classes, and to bring renowned go-go performers into D.C. classrooms.

"Go-go has stayed true to time-honored cultural scripts such as live call-and-response, live instrumentation, as well as its locally rooted fashions, slang, dance, distribution and economic systems. Simply put: Go-Go never sold out. There is a grit and texture to the music that gives voice to the communities where it was created." –Natalie Hopkinson


September 27: Sweet Cherie at Raymond Education Campus


Go-go performer Sweet Cherie led a Teach the Beat workshop with approximately twenty-sixth graders in Mr. Dylan Nowak’s music class at Raymond Education Campus. She was introduced by a student who chronicled her long history as a go-go performer in DC. Sweet Cherie began the workshop by explaining the percussion beats in go-go and asking for examples of these instruments while Nowak passed them out to the students. Sweet Cherie and Mr. Nowak modeled rhythms for the different instruments and the students excitedly picked it right up.

Sweet Cherie explained the role of the “talker” as an integral part of go-go that includes the audience as part of the performance. Acting as the Talker while the students played, Sweet Cherie welcomed them all to class before demonstrating call and response. The students then helped her compile a list of go-go musicians. Sweet Cherie was wearing a Chuck Brown shirt, which all the students excitedly recognized as the Godfather of go-go. From there they talked about the different legends leading up to today’s generation of crank go-go bands.

The students and Mr. Nowak brought the beat back while Ms. Cherie performed “Sardines” with the students calling back. To close, students had the opportunity to ask Sweet Cherie questions. They asked what inspired her, how she became such an influential performer, as well as about her experience of playing with Chuck Brown for so many years. On their way out, the students wanted autographs and continued to call their thank yous.

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Image credits: Thomas Sayers Ellis