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On the Road: 7-12 Ambassador to the Orchestra: The Arranger in Rock and Roll



Ambassador to the Orchestra: The Arranger in Rock and Roll

Suggested Grade Level: 7-12

This research guide serves as a resource for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's Education Department course, Ambassador to the Orchestra: The Arranger in Rock and Roll. For additional information on the course and for more teacher resources, see

It often seems that the worlds of popular music and classical music are miles apart, drawing on different histories, different musical practices, and different instrumentation. But the classical orchestra has played an important part in rock and roll culture. Classically trained musicians such as David Blumberg, Arif Mardin, Michael Kamen, and George Martin became some of the most successful producers and arrangers in popular music, helping to bring the sounds of the orchestra into rock and roll. In this class, students will listen to and examine the music of Maxwell, Dusty Springfield, Metallica, and the Beatles and will view exclusive interview clips with arrangers. The class concludes with an activity in which students help to arrange a piece of music using computer music software, after which they get to hear the results of their work.

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For Your Students

Online Resources


These resources, pulled from class discussion and selected from the Library and Archives' collections, will help you to:

  • Define the concepts of musical style, instrumentation, and musical tradition.
  • Describe the concept of an arrangement and discuss the role of an arranger in varied musical traditions.
  • Compare and contrast popular and classical music styles, recognizing a collaborative history between the two.




YouTube Videos

Metallica and the San Francisco Symphonic Orchestra perform "For Whom the Bell Tolls"

Archival Resources

New to Archives? Check out:

Below is a list of links to archival materials related to this course:

Rock Hall Video

Grammy award-winning music producer Arif Mardin, who worked for many years at Atlantic records, before switching to EMI and Manhattan, talks about his time with Aretha Franklin and using digital technology in music.

Carol Kaye, bass player for the Wrecking Crew, recounts what it was like to be one of very few women session players in the 1960s.

Musician and arranger Van Dyke Parks, who has worked with performers as diverse as Grace Kelly and Ringo Starr, defines what it means to be an arranger.

Van Dyke Parks explains the beauty of using strings in arranging music.

Record producer and arranger Willie Mitchell, who ran Royal Studios in Memphis and later recorded Al Green, Syl Johnson and Ann Peebles at Hi Records, talks about the duty of the arranger in a song.
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