Music for Class: Feel the Beat

What music should you play for students who are hearing-impaired? Antoine Hunter, who is hard-of-hearing himself, chooses loud songs with a heavy beat or brings in a live drummer. “Every hard-of-hearing student is completely different,” he says. “Some can hear a bird and not a motorcycle. I can hear a motorcycle and not a bird. But, thank goodness, I can hear a bit of Miles Davis.”

The Oakland, California–based dancer is deaf in his left ear and has partial hearing in his right. He is founder and director of Urban Jazz Dance Company and has performed with numerous other companies. Hunter’s true passion, however, has always been teaching. He teaches ballet, hip hop, modern, jazz, African and creative dance to students of all ages at 10 different schools and performing arts centers in California’s Bay Area.

Whether teaching hearing or hearing-impaired students, Hunter often uses American Sign Language in his classes, and he separates students based on dance ability and experience, not on how well they can hear. “I had a class where many of my students could hear the drummer and many could not,” he says. “So one day, I asked those who couldn’t to touch the side of the drum while I hit it. The vibration made them jump back saying, ‘Wow, that is loud!’ Then, when they danced, they remembered the rhythm of those vibrations.”


Artist: John Philip Sousa

Album/Song: Boys Gotta Dance!, “Semper Fidelis”

“For going across the floor in my pre-ballet classes, I love to start off with marching like the Nutcracker soldiers. This song is also perfect for doing chassé and jump combinations. I like to use classical music with a heavy beat in ballet class. That way hard-of-hearing, deaf and hearing students can all enjoy it.”




Artist: Miles Davis

Album/Songs: Doo-Bop, “Chocolate Chip” and “High Speed Chase”

“I use these songs in my jazz class for a center floor workout. ‘Chocolate Chip’ is easy to follow and has a strong enough beat to hear and feel. I also use this for my hip-hop classes when students are having a hard time keeping rhythm. I use ‘High Speed Chase,’ which has a faster tempo, to speed up our dancing. I love keeping dancers on their feet, and this keeps them moving. Students love this album because it’s fun and upbeat.”



Artist: Maceo Parker

Album/Song: Roots Revisited, “Children’s World”

“I love to use this for creative dance. “Children’s World” starts slow and then speeds up just a bit to get students excited. This music works for hard-of-hearing, deaf and hearing students. Everyone can get something out of this song.”




Artist: Roy Hargrove

Album/Song: Habana, “O My Seh Yeh (reprise)”

“This music is great for warming up in many of my classes. In adult ballet, I use it during pliés and stretches at the barre. Or, in my children’s jazz class, I use it for warming up the head and neck.”




Artist: Erick Morillo

Album/Song: Subliminal Winter Sessions Vol. 2 (Disc 1), “Kinda New (Tiefschwartz Dub)”

“I use this for hip hop or African dance, but it’s my favorite music for going across the floor in any class. The funky beat and strong tempo really wake students up. It’s fun for all ages, and it never gets old.”




Photo by Matt Haber

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