Photo of Chapin Hall, home of the Cali School of Music

Students’ Motown History Guide Wins Jersey Award

Award recognizes students’ design and content excellence for Motown history curriculum

Posted in: College News and Announcements, School of Communication and Media News, Student Success

Larry Weiner (center) with his award-winning students (left to right) Joanna Zaccardi ’21, ZW Gleason ’21, Gabi Bartnik ’21 and Christina Giordano at the 53rd Annual Jersey Awards.
Larry Weiner (center) with his award-winning students (left to right) Joanna Zaccardi ’21, ZW Gleason ’21, Gabi Bartnik ’21 and Christina Giordano at the 53rd Annual Jersey Awards.

The work of four School of Communication and Media students who created a Motown curriculum guide for the Motown Museum won a 2021 Jersey Award at the NJ Ad Club’s 53rd Annual Jersey Awards on September 29.

The Motown curriculum guide, which will soon be product-tested in middle school music classes, was created last spring by Gabi Bartnik ’21, Joanna Zaccardi ’21 and ZW Gleason ’21, all of whom have since graduated, and Christina Giordano, who is in her last semester.

“What makes their effort especially noteworthy is that the curriculum guide is the result of a new partnership between the School of Communication and Media and the legendary music label,” says Larry Weiner, the students’ Transmedia Projects instructor.

The work with the Motown Museum began in the 2020 fall semester, when Weiner’s Transmedia Projects class worked closely with Robin Terry, the museum’s CEO, who visited the class on Zoom at the start of the semester and again in December when the class made its final presentation. The museum’s educational director, Emily Harper, was also involved in creating the guide. The mission for the class was to create an educational curriculum that middle school educators could use to teach their students various aspects of the historic Motown label, and, ultimately, preserve its legacy, says Weiner.

“The curriculum highlights the Motown story from three distinct perspectives – the music and artists, racial and social justice, and entrepreneurialism, which features the accomplishments of Berry Gordy, a high school dropout who created one of the nation’s most iconic music labels,” says Weiner. Incidentally, Gordy will be honored during the 44th Annual Kennedy Center honors in December.

The work that took home a 2021 Jersey Award began in the spring 2021 semester. Bartnik, Gleason, Zaccardi and Giordano took the raw material created by the fall class, and working independently, edited, redesigned and rewrote the document and produced a polished, professional publication ready for use in middle school classrooms. They also researched and included National Education Association Core standards and teaching assessments. According to Weiner, the work will be beta-tested by several area middle school educators. Ultimately, it will be available to educators around the country from the Motown Museum’s website (, Weiner says.

Gordy ultimately sold Motown to MCA records in 1988, and the label today is owned by the Universal Music Group. However, the original buildings in Detroit were converted into the Motown Museum in 1985 by Esther Gordy Edwards, the sister of founder Berry and grandmother of current CEO Terry. Currently, the museum is in the middle of fundraising for a planned expansion.

Over the past seven years, Transmedia Projects students have produced a number of projects in the educational sphere. From 2014-2020, students worked closely with the Metropolitan Opera Guild to produce material for the Guild’s educational outreach throughout the New York Metropolitan area. Other classes published an e-book titled “Using Transmedia in the Classroom.”

The last time Montclair State University students were involved in the Jersey Awards was in 2008 when a Public Relations Management class won second place for the creation of a brochure/poster for Mexican Hall-of-Fame golfer, Lorena Ochoa.