Originally published in the Connecticut Music Educators publication CMEA News April, 2010
For the last hundred years or so, K–12 music education in the United States has focused on reaching students with performance-based applied learning in band, orchestra and chorus classes, and in classroom general music. Applied learning in non-performance “general music” classes has been accomplished in the use recorders, ocarinas, harmonicas, Celtic harps, and guitars. When I taught in New York City, I used kazoos! Performance-based ensembles reach fewer than 20 percent of a school’s population (Figure 1) and traditional general music classes, frankly, just don’t cut it anymore. Students today, from elementary through high school, have access to sophisticated music equipment at home on their computers, video consoles, and even in their pockets on their mobile phones. To reach and engage more students, we need to embrace technology.
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Figure 1 he figures were omitted for this blog post
When I started teaching music technology nine years ago, the technology was expensive, cumbersome, and difficult to learn. Digital audio workstations were a collection of computers, synthesizers, audio interfaces, and mixing boards arranged in a tangled web of wires and cables. Networking was a nightmare and I spent more time in a lesson troubleshooting problems, crashes, and lost files than I did working with students on music. Fortunately, times have changed. Today, computers are fast and efficient, software is free or inexpensive, connectivity is simple, and the possibilities for students are only limited by the imagination.
Fortunately, I now have a lab that is dedicated to the teaching music composition and music technology, outfitted with computers, music keyboards, and music software. Not every school is as fortunate. However, every school can easily and inexpensively accommodate a music technology lab if they already have computers.
A Word to the Technologically Faint of Heart
Teach music. The technology will follow. This has become my personal mantra and message to teachers and administrators who are hesitant about taking the plunge into technology. Today’s music software for creativity is so simple and easy to use. A music teacher, even the most technologically challenged, can learn in just a few hours the most sophisticated functions in the software suggested in this article “soup to nuts.”
Find the computers. If you can, get your own computers. I heard of a district that wrote a grant for their music technology class by categorizing it as a vocational subject (which it is but that’s a topic for another article!). It doesn’t matter if you have Windows or Apple computers, desktops or laptops, any computer will do. If you can’t purchase computers for your own classroom, does your school Library or Media Center have a computer lab? Is there a lab used by Read the rest of this entry »