Hello and welcome to the 21st Century Music Blog. In this post I want to lay out the five main reasons I think music technology is important to music education and should be included as part of a schools music curriculum. This is my response and an affirmation to an article in The Guardian and written by Tess Reidy entitled, "Can electronic music revolutionise school music lessons?"
Music and technology have always gone together since the time music was actually considered a science. They are a natural fit as musicians try to find new ways to express themselves in sound and technological advancements have always facilitated this wether its refinements to instruments or its the invention of a completely new instrument. I have been teaching music in schools (High School and College) for the past 6 years and since the beginning, I have been a proponent of technology in the classroom and have always spent time in class to learn about and work on projects in Garageband, Logic, or Ableton. For the overwhelming majority of students these projects have been extremely successful.
There are the non-believers and interestingly enough, when I have interviewed for positions at some institutions (High School level or College level), to say I have been met with resistance is an understatement. One school in particular, a very prestigious private school in the LA area, mentioned to me how they had 40-50 students involved in their orchestra program (Out of their 500 total enrolled students), I brought up how they should implement music technology classes and courses so they could better engage some of the schools other 450 students. Well, you should of have saw the stare of death I got from the violin instructor! This isn't just a one-time experience either, this type of response has happened to me on a few occasions and moreover, this has also happened to my wife (Who is a great music educator in her own right) in interviews as well. I have seen the benefits from my real-world implementation of music technology and DAWS's and they are undeniable! If tech use is not implemented, it is really acting as a disservice to the students as a whole as you are not cultivating some real musical interest that is right before you.
So, based on my classroom observations, here are five benefits that one can expect from utilizing music technology in their classroom:
1) Learn About Musical Elements More Quickly
Students learn about rhythm, time, form, instruments and timbre, beat construction, and much more. They learn these by working with the various elements in a "hands-on" environment and in a state of discovery. The best part, they can do this with little to no previous musical training. I have seen students musical understanding unfold before my eyes as DAW's (Digital Audio Workstations) provide multi-sensory feedback and engage visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning styles.
2) Students Learn How to Listen More Intensely
By making their own music, students learn to listen intently in an engaged manner, not simply sitting passively. They start to make aesthetic and critical choices by learning why something works or it doesn't. They learn to hear all of the various components and layers absorbing the multi-dimensionality of music. Their sense of rhythm is strengthened quicker and their feeling for harmony and the understanding of consonance/dissonance is learned quicker.
3) Music Becomes "Fun" Faster!
A major plus is that a student can tap into the creative aspect and what is "fun" about music much quicker. By putting some sounds and layers together in Garageband or something similar, students realize that music is approachable and "doing" music can be attained on some level. Music isn't a mysterious, unobtainable goal. Music becomes something immediate; like Lego blocks or drawing, that they can build and transform to their liking.
4) Students Engage
I've already used the word "engage" a few times so far and it's a fact. The vast majority of students not only become engaged with music and its creation, I'd say they become hyper-focused and "addicted" to working on their music. And to be honest, what is better than that? I've seen students who are genuinely disinterested in music class become involved at a much higher level than any other coursework I have offered. When students realize the power they have in manipulating musical ideas they start to see the piano and guitar, or any instrument in a new light and many want to start playing.
5) Music Departments Grow
Lastly, music departments grow and with all of the budget concerns facing most music departments, who doesn't want that? Every school where I included music technology as a component saw an increase of new students, students who thought music wasn't for them or somehow passed them by. It brings in students with disabilities who may have a hard time playing a traditional musical instrument.
I believe in music as an inclusive endeavor rather than an exclusive one and technology is way to include more students. The only thing standing in the way for most schools is lack of teacher knowledge or unwillingness to implement. The unwillingness is usually brought upon by teachers stuck in an old-way teaching paradigm and they are either unskilled in music technology or unwilling to adopt it. As well, not everyone is going to become Yo-Yo Ma or Rihanna and that is fine, we can still get students to engage and give them access to a deeper understanding of music as part of their life. With music education we can develop the future musical patrons and enthusiasts that will assure the continuation of support for the musical arts.
Thanks for reading and please leave your comments below.