Harnessing Digital Performance:

Empowering Music Educators and Students for Global Artistic Reach

By NAfME Members Edward White and José Valentino Ruiz, Ph.D.

This article delves into the transformative landscape where music intersects with digital communications, propelled by technological evolution and the surge of social media music communities. Music educators play a pivotal role in equipping students with skills that transcend classroom boundaries, utilizing short-form performance video content, exemplified by platforms like Instagram Reels. These videos not only amplify musical expression but also usher in a new era of global collaboration, creative exchange, and professional growth. Collaborative assignments, including cross-genre challenges, global virtual ensembles, and mentor-student duets, empower both students and educators to embrace creativity, bridge cultural gaps, and harness the power of digital platforms for artistic expression. These assignments foster a sense of community, innovation, and responsible digital citizenship, positioning music education at the forefront of the evolving digital landscape.

Digital Collaborations: Music Educations Modern Frontier

The intersection of music and digital communications is in the midst of a profound transformation, fueled by the swift evolution of technological translatability and the vibrant surge of social media music-making communities. In this era of connectivity, the role of music educators extends beyond traditional instruction, as they seize the opportunity to equip their students with skills that transcend the confines of the classroom. Enter short-form performance video content, a phenomenon that not only amplifies musical expression but also opens doors to a new realm of global collaboration, creative exchange, and professional growth. Music educators are uniquely positioned to guide their students through the intricacies of crafting compelling short-form videos, such as Instagram Reels. These videos provide a canvas for musicians of all ages and backgrounds to showcase their talents, experiment with new sounds, and beckon fellow musicians from around the world to join in collaborative endeavors (Shahzadi, 2020). As the videos gain traction and attract attention, the potential for building a robust fanbase and gaining notoriety is undeniable.

One of the most remarkable aspects of short-form videos is their ability to transcend geographical distances. Musicians can now virtually collaborate with peers and like-minded artists across continents, effortlessly bridging cultural gaps to create harmonious compositions. This exchange of ideas fosters a rich and diverse tapestry of musical expression, a symphony of influences that challenge norms and elevate creativity to unprecedented heights. The power of the close camera angle and unfiltered performances cannot be underestimated. These videos capture not only musical skill but also the essence of the artist’s personality, passion, and artistic flair. The comments and interactions that follow provide valuable feedback, shaping how artists present themselves and fine-tune their craft. The digital stage offers an intimate space for audiences to connect with musicians on a personal level, reinforcing the importance of authenticity and resonating with the listener’s emotions (Haenlein et al., 2020).

Short-form videos have become a lens through which the music industry scouts for fresh talent. Arts administrators, music manufacturers, and concert promoters rely on these videos to gauge an artist’s charisma, versatility, and stage presence. As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words; in the realm of music, a video is a testament to an artist’s creative prowess and a gateway to professional opportunities. Beyond honing musical skills, music educators play a vital role in preparing students for the multifaceted demands of the modern music industry. The ability to communicate, engage with audiences, and conceptualize content that resonates on a global scale has become indispensable (Walzer, 2017). Short-form videos offer students a practical avenue to craft portfolios that showcase their artistic journey, which can lead to collaborations, joint ventures, and even live performances.

As the conversation surrounding popular music education evolves, the focus on teaching mainstream genres is relevant, but it’s equally important to equip students with tools that transcend genre limitations. Music educators are not just imparting musical knowledge; they’re nurturing a generation of artists who can navigate the intricacies of the digital landscape, communicate their unique musical stories, and seize opportunities that go beyond the traditional notion of success.

Fostering Innovation through Collaboration

Collaboration has become the heartbeat of innovation in the rapidly evolving landscape of digital music-making communities. Short-form performance videos present an unparalleled platform for music educators to cultivate this spirit of collaboration among their students. Encouraging musicians to venture beyond their comfort zones and embrace cross-genre partnerships, educators ignite a realm of uncharted artistic possibilities, setting the stage for remarkable creative journeys. Music educators can act as catalysts, igniting a spark of curiosity that leads students to explore musical territories they might never have considered. Imagine a cellist delving into the intricacies of electronic music production or a folk singer weaving their melodies into the tapestry of an indie rock anthem. These cross-genre collaborations not only challenge the norms but also lead to the creation of entirely new musical subcultures.

Beyond pushing the boundaries of genre, these collaborations offer a unique opportunity to celebrate the richness of cultural diversity. Students can draw inspiration from musical traditions spanning continents and infuse them into their own compositions. By doing so, they contribute to a global musical dialogue, enriching their work with the flavors of different cultures and inviting listeners on a transcendent sonic journey (Ruiz-Resto, 2023). Furthermore, cross-disciplinary collaborations have the power to bridge the gap between different artistic expressions. Visual artists, dancers, and poets can come together with musicians to craft immersive multimedia experiences (Nwagwu & Akintoye, 2023). Music educators can guide students to explore these uncharted territories, encouraging them to find harmony between the auditory and the visual, and fostering a new breed of interdisciplinary artists.

Navigating the Digital Frontier Responsibly

As the field of music education continues to adapt to the Post-COVID multimodal creative economy, music educators are not only imparting technical skills but also nurturing responsible digital citizens (Callander, 2023). In the digital realm, where creativity meets connectivity, music educators have a pivotal role in guiding students to navigate this new frontier with integrity and mindfulness. Beyond the mechanics of creating short-form performance videos, educators should initiate thoughtful discussions about the ethical implications of digital content creation. Addressing topics like intellectual property rights and proper attribution empowers students to respect the creative work of others and uphold professional standards. In comprehending the significance of appropriately acknowledging original creators, students actively cultivate a culture of respect and collaboration within the digital music realm.

Considerably, the digital world brings with it a unique set of challenges to mental and emotional well-being (Kohls et al., 2021). Music educators can engage students in conversations about the balance between seeking online validation and cultivating intrinsic motivation. In the pursuit of fostering self-awareness, educators help students understand the impact of metrics such as likes and shares on their artistic journey. This awareness enables students to create content that is authentic, aligned with their artistic vision and focused on genuine audience engagement.

Equipping students with tools to handle online interactions with grace is equally important. Music educators can teach students how to respond to criticism constructively and engage in conversations that promote artistic growth. Honing skills in online communication is a vital aspect of the learning experience as students can use their online presence for meaningful artistic discourse, amplifying their creative voice while maintaining a positive and respectful online persona (Robinson, 2020). Thus, the world has become digitally interconnected, and music educators have the privilege of shaping not only musicians but also responsible digital citizens who understand the impact of their actions, respect the creative community, and use technology as a tool for artistic expression and global connection.

Exploring Collaborative Music Assignments

This section presents three distinct assignments aimed at fostering collaborative musical exploration among students and educators. The first assignment, the Cross-Genre Collaboration Challenge, encourages participants to delve into the realms of diverse musical genres, crafting short-form performance videos that seamlessly blend contrasting styles. In the Global Virtual Ensemble Project, participants engage in an international collaborative effort, uniting musicians from different parts of the world to create a harmonious virtual ensemble performance. The Mentor-Student Duet Challenge, the final assignment, focuses on nurturing mentorship and artistic exchange as music educators collaborate one-on-one with students to produce duet performances. These assignments collectively offer opportunities for participants to transcend traditional boundaries, embrace diversity, and cultivate a sense of community within the sphere of music education.

Assignment 1: White/Ruiz’s Cross-Genre Collaboration Challenge

Objective: To encourage students and music educators to explore musical collaboration across genres and create a short-form performance video that fuses diverse musical styles.


  1. Form pairs or groups consisting of both students and music educators.
  1. Each group should choose two contrasting musical genres (e.g., classical and hip-hop, jazz and electronic).
  1. Collaboratively create a musical composition that seamlessly blends elements of both chosen genres.
  1. Designate roles within the group: one participant takes the lead in the primary genre, while another leads in the secondary genre.
  1. Create a short-form performance video that showcases the collaborative composition. Use visual elements that reflect both genres.
  1. Upload the video to a platform of choice (e.g., YouTube, Instagram Reels) and provide a brief description of the collaboration process and musical choices.

Assignment 2: White/Ruiz’s Global Virtual Ensemble Project

Objective: To foster international collaboration among students, educators, and musicians in different parts of the world to create a virtual ensemble performance.


  1. Form virtual ensembles comprising students, music educators, and musicians from various locations.
  1. Select a piece of music that can accommodate multiple instruments and styles.
  1. Distribute parts to each participant based on their instrument and expertise.
  1. Collaboratively practice and record individual parts. Participants can record themselves playing their parts with a smartphone or camera.
  1. Share the recorded clips with a designated coordinator who will compile and edit the video.
  1. The video editor synchronizes the recordings to create a cohesive performance.
  1. The final virtual ensemble performance video is shared on social media platforms and music-related forums to showcase the collaborative effort.

Assignment 3: White/Ruiz’s Mentor-Student Duet Challenge

Objective: To facilitate one-on-one collaborations between music educators and students, fostering a sense of mentorship and artistic exchange.


  1. Music educators select a student they would like to collaborate with.
  1. Together, the educator and student choose a piece of music they both enjoy or one that aligns with their respective expertise.
  1. Collaboratively practice and refine the chosen piece.
  1. Record a duet performance where both the music educator and student play side by side.
  1. Prioritize communication and artistic input from both participants to create a balanced and harmonious performance.
  1. Edit and finalize the duet performance video.
  1. Upload the video to a platform and include a caption highlighting the mentor-student collaboration, the musical choices, and the learning experience.

Through these collaborative assignments, both students and music educators can embark on a journey of shared creativity, transcend geographical boundaries, and experience firsthand the power of music to bring people together. These assignments not only enhance the learning experience but also cultivate a strong sense of community and mentorship within the realm of music education.


The emergence of short-form performance videos presents an unparalleled opportunity for music educators to empower their students. There is power and promise in teaching them the art of crafting engaging videos and navigating the digital realm: Educators are instilling in their students the ability to transcend boundaries, connect with global collaborators, and shape their own artistic destinies. As music and technology continue to dance in harmony, music educators stand as beacons of guidance, leading students toward a future of boundless musical possibilities.


Callander, A., Taylor, J. K., Bonin-Rodriguez, P., Taylor, E. A., Vakharia, N., Ragsdale, D., … & Essig, L. (2023). Editorial Perspectives: A Futurecasting Glossary. Artivate: A Journal of Entrepreneurship in the Arts, 11(3).

Haenlein, M., Anadol, E., Farnsworth, T., Hugo, H., Hunichen, J., & Welte, D. (2020). Navigating the New Era of Influencer Marketing: How to be Successful on Instagram, TikTok, & Co. California Management Review, 63(1), 5-25.

Kohls, E., Baldofski, S., Moeller, R., Klemm, S. L., & Rummel-Kluge, C. (2021). Mental health, social and emotional well-being, and perceived burdens of university students during COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in Germany. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 12, 643957.

Robinson, B. (2020). Towards an ontology and ethics of virtual influencers. Australasian Journal of Information Systems, 24.

Ruiz-Resto, J. V. (2023). Nexus of Cultural Entrepreneurship and Digital Musicality: Exploring Afro-Diasporic Music Entrepreneurship in the Digital Music Industry. International Journal of Music Entrepreneurship and Leadership, 1(1), 24-24.

Shahzadi, N. (2020). Instagram: A digital marketplace for independent visual artists (Doctoral dissertation, Auckland University of Technology).

Walzer, D. A. (2017). Independent music production: how individuality, technology and creative entrepreneurship influence contemporary music industry practices. Creative Industries Journal, 10(1), 21-39. 

About the authors:

black and white photo of Edward White with guitar in studioEdward White is the Director of Music Education at Altitude Academies in Port St. Lucie, Florida. In his role, Edward teaches popular music education curriculum that he developed such as popular guitar performance; commercial musicianship skills; music entrepreneurship; music production; and the chronology of popular music education. A 2022 Global Music® Award Winner for Mixed-Genre Album, Edward is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Music Education with cognates in Popular Music Education and Entrepreneurship at the University of Florida. He enjoys rocking with several bands in Gainesville, Florida, and simultaneously in a career as a remote session guitarist for projects within popular, jazz, and global music styles.

black and white photo of Jose Valentino Ruiz with saxophoneJosé Valentino Ruiz, Ph.D., D.Min., is a passionate contributor to the field of music production for commercial media and serves as the Resident Media Composer at Hayden5, an innovative company recognized by Fast Company as one of the Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in the World in the video category for 2022. In addition to his work at Hayden5 and at the Global Music Institute for Music Research as Director of the Commission for Entrepreneurship & Leadership, Ruiz is also a dedicated educator, teaching undergraduate and graduate students in music production for commercial media. As the founding Program Coordinator of Music Business & Entrepreneurship at the University of Florida, he is committed to providing aspiring music entrepreneurs with experiential learning opportunities in the realm of music production for advertising agencies. Ruiz has won multiple GRAMMY® Awards, an EMMY® Award, and a 2023 Anthem® Award for Education, Art, & Culture from the International Academy® of Digital Arts and Sciences. Moreover, Ruiz is Co-Editor at Artivate: A Journal of Entrepreneurship in the Arts. For more information, visit www.josevalentino.com.

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The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) provides a number of forums for the sharing of information and opinion, including blogs and postings on our website, articles and columns in our magazines and journals, and postings to our Amplify member portal. Unless specifically noted, the views expressed in these media do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Association, its officers, or its employees.

April 2024 Teaching Music

Published Date

September 6, 2023


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September 6, 2023. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)

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