Opening All Doors

Digital and Hybrid Music in Music Teaching and Learning


By NAfME National Conference Presenter Jonathan Kladder


Have you ever wondered what types of music learning experiences might encourage more student involvement in your school? Or pondered the types of instruments and music that students were really interested in learning? These types of questions have always challenged me to think differently about my music teaching, the approach I use in my classroom, and my responsibility in assuring all students have access to music in school.

Closeup shot of a DJ  mixing music on a turntable | PeopleImages


In my previous music teaching placement, approximately 50 to 55% of students participated in the wind band, chorus, and orchestra ensembles that were offered. When comparing these statistics to those related to music participation in public schools across the United States, our ensemble participation was generally quite high (Kratus, 2007; Williams, 2007, 2012). However, during my tenure, I began to recognize that I did not know many students in the school. The reason was quite clear: They were not active music-makers in the formal ensembles offered at our school.

“It is our job as music educators to offer space for students to explore, create, and perform music.”

I remember walking through the hallways during lunch break unable to recognize many students simply because they were not active musicians in school. Over time, I pondered about these students and what would happen if they had the opportunity to make music in school. I found myself asking questions like:

  • Why did these students not make music in school?
  • What types of music are they interested in?
  • Did they play an instrument outside school?
  • What types of music did they listen to?

These types of questions made me reconsider what I was teaching and the ways I might achieve a space in school where students could participate, experience, and learn music in ways that were of personal interest. Furthermore, I wanted to offer music experiences that did not require a prerequisite set of skills or techniques on an instrument or voice. These types of questions led me to think about the opportunities that existed in digital music, where students could create, share, and perform music in self-directed ways. In this same avenue, I considered a new model of music instruction where learners would be placed at the center of the learning experience, chose their own instruments, and performed or recorded music (Kladder, 2019). I wanted it to be a creative space, for exploration, mistake-making, and learning.

Wireless headphone on laptop | deepblue4you


Maybe you have considered these ideas in your teaching context as well. Or maybe you are considering these questions for the first time.


What Is “Digital and Hybrid Music” and Where Can I Learn about It?

This year the National Association for Music Education national conference in Orlando, Amplify the Future of Music: Opening Doors for All Students (November 6–10), is an excellent opportunity to learn about hands-on approaches and ideas for including or creating new music-making opportunities for students in your school. If you are faced with similar thoughts as I previously mentioned, I would like to encourage you to attend the one-day workshop experience entitled, “Digital and Hybrid Music.” This experience will offer hands-on, practical, and experiential opportunities aimed at broadening music learning opportunities for students in your school context. The session will offer new and broad perspectives around music-making that aim to engage and embrace a range of instruments and music.

Young, multi-ethnic couple  making hybrid music in studio, using modern technology | Pekic


We will begin by exploring digital music, as the majority of music in contemporary culture is now technologically mediated. Our focus will be in two areas: online platforms for creating, sharing, and performing music, and digital ensembles. Both experiences will provide opportunities to learn and make music, consider practical applications to your teaching context, examine costs associated with such technology, and discuss curricular ideas to enhance your understanding of the methods and approaches within this medium. The final portion of our day will be spent learning about hybrid ensembles, a new model of music instruction built around a learner-centered approach, that encourages student ownership and agency, where students are placed at the center of the learning experience with guidance and facilitation from the teacher. You will be provided opportunities to make music in a hybrid ensemble, discuss and create ideas for application of these ideas to your school, and examine the relationship of standards to this model of instruction.

“As music in contemporary culture continues to shift and change, our understanding of music teaching and learning will need to embrace alternative music-making opportunities across the music curriculum as well.”

In The Learner-Centered Music Classroom: Models and Possibilities (Williams & Kladder, 2019), the contributors suggest benefits associated with embracing new models of music instruction, including increased engagement, excitement, energy, and learning outcomes when students learn through alternative and self-directed approaches. As music in contemporary culture continues to shift and change, our understanding of music teaching and learning will need to embrace alternative music-making opportunities across the music curriculum as well. I believe, as I am sure you do too, that all students are inherently musical, and most make music outside school, even if they do not participate in a formal ensemble. These experiences can enrich and encourage new and innovative approaches for music-making.

It is our job as music educators to offer space for students to explore, create, and perform music. I would encourage you to attend the 2019 NAfME National Conference in Orlando and come ready to explore, learn, and be inspired to try new ideas in your school context!


Kratus, J. (2007). Music education at the tipping point. Music Educators Journal94(2), 42-48.

Williams, D. A., & Kladder, J. R. (2019). The Learner-Centered Music Classroom: Models and Possibilities. Routledge.

Williams, D. B. (2007, April). Reaching the “other 80%:” Using technology to engage “non-traditional music students” in creative activities. In Presentation at the Tanglewood II Technology and Music Education Symposium, Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota (Vol. 6).

Williams, D. B. (2012). The non-traditional music student in secondary schools of the United States: Engaging non-participant students in creative music activities through technology. Journal of Music, Technology & Education4(2-3), 131-147.

The Digital and Hybrid Music day-long learning experience led by Jonathan Kladder will take place Saturday, November 9, from 9:15 AM–3:45 PM at the 2019 NAfME National Conference. Separate registration is required, and seats are limited. Register today.

About the author: 

man in button-down shirt playing guitarDr. Kladder is Assistant Professor of Music Education at Ithaca College. His degrees are from the University of South Florida (Ph.D.), Boston University (M.M.Ed.) and Hope College (B.M.Ed). Prior to his employment at Ithaca College, he taught undergraduate music education courses at the University of South Florida, which included Introduction to Music Education, Progressive Music Education Methods, Creative Performance Chamber Ensemble, Popular Music Ensemble, and Digital Music Production. While at USF, he was a coach, mentor, and supervisor of senior student teachers in a variety of secondary music teaching contexts. Jonathan’s elementary and secondary instrumental teaching experience include a variety of both band and chorus ensembles across private and public-school settings. As a band and chorus director, he taught beginning band, 6th-8th grade middle school and directed the high school jazz ensemble. His groups actively performed in local competitions, parades, special community events, and outreach opportunities.

Jonathan currently teaches instrumental undergraduate music education students at Ithaca College and continues to pursue an active research agenda. He is an active presenter at local, state, national, and international music conferences. His presentations have included The Music Learning Revolution (London), Florida Music Educators AssociationFlorida Educators Technology ConferenceMissouri Music Educators AssociationCalifornia Music Educators AssociationNational Association for Music EducationCollege Music Society, and the Modern Band Colloquium. He has been an adjudicator for state conferences and the innovative Florida Music Educators Association contemporary ensembles event, Crossover. 

As an active musician, Jonathan was a band member in one of the first iPad ensembles, called TouchTouch has performed around the country at state and national conferences, offering new and innovative ideas for music making at the collegiate and P-12 educational levels. Jonathan is interested in the intersections of music and technology, creativity, and curricular expansions. He is particularly interested in pedagogical models that support learner-centered approaches across contemporary music making spaces. His articles have been published in the Journal of Music, Education, and Technology, The Creativity Research Journal, Routledge, Visions of Research in Music Education, Music Educators Journal, Contemporary Research in Music Learning Across the Lifespan, and 21st Century Music Education: Informal Learning and Non-Formal Teaching Approaches in School and Community Contexts.

Jonathan is an active musician, playing guitars, keyboards, wind instruments, Ableton Push, Maschine, and drum kit in a variety of contemporary music making settings.

Did this blog spur new ideas for your music program? Share them on Amplify! Interested in reprinting this article? Please review the reprint guidelines.

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.

Catherina Hurlburt, Marketing Communications Manager. September 20, 2019. © National Association for Music Education (

April 2024 Teaching Music

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September 20, 2019


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September 20, 2019. © National Association for Music Education (

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