Music In Our Schools Month®
Everyone Can Create Offers All Students Opportunities to Be Creative
By NAfME Member Jason Fahrenbach,
Music Technology/Chorus Teacher/Apple Teacher
Walt Disney Magnet School, Chicago, IL
This month is Music In Our Schools Month®. It’s a perfect opportunity for me as a music technology and chorus teacher to reflect on how I want my lessons to help students tap into their unique creative expression in my classroom and beyond.
As I sat down to plan another year of teaching this past fall, I wondered if there was a way to change my laborious process of creating new lessons to meet the demands of the 21st-century arts classroom. Arts teachers are often tasked with leading the “creative” part of our school’s curriculum. The ideal music program, for example, allows students to use multiple domains of music (such as theory, ensembles, and composition) as the primary way to explore their own creative expression. However, as observation models continue to focus more heavily on student-centered instruction, arts teachers have had to find a new way to not only justify their content, but also push the limits on what creative expression means in the arts classroom.
Initially I found little success in my search for new ways to teach creatively. Making beats for rap battles and using outdate software to create songs had become antiquated in my classroom, and these activities were not rich enough to validate my traditional content. Fortunately, in the form of an email from my school’s technology coordinator, I discovered Apple’s Everyone Can Create project guides.
The Everyone Can Create project guides are separated into four content areas—Video, Photo, Drawing, and most important to me, Music. The Music guide, written primarily for use with the app GarageBand, is scaffolded to allow all students to have fun and be successful with learning music, even those students who have very little experience. With lessons on Live Loops, beat making, chord progressions, lyric writing, and voice recording, the guide covers the whole gamut of skills that students need for using technology to make music.
“Using knowledge to create is one of the most powerful tools we can teach our students and is a powerful form of advocacy for our content.”
Using “CAN’T STOP THE FEELING!” by Justin Timberlake as the backdrop for the Music guide, students delve into the world of music composition in deeply meaningful ways. Students learn about the function of chord progressions and their application to song structure. The simplicity with which chord progressions are explained allows students to directly apply their knowledge by recording their own piano part using the song’s chord progression. Culminating with a lesson on creating an original song, students use their skills in a creative way that goes beyond simply studying music theory. Chord analysis is enriched by students playing chords on the wide variety of MIDI instruments available in GarageBand. Creating a beat is more than “clicking on boxes” as students use their beats to create their own track for “CAN’T STOP THE FEELING!” Furthermore, lyrical form is not limited to just analyzing lyrics of popular songs. In the Everyone Can Create curriculum students use their understanding of lyrics to create their own for a song they have made in GarageBand. Using knowledge to create is one of the most powerful tools we can teach our students and is a powerful form of advocacy for our content.
One thing I love about the Everyone Can Create materials is they can be applied to various lessons across the curriculum. For example, by using the Photo and Music guides together, my students have begun to score their own music in videos they create about their community. As we continue to push students to acquire the 21st-century skills of creative thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication, along with increasing the demands on teachers in the ever-changing world of education, it is imperative that we find ways to show how the arts are at the crux of what it means to be creative.
About the author:
Jason Fahrenbach is a NAfME member and Music Technology/Chorus Teacher, and Apple Teacher at Walt Disney Magnet School in Chicago, Illinois.
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.