The Next Generation of Music Education

The Next Generation of Music Education in Chaska, Minnesota

By NAfME member Eric Songer


The Next Generation of Music Education is an incredible revolutionary project that involves transforming music education from how it has been taught the past 100 years and making it relevant, rigorous and interesting for students.

My project is to take existing music elective courses and overhaul them into courses where students perform in popular music settings such as hip hop and electronica, compose music, learn music theory and produce and record music. Through these courses, students will learn long-held music standards such as performance, listening and evaluation skills and music history.

However, the objective is that students will add to this list, some of the standards that tend not to be addressed much in the traditional music classroom such as composition, improvisation, and music’s relationship to culture.

We will also expand the current national music standards by giving students an opportunity to perform on non-traditional instruments such as turntables and guitars; record, produce and engineer music in a real-life recording studio, compose and write music with the use of the notation software Finale and the recording software Logic and ProTools.

Students who opt to take the traditional band, choir and orchestra offerings will have access to iPads and iMacs which will give them the opportunity to also learn music at a more relevant and advanced manner. Students also create music videos, blog, design websites and create their own musical problems to solve.

Here are some examples of this program:

  • Co-curricular programs including
  • School of Rock (intro to rock music)
  • Garage Band (performing rock band)
  • Beginning Guitar, Country Bluegrass Band
  • Latin Mariachi Band
  • Hip Hop Electronica
  • “The Rhythm Section (jazz/rock combo)
  • Music Technology
  • Movie Band
  • Percussion Ensemble
  • Rock Chorus
  • Jazz Ensemble
  • Marching Band
  • Honor Band
Hip Hop Electronica
Students learning Serato in Hip Hop Electronica course


Events that many of the groups above perform at including:

  • Talent Show (where every student is on a committee that organizes the show)
  • Rock-It! (interdisciplinary show that involves rock & country bands, dance, art)
  • Solo Ensemble Festival
  • Chaska Rocks Toys For Tots (rock bands perform in fundraising event)
  • Morning Star (students perform every Friday morning for breakfast)
  • Evening with the Stars (four stages in school includes bands, jazz, choir, orchestra)
  • Big Band Extravaganza
  • District Jazz Festival
  • River City Days (rock, country, movie, jazz, marching bands perform outside)
  • Elementary School Tours
  • Mall Performance (chamber groups perform at Holiday time)
  • All District Band Festival
  • Collegiate Jazz Festivals
  • State Band Festival
  • March at Valleyfair Amusement Park
  • Veterans Day Celebration
  • Homecoming Parades
  • July 4 Parade
  • Memorial Day Parade
  • “Second Floor Party” (student DJs host a dance for band students)
  • Spaghetti Dinner (chamber groups perform)
rock band
The Garage Band performs the Rock-It! Performance


There are plenty of pull-out lesson groups that meet during school too:

  • Funky Horn Ensemble
  • Popular Music Production
  • Composition Projects
  • Recording Projects
  • Bonus Lessons (tech crew, jazz/rock piano, bass guitar, drum set, 4-mallets)
  • Listening
  • Progressive Music Ensemble
  • Guest Artist Master Classes
bass guitar
Bonus lessons include getting students started on bass guitar


In addition to Band, Choir and Orchestra, we also have these elective courses:

  • Wide World Of Music (focusing on the different types of music around the globe)
  • The Beat Goes On (a popular music history class focusing on the past 100 years)
  • Music & The Image (a music and video production course)
In the Music & The Image class, students create their own songs, videos, jingles and movies


Within our traditional Concert Band, we include

  • Original band literature that I write and arrange
  • Themed concerts (this year we did “Back To The Future” and “Jimmy Fallon”)
  • Spring X Games (where sections compete to see who has best posture, technique)
  • Music Videos (every rehearsal we end with a YouTube video pertinent to music)
themed concerts
We have themed band concerts. This past year we did “Back to the Future”


The technology implemented includes:

  • YouTube lessons (all pull out band lessons are also available on YouTube)
  • MusicFirst (Chromebook app that includes sight-reading, composing and recording)
  • Google Classroom, Remind, Twitter (communication tools)
  • SmartMusic (practice software tool)
  • Kahoot (online “game show” style quiz app)
  • ProTools, Garage Band, Logic, Studio One (recording software)
  • Finale (composition software)
  • iMovie, Final Cut (video editing software)
  • iPads, iMacs and MacBooks
SmartMusic is a wonderful practice tool for students


About the author

Eric Songer headshot
Image via Songer Studio

For more information, visit my website You can follow me on Twitter and the follow the Chaska Middle School West Band Department on Twitter. Find me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Youtube here and here. Visit the Chaska Middle School West website.


Eric Songer will be presenting on his topic “The Next Generation of Music Education: Non-Traditional Ensembles” at the 2016 NAfME National In-Service Conference this November in Grapevine, TX! Register today!

music education

Join us for more than 100 innovative professional development sessions, nightly entertainment, extraordinary performances from across the country, and tons of networking opportunities with over 3,000+ other music educators! Learn more and register today: And follow the hashtag #NAfME2016!

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