Music ed needs to include recording

I went to see some old students of mine this weekend playing in their band. The band (called Joint Compound - gotta love it) was really good.
Written by Christopher Dawson, Contributor on

I went to see some old students of mine this weekend playing in their band. The band (called Joint Compound - gotta love it) was really good. I've seen them a few times and they just keep getting better. These kids, who didn't exactly graduate cum laude from high school (but did just fine) have a remarkable amount of talent onstage and manage to fuse blues, reggae, and rock in ways that you wouldn't expect the average post-teenager to be able to muster.

However, despite years of band in high school, the group can't get a demo together. Despite relatively simple tools available to average consumers, and despite a fair amount of effort, they simply can't record anything decent that even remotely reflects their level of talent. Their live sound is coming together quite well, but without a recording, they're stuck.

So here's where the music teacher and the technological powers that be get together for coffee in the teachers' lounge and figure out the best way to teach music students how to digitally record their music. We now live in the land of MP3. Recordings don't need to be state of the art and don't require large investments in expensive equipment. They do require some investments, though. This won't be free, but a few thousand dollars thrown at Apple and Musician's Friend could do wonders for even a small or medium-sized band program.

Of course, this also speaks to technology education in general at the secondary level. Teaching specific applications (whether that means Microsoft Word or GarageBand) has fairly limited utility. We can't predict every application that our students might encounter and we certainly can't buy and teach every application. We can, however, teach broad computing concepts with appropriate examples of real world applications. Thus, when talented musical students leave our schools and find themselves facing an electronic recording console or Apple Logic Pro, they should have the confidence and generalizable skills to dig in and make themselves a demo.

The same approach applies for our engineers-to-be who should be able to sit down in front of a CAD workstation in college and be comfortable, even if they've never seen the particular software or math students who shouldn't feel overwhelmed by the code the first time a professor asks them to complete an exercise in Matlab. They're confident enough to download entire musical libraries; they should certainly walk out of school comfortable enough to record a song.

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