Michigan Music Conference: Day One

Today was my first time ever attending the technology pre-conference at the Michigan Music Conference. Not coincidentally, today was also the most informative and enjoyable day I’ve had at the Conference in three years.

The first session of the day was the keynote address, presented by Dr. Jim Frankel. Dr. Frankel spoke about different ways to integrate technology into the music classroom, be it through blogging, GarageBand, or cloud computing. I’ll post the list of resources from this presentation at the end of the conference.

Dr. Frankel showed us several examples of how to use blogs and wikis within the music classroom. It seems like such a small thing, but Dr. Frankel shared anecdotal evidence supporting his ideas. Students want to create content in the same medium that they consume, and thus tend to respond more favorably to things like blogging, Twitter and wikis.

In my notes from the first session, I have written, “Tech can enhance the music program by reinforcing what you’re already doing, or expanding creative opportunities for students.” This is a fantastic way to segue into session number two, presented by Mr. Kevin Saunderson.

Mr. Saunderson is a huge figure in the world of music, yet he was not a traditional music student. In fact, Mr. Saunderson had no formal training in music at all.  While some would consider this a serious limitation to somebody pursuing a music career, Mr. Saunderson considered it a gift to not be bound by the traditional rules when he was going through the creative process. With no formal music training, Mr. Saunderson was able to take the sounds and rhythms inside his head and become one of the Belleville Three, the pioneers of techno music.

It makes you wonder…how many Kevin Saundersons are walking through our hallways every day, ignored by the traditional music curriculum? Music wasn’t any less important to him than it is to you or I, he merely enjoyed expressing himself in a non-traditional musical manner. If we can make room for this in our programs, there’s no telling how many students we can reach, what deep wells of creativity we can tap into.

Mr. Saunderson’s session was a real inspiration, and should serve as a wake-up call to music educators everywhere. He accomplished great things musically because he merely had the freedom to experiment. No music teacher ever restricted his creativity, and as a result, his experimentation with melody, rhythm and technology have resulted in high numbers of album sales worldwide and a massive audience for his music.

More to come tomorrow, and a comprehensive list of resources will be posted at the end of the conference.

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