Let’s Celebrate MIOSM 2017 By Collaborating

Each of the past three school years, my students have celebrated Music In Our Schools Month (MIOSM) with an evening of chamber music. Starting after our December concert, the students pick their chamber groups and music, and they begin rehearsing together. This collaborative experience has been very empowering for the students.

This year, I’d like to expand that collaboration beyond my classroom walls. What if several ensembles around the country performed the same piece of music during MIOSM? What if these schools recorded their performances and shared them with the other performers from around the country? How cool would it be for students in Michigan to hear how students in California interpret and perform the same piece of music? What if we were to create new music for these students to perform during MIOSM?

The seeds for this idea were sown back in my college days. Trombonist Brad Edwards composed a series of fanfares for International Trombone Week, and made them freely available to any interested musicians. My plan is to compose a fanfare for concert band, and make it freely available to any groups who would like to perform it as part of an MIOSM performance.

I invite any interested composers/educators to join this fanfare collaboration by contacting me here. Ideally, I envision several short new pieces being created each year that encompass a wide range of styles and ability levels. Any groups that perform these pieces and have access to recording equipment would send in a recording of their performance, which we would then post online to share with every other group that performed the same piece.

I hope some of you will find the potential of this project as exciting as I do. The potential for interaction between performers and composer is great, and I love the thought that my students could start some deep musical discussions with students from all over the country. Again, if you’re interested in participating in this project as a composer or a performing ensemble, drop me a quick note here.

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Talk is Cheap

In a previous blog entry, I spoke about the need to update the music education curriculum by expanding our traditional offerings. The best music educators are the ones that aren’t afraid to take some risks and offer single lessons or entire classes that are relevant to the modern world. These lessons might include the use of technology to accomplish a musical end, or the study of a modern genre of music.

Talk is cheap though, we need action. Here are some useful tools and resources for the modern music educator.

iNudge

This is a site that allows anybody to create music using non-traditional notation. Once finished with their creation, users can share their music on Twitter or via email. It’s terrifically addicting, and allows students to experiment with both the rhythmic and tonal elements of music.

Eric Whitacre’s virtual choir project

Eric Whitacre is one of the most exciting composers in the business today, and has pioneered the concept of a virtual choir. He solicits YouTube videos of musicians all across the world singing his music, and then splices them all together into one video to create a full ensemble recording of the piece. He and his fans have already performed Sleep, and are currently working on Lux Arumque. It’s a great way to bring musicians who live hours apart from each other together on the same performance without the hassle of driving, securing a rehearsal space, etc.

YouTube Symphony Orchestra

This project is similar to the Virtual Choir, with a few key differences. Participants were asked to audition by submitting a video of themselves performing an excerpt of a piece commissioned for this event directly to YouTube. The audition tapes were judged by a panel of musicians, and then the finalists were voted upon by the YouTube community. Musicians from all cultures were invited to participate, making it a truly global collaboration.

The submissions of the individual musicians involved in this project were mashed up and posted on YouTube—exactly what’s done in the Virtual Choir project. Along with the video mash-up, members of the symphony traveled to Carnegie Hall to perform a live concert in April 2009, under the baton of Michael Tilson Thomas.

Vermont MIDI Project

By far my favorite integration of technology in the music classroom. Composition students at public schools across the country write music, and then send their pieces electronically to “mentors”, who are established composers and musicians across the country. This project allows students to be very actively involved in the creative process of music, from ideation to composition to performance.

Collaboration

All of the resources that I’ve listed—and these are just a select few of my favorite—allow for collaboration, an important part of any curriculum. No teacher exists inside of an isolated bubble, but the nature of music demands some sort of collaboration, be it between teacher and student, composer and musician, or conductor and ensemble. Technology like Twitter and YouTube makes it easier than ever before to collaborate with musicians and educators from across the world. We should be taking advantage of that.