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.


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.


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.