This year I had the pleasure of attending TMEA. There were many classes that I was looking forward to. The convention had such a high concentration of teachers that are on the forefront of music education. Each class I went to was packed with information. My mind was firing with ideas and deeper understanding. In this article I distilled the most inspirational ideas I picked up from TMEA this year.
1. EMBRACING THE TRENDS OF TODAY
I went to a wide variety of presentations at TMEA. I found a common thread that inspires me. Many teachers discussed and showed how they made their classes more engaging to their students by using technology the kids are used to.
A great example of this was the Keynote speaker for TI:ME, Robert W. Smith. Robert talked about engaging their students and parents by writing and performing symphonic music to old black and white films. He viewed it as a new way of doing their school concerts. Movies are a medium that kids can relate to and really engages them.
Anne Fennell of Mission Vista HS took this a step further during her presentation. Anne discussed how she has her students share their music through soundcloud and connect with professional musicians via Twitter. This helped her build a community of students and musicians. Eventually working with professional musicians, having them Skype in, and even connecting kids with pop bands that bought their compositions.
The youth today live in a very different world than we do. The technology they interact with is just as much a part of their daily life as eating. As teachers, we can use that familiarity to our advantage to make our classes more engaging for our students.
2. THERE IS NO WRONG WAY, BUT THERE IS STYLE
One of the first things I noticed at the TI:ME pre-conference is that every presentation had a very different way of looking at music technology and music education. Even simple lesson ideas, like creating beats were presented in very different ways.
A perfect example of this was a presentation that Will Kuhn and Barbara Freedman taught called Teaching Music with Technology: Two Approaches. The class was very entertaining because it felt like a boxing match. Barbara would show how she teaches beats with notation. Then Will would show how he teaches it by using the grid on Ableton Push and the repeated note mode. They are extremely different approaches.
I also saw a very different approach in Anne Fennell’s presentation. Anne talked a lot about letting students learn through questioning and exploring the concepts on their own. It is a more hands off and emergent approach. All three of these teachers approached it differently with a unique style of their own.
The big takeaway I had was that all three teachers have extremely successful classes with students moving on to music education and careers in music.
3. PROJECT BASED LEARNING AND CREATIVITY
At some point during the class I felt respect towards the presenter and could see their genuine care for their students. It always made me wish I had them as a high school teacher when I was in school. This feeling almost always coincided with the presenter sharing projects their students were working on. Anne Fennell’s students were making amazingly rich and complex compositions. Another teacher, Adam Kruse, did a presentation on making Hip Hop tracks with his students. I was shocked at how groovy and good there music was. I also got inspired when Katie Wardrobe demonstrated how students could make their own film scores.
All of these projects allowed students to feel creative. They also got the joy of having something unique and completed to share with friends and family. I love this approach. There is still value in learning to read and decode written music in a more traditional band setting, but it is just as important to inspire these students to develop their own voice and creativity.
4. MUSIC DOES NOT HAVE TO STAND ALONE
The first session I was able to attend was with Gregg Cannady. In his presentation he demonstrated how he used his music class as a resource for other departments in his school. One powerful example was how the English teacher was having trouble getting their students engaged with poetry. Gregg’s class worked with that teacher in creating backing tracks and recording student readings. Not only did this get the students to talk with each other, but it also greatly helped the English Department. Gregg showed many examples like this. Doing this greatly strengthened his department’s position.
I found this to be really inspirational and look at a lot of new ways of integrating what music students are doing with other aspects of their education. Here are a few ideas that came to mind:
- Working with the science department to demonstrate the physics of sound
- Doing an activity with the math department to demonstrate the math behind octaves and notes.
- Creating custom sound design for the theater group
- Making student music to play before an assembly.
THANK YOU TMEA and TI:ME
I am really grateful that Classtrack.org was able to attend TMEA this year and present at the TI:ME pre-conference. It was an honor to be with such brilliant minds from all over the united states. After this I am inspired to go to TMEA every year.