Music Production in the Classroom
Please welcome digital media teacher Matt Koons to EdSpace. We met at a KQED Education event last fall, and I wanted to hear more about his students’ music production projects, which reminded me of our inspiring KQED Spark videos about young music-makers such as the students from they Bay Area Unity Music Project, and singer/songwriter Lauren Shera.
Matt Koons:Here at Sonoma Academy in Santa Rosa, students have a break between the first half and second half of the school year called “Intersession.” During Intersession students sign up for classes that run from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm everyday for almost 2 weeks. My class was called “Music Production” at the Dream Box Studio. I wanted to give students the chance to create and learn how to record their own music. The equipment was donated by Leo Laporte (a.k.a. The Tech Guy) and I turned a library space into a recording studio with a few office panels to use as isolation booths. The school bought a large conference table at Habitat for Humanity’s “ReStore” to hold some equipment.”
I anticipated having maybe 12 students and I got 23, with more wanting to sign up. There are so many students that can play an instrument and/or sing nowadays that I underestimated the turnout. Our school is small so we don’t have marching bands or school bands for the students to play in. The music production class had students create their own group or band, or they could work alone. Most of what we ended up recording was original work, others used backtracks, and some played covers of familiar songs.
The format for the day was for everyone to meet at 9:00 in a classroom and organize the day. I was lucky to have the help of Florence (French Teacher) & Colin (Humanities); together we would make waffles, pancakes, crepes, and hot chocolate almost every morning to get the students ready to go. The students would decide on a time slot that they would come to the studio and record. On the board I had a chart with 45 minute slots and the students would work it out for themselves, as long as I got everyone to record every day. We had rooms open for them to practice, sort out ideas, write songs, and so on. The theater was open for the larger, louder groups, and they could sit outside if they were quiet. The other condition for the class was that the students had to produce at least one song, and be musicians for others. I wanted them to act like studio musicians and help out other bands or individuals when they needed it. A list was posted with students and the instruments they played. This way they would circulate & mix it up a little bit. If they didn’t mix it up, then I would assign the students into groups of 3 that I made up, and have them produce a 15-30 second jingle about the Dream Box Studio.
This class was so much fun, it amazed me. We ended up with 15 songs, and a bunch of jingles. The students said it was more exciting than they had expected. They were surprised at how fast the time went by, they met new friends, they were comfortable in the studio and were eager to get back and record some more. They learned how to record themselves, edit, and got a sense of the whole process of producing a song. Now that the Intersession is over, I have students coming in whenever they have a free moment just to play or tinker with a song. They bring their friends and help others discover the studio too. I hope to do this again next year, it was the best class in the world.
Thanks, Matt, for taking the time to share this story and your students’ music! We’re big fans. Teachers, have you taught music production at your school? Leave a comment or link to your students’ music below.
Photos by Matt Koons