#whatifmusiced – Thoughts On Creativity

I am teaching an intensive 1 week Music Technology course at Oakland University, Rochester MI titled Teaching For Musical Understanding with Technology. Our first reading was chapter 2 from Scott Watson’s book Using Technology to Unlock Musical Creativity.



“In order to be creative, you need to be able to view things in new ways or from different perspectives.” (pg. 15) Being creative or innovative is not always creating a brand new idea, sometimes it is reinventing common things MacGyver was a genius! He could create anything with a rubberband, bobby pin, and a piece of chewing gum. Who would a Musical MacGyver be?

How do we design experiences for musicians to create, reinvent, and innovate in our programs? As I read the teachers reflections to this reading, there are recurring themes emerging.

  • There is a tradition of excellence at district and state festival
  • My administrator is basing my teacher evaluation on how well the ensemble performs at contest
  • I was never taught this way
  • I don’t know how

These are going to become the springboards from which the rest of the week’s discussions and projects will launch. This begins with laying groundwork for teachers, administrators, and parents to see other ways, different ways, of being a musician. As one instrumental music teacher in the class wrote, “we must be careful not to throw out the baby with the bathwater”, the changes need to be small and deliberate. Beginning with relevant and timely music that will engage the learner/musician to become more autonomous when approaching musicianship. Autonomy in learning emerges when musicians are asked to solve musical problems through a project based approach.

“Advantages for me as a teacher of creating musical activities include finding the time spent with students to be more enjoyable, perhaps because my role moves naturally to that of a coach and facilitator. I also enjoy the opportunities for personal artistic expression when modeling musical creativity.” (pg. 19)

 The experiences that you design for musicians to be creative, artistic, expressive will have a longer lasting effect than the piece of music they are reading and performing. The musicians that visit your classroom may not remember the specific piece they played, the concept, or rhythmic passage you were rehearsing, but they will remember how you made them feel as a creating musician.

My frame for tomorrow’s discussion will be a question I will ask. How do we as music educators create relevant experiences for learner/musicians?

“…technology tools have become indispensable to music makers outside the world of education”. (pg. 20)

This is a cry for help. Technology tools that are absolutely necessary to “real world” music makers are often ignored by contemporary music educators. Where does this leave the musicians in our classrooms?

I would like to ask “What if…” What is music education was different?

What are your “What ifs”?



Reflecting to Look Forward

Screen Shot 2014-05-20 at 6.23.45 PMI have always been a project based learner and design classroom experiences for learners in my classroom to do the same. They have voice and choice of as to how they show their understanding of concepts and processes. The divergence in their pieces are exciting to see and hear. The cycle went something like this: learner/musicians experiences a concept through an anchor or mentor piece of music, conceptualize a way to create a piece to show their understanding, rehearse, perform, and begin framing the next project. It has been awesome, but there was something missing. The more I read about learning and thought about the way I learn,  themes started to emerge. A few that resonated with me were the lack of reflection and revision. In my classroom, we were missing self reflection and time to revise existing music. It was my fault. I was so focused on “covering material” or “getting everything in” that I was missing a big piece of the learners experience. The ways we deepen our understanding is by trying, making mistakes, trying again, and revising. With my new realization, I have worked toward developing a way for musicians to reflect upon their performances during their revision process. I am still working through the details.

Performance “Check-Ins”


In my classroom, we focus on the process of creating and performing music. Throughout a learner/musician’s experience, they (or their group) will do a “check-in” performance for the class. This performance in not their final presentation, rather a glimpse into their composition process. This also provides more of a formal run-through of their musical ideas they have been experimenting with and a time for them to hear what their piece sounds like without all of the sounds from other musicians bleeding in. Read more about Musician’s Workshop here. As musicians are sharing their “check-in” performances, I capture video in the Three Ring mobile app to reflect upon later.

Capturing Video with Three Ring

threering logo

Three Ring  is a hybrid website and app which allows us to build our digital portfolios throughout the year. Three Ring has been an invaluable resource for me as an educator to capture thinking and process, for students to reflect upon their musical process while developing their digital portfolios, and for parents to have a window into my classroom and their children’s musical experiences. I have shared many artifacts and performances with parents which has provided a window into my classroom that has not been open before. As the musicians perform for peers in class, these performances are captured by my mobile device and tagged with their classroom teachers name, musician’s names, and any learning goals. See the “check-in” video below here.

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When learner/musicians present projects such as completed “incomplete” listening maps, their green screen performances are captured for their music portfolios, for reflection, and are then shared with parents. See one here

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After the entire class has performed for one another, given and received verbal feedback, we take the next class period to reflect upon our progress, create personal goals, and plan the revision process.

Reflecting with Socrative

 The tool we use in class is Socrative. Socrative is a student response system that empowers teachers to engage learners in reflective practices via smartphones, laptops, and tablets. This hybrid app can be used to create quizzes and multiple choice question, however, I choose to use it differently. I only create short answer questions that frame the reflection of their performances. After a musician has watched their “check-in” video on Three Ring, they navigate their (or my) mobile device to b.socrative.com and enter my room number.

Screen Shot 2014-05-28 at 3.31.46 PMThey are then prompted to answer the following question:

  1. What are your learning goals for [insert concept here]?
  2. How are you showing your understanding of [the above concept]?
  3. Did your check-in performance meet your expectations? Please explain.
  4. As a musician, what was your biggest accomplishment during the performance? What makes you think that?
  5. As a musician, what was your biggest struggle during the performance? What makes you think that?
  6. What is (are) your personal goal(s) for the next time your group comes together to revise your piece?

The musicians take a bit of time reflecting and typing in their answers.



As the class finishes their reflections, I download the .xls spreadsheet of all the musician’s answers and goals. I use this to inform my mini-lessons and to support the learner/musicians individual needs based on their answers to the above questions.

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When musicians return to their composition groups for revision, they each come with a personal goal which refocuses them individually while revising within their group. This also allows me to meet with individual musicians or pull focus groups to support them toward their personal goals. We have made reflection a part of the regular musical experience.

It has taken me years to realize that reflection is as important in learning as the experience itself. As John Dewey reminded us nearly a century ago, “We do not learn from experience . . . we learn from reflecting on experience.” Why has it taken me this long to figure it out?

Musician’s Workshop – Student Conferences

I received an email from a friend after my first Musician’s Workshop post. He sent me a quote that framed his thinking, and now mine, for how teacher feedback plays a role in the workshop model.

Lucy Calkins (1994) shares “[o]ur decisions must be guided by “what might help this writer” rather than “what might help this writing.” If the piece of writing gets better but the writer has learned nothing that will help him or her another day on another piece, then the conference was a waste of everyones time. It may even have done more harm than good, for such conferences teach students not to trust their own reactions” (p. 228)


Conferences in Musician’s Workshop have many similarities to other workshop models. When I am conferencing with a learner/musician, or a small group of musicians creating together, this is the process:

  1. Ask the learner/musician or group of musicians to perform what they have so far. (Assessing the learner/musician’s performance as they play or sing)
  2. Ask the the learner(s) what their contribution is as a musician to the piece.
  3. Ask the learner/musicians where they feel they need support.
  4. Specifically scaffold one musical dimension (element) at a time, either something the learner/musician contributed, or what you had heard during the initial performance.
  5. Scaffold their playing if needed.
  6. Ask them to describe the ways in which they will use the strategy they just practiced.

The conferences usually take anywhere from 8-10 min depending on how much support is needed or the size of the group. You may only get to 2 or 3 groups in one class period (I see each class for 30 min.) and that is okay. The other learner/musicians need that time to practice independently.

Ask the learner/musician or group of musicians to perform what they have so far. (Assessing the musician’s performance as they play or sing)

As you listen to the piece being performed, try to identify where the learner/musicians are in their process. At what stage are they in composing their piece? For example, if the they are creating a binary piece, are they creating the A, or B, or transitioning between both?

To identify the area of struggle, you may also ask an open ended question. For example, you may ask “How will the listener know when the music has moved to the next section?” The learner/musicians will explain their thinking and may uncover a misconception. If they answer something way off, you may ask a follow up question such as “What makes you say that?” This clarifying question will help guide you in helping the learner/musician move closer toward understanding. Their performance coupled with the learner/musician’s answers and explinations will help you assess the depth of their understanding.

Specifically scaffold one musical dimension (element) at a time, either something the learner/musician contributed, or something you had heard during the initial performance.

To continue with the binary example, If the learner/musician is having difficulty maintaining a steady beat and also composing contrasting sections, choose one and focus on that. I would start with the steady beat first to solidify the groups simultaneity and come back for the contrasting section. Keeping a steady beat and the group together is more important than composing a contrasting section.

Ask them to describe the ways in which they will use the strategy they just practiced.

This is their time to synthesize their plan. Understanding how to implement a new strategy into their process is an important step. I will confer with them about the strategy and through our dialogue, create a plan. The learner/musician makes a plan and begins to put they plan into action. These are intrinsic goals that the learner/musician decides on to make them a better musician, which in turn supports their contribution to the music.

I ask the learner/musicians to reflect upon their experience using tablets and student response systems. This allows me to gather their thinking in one place. The next time they visit my classroom, I have their individual goals on my iPad to better support our conferences.

There have been many teachers and administrators writing about the need to establish relationships before learning may occur. Musician’s Workshop enables relationships to form through individual conferences, open ended questions, valuing the learner/musician’s prior experiences, and focusing on the process. This is a growth mindset model that is differentiated for each musician.

Are you facilitating a Musician’s Workshop in your classroom, yet?

Calkins, L. (1994). The art of teaching writing. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Voice and Choice in Music Education

Image from www.freegreatpictures.com

Image from www.freegreatpictures.com

Technology integration is most effective when it provides a transparent scaffold within a musical learning experience. The technology provides a differentiated experience from learner to learner, where music learners can have their voice and choice in deciding which technology best suits their needs and how they choose to use technology to support their musicianship. However, it is important not to concentrate too much on the technology itself. The music must remain the focus of the learners’ experience, with the technology becoming a vehicle for learners’ musicianship. Technology simply provides musicians multiple pathways to express, problem solve and show understanding of learning goals, thus fostering divergent thinking.

I have experienced a shift in the culture of my classroom. I find that learner/musicians engage deeply in experiences that connect to the music that is the soundtrack of their lives. It is relevant, current, and forward-thinking; they see themselves as innovators and creators of new music. It is a new mindset, and technology is at the forefront of this seismic shift.

Digital musicians must find a distinctive musical “voice.” They may build on what has gone before, so they may sidestep existing work. Either way, they become a new kind of musician: one who originates and performs, who creates and produces, and who harnesses the potential of technology in new and exciting ways. (Hugill, 2012)

When music learners are given these choices, they begin to take more ownership of their learning and construct their own understanding within an inquiry-based learning environment. Creating opportunities for musicians to show their understanding of musical concepts in their own way nurtures an environment where they feel valued and honored. This model also fosters divergence in the ways different musicians interpret and create music. While some may choose technology, some may prefer creating music with acoustic instruments, and still others may opt for a cappella. The important idea is that all are acceptable. We, as educators, just need to ensure that all are available. Making music on acoustic instruments has been accepted as a way of being a musician for a long time; it is making music through technology that we must now also consider valid.

While it is tempting to just dabble with technology in the musical classroom, it cannot be simply an extra “add-on.” Learning to use technology as a musician should be one of the core processes in the classroom. Technology should be ubiquitous, transparent, and ever-changing; it must constantly evolve along with learning. Educators should not simply plan “Technology Tuesdays” or tell students, “When you are finished with your work, you may play a game on the iPad.” Because learners are not inherently born with an understanding of how to use technology, they need to engage in experiences that foster their understanding of its appropriate uses. If the only way learners use technology in a classroom is to play games after they are finished with a lesson, they will come away believing that is all music technology can be. Instead, technology must support music learners’ engagement in new musical experiences in new ways.

Connected Teachers Make Connected Students

Many people are writing about the power of Twitter and the how it has changed the way they learn. I agree. Twitter has not only changed the way I learn, but also the way I think. Having the constraints of 140 characters, forces me align my thoughts and boil my words to the essence of what I am trying to say. There are times that I struggle with choosing the less criminal grammatical error to commit to stay within the Twitter constraints. It has been well worth the struggle.

I have written about my experience in Nashville, Tennessee with Discovery Education, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and singer/songwriters. Through my connecting with educators through #chats, this has opened a new world of experiences for the musicians in my classrooms. I was tweeting about a Makerspace I am starting at the Middle School where I teach, through which I was connected to Jenna Shaw (@teachbaltshaw) a Middle school language arts teacher @BaltCitySchools. 2012 EdTech Fellow @DHFBaltimore. Lover of beautiful, creative, and innovative ideas. We connected in Google Hangouts to talk about innovative learning environments and how a maker mindset permeates all content areas. This great conversation shifted to learner’s experiences and how we can foster collaborative environment in our classrooms. She is a language arts teacher and I am a music teacher. In Nashville, I learned about a project called “Words & Music” where writers send their words to Nashville musicians who then set those words to music. When the Nashville musician is ready to present the music, they Skype into the classroom and perform the song for the writers.

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Jenna Shaw (@Teachbaltshaw)

I presented the ideas of our students working together similarly to the Words to Music Project. Jenna’s creative writers will compose lyrics to a song (or poem) and the musicians in my classroom will set their words to music. I thought we could take the connectedness one step further and use Google Hangouts through the composition process so the lyricists could be a part of the music taking shape. They could share musical ideas between schools and possibly have distance performing groups. The writers in Maryland could be singers on tracks in Michigan.

We will have to figure out the logistics of the Hangouts. I am thinking about connecting to Jenna’s class at the beginning of the class period and rotating each group, allowing 10 min. to discuss their song and lyrics, while other groups are creating music.

We still have to navigate our way through the flow, but learning is messy and that is okay. It is important to model that adults have the same processes and engage in the same kind of learning as the students. The focus for me is that we create these opportunities for the learners in our classrooms. Being a connected educator provides opportunities for the musicians in my classroom to be connected to other learners as well. Without Twitter and Google Hangouts, this project would not have come together. Are you providing these kind of collaborative opportunities for learners in your classrooms? Please share your stories and projects in the comments.

Making Thinking Audible

Making Thinking Audible

Making Thinking Audible

I have had the honor of hosting Harvard University’s Dr. Ron Ritchhart, principal investigator for the Cultures of Thinking Project and senior research associate for Project Zero in my classroom twice this year. I met Dr, Ritchhart in Clarkston, MI when I was attending the Cultures of Thinking teacher leadership cohort in 2012. Cultures of Thinking (CoT) are places where a group’s collective as well as individual thinking is valued, visible, and actively promoted as part of the regular, day-to-day experience of all group members. Learn more here.

CoT is supported by Making Thinking Visible (MTV), a book written by Dr, Ritchhart. Visible Thinking is a research based approach to teaching learners to become metacognitive. The book offers thinking routines which provide a framework for learners gathering thinking in different ways. These thinking routines are designed to bring the focus to the process of looking closely, thinking deeply, digging deeper, wondering about possibilities, and perspective taking. The thinking routines are not lesson plans, rather they focus on approaches to experiencing the world. I use thinking routines in the music room. It has changed our culture in the way musicians talk about their own thinking, other peoples’ thinking and the way musicians organize sound and silence. This year we are using the Headlines routine when sharing our thinking on our class Twitter account. I have witnessed the changes in learners’ thinking dispositions since supporting our thinking with thinking routines. I have written my own thinking routines that better meet the needs of the musicians who visit my classroom. “What’s Muddled” is a thinking routine I co-created with my previous principal and think partner Kristy Spann (@KristySpann). This routine was written with the revision process in mind. I used Nearpod to gather the musicians thinking. This routine helps focus the musicians’ reflection on their performance and musical decision making on what specifically didn’t come through as clearly as expected. These decisions inform their time revising process before their second iteration of the performance for the class.

Reflecting after performance

Reflecting after performance

The more I continue to think about the authentic processes of being a musician and the shift in culture after beginning Making Thinking Visible, my thinking has changed. This looks (sounds) different in a music room. I consider the musical experience “Making Thinking Audible“. The way that musicians bring the focus to the process of looking closely, thinking deeply, digging deeper and wondering about possibilities is with sound, silence and the way we organize them. I teach Music Workshop. Musicians are listening, performing, creating and reflecting with sound. It gets loud and chaotic at points. That’s okay. There is a structure to the chaos. Learning is messy. In my classroom, learning is loud. There is no other way for musicians to experiment, think, compose, revise, collaborate, and perform without working with sound, loudly.. This can be done digitally with digital instruments, iDevices, JamHubs and headphones, which will quite the room down, but the audible thinking is still there in the headphones.

Create a digital/acoustic hybrid environment

Create a digital/acoustic hybrid environment

When musicians are Making Thinking Audible, they are drawing from their prior experiences while constructing new understandings in-the-moment, reacting to the sounds and making decisions simultaneously. Similarly to CoT and MTV, the thinking needs to be collected, documented and reflected upon. It is generative. Our thinking cannot be written down on a sticky note and posted on an anchor chart. I am not referring to music notation, I am recommending capturing audio and/or video recordings of performances and compositions and reflections. This can be done transparently with an app called Three Ring.

Three Ring

Three Ring

Making Thinking Audible is a way to focus on the authentic processes of being a musician while supporting the way learners think in music. There is a difference thinking about music and thinking in music. When you think in music, you are iterating with sound. This requires marshaling the cultural forces in a way that supports this culture.

  • Provide time for musicians to play (experiment with melody, timbre, orchestration, etc.) This is where I think about depth verse breadth. The more rich the musical experience, the deeper the their connections become.
  • Design opportunities for musicians to listen, perform, and create music alone, in groups, on acoustic and digital instruments. Consider “Informances” where the musical experiences in the classroom can be transferred to the stage. The musicians explain their understanding to the audience and model the process of musicianship. This is an opportunity for parents and administrators to have a doorway into the process. Shifting the focus from product to process.
  • Create routines and structures that are a part of the classroom culture. In my classroom, the musicians have shared understandings that we collaborate with other musicians to perform and create original music. The instruments are chosen by themselves and their ensembles and bands.
  • Choose your language to foster a growth mindset and understanding that we are all on a continuum of understanding. Using language such as “I don’t know what chord to play…yet” or “my thinking has changed because…” or “what makes you say that?” Language can also be music and melody. There are many times where I may demonstrate and model something like improvisation without words. I answer learners verbal questions with melodic answers. Making my thinking audible.
  • Creating a culture where the learners and teacher are co-creating their understandings is essential in a CoT. Interactions and relationships are the scaffolding of this culture. Without a supportive risk-taking environment, the other cultural forces suffer.
  • Create a physical environment where musicians can collaborate and create within the same room comfortably.
  • My expectations for learners is that we are supportive musicians that are furthering our understanding of the dimensions and metadimensions of music. Everyone learns differently and creates music in their own ways. We expect that our thinking is valid and multiple perspectives are honored. Our music has a purpose. We are all on a continuum.
Divergency in the ways musicians show understanding

Divergency in the ways musicians show understanding

Dr. Ritchhart traveled to London, England after he left my classroom. I am looking forward to debriefing with him about his observations. This is quite a reflective time for me as an educator. I would also like to share my thinking about Making Thinking Audible with him.

Does you classroom look/sound like mine? Is that supported by learners, colleagues and administrators? Please share your stories.


Put Learners In The Drivers Seat

I use GarageBand for creating and capturing music almost daily. The interface is clean and I have become quite proficient with editing and manipulating audio. Usually, I am the one behind the computer pushing all of the buttons and making the technology a transparent piece of the music making. I need to be the one “driving” so the musicians can focus on the scenery more than the car controls. This year, after upgrading to Logic Pro X, my thinking has changed. Logic Remote is an iPad app for Logic Pro X on the Mac. Designed to provide new ways to record, mix, and even perform instruments in Logic Pro X from anywhere in the room. Turning your iPad into a keyboard, drum pad, guitar fretboard, mixing board, or transport control.


Download Logic Remote from the App Store here 

 Logic Remote can navigate inside Logic projects, control recording controls remotely, act as a second screen for the Mac, and also remotely trigger Logic Pro X key commands. The app also allows you to customizable buttons. Musicians can play instruments such as a piano keyboard, guitar fretboard, drum pads and drum kit. An awesome new feature is the addition of the Arpeggiator plugin to any instrument. Understanding that there are many ways of being musical has broadened my design of musical experiences. Experiencing audio is a unique way of being musical. I have accentually given the steering wheel (Logic Remote) to the musicians.


The above video is a beginning songwriting experience where a student musician is playing piano while other musicians are figuring out what can go with it. The pianist is playing a MIDI keyboard through Logic Pro X and another student is using the iPad with Logic remote to manipulate the controls. This has had quite an impact on the class culture. They have always taken ownership of their songs, but there has been a shift in the ownership of the craftsmanship. This became apparent to me when I gave the iPad to a student and we continued composing as a class. We stopped and discussed the harmonic progression. The class decided that the chords need to change at a different point in the melody. I asked the “engineer” to erase the track and take it back to the beginning. His reply was “Mr. M, I’m one step ahead of you.” Let them drive. You may find that they get there before you do.


There are devices and apps that scaffold independence. Logic Remote is one of those.

Graphically enhanced “How It Works” Manual 

Music 2 Save Music Part 3-Creating Magical Moments

Classroom experiences are created to make magical moments for the learners. In music, these magical moments can come from many different experiences. I have had these moments in performance many times, but the most memorable have been from the realization of my own musical ideas, my own compositions. As I think of ways to design these experiences for the musicians that visit my classroom, I try to ensure that they emerge from the individual’s musicianship.

The 4/5 grade musicians at East Hills and West Hills Middle Schools are making their songs for Music 2 Save Music. They are navigating this experience for their first time and I would like to share some of the incredible musical moments we are creating in class. In general, there are a few songwriters in each class. They are the musicians who have a song playing in their minds all day, mostly the recitative of their lives. These songs are much easier to capture with the technology many have in their pocket.


The above picture is my 8 year old recording her song into her iPod touch’s Voice Momos to remember the melody she created to use later. These songwriters may not have the tools and understandings they need to realize their music into “songs” yet. Some do. This is that songwriter’s time to shine, scaffold other musicians in the class, and create those magical musical moments.

I am a cheerleader and fan when I need to be, and a producer or studio musician when needed. The songs emerge from the musicians ideas. Today we started a song from the beginning. Through some dialogue and suggestions from different musicians in the class, we came up with this outline. The big idea of their song is that there are different ways of being rich.

IMG_5932Two verses (verse 1 is about being rich with money, and verse 2 is about being rich in other ways), then chorus and of course a featured artist who will rap. The musicians decided that the verses should of contrasting genre because the lyrics are contrasting as well. Verse 1 will be pop and verse 2 will be acoustic rock, with the chorus being pop plus electric sounds. (Pretty sophisticated plan for their piece.) We began brainstorming lyrics. Please pay close attention to the way the musicians show beat and style through their body language to one another. We haven’t created any of the rhythm, melody, or harmony yet.


The beginning stages took about five minutes. Enough time for the musicians to discuss lyrics and form a few lines that they connected with. We wrote the lyrics down and put them into an order that made sense together. The lyrics are:

We are (rich X3)
In our own ways
Even (onX3) on a bad day
Rich or poor, it doesn’t matter
We are all different in our own way

There was some apprehension about using voice to create an original melody and taking a risk to share any musical thoughts with the class. This is my first year at this school and these musicians. We are building relationships and a community of supportive risk-takers. The apprehension quickly disappeared when a melody was heard from one of the musicians in the class. Everyone really liked it. I quickly realized the vocal melody on the piano and the class sang through the words a few times. As they became more comfortable with the melody, revisions began emerging. The melody was revised a few times including ending the melody with an ascending pattern to transition to the next line.



When this came together, the energy of the room changed. The musicians were sitting on the edge of their chairs asking to sing the verse over and over. They asked to share their musical idea with their classroom teacher as soon as he came to the door. They were excited. These are magical moments for them. Since this class period, earlier today, there have been many musicians from that class that have come to my room between classes and sought me out during lunch to share new ideas they had. These are magical moments for me.

Create these moments for the musicians, they deserve them.

More to come from Music 2 Save Music soon. Until then, please visit and like our Music 2 Save Music Facebook page.

Building Community Through Song Writing

This is my first year as the 4th and 5th grade general music teacher in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. It’s always my goal to extend the musical experience beyond the classroom and into the lives of the musicians that visit my music classroom. I have written an article for the Michigan Music Educators Journal about breaking down the wall between “school” music and “real” music. This is a wall that musicians build in their mind caused by the disconnect from their school musical experiences The music that is the soundtrack of their lives is different. Music 2 Save Music is bridging those  experiences into one “music”. The way the students are talking about their songs and the purpose behind their musical decision making is shifting the culture of my new classroom. The musicians are taking the experiences home. I have only met with the 4/5 grade classes 3 times. The first meeting was a time for community building. I was a new teacher and we needed to begin building relationships right away if we were going to become a supportive community of risk-takers. The first couple of meetings was where Music 2 Save Music emerged as a purpose for our expressive music making.

Last week on Monday, I met with the East Hills Middle School musicians. Mrs. Rowe’s class framed the next few weeks in beginning our whole class composition. We shared our thinking about whether to start with the harmony, melody, rhythm, or vocals first. Understandably, the class was undecided. Every musician begins their creative process differently. The class decided to form collaborative groups that would focus on each and come back together. Class time ended before the musicians were able to realize their parts. On the way out, one of the lyricists asked if she could work on the song at home. Later that evening I got this in me email 



Try to bring me down but I won’t fall. I’m gonna build up a big brick wall.

You know I don’t quit. I’ll never stop trying.

Gonna reach my goal. Forget all the crying.

Cuz, I’ll get to the top. Whatever it takes.

I know what to do and I’ve learned from my mistakes.


You try to bring me down, but I refuse to fall.

I’m gonna stand up, big and tall.

You know how I work. You know how I live.

Shooting for the stars and just dream big.

It was great to be included in the connection this songwriter made with the experience that we shared at school. Mrs. Rowe’s class came to the music room again today. This is the first songwriting experience that most of the musicians have been a part of. We are using Logic Pro X, a M-Audio MIDI keyboard, and a Blue Spark condenser microphone to record our music, which is all new to these musicians as well. The class was excited to engage in the songwriting and recording process, yet reluctant to share their voices to sing the lyrics. As the song came together (lyrical melody supported by harmonic structure), the class began to take more ownership of the music and their singing became more confidant. At the end of today’s class, a different lyricist approached me with a notebook clenched to her body and said, “Mr. M, I have added some lyrics and changed the melody a little bit to the words we already wrote.” I enjoy learning more about the musicians that come see me, and am realizing that there is creativity surfacing. There needs to be a sense of trust reciprocally built in a new music classroom that will support these risks and celebrate accomplishmants. I am excited to be a part of the community that is being built in my new music rooms. I will leave you with the progress that was made today with Mrs. Rowe’s class song.

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Music 2 Save Music Part 1

I have always designed experiences for learner musicians to create music and perform for their peers. This is an important process of being a musician. Last year, I was inspired to broaden the musician’s audience by creating a YouTube Channel and uploading our songs to NUMU, a community for young people to showcase their music and collaborate. This was my first step to creating a PLN for the musicians in my classroom.

This year, I had the pleasure of meeting Kevin Honeycutt (@kevinhoneycutt) face-to-face. We had been social media friends for a while, and finally met my friend over dinner to talk teaching, learning and creativity.

Kevin Honeycutt

Kevin Honeycutt


Kevin is an amazing person, speaker and story-teller. If you have ever seen him live, he has you laughing and crying while stretching your thinking as a teacher and charge you with nurturing creativity and 21st century learning with your learners. Dinner with Kevin changed the way I will design the purpose of musical experiences. We started talking about the maker movement and inventing to learn. I shared a Drawdio circuit with him and how I am starting a Makerspace with Makey Makey and Raspberry Pi. We had great dialogue about creativity not only being able to create new things, but also to piece things together in a new way. The resources may already be available, but creativity is also how we use them differently. My big take-away from this dinner conversation was creating a larger purpose to the music we create as musicians in my classroom. “Music 2 Save Music” was born that night.

Music 2 Save Music is an effort to support struggling music programs in schools. I was connected with David Dublis (@ddublis), Music Coordinator for Grand Rapids, MI Schools to talk about bringing music back to schools through our music. We connected on Google Hangouts to discuss specifics.

Above: David Dublis  Below: Michael Medvinsky

Above: David Dublis
Below: Michael Medvinsky

Music 2 Save Music will begin today with the 4th and 5th grade musicians at East and West Hills Middle Schools composing original music to express our concern about the loss of music in schools. These songs will be composed, performed recorded, edited, mixed and shared by the student musicians. We will learn about the dimensions and metadimensions of music while creating in the authentic processes of musicianship. The songs will then be uploaded to www.tunecore.com and published to iTunes. All of the proceeds from our original songs will go toward funding instruments for music classrooms and bring awareness to struggling music programs through music. Our Music. Music 2 Save Music.

This is a small clip of a 5th grade musician playing piano to inspire the music of the classes original song.