Lake Forest Academy (Lake Forest, IL)

  • Instructors:  Adam Schlipmann and Grier Carson
  • Location: Lake Forest, IL
  • School Profile: Private 9-12 Day/Boarding School
  • Class Title(s):Freshman Foundation in the Arts, Electronic Music 1, Advanced Studies in Electronic Music, and Laptop Orchestra
  • Grades Levels Included: 9-12
  • Structure of NTM Class(es): FFA is a year long class consisting of all 9th graders (approx 100 students); EM1 is a semester long class for grades 9-12 and usually has anywhere from 4-13 students; Advanced Studies/Laptop Orchestra is a year-long course for grades 10-12 consisting of anywhere from 5-10 students
  • Software Used: Ableton Live, Propellerheads Reason, ProTools, various iOS apps (Korg, Propellerheads, et al)
  • Hardware Used: iPads, laptop computers, modular analog synthesizers, MIDI controllers, microphones
  • Class NTM Activities:  
    • FFA - Freshman Foundation in the Arts students are learning how to use GarageBand instruments and found sounds to create pieces of electronic music on their iPads. We discuss basic timeline editing and effects in creating new sounds that are both interesting and musical.
    • EM1 - Electronic Music 1 students are introduced to the dynamic and often challenging world of modern and electronic music (art music conceived and produced after 1920) through specific production skills, formal thought processes regarding new musical language(s), and frequent listening sessions (both private and class-based).  A series of composition projects designed to develop these skills (and to open this world up through myriad personal and artistic perspectives) requires that all students remain fully engaged and, often times, completely consumed by the material.  An ever-changing suite of music performance and production apps for iOS are learned and used in conjunction with industry standard DAWs (Ableton Live, Logic, Reason) for recording, sequencing, editing, and finalizing original works.  Cycle projects, midterm compositions, and a lengthy final piece all involve formal presentations and self-criticism.
    • Advanced/Laptop Orchestra - The Laptop Orchestra provides students of the Electronic Music Program an outlet for live performance, improvisation, and collaborative composition.  Each member plays a particular role in the overall sound of each piece (foundational tones, supplemental elements, ornamentation, lead) while the director/teacher steers the group toward unification.  Players need to have both a particular skill set (software/hardware tools learned in the prerequisite classes) and a strong sense of what is possible, as the development of most original material depends largely on the ability of the individual to respond creatively to an ever-changing sonic environment.  Class work and rehearsals culminate in a series of  performances; this semester finds the ensemble engaged in no less than 4 concerts.  Additional work with other musicians outside the class (orchestra, COAX) serves to extend players' musical experience and expand their musical minds, and a collaboration with the 2D Imaging class to complete original stop-motion animation films completes the semester.   

  • History: Electronic music at LFA began in 2007 as a series of independent study projects before becoming an official part of the school's Fine Arts curriculum.  The first semester-long course, entitled Study in the Production of Electronic Music, included an introduction to the basics of step sequencing and waveform editing in the form of individual projects and simple skills assignments.  A follow up course entitled Advanced Studies in Electronic Music focused on sophisticated elements of composition (arrangement, editing, mastering and finalizing) as well as analysis of major 20th century electronic pioneers (John Cage, Steve Reich, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Milton Babbitt, et al).  In early 2008, the school formed an official laptop orchestra for an experimental performance.  The following year it was approved and added to the official Fine Arts curriculum and now serves as the advanced studies class.  The LFA Laptop Orchestra is believed to be the first high school laptop orchestra in the U.S. 
  • Success Stories from NTM Activities: We were able to do collaborative work between orchestra students and laptop orchestra on a school concert; several students have composed portfolios of work for both performance and collegiate material submission; students in visual art have collaborated with advanced students to create multimedia work; students in theater tech are collaborating in advanced studies by doing light and sound design work and speaker design; regular performances are given by the Laptop Orchestra for the entire student population.
  • Advice to Others Starting NTM Project: Seek out resources and programs related to the hardware and software that you will be using as well as: 
    • Solidify historical context of the music concepts that you will be teaching. Always draw a line of connection to something modern or popular; approach creative work from a "what is interesting?" standpoint rather than from a traditional "what is good music?" view. Developing a creative language is essential.
    • Try collaborative projects. They often lead to more meaningful learning experiences.
    • Don't shy away from musical play. Students will create their own learning. You create the parameters.
  • Additional Comments:  Our program has been able to attract students who would otherwise have not been served by our music curriculum. Though we only field a couple dozen students in these classes each year, the opportunity for all students exists to be involved in creative music making. We are happy to act as consultants or mentors to anyone wishing to start a program similar to this.
  • Date Submitted: January 2013
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