McKinley High School (Canton, OH)

  • Instructor: Brian Laakso
  • Location: Canton, OH
  • School Profile: Public HS /  9-12 /  total school enrollment approx 1700 
  • Class Title(s): Music Technology I - Fundamentals / Music Technology II - Creative Expressions
  • Grades Levels Included: 9-12 mixed enrollment / serves approx 180 students a year 
  • Structure of NTM Class(es): Classes meet 90 minutes every other day for one semester. Each class has approx 16 students enrolled and is a mixture of various grade levels 9-12 and various musical abilities.
  • Software Used: Mostly freeware and cloud-based / Audacity, Acid, LMMS Studio, Dreamstation, Ableton Live 
  • Hardware Used: HP Netbooks, Tascam 16 channel USB mixer, M-Audio Nova mics
  • Class NTM Activities:  Music Tech I: Fundamentals. Students will create, share, discuss, read, write about, and listen to music made with technology. They will actively use technology to explore these elements as they investigate a broad range of topics. The primary lens of the class focuses on the history and possible futures of technology and its impact on the world of music. Topics covered include: audio editing, sequencing software, remixing, sound systems, the modern music business, studio recording, synthesizers, copyright law, recording mediums, electric guitars, video game music, and other contemporary themes. 

    Music Tech II: Creative Expressions. This class focuses on the creation, collaboration and communication of music made with technology. Intensive projects include songwriting with software (looping, sequencing, multi-tracking), film scoring, music videos, remixing, live interactive music systems, remote / online collaboration, and individualized goals. Skills acquired in class develop students’ creative artistry and expression. 

  • History: The class was created from the ground up in the 2009-10 school year. Curricular materials and projects are still being revised based on their effectiveness, rigor, and relevance. Revisions come from student/teacher evaluations of the various projects and lessons. 2011 marks the launch of the Cantones Recording Academy, a recording label based at the school to promote original student music of all types. 
  • Success Stores with NTM Students: 
  • The class takes a field trip each semester that pertains to jobs in the music and technology fields. We have visited recording studios, live concert venues, radio stations, and talked to producers, engineers, live music venue owners, entertainers, and DJs. Also, the class was featured in a local news article in 2010: 
  • http://www.cantonrep.com/news/x1526463841/Music-education-goes-high-tech-at-McKinley-High
  • Advice to Others Starting NTM Project:  Music technology is the right choice for the "other 80%" of your students who are not interested in band or choir, who have performance anxiety, or who are simply more interested in rock, hip hop, dance music etc. It is also a great choice because there are FAR more well-paying career-oriented jobs for people using music and technology (engineer, producer, film scoring, software development, TV studios, etc) than there are opportunities for a clarinet or violin player to get into a coveted orchestra or teaching position. Plus, technology is something  that can help make students who don't feel like a musician AT ALL to accomplish something amazing - (writing a song) - which they might NEVER think they could do!  Consider these questions: What angle do you want to take with your course? Which topics seem most relevant to students? What area of music tech are YOU passionate about? How can you make the course relate to students' real lives? How long is each class session? How often does it meet? What kind of resources do you have or want to have? Do you need materials and lesson plan ideas?  Remember that there are many angles to music tech - historical, composition, as an aid to reading music, keyboard, production/engineering, careers, ensemble playing, programming, etc.  Contact me if you want to have a conversation at-length about your ideas or if you need materials. 
  • Additional Comments: Some student perspectives to share:  It is necessary to reform music education in the 21st century. Music's fundamentals (composition, performance, collaboration, and distribution) have changed because of technology, and we must rethink how these elements are taught. Students of today understand and experience music in new ways. They'd rather not use staff paper, they prefer sequencing software. They might play instruments, but they feel equally comfortable using a Guitar Hero controller to manipulate musical environments virtually. Instrumental ensembles are great, but musical collaboration online is also instantly gratifying. It's a challenge to distribute CDs, but internet MP3s and YouTube can grant fame overnight. We are dealing with a new kind of mind, a new kind of student. We must listen and become new kinds of music teachers.
  • Date Submitted:  March 2011
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