Musical Futures: An Approach to Teaching and Learning
I went to a training workshop about the Musical Futures program and was completely blown away. This is a program that can truly engage reluctant learners in the music classroom.
We were thrown right into the thick of things for this workshop. We were divided into small groups and given an assortment of instruments.
We had a piano, a drum kit, an electric bass, and an electric guitar. I jumped on the drums simply because it was an electronic kit and I haven’t had much chance to experiment with those.
We were instructed to bring our own instruments to the session but I ended up staying on the drums for our first exercise. In addition to the amplified instruments, we also had a trumpet and saxophone player.
We were given the choice of three songs to learn. One of them was “Price tag” by Jessie J, which really appealed to me because of the rap verse in it. The rest of the group had no objections so we did that song.
Our goal was to recreate the song using the instruments we had. We listened to the sound recording of the pop song over and over again and tried to pick it up by ear on our instruments. The instructors of the course gave us guitar tabs, piano chords, and possible drum patterns we could use but we weren’t given standard music notation or sheet music.
We had an hour to work on our version of the song before we were to perform it in front of the workshop participants.
The person who was on the piano had no musical experience whatsoever but was able to use the piano chord handout to contribute fully. She even switched over to the keyboard drums during the rap verse. I couldn’t manage to play the drums and rap at the same time. It was just too tough.
We actually pulled it off though. It was so much fun to be playing with a small group of musicians and to be recreating a recognizable pop piece.
For the most part, we were trained and experienced musicians. That is how we were able to pull off the performance in an hour. It was suggested that for the students in our classes that this process take considerably longer. The lesson plans and format are all laid out in the free teaching resource you can download.
The Musical Futures website has tons of free resources including lesson plans, a teacher guide textbook, instructional videos, audio examples, and curriculum links.
I printed it off and then used the book binding machine at the school to create my own textbook of the program.
This program has a lot of appeal. I can see how the reluctant students who don’t care for classical music or concert band pieces could really engage in this informal learning process.
Rock musicians often play by ear and build pieces based on trial and error. This program uses those same techniques in the classroom. Of course, this approach has its limits and special needs that you need to consider before implementing it, but I am sold.
Now, I have the summer to see exactly how I will use it in the new school year.
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