Gary Stager on How Computers Will Save Music Education; Express Yourself during Your Summer Vacation!

Article excerpt

One of the biggest lies in education is that computers are a threat to school art and music. Budget cuts, misplaced academic priorities or an over-emphasis on standardized testing have put the squeeze on arts programs yet I have seen no credible evidence that a choice has been made between computers and human expression.

It was a guidance counselor, not a PC, who tried to convince my parents that I should spend time in a daily study hall rather than a music theory class. Computers may save school arts and will offer unprecedented opportunities for creative development.

Forms of human expression previously off-limits to all but the most talented and elite members of society are now accessible even to young children. Animation, filmmaking, music composition, digital imaging and audio broadcasting are within reach of everybody. Ingenious software such as iLife '05 and hardware improvements turn schoolbags into portable media studios.

The Web informs us of new tools, inspiration and creative communities to support our efforts. The Internet also offers collaborators and a limitless potential audience for our creative output. The democratization of publishing and expansion of the learning community affording unprecedented collaboration and access to expertise represents the most valuable use of the Web.

Innovations abound. It is up to us to help students take advantage of emerging technology. NOTE: You may not be able to do some of these things at work since school network policies often prohibit the interesting use of computers.

Free and "nearly free" software like Finale NotePad, GarageBand, Acid and others allow students to enter the world of music composition. SmartMusic allows kids to practice along with sensitive accompaniment and e-marl their session to a teacher. See the resource box below for these urls and other sites that offer loops, instrument sounds and advice to share student compositions.

Student-composed music may be used to score their films. Elementary school kids at the Willows School in Los Angeles watch projected extreme sports footage, sans audio, and improvise scores on desktop MIDI keyboards. Students at the American School of Bombay downloaded archival audio of historic speeches and then used music composition software to bring history to life. …