Monday, July 31, 2017

Lincoln Center-Aesthetic Education Five-Day Training

-Art Making-Questioning-Reflection-Contextual Information-
A Week at Lincoln Center

“.. to perceive, a beholder must create his own experience.  And his creation must include relations comparable to those which the original producer underwent.  They are not the same in any literal sense.  But with the perceiver, as with the artist, there must be an ordering of the elements of the whole that is in form, although not in details, the same as the process of organization the creator of the work consciously experiences.  Without an act of recreation, the object is not perceived as a work of art.  The artist selected, simplified, clarified, abridged and condensed according to his interest.  The beholder must go through these operations according to his point of view and interest.  -John Dewey, Art as Experience

This past July I was accepted into a one-week training at the Lincoln Center for Education in New York.  The majority of the what I would be learning had to do with a pedagogy system based off of Maxine Greene’s beliefs in aesthetic education.  In college I was first exposed to aesthetic education from my professor Dr. Gena Greher who molded concepts of the Manhattanville Music Curriculum Project into our pedagogy classes.  The ideas I learned from those experiences were to break down key concepts in a music composition by giving students an opportunity to place themselves as the musician making similar compositional choices-and therefore draw connections with the original composer and composition. Students could draw on their own personal backgrounds and experiences when making the music without the need for standard notation.  This past year Philip Yenawine came to Pentucket on the first day of school for teachers and brought us into his aesthetic education system of Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS).  I have been using variations of aesthetic education with my own students since my first year teaching a decade ago.  I remember Noteflight composition software coming online and with assistance from Dr. Alex Ruthmann, selected a piece of art, posted reflective questions, and began a lesson on incorporating this with an exploratory composition project (  

The truth is that my understanding and utilization of aesthetic education was confusing and random. I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to undergo the training at the Lincoln Center for Education as I think I now have a very clear understanding of this teaching method and how to utilize it.  I am hopeful that this blog post will be helpful to other teachers.  

My Big Picture Synopsis of Aesthetic Education:
In order for a concept to have meaning for a student, he or she must be placed in the role of artist. Digging deeper-any form of art (visual, audio, movement) can be the vehicle by which the concepts can be connected.  I had to really spend time reflecting to understand this.  I was initially thinking of this in my role as music teacher.  However, it also applies to any subject area.  For example, an English teacher can utilize the arts to teach and connect concepts. This might be a hard concept for an arts teacher to comprehend.  We spend years in training to make sure what we teach is of the highest quality.  Can you imagine another teacher who is not trained teaching your craft? Just saying that last sentence created a lot of fear in the back of my brain that I’m getting fired… no need for the music teacher anymore.  Just the opposite, we should be seen as a resource for all teachers.  I’ll come back to this later.

A step-by-step approach (at least from my understanding).

Lesson/Unit Development from the Teacher:  
  1. Select a piece of art. In the back of your mind you are possibly selecting something that will end up teaching a concept that is part of your upcoming unit.  Old school: Students read Hatchet by Gary Paulsen and write a summary of the book.  New school: You find a piece of art relative to surviving in the wilderness and have students break it down through various meaningful aesthetic activities.  The activities weave into one another and result in published art that has multiple layers of reflection and is presented to an audience. 
  2. Spend time as the teacher making “noticings” using the key questions below and write down your findings.  
    1. Describe: What do you notice? What do you see? What do you hear? How would you describe?
    2. Analyze: What relationships do you notice among the elements? What do you see or hear that is similar, different, or of a pattern? How is the work of art put together? How are the individual parts put together? What patterns or relationships do you identify in the work of art? What questions do you have?
***Make sure to hold off on students interpreting until after they have described and analyzed...they usually try to jump the gun on this!
    1. Interpret (Personalize): What connections do you make to your life, to your world, to things you have read, to what you are studying in school? What do you think is going on in this work of art? What is it about? What ideas was the artist trying to convey in this work of art?  What does in mean? What does in mean to you? Does it represent something-if yes what? Doe the work of art evoke any emotions? What does it express? If this work of art was a metaphor for something, what might it be?
  1. Develop activities that put students in the role of artist, musician, videographer, dancer, actor, etc.” that directly relate to the concepts to the work of art you will eventually present to them.  You will want one or two pre-lessons leading up to the first experience the students will have with the work of art followed by one or two post lessons which include reflection and publishing.  What I got out of the simulations from our course was to keep the pre-projects very simple and make sure they have opportunities for students to incorporate personal meaning into them.

Part A: Pre-Lesson Simulation:

  1. Pick two objects you think represent you or that you have a connection with.  Combine the two animals using tracing paper.

2. Get into pairs and switch your pieces of art. Spend a minute asking questions to yourself about the art and then try to summarize what about the art reflects your partner.  The partners will then share out their findings with each other.  

Key Aspects to the activity:
  1. The instructions were simple.
  2. Any level of artists could complete this activity as we used tracing paper.
  3. There was time for small peer reflection.  Overtime you will notice students build a repertoire of questions to ask themselves when experiencing art.  Starred Thought:  We must get rid of the stigma of “I’m not good at art...I’m not good at singing.”  We’re ALL artists and we’re all Musicians! The level of expertise varies but we must do everything we can to make sure we put a stop to the stigma behind our varied abilities of art making.
  4. You can do a museum tour and have the students hang up their artwork.  Have students walk in circle to view the artwork and then do small or large group “noticings.”

Part B: The Viewing of the Artwork
Have students view the artwork and give them time to personally reflect in a journal.  You may want to guide them with journal questions with ones from LCE for describing, analyzing and interpreting. The self-reflection time is a very important part of the process.  Then have the students share out the findings in either full class, small groups or in pairs.  When doing large class sharing, the teacher will be able to eventually ask “questions with a lens” as LCE calls it.  The teacher knowing the key concepts he/she wants to get out of the students can start asking unbiased questions which help get the students to lank on these key concepts.  

Part C:
The contextual information.  You have to decide how this is going to come out.  Will the students look up the contextual information?  Will you hand it to them?  We had a large discussion about this.  We discovered as teachers that we usually give too much contextual information at the start of a unit. This in turns decreases the possibility for students to discover, create, and make connections.  It kills the potential imaginative spirit that is in all of us. We also discussed to what degree is information contextual.  We were somewhat split on if if we should be telling the students the title of the work-will that create bias and shut down their imaginations?  I think the end result of our group conversation (let’s call it group therapy) for this was that it is a personal choice for the teacher.  

For this activity, we received the contextual information after we debriefed/reflected on the piece of art.  It is important do note that we then reflected in our journals again after receiving the contextual information.  


Part D: Post Creation Activity
This is where the magic occurs and everything reflected and interpreted comes together.  Now that the key concepts have been discovered, have students create using the key concepts and make sure they can add personal meaning to it.  After learning about symbols, we were tasked to make objects that represent us through clay.  Though this was a pre-activity, I think it would work perfectly for a post activity.  After creating, we reflected, shared out, and then combined our clay works with partners that we felt reflected similar traits in the pottery.  


Other Key Concepts to this Process:
Capacities for Imaginative Thinking: LCE developed ten capacities for utilization in unit planning.  As described in a handout “the word capacities rather than knowledge or skills indicates that what can be learned from works or other objects of study is inexhaustible.  We learned that a typical activity/lesson/unit will focus in on just two or three of these capacities though many of them will occur naturally as part of the creation process.  

Inquiry: LCE states that “inquiry has a very particular kind of meaning that differentiates it from that typically undertaken in the social or pure sciences.  It is also different than philosophical inquiry, which can focus on the nature of inquiry itself.  Our version of aesthetic inquiry, based on the work of artists, follows closely the process artists us as they create works of art.  As such, it included use of senses, emotion, and other forms of embodiment, along with cognition (including problem solving skills and imagination)....questions are used for a multitude of specific purposes, among them:
  • To consider the choices in the ar-making process;
  • To go deeper into the work of art that has just been experienced;
  • To prompt research of context;
  • To reflect upon and assess one’s learning;
  • To help students develop their own questions.

Key Ideas: When observing a work of art, the key ideas are concepts that are not objectionable.  

The Line of Inquiry: LCE defines this as “ an open, yet focused question that incorporates elements and concepts observable in a specific work of art (key ideas), and relates to the concerns of students and teachers.  It invites questioning, guides our exploration throughout, and serves as the framework for constructing experimental lessons.”

How to make the line of inquiry:
In (name the piece of art), (name the artist if known) (a verb: eg. use, combine, juxtapose) (key idea/element/concept of the work of art) and (second key idea/element/concept of the work of art) to (a verb: eg. suggest, evoke, explore, investigate) (the what: some effect created; a larger concept of idea in the work of art).  Here is an example I wrote during one of the projects we took part in: FullSizeRender (8).jpg


Lesson Plan Template:

Monday, October 24, 2016

Let’s Create a Composition Revolution in Massachusetts

Young Composers and Improvisers Workshop

Teaching composition is no easy task as the majority of pedagogical resources available lack the understanding of the typical classroom anatomy. Many teachers feel uncomfortable teaching this subject as we were not taught such concepts in our college pedagogy courses and may have never really delved into composition in our own role of music maker.  This really puts us out of our comfort zone, and yet the benefits of a successful composition curriculum can become a catalyst for increased meaningful music making for our students.  

A music teacher in New York by the name of Matt McLean set out to debunk the common misconceptions we sometimes envision in classroom music composition.  Matt created the non-profit organization and curriculum called the Young Composers and Improvisers Workshop (YCIW).  He notes that “as a music educator I've seen my students develop their strongest connection to music when they are given the opportunity to create something. I developed the YCIW curriculum to provide a way for every student, regardless of experience, to gain mastery over how music works (melody, harmony, rhythm, form etc.) while engaged in the process of creating and realizing their own musical ideas.”  

Why is YCIW Innovative?
Matt states that “most music composition curricula ask students to first spend time doing tedious, often disconnected tasks before ever having a chance to be creative. We want kids to be able to "play with concepts" in an experiential way while simultaneously using them in a purposeful way -their own composition.”

Matt explains that  “instead of having to first learn how to read music notation, students make creative choices about how they'd like their melody to sound and in doing so build their music reading skills. This kind of experiential learning is embedded in every step of the YCIW curriculum.”  

Another unique aspect of this program is having student compositions performed by professional musicians.  Matt draws a connection in that “we motivate students by having them feel that their efforts are part of the real world. Hearing musicians interpret their music not only makes for a powerful experience but also provides the ultimate feedback on which each student can reflect.”

This past spring was the first live simulcast performance featuring twenty student compositions from five schools across the United States. The compositions were performed by the Grammy-nominated Metropolis Ensemble and included seven student works from Pentucket’s Music Technology course.  The successful student impact was an eye opener as a teacher and I was thankful for how well thought-out the curriculum was and for how successful the students felt.  

How it Works
  1. Teacher signs up through  The fee is $5.00 per student.  There are no other fees.
  2. The teacher is given login credentials to his/her own “YCIW Classroom” online learning management system along with student login credentials.  This includes a full gradebook and Noteflight accounts for all of the students.
  3. Students login and complete the self-paced curriculum.  Throughout the process, the teacher and a Composer-Mentor from YCIW will leave assignment/composition feedback for the students.
  4. Student compositions can then be performed for others from peers and some might be selected for professional performance over a live internet broadcast through YCIW.

To learn more about the curriculum and listen to student compositions performance by professional ensembles, visit

Monday, January 18, 2016

Concert Band Turned Composer Band

Concert Band Turned Composer Band
Create, Perform, Publish to the World!

The Why?
Elementary general music curriculum has a strong compositional and improvisational background through various teaching methods.  In addition, music technology electives are popping up in many middle and high schools which usually involve music creation as part of its natural being.  But in concert band, a time and place which has trained instrumentalists ready to perform, we usually leave the creative touch to those students who are in the jazz band.  Students who want to dig deeper into music might take a theory class filled with vocabulary and drill.  What if there was a way to marry the performance ability of concert band students with their untapped creativity by channeling their understanding of music through composition?

My journey and questioning of  how to run a successful rehearsal began a few years ago. At that time I  faced my band’s biggest weakness: poor intonation. To help solve this, I read all the books on the market written for how to run an effective band rehearsal and even posted messages on the Band Director Facebook group to see if there was a consensus around the country. This profound moment in my teaching career helped our rehearsals become more efficient with a solid warm-up routine which included daily singing, breathing exercises, chorales, and guided listening.  I was on cloud nine and thought the only thing that could get us to an even better spot would be having a bassoon and oboe in our ensemble.  Yet, I was wrong. (It’s okay to be wrong sometimes!)

Last year I was part of Pentucket’s District Determined Measures task force, aimed at creating an avenue for teachers to show student growth through project based learning.  When questioned about what activities we do in band to provide personal meaning, I gave the typical “Well, we’re music. Everything we do has personal meaning.” Everyone pretty much agreed with me. However, after looking at the Bloom’s Taxonomy diagram, I realized I was still missing the mark on what brings a higher level of thinking and meaning in music making.  I had to admit that my students did not create music in concert band.  They were able to connect that a note on the music staff meant they could make the intended sound on their instruments but they were not put in charge of deciding the order in which the notes were placed.  It is similar to reading books for years, understanding what is in the books, but never writing down your own sentences for others to read.

During this reflective time period I was leisurely reading Drive: The Surprising Truth of What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink.  Pink was able to bring case studies together to show that students and people in general are more motivated and productive when they have bits of unstructured creation time, or “20% Time” as Google named it for its own workers. He states that “for artists, scientists, inventors, schoolchildren, and the rest of us, intrinsic motivation—the drive do something because it is interesting, challenging, and absorbing—is essential for high levels of creativity.” In my opinion the “20% Time” in concert band is composing.  Based off of feedback from my music technology course, it was pretty clear to me that students enjoy making music to animations and so I created the composition unit below.

The How (resources found at
The Students will:
  1. listen to composers talking about their compositions and process creating.
  2. complete small compositional tasks and then perform them in front of the class on their own instruments. The tasks include the devices of step, skip, leap, melodic motion, repetition, variation, sequence, motive, augmentation, diminution, retrograde, extension, truncation, and harmonizations via I, IV V chords.
  3. analyze a pop song covering items covered in step 2.
  4. in small groups, students select a short animation to download from which has Creative Commons copyright for sharing and adapting
  5. download the animation and delete the soundtrack on software such as GarageBand or MixCraft.
  6. create a timeline noting changes in moods and sound effects along with time markings
  7. compose music for the animation while referencing the timeline.  Students will interview their peers to learn about proper playing ranges for instruments.
  8. rehearse, perform, revise, and then record music to the short animation.
  9. sync the performance recording with the animation on Garage Band/MixCraft and publish online.
  10. reflect!  
I have since been impressed with a new online curriculum developed by an elementary music teacher in New York called “The Young Composers and Improvisers Workshop” ( and have purchased subscriptions which include Noteflight Learn accounts for each of my band students at a price of $5 per student. This program is well thought out and digs deeper into form and harmonizing. It uses the Canvas learning management system which includes a gradebook and tutorial videos.  

We started this project last May up until the last day of school in June when student engagement is typically low.  The experience was incredible and composing is now part of the fabric of our concert band curriculum.  We are working on putting together a composer concert, workshops, and having students write music for local businesses via YouTube commercials.  Students who want to dig deeper are now receiving private lessons in composition and can take an independent study during the school day to compose music for credit. Next year we are expanding our offerings to include a film and video game music composition course.  

This change in our program has enhanced the musicianship of our students.  Additionally, they are finding ways to incorporate composing music for projects in English and history courses. Students are composing and arranging on Noteflight at home, extending what they learned from the school day.  Visit to listen to student examples.

Pink, Daniel H. Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us. New York, NY: Riverhead, 2009. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Saturday, August 1, 2015

My Experience at the 2015 I.M.P.A.C.T. Conference

  1. It was IMPORTANT to meet teachers who are just like me (I’m not alone): Over the course of three days I met four teachers who I would also consider future collaborators.  We are all doing similar things which are not typically done in our home states.  We are fighting “the system,” which is what I call old-school music education.  The truth is that 20% of students take band, orchestra, and choir.  The other 80% must have a MEANINGFUL music education.  At one point we discussed why we were teaching music. There was large discussion about cultivating talent vs. teaching music for the joy of music making.  Barbara Freedman summed it up by saying “Teaching music saves lives.”  

  2. Industry Meets Music Education: This is the first conference I have been to which combined teachers, future teachers, and industry leaders in an interactive way. In order for the technology to bridge into real classrooms, there needs to be more of this happening.  Industry needs to hear ideas and feedback from teachers.  If they do not they face the wrath of teachers not wanting to take the time and energy to learn/implement the technology into their classrooms.  At a time with new educator evaluations, transition to common core curriculum/assessments, and new state-mandates left and right, the time a teacher has to engage in new technology and thinking is nil.  Simply worded, new technology for teachers and students needs to be user-friendly and bug-free or teachers won’t use them.

  1. Creating Music Addicts: This was a term New York music teacher Eric Dalio and I came up with in the spare of the moment conversation after Barbara Freedman’s composition session.  We talked about Barbara saying she teaches music to save lives.  Eric brought up the point as well that we want kids to continue making music after grade 12.  In essence, we want to save lives and have everyone continue making music throughout life...hence the term-music addicts. If you are going to have an addiction, let’s make it music.  This might be what gets the student onto the bus, feel self-worth, and have motivation through personal meaning.  I think we need to remind ourselves of these goals every once in a while.  It really brings why we do what we do home.  

    How do we create music addicts?  The curriculum and ideas shared in each session I attended provided those answers:
  • John Churchville discussed how his students compose music:personal meaning
  • Tom Malone shared a hip and relative DJ curriculum
  • Stephania Druga discussed traveling the world to share music making and coding with arduino boards.
  • Kate Stone is re-writing (literally)  how we think of making any object into a musical instrument
  • Jon Stapleton, a very articulate college student, has developed musical tangibles to introduce in elementary schools
  • Jim Frankel showed us the latest version of Practice First which in my view will replace Smart Music

4.  Meeting Barbara Freedman: For those who don’t know, Barabra Freedman is the epitome of pedagogues for K-12 education.  She speaks my language.  She writes books with lesson plans which you can personalize.  In my area (Massachusetts), it seems that music technology is being added to many high schools as an elective class.  There is not a lot of curriculum out there and many teachers have ended up developing their own.  As I’ve stated before, the window of time a teacher has in life nowadays to do things like coming up with awesome lesson plans, is getting littler and littler as we speak.  We need resources like Barbara to share curriculum we know will work and give our students an amazing music creation experience.  Hearing her speak got me more excited to teach music and literally agreed with everything she was saying. I do not understand why NAfME doesn't just hire her to write lesson plans copyright free. I was very concerned last week to see their new composition rubrics and yet when you go to their lesson plan page of their website and click "composition," no lessons appear. There are some deep into the website but they are hard to find.

5.  Soundtrap: A new technology which is going to change everything.  In short, it is an online collaborative recording studio with video conferencing. This video explains it all  The capabilities for the music classroom are humongous.  Additionally, it will encourage students to make music outside of the school day.  Honestly, I need time to wrestle with this program and think how I am going to begin to implement it.  I have too many ideas right now!  

6.  Discussions About Composition: While at the conference I got to speak with Matt McClean of the Young Composers and Improvisers Network.  He has developed an online curriculum for composition, teamed with Noteflight for notation software, and has had professional musicians provide feedback and perform the pieces created by students in New York and beyond.  As I have now switched gears to adding composition as part of our Pentucket concert band curriculum, I am looking to incorporate this curriculum which has clearly worked for his students.  From what I am experiencing, students have a much deeper connection with music when they get to compose and hear it.  This is different then learning how to be an expert performer which is the current model of secondary level music education. We have a real issue with composition in the United States right now.  Firstly, many teachers simply do not have it in their curriculum.  Secondly, we are always trying to make it into a and losers.  Composing should instead be considered a part of the fabric of everyone's’ lives.  Lastly, we need a rock star curriculum which finally has arrived through various pedagogues and people like Matt and Barbara Freedman. The Vermont Midi Project has some fantastic templates/lessons on Noteflight as well (click here).

During my session I was able to show some of our composition projects at Pentucket featuring student-created compositions which were aligned to short animations.  Another teacher shared a great idea to have students compose music to NASA videos. This is the start to something special and I think new ideas will occur through new collaborations. We are going to start a new composition club at Pentucket so those who want to can explore this realm after school with an advisor.

It was great to speak with Robinson McClellan from Noteflight. He is an educator and composer himself and like Barbara, speaks my language. I think Noteflight has really changed the course for music creation which I have seen my own students truly benefit from.

7.  The Power Is In The Conversation:  Each day we had a one-hour roundtable discussion focused on a certain aspect of music and media.  There were industry, higher ed, and K-12 educators taking part and everyone had unique backgrounds and equally unique ideas to share.  I think in general, we need a middle-man to organize the communication between industry and music education.  In my eyes, this is Alex Ruthmann.  Myself and a few teachers were asking for this mentoring when he was teaching in Massachusetts and he created monthly music educator meetups (with food)!.  I hear he is doing something similar in New York.  He is “in the know” of everything music technology.  As he is a music educator himself, he is able to express how the technology can be used in the classroom.  Basically, we need more people like Alex Ruthmann to help disseminate music technology into America’s schools.  

Where do we go from here?  I want to use my takeaways from the conference and try them in my classes at Pentucket. I also want to share what I learned with others.  It would be great to stay connected with the attendees of the conference.  This was a truly unique experience and can’t wait for I.M.P.A.C.T. 2016.  

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Introducing the Pentucket Music Conservatory!

The Pentucket Regional School District is now by definition, the most innovative public school system in the state of Massachusetts.  Innovation schools were originally designed for lower level school districts facing state takeover.  Pentucket, considered a higher achieving district, was able to capitalize on the opportunity to add innovation schools when the state department made it possible for any level district to apply.

See the following Boston Globe articles:

What is the Pentucket Music Conservatory?
This is an innovation school focused on the music education we provide for Pentucket students in grades 7-12.  Over the course of the 2014-2015 school year, a committee made up of faculty, administration, a school committee member, parents, and a student representative dedicated their time to answer the following two initiatives:
1. Create career pathways for music
2. Expand the music education opportunities for students not in our traditional band/chorus/orchestra ensembles

The first step of the committee was to develop a mission statement, vision statement, and prospectus.  A large amount of work went into researching what is available for music curriculum across the country and even outside of the United States.  From there the group made an official plan which went to school committee for final approval.  The final plan is linked here.

In spirit of the definition of an innovation school, the faculty has autonomy in curriculum, scheduling, and budgets.  The truth is that it is a group effort between the faculty, an amazing administration and talented guidance department.

Enhancements for the 2015-2016 School Year: 
1. New Musicianship I and II Courses
Students can apply to have a period or two dedicated to practicing their instruments/voice in preparation for private lessons, district auditions, and college auditions.  An added bonus is that all the students in this course will take an online music theory course through the Eastman School of Music.  Scheduling-wise, students can utilize this opportunity in periods which best fits into their schedules.  Students will work on their overall musicianship which is outlined in our new tiered band karate system (solos, scales, sight-reading, active listening, ear training and composing).

2. New Percussion Technique Class
The school district has a rich history of a percussion ensemble program meeting after school.  An issue with many concert bands is creating an engaging environment for the percussionists as their parts are too simple.  As a result, we will be fostering an idea pioneered at Westford Academy and Chelmsford High School but with a Pentucket twist.  All percussionists will be enrolled in a full-year percussion class instead of concert band and the after-school percussion ensembles.  We will work on technique, percussion ensemble literature, and concert band literature.  This will also be true for the middle school percussionists who will meet in the high school band room during a separate period and will be able to utilize our percussion instruments.  We will have in-school field trips planned to combine the percussionists with the band and orchestra before the concerts.  Now the percussionists will be challenged and our wind players will have even more attention given to them during band class.

3. Transformation of Middle and High School Ensemble Experiences
This past school year our middle school chorus, band and orchestra met everyday for a full block which was wonderful.  When students meet that often and have good practice habits, they will sound fantastic.  This equals out to a positive overall experience and therefore better retention within the ensemble and overall program.  We are ready to take this a step further for the coming school year.  Firstly, our incoming 7th grade wind players will be meeting with one of our band directors for a full month separate from our 8th graders.  In a fun "boot camp" style, the director will catch those students up to speed to the 8th graders.  The 8th graders will be meeting with the high school band during this time and will focus on our warm-up routine and fun literature we play for the football games.  We will also be working on two combined concert band pieces for the upcoming winter concert.

An exciting enhancement will be our new chamber ensemble days.  Every Thursday and Friday will feature grades 7-12 split into flute choir, clarinet choir, saxophone choir, full-brass choir, and rock band (for our guitar, bass, and piano students as they are people too)!

4.  Composition
We started doing this in the late spring semester and it proved to be worthwhile.  One of our students had a piece accepted into the Massachusetts Music Educators All-State Composition Festival.  This same piece was then performed at the All-State Conference during the concert hour by our advanced high school percussion ensemble.  We have seen that when given the tools for composition, our students will soar.  This is in big part thanks to Noteflight which has really helped make the process simple and organized.

5.  Pentucket Radio
Two of our students came up with an idea to get our non-traditional ensemble students involved with our program and highlight their accomplishments from outside the school.  It turns out a lot of our students (secretly) take private lessons on guitar, bass, and drum-set at local studios which then combine to create rock bands.  I was really unaware of this trend until our innovation committee found it in their research.  We put up an announcement on the intercom two weeks before school ended proclaiming a new student-generated radio station.  We ended up with 15 interested students who were able to get everything up and running in just one week (  Most impressive, the majority of people involved were our non-ensemble students.  The station has a mix of music you hear on the radio through streaming audio, student-generated music, jingles and podcasts.  We will be collaborating with the school newspaper and journalism program next year for stories and will even be conducting live broadcasting from sporting events.  This will truly transform how music is perceived at Pentucket Regional High School.

6. Rock Band Clinics
The school has offered a battle of the bands competition in the past.  The problem was that it did not match the experience of our ensemble festivals.  The students traditionally performed and then were ranked.  There was no educational opportunities assigned to the event.  For the coming year, we plan on bringing in professionals in the field to conduct workshops with each band based on a pre-contest performance.  The music will also be featured on the school radio station.  We will get local businesses involved for prizes and admission at the door will go towards building up our radio station located in the former school store.

7.  Music is Everywhere: New Cross-Curricular Opportunities
Instead of having students complete projects and papers based on multiple subjects, students can select to use their background from the music innovation school in their non-musical courses.  For example, a new course offered this past year was Topics in Literature, an upper-level English elective.  Here students created their own path of research for the semester approved by the teacher.  The students read multiple books about one subject and wrote formal papers and blog entries about it.  The end result was a more meaningful experience for the student as he/she had autonomy over the content.  As one student stated reflecting on her experience with the various offerings this year, "this seemed to be the first year of schooling in which all my classes actually complemented each other."

Plans for the future:
We want to increase the amount of electives by exploring blended learning environments.  Over the course of the next year we will be developing online electives for music composition, sound recording, music business, music therapy, music education, loop composing, dj skills, and American popular music.  Students would take a course in a period best available for them and then would be required to meet as a class during the school day with the instructor once every few weeks.  We also want to start a new course focused on song writing and incorporating guitar, bass, piano and drum-set.

Lastly, we plan to create a relationship with the local colleges so that students can take music theory, ear training, and music history sequences for early-college credit.  Yes, this means actually leaving the high school campus and traveling to other schools during and after the traditional school day.

Pentucket created a new summer session of traditional and innovate courses.  This enhances the amount of overall courses a student can take and helps free up their schedule so they can fit their autonomous education.  This result is also achieved by offering early-high school credited courses to middle school students.  It is quite an exceptional model.

In the end this is going to be a very special opportunity for Pentucket.  We hope other music programs will follow our lead as we transition to provide a more autonomous and meaningful musical experiences for ALL of our students.