Itâ€™s fifth period, and Mr. Manchesterâ€™s seventh grade performing arts students are composing music. Working alone and in pairs, they are creating melodies, writing lyrics, inventing sound effects and making rhythm tracks. Yet thereâ€™s no cacophony–just the gentle buzz of conversation and the sound of a boy quietly rehearsing some rhymes.
The students are using equipment purchased this year through a $5,950 BEF classroom grant: headphones, laptops, iPods, microphones and keyboards. Paired with school district-purchased recording software that enables to collaborate from separate devices, the equipment is helping unleash student creativity.
â€œThe main purpose was to make it easier for students to express themselves,â€ said Manchester, a middle school music specialist. In prior years, students had to go back and forth between the classroom and the upstairs computer lab to create their compositions. â€œThe mobile technology gives them the ability to record easily and to get their ideas down quickly.â€
On a recent Thursday, Luke Dunker and Stefan Schiff were in the soundproof practice room next to Mr. Manchesterâ€™s classroom, adding a drum track to add to the guitar melody Stefan had already created. New to the drums, Luke was planning to record a short sample played on the schoolâ€™s drum kit, and loop it. The technology really helps, said Manchester, to bring in students with different levels of musical training. â€œIf youâ€™re advanced, thereâ€™s a lot you can do. If youâ€™re not, there are tools that will help you get started.â€
Back in the classroom, Mason Louis and Brendan Eldridge were polishing the lyrics to a rap song. Across the room, Gigi Lewis was playing an electronic keyboard connected to a laptop. To an observer, the process was soundlessâ€”yet she and classmate Lily Keller (seated two tables away but collaborating in real time on another laptop) were working together to create music that would simulate the sounds of a train. â€œI can hear trains from my house,â€ said Gigi, â€œand I recently went on a train trip.â€Â
â€œI thought it would be cool to tell that story with sound.â€