The Music Technology curriculum at Cairo-Durham Middle/High School is still in its first year, but so far students are enjoying the new option to earn music credit. According to teacher/creator Drew McCabe, the goal of the new digital music curriculum is to make music more accessible for all students.
“After teaching general music for many years, I noticed how difficult it could be for students who were not in band or chorus,” said Mr. McCabe. “Their interest was minimal and they weren’t engaged. So, I set out to create a curriculum that provides all students with opportunities to make music, whether they play an instrument or not.”
The hands-on course allows students to learn about current music technology and engineering. Following several years of planning and support from administration, the school board, and the Information Technology Department, Mr. McCabe was able to implement the new curriculum by taking advantage of an existing computer lab with Mac desktops already equipped with many music and video capabilities.
Students in the Music Technology course use computer programs to manipulate musical elements and create their own works, from ringtones to remixes. Middle school students, for example, created remixes of songs by altering various musical elements to make it their own. Students layered audio files and sounds over existing songs, often removing elements or adding their own sounds to create new original tracks.
“The coursework is 100% project-based and hands-on. Everything is done in class,” said Mr. McCabe. “There is a public speaking component as well. Students present their projects in front of the class and participate in question-and-answer sessions.”
“The classes are essentially paperless,” he continued. “Assignments are given and submitted via Google Classroom. It’s a good opportunity to incorporate more 21st century skills into the curriculum.”
High school students taking Music Technology (or Digital Music Synthesis) with Mr. McCabe participate in more complex projects such as composing soundscapes, exploring film scoring, and creating moods with music. Unlike the middle school curriculum, which is offered quarterly to sixth and seventh graders, the high school course is a full-year elective.
According to Mr. McCabe, the new curriculum provides Cairo-Durham students with more opportunities for creative learning.
“Society has gone through the agricultural age and the industrial age and the age of information. Now we’re in the creativity age,” he said. “People who are able to think creatively are the ones who will get ahead and have greater opportunities. Not just with music, but also how to think creatively in general and be able to create something new.”