MEIA Grantee Uses Virtual Collaboration to Connect with Students

Give A Note is dedicated to supporting music educators, no matter the circumstances. We understand that teachers are learning quickly how to adapt their methods to keep their students engaged during this time. We have asked several of our Music Education Innovator Award (MEIA) recipients to share with us the resources they feel have been most helpful and will continue to share their stories here on our blog.

This post highlights Chris Gemkow, one of our very first MEIA recipients in Spring 2018, from York Community High School outside Chicago, IL. Chris started and oversees the York Album Project, a component of the school’s Music Production Program. “The Music Production Program at York High School [includes] three different levels of Music Production in which students learn how to create, compose, record, and produce a wide variety of music. Each student musician who continues on through all three levels of the program writes, records, and releases an EP of 3-5 original songs as the culminating music production project. The Music Production program also serves as the headquarters for the extra-curricular music program called The York Album Project comprised of student musicians from York High School who extend the skills learned in Music Production by collaborating every year to write, record, and release an album of all original material.”

Here Chris discusses the transition of teaching his students with Logic and Focusrite to learning about and creating and monitoring assignments with Soundtrap, a web-based Digital Audio Workstation (DAW).

As the weeks of remote learning continue, I might have more to say about Soundtrap, but it’s been an incredible resource for me this first week. I knew it existed, but I never looked into it until now. My classroom is well equipped with several DAWs that run Logic and all have Focusrite digital converters. I spent the last couple weeks trying to figure out what I was going to do without teaching in the music lab; I was at a loss for direction for a while.

When I opened up Soundtrap, I was so excited to find that the layout and commands are similar to the classroom setup I’ve been using in many useful ways. I watched the 8 minute Crash Course tutorial and was creating projects immediately. I taught my 7 year old the basics in a few minutes, and she created a song with lyrics and vocals in less than half an hour.

I knew this was the program my students were going to need to substitute the curricular dependence on Logic Pro for all of the projects.

Soundtrap is the best web-based DAW that I’ve used and I will probably continue to use some of it’s features even when we’re back in the lab. The best feature so far is the opportunity for virtual collaboration. Musicians can remotely collaborate on a song project using the text message window or the video chat, which is really cool. I tested it out with a colleague and was impressed with how efficiently we were able to work and communicate together in real time. I’ve also been using the video chat feature for fun with my daughters. They’ll open up a project, go up to a different room, and then we’ll have fun video chatting from different parts of the house.

I’m sure I’ll be able to share more as I get to know it and use it with my students more efficiently. It’s been an inspiration right now. I really wasn’t sure how I was going to support my students with a quality resource at home, but Soundtrap is exactly what I need right now to help me stay connected to my students and keep them creating music.

Soundtrap is currently offering an extended free trial to schools in response to COVID-19. For more information about this trial, please visit the Soundtrap website.

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