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Music school grant kick-starts new ASU learning programs

The ASU school of music is creating new learning opportunities from new funding

Piano Practicing

A student at ASU's School of Music practices piano on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2016

ASU music students and faculty are helping create new nationwide programs to help educate students after an $85,000 grant was awarded to the ASU School of Music by the sixth Digital and Learning Competition.

Now the music school, which is a part of the ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, is launching a program titled “Sound Explorations: Creating, Expressing and Improving Communities.”

This "Sound Explorations" program will be built on a series of learning playlists to teach students specific musical skills.

Samuel Peña, who is an ASU alumni and the assistant program manager for the program, said the playlists are not the typical playlists that would be found on Spotify or Tidal.

“These playlists are a set of learning experiences, designed to engage young people in experience and understanding,” he said. “A playlist is a lesson plan with a specific theme, it’s not a sound playlist.”

Peña said the playlists contain learning modules for different stages of musical production.

“For example, one playlist could be how to chop a sample,” he said. “Then it will go through all these steps on how to chop a sample and then they will chop it.”

Peña said when a playlist is completed, the student receives a badge of completion.

Peña also said he is working with consultants across the nation who are providing content for the playlists, which go over different musical topics such as making beats, creating instruments and interfaces, coding and programming, jamming and producing.

“These are non-traditional ways of making music,” he said. “What we are doing is creating a curriculum.”

ASU School of Music -- The Student Experience from ASU Herberger Institute on Vimeo.

Dr. Evan Tobias, associate professor at the ASU music school and the director of the Consortium for Innovation and Transformation in Music Education (CITME), said he is especially excited for the Sound Explorations project because of its reach.

“I’m really excited that this project in particular is going to scale nationally and provide young people a lot of opportunities to learn about music and engage with music,” he said.

Tobias said the project is “outward facing” from ASU and that students are involved in helping develop the content for the learning playlists.

Tobias also said the playlists will be pilot tested out at local organizations and schools before they are released to the public.

The playlists developed at ASU will be sent to a national organization called LRNG, which provides the learning playlists to cities around the country.

Versions of the playlists will also be held by CITME, which Tobias said will open up to anyone who wants access to them.

Tobias also said any students who are interested in applying their areas of expertise in music can contact him if they are curious about participating with CITME.

Jennifer Madruga, a junior double-majoring in music education and art history, is a designer for the Sound Explorations program and helps transfer content on to the playlists. 

Madruga said there has been a very positive reaction from the students at the music school following the announcement of the grant.

“This is a really awesome experience for the students who are using it and making it,” Madruga said. “It will help validate a lot of musical skills.”

Madruga said she was excited to be working the project as an undergraduate student.

“I am just grateful that as an undergrad I am able to work with the faculty,” Madgruga said. “I feel like the faculty is able to look at undergrad students and know they can accomplish things at a higher education level.”

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