ANN ARBOR, MI – With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing schools into distance learning, John Churchville knew he had to think outside the box to teach his music composition and theory class at Rudolf Steiner School.
As the year draws to a close, Churchville students published “QuarenTeen Music” an album of 14 compositions they worked on throughout the year using music software that helped them collaborate with their teacher, classmates and even students abroad in the comfort of their home.
This is the second album the students in the Churchville class have released, with Churchville providing advice and production on all six songs from last year. “Music from a distance. “Both albums are available to buy on Bandcamp.
âFor me, it’s under the umbrella of what I would call student-led, project-based learning,â Churchville said. “The students are the leaders in deciding the project and what it is and through this project, that’s where the learning happens.”
Steiner’s sophomore Calvin Hillman sent out a social media call looking for musicians and connected with students at Titus Brandsmalyceum School in Oss, the Netherlands to create his song “Miami” via a music creation platform called Soundtrap.
This was the second year in a row that a Steiner student had worked with students from Titus Brandsmalyceum, after student Alex Nitsche collaborated to create the song “No rest for the tiredâ, Which has since been entered in the competition for the Dutch national education prize, Nationale Onderwijsprijs.
Soundtrap allowed Hillman and the students to collaborate around the clock, bringing their own instrumental tracks or samples to its composition, mixing the talents of the students to create a sound of its own.
âI changed the title of the song to ‘Miami’ because the genre and style of the song was inspired by that low-rider Miami style,â Hillman said. âI was also inspired by a lot of Dutch EDM music, because there is a lot of good EDM music there. It was a funny song.
Churchville, a Grammy-winning tabla player, describes Soundtrap as an online portal that combines music software like GarageBand with Google Drive, allowing students to invite others to contribute their instrumental tracks. The program also allows messaging to provide real-time commentary, while giving updates whenever new music is added to a song.
Churchville used Soundtrap to record production adjustments he made to songs, giving students a step-by-step âalbumâ of the creation.
The class and program helped Maya Liljegren, a junior at Steiner School, develop a greater desire to compose songs, after growing up with a passion for dance and theater.
The class was a gateway into the songwriting world for Liljegren, who provided vocals, ukulele, keyboard, and loops, while Churchville contributed bass and drums for his contributions to the album “Echo”.
âAdding these other elements, it was really interesting to see how much it changed the whole dynamic of the room,â said Liljegren. âThe amount of knowledge I have gained over the course of this year has been enormous for me, especially as someone who was just starting to want to write their own music. Now I feel like I have the tools to be independent and do it on my own after this course is over.
Liljegren’s desire to create her own album was music to Churchville’s ears, which was encouraged by the students’ ability to develop by composing their own music from a distance.
At the end of the school year in early June, the Churchville students requested that they perform their songs at a whole school assembly – proof of their self-confidence during an unusual school year.
âNow the students are asking for ownership of their work,â Churchville said. “It’s all for me as a teacher to see this happen.”
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