I created a short arrangement of the song, "We are the World" by Michael Jackson, for a hybridized ensemble suitable for upper elementary school students. I arranged this song for voice, xylophone, bass xylophone, a little bits instrument programmed with a sound of your choice (I imagined a bass guitar or electric guitar sound), and a triangle.
At the start of college, my view of my musicianship skills were limited to flute, piano, and the occasional song in the shower. I knew what I could play well and was uncomfortable performing on instruments that I had little to no knowledge on. After my four years here, I've come to realize that I am not only a musician based on the instruments I can play with ease, but that musicianship is a skill that focuses on expression and creativity irregardless of proficiency on instruments. For example, I created a short song based on a picture using different loops and created music in a way that I would have never imagined doing before coming to JMU. I also combined my talents as a musician, playing the flute and using different technologies, to create a multi-track cover. This semester, I am singing in the JMU University Women's Chorus and that has pushed me out of my comfort zone too. Throughout college, I have learned to be okay with being uncomfortable; that space is where musicality and improvisation can grow. Musicianship is not about performing perfectly, but creating and performing with purpose.
I taught a beginning student the French Horn and got to document her progress over the course of two lessons.
For my MUED 372 final musicianship project, I had to build my own musical instrument and reflect on the process.
For my musicianship project, I decided to build a cajón following these Instructable directions. This building experience was a mixture of fun and frustration. I highly enjoyed the process of learning new skills, such as cutting wood with various saws and using a power drill, but was frustrated because X-Labs did not have the best woodworking tools to make this possible. I ended up finishing my project at home during spring break because my dad has better equipment and it was easier to access that way. One challenge I encountered was the Instructable directions themselves – they were sort of vague and unclear in how to construct the cajón and what materials to purchase. I wish they had a list of specific items they used. I also had difficulty cutting the wood precisely due to limited resources and struggled with drilling the screws into the wood without ruining said material because of a lack of knowledge and patience.
From this experience, I learned the importance of patience and asking for help. I wanted to do every step of the process by myself, but what actually worked best was asking my dad to help me understand how to use the tools, demonstrate for me, and then allow me to do the rest. I needed to be patient with measuring precisely so that the finished product would be accurate and easy to put together. I also learned about not being afraid to make mistakes because they can usually be fixed. I drilled an incorrect hole into the wood and thought I would have to buy another piece of wood, but there was actually wood filler to fix the hole!
A practical application for teaching in a secondary general music context that I can draw from this project is to providing adequate resources for students to be successful. This may mean inviting a guest who is more knowledgeable on a certain topic to come in and help or having mini-lectures on items that all the students might need to know (ex. how to use a power drill). I appreciated that Jesse allowed us to choose our own instruments to make, but in a secondary general music setting I might have the students choose one of three instrument options so that they have a sense of choice but not to the extent where I cannot help them on the instrument they are making.
For my MUED 371 Musicianship Project, we were given the task of performing music at the Election Day collaboration with the James Madison Center for Civic Engagement. My initial thought was that this project was a great idea and would provide an outlet for us to be civically engaged, but I had no idea how we were going to put everything together at the last moment. We had about a week to put together a set of songs to perform at the event and I was stressed. I decided to partner with Sophie Harrison, Adam Miller, and Erica Unroe to perform a set of four songs. I am definitely more uncomfortable singing in public than my peers, so that added to my nervousness doing this event. Once we got to the event and performed, it was actually more fun and relaxing than I thought it would be. It was super low stress and felt more like a jam session than a performance where I was going to be critiqued and I loved that. It reminded me of why I love music in the first place.
Prior to this event, civic engagement through music to me meant recognizing and understanding that music can affect events in the U.S., specifically when artists express their feelings about current events through songs and their lyrics. I also thought more about big name musicians’ ability to be civically engaged because they had a large platform to talk about their beliefs and affect change. After this event, my perspective on civic engagement has absolutely changed. I realized the importance of each individual person being civically engaged, even though they may not have as large of a platform as some artists. Being engaged through music could mean writing a song with lyrics about current events or expressing feelings about the events, but it could also just mean playing a song that has significance and sharing that with others. I felt like I was civically engaged at Election Day because I thought through the songs we chose and what their impact may be at the event and for those listening. Being civically engaged does mean being up to date with events and politics, but there can also be a lot of fun in it.
Here’s a link to our group singing!
My First Song!
Over spring break, I decided to write my very first song! It was definitely a difficult, exciting, and rewarding process. My main reason for doing this was because of my Honors Capstone and another scholarship I am applying for. I love the idea of storytelling through music and want to empower students to do this. However, I need to set a good example and be doing this myself. This post will tell the story of why I wrote the song, my lyric and chord progression writing process, my thoughts and feelings about the final product, and the song itself! There will be more written about this soon, but for now I will give you a sneak peek at my attempts at writing lyrics.
In this project, I will be making a cover of a song of my choice that includes chordal accompaniment, melodic lines, singing, and multiple musical sections. The goal is to learn music through trial-and-error like many people who pick up a new instrument, rather than through notation. In this post, I will include two additional "check-in" videos to track my progress, as well as a final multi-track video of my cover.
I will be learning and performing House of Gold, originally sung by twenty one pilots and written by Tyler Joseph, on the ukulele.
When doing this project, I will be developing the skill to play the ukulele, more specifically how to play different chords, how to change between chords, how to play a melodic line, and how to sing a melody over the chordal harmonies. Some of the knowledge I will gain is understanding how functional harmony works and how to read a chord chart. I will learn about the variety of styles when it comes to strumming (ex. country and gallop) and finger picking patterns for outlining the melody. By singing and playing the song, I will also further understand the mind of the songwriter and be able to describe my interpretation of the song and what I believe to be the songwriter's and singer's expressive intent. I predict that I will encounter challenges like being able to quickly switch between chords at the correct time, specifically learning Bbm and and Dm and switching between the two in the bridge, figuring out how to strum and which different strumming patterns to use, and developing the confidence to sing in front of a camera and reflect and critique what I have been learning about. I think that a lot of my challenges will be skill based because I am learning a new instrument, but I know that overtime I will get used to the ukulele and be able to play it more easily. However, I think that I will be challenged knowledge-wise to understand how the chords are formed using different notes on each string and how to reflect upon what I am learning in a succinct manner.
"House of Gold" Cover
My learning process began with me watching multiple Youtube tutorials and covers of this song. I also watched several Youtube tutorials on different strumming patterns to pick from initially and then decided on which ones I liked the best. Personal interactions with Erica, my brother, and friends in my MUED 273 class were good ways for me to ask specific questions and receive immediate answers about strumming patterns, fingerpicking, and chord changes. Learning the song simply took a lot of individual practice time and reflection; the check-in videos helped me reflect on what I had accomplished, as well as what goals I wanted to strive for at the next checkpoint. I took time to practice and feel what changing chords quickly and strumming differently was like, even though it was difficult and hard to see progress initially. While I know my final was not perfect, I am really happy with how much I have improved on my own!
To create the song, I had to know the different sections involved and how often I wanted to repeat each chorus and bridge. I also had to decide if I wanted to make the strumming patterns the same or different throughout the piece. I ended up changing it from DDDUDU to Down and a hand stop in the last chorus to make the song a little more interesting. I also added the melody at the beginning as an introduction to the melody of the chorus and a little conclusion of muting the strings and strumming to remind the listener of the beginning and bring the piece to a close. This process allowed me to have more creative license when playing me piece and challenged me to learn new techniques to make the song less repetitive and more interesting.
In relation to the essential questions, I learned that music learning and teaching does not require only one teacher giving instructions and the students following those directions in a classroom setting. Music learning and teaching can occur through multiple channels at once and can be a self-directed activity. Musicianship is still the art of creating music and I believe it remains similar through technical innovations. The difference is that you are now overlapping multiple videos of yourself, instead of collaborating in one setting with multiple people on different instruments. Music learning can be documented and shared through videos, like we did with the Video Check-Ins. My colleague Erica recorded a little bit of herself each day and complied those clips together and it was so much easier to see her music learning. I recorded videos about every 2-3 weeks and you can still see the progress I made, though it is a little more difficult to see. I believe that a music educator needs to know how to prompt students with proper questions and have the skill of providing good, personable feedback to students based on their progress, even though the feedback may not be given in person. With contemporary musiking, learning can be expanded to outside of the classroom much more easily and teachers can see a student’s learning process even though they are learning in a more organic manner.
When I teach in the future, I can see myself using a similar method for students when they are writing songs or learning a new piece of music. This technology makes it easier for me to understand how my students are practicing and how I can help them to improve. A lot of learning is spent outside of the classroom and using technology gives me, as their teacher, a glimpse into an interdisciplinary style of learning that is occurring outside of their singular music classroom. Currently, I am developing a songwriting curriculum and I think using technology for students to record their practicing and thoughts at home would be good for me to understand what is going through their minds. However, I do acknowledge that some students may not have the same access to these technologies, so I would need to provide a way for this activity to be accessible to all students. I also think this would be great for me to show my students how I am learning new things outside of the classroom, whether that be when I am writing new songs or as I am learning a new instrument like the Cajon. Having a model to show students is a great way to encourage their curiosity and help them feel like I am also doing this engaged learning process alongside them.
Here's an even better cover!
For our Musicianship project, my group (Erica Unroe and Brandon Rhinehart) created a cover of Feel it Still by Portugal. The Man. Here’s our cover!
Our group approached this project by first listening to the song several times and identifying all the instruments that were used. After that, we determined which parts were feasible for us to reproduce with the time and materials we had. Then, we looked at BandHub and Acapella and their features to determine which app we wanted to use. We ended up deciding that BandHub would be better because we could record the whole cover without paying an extra fee. We decided to divide and conquer when recording—Brandon worked on designing the backing track, while Erica and I recorded the piano chords and melody. Then we put it all together on BandHub!
This approach was successful in that we included a variety of sounds and beats into the cover, and it stretched us to experiment with Garage Band by make a backing track and to get out of our comfort zones to sing. We faced difficulties keeping all the sections in time with each other because we initially did not have headphones to listen to the other completed parts and see how they lined up with one another. Another challenge was not knowing how to use BandHub well; we did not realize that we should have the backing track first and then record everything on top of it, so we ended up having to do multiple takes in order to get all the videos on the same file. We also were not using BandHub in the way that it was intended where people can record from different places and put their videos together. Instead, we were all in the same place and wanted to add all the videos we made at the same time, which did not work quite as well. If we had the opportunity to attempt this project, I would have learned how to use BandHub better before trying to create our final product. I also would have also used more of a variety of instruments and started building from the foundation (bass) and then adding the melody and harmonies, rather than splitting up and thinking it would be faster that way. If we took this approach, it would have been much faster to create the final product, we would not have the synching issues, and it would be a lot more polished.
This experience enriched my musicianship by forcing me to collaborate with others, almost like in a chamber ensemble. We had to communicate with each other what our expectations were, which meant that I had to articulate my desires, but I also had to comprise and listen to their ideas. I also had to figure out how to make music with a technological app and how to synchronize it with other videos. I was challenged to sing in front of the camera, which for me is uncomfortable because I am not confident with my singing voice and abilities. However, as a music teacher, I will have to sing solo in front of my students, so it was beneficial for me to sing on the video and it helped that I was doing it with my other collaborators. I was also personally challenged to reign in my emotions and temper. We had been working on it for a couple of hours and it still was not working, so I was challenged to keep calm and not lash my stress out upon my other group members.
If I had the opportunity to reattempt this project, I would use more of a variety of instruments, including secondary instruments that I am currently learning in my tech classes. This would push me out of my comfort zone, allow me to practice that instrument, and add a variety of sounds and textures to the piece. I also would have tried learning the song more aurally and trying to figure out chords to test my ear and aural skills. These approaches could benefit me by pushing me out of my musical comfort zone and forcing me to listen to different styles of music that I do not usually would not enjoy. By engaging with different instruments and recognizing their function I can better understand the role my primary instrument plays in ensemble settings and be a better ensemble member in that way.