My name is Justin Whitcomb, and I started a strange journey years ago that led to a unique course in a very small school.
Not Your Typical Music Student
If you’re like me, you’ve probably been asked to make a fine arts course for non-music students. And, if you’re like me, you immediately recognized the difficulty in getting non-music students excited about music history, composition, and form. They don’t want to learn about Bach. Or fugues. Or sonata allegro form. Or Charlie Parker. Your typical student in these courses is rarely the student who loves music and wants to know more about it. Instead, you’re typically dealing with students who aren’t ready to appreciate music to any major extent. It’s just not part of their personal bucket list.
Not Your Typical Music Class
But what if that music appreciation course was instead a class for creation and experimentation? What if the students were getting their hands dirty with musical instruments, music tech, and real-world skills? What if historical context and compositional considerations served a more subtle and subordinate role to creating something through modern tools? What if you told your students they could learn to be rock stars, producers, and mix engineers?
That’s what I did in my VERY small school when my administration needed another fine arts credit. When I started it, it was the only course of its kind in a high school in my state. Now, after six years of experimenting, shaping, reshaping, and redefining the course, I want to share it with as many music teachers as possible. My hope is to help others start their own program in their schools, incorporating technology and music into a creative experience for students who just don’t fit into the mold of traditional music ensembles or history classes.
Modern Skills for Modern Students
I like to call this program RAMP, or Recording Arts and Music Production. It’s a framework for developing musical skill sets that cover almost all of the national music standards, and even many of the technology standards, without requiring several years of musical background and experience. It’s a combination of technology and fine arts that allows even the least musically skilled individuals a chance to experience music in a deep, meaningful, and creative way.
In 2011, I started this program with a simple independent study guitar course for a senior in need of an arts credit, but it quickly turned into a class where students were able to create their own rock band, cover popular rock songs, and even write their own music. By 2013, students were using digital and analog tools to record and create music of many different genres.
Even more than that, the class evolved further into an opportunity for students to experiment with electronic music, including looping, effects, software instruments, and synthesizers through the use of MIDI interfaces and software.
Now, in its seventh year, RAMP is a full-blown songwriting, recording, mixing, and editing course that empowers students to be technologically savvy, creative, and curious with music. The students in my small school, many of which came with minimal experience in musical performance, have since written almost 20 original songs on multiple software platforms and in multiple genres.
If you’re interested in what this class could do for your school, you can sign up for your free starter guide to RAMP, as well as any updates and additions to products, services, and articles. It’s 100 percent free to sign up, and the free e-book will help you get started RIGHT AWAY with your own RAMP class.