IUPUI Music Academy turns children into composers

Children composing

Don’t tell the youngsters sitting in front of large computer monitors with earphones clamped to their ears that they are engaged in something serious like problem solving. They are having too much fun composing music tracks in an IUPUI Music Academy summer class.

The children are creating six 33-bar tracks using the Garage Band software, which allows users to become composers, regardless of their knowledge of music.

“It’s really fun,” said 9-year-old Lilly. Cameron, 11, looked forward to showing his father his latest compositions. “I showed him what I had done (in a previous) class. He was kind of confused, but I helped him.”

The children are among 35 youths from an all-day sports camp at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis who were enrolled in the weeklong Music Academy class, which meets for 90 minutes a day.

The IUPUI Music Academy is an independent community music school, operating under the auspices of the Department of Music and Arts Technology in the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology at IUPUI. It was established in 1996 as an outreach program for the communities surrounding the IUPUI campus.

In addition to engaging with the sports camp youngsters this summer, the Music Academy also worked with 74 TRIO Upward Bound first-generation college-bound students and 35 high school girls from across the country who participated in the School of Engineering and Technology’s Preparing Outstanding Women for Engineering Roles program, sponsored by Rolls-Royce. The classes for the high school students have concluded.

Participants in Preparing Outstanding Women for Engineering Roles are invited to the program after expressing an interest in that field. The weeklong experience includes activities like a trip to the Honda auto plant, where the girls met with female engineers. It also includes sessions devoted to GarageBand.

GarageBand strikes a natural chord with younger people, said E.J. Choe, an assistant professor of music and director of the IUPUI Music Academy. “The Christmas wish list of this generation begins with products whose names begin with the letter ‘I’: iPad, iPhone, iPod.

“This marries an old art form with technology, which lures them into music, whether they play an instrument or not,” she said. “Everyone wants to be a composer, and kids quickly learn how to use the software to do it.”

There is a strong connection between engineering and music, said Terri Talbert-Hatch, assistant dean of student services. “Introducing them to GarageBand is a way to show them that technology can be fun. The name of the GarageBand class may not have the word engineering in it, but it’s all about technology, solving problems and being creative.”

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