The Digital Story in Music

Photo Credit: lachicadelfagot via Compfight cc

At first I didn’t get digital story telling. Not that I didn’t understand how it could be useful in a regular classroom setting, but how I could use it within a music classroom – specifically a performance class. Telling stories is a part of the music class – we tell stories all of the time – but we tell stories through the music. To me the etmooc version of the digital story seemed to be the boring regular ed teacher being vicariously creative through digital story telling. Why tell stories digitally? To what end? How could I possibly use this in a performance based class like Jazz Ensemble?

The obvious answers come to mind – but none of them have any direct effect on the rehearsal. Digital reports and journals – could all be great in a music class, but not through pictures or movies – it needs to be about the music. My students tell stories all the time – with every performance and every song. The story may not be apparent to the average listener – but we teach them the stories – the stories of John Philip Sousa returning to America from a European vacation and being inspired to compose the Stars and Stripes Forever, the stories of great composers and musicians from Duke Ellington to Aaron Copland – and not just the stories of their music – but the stories of how their music changed society and history. Telling the stories through any other means other than the music defeats the purpose of a music class. I did, however, come up with some great ideas for digital story telling in the music class – here are my ideas.

Digital Story Telling in Performance Class

I used Popcorn Maker to make a video to talk about music. In my Jazz Ensemble class we’re performing modern Jazz. One of the songs in our Repertoire is Chameleon by Jazz legend Herbie Hancock. When we perform a standard like Chameleon, we create our own arrangement by listening to many different versions of the same song. Using Popcorn Maker I took one version of the song, inported it into Popcorn Maker, and added “pop-up video” style comments for students to listen to. Usually in class we listen to songs and talk about them – using Popcorn Maker we can listen and read – a much more listening focused experience. Here’s my post on our class blog.

Another idea is to use Storify to document an ensembles’ experiences.  Using Storify we are going to collect and curate student posts, news paper clips, and our own class blog posts to tell the story of our band. This spring we will be performing in the National Memorial Day Parade in Washington, D.C. We will soon begin to tell our story using Storify and social media tools – documenting our rehearsals and activities leading up to the parade and our spring concert performance season. Next year we’ll do this all over again with our Marching Band season – sharing photos and recordings from rehearsals and performances, competitions and trips. What’s great about Storify is that all of the students can participate in adding content, but the teacher can still select and curate what’s appropriate for the story. Later – after the story is finished – the completed collection can be used in class for reflection and critique.


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