Nearly fifty instrumental music students from Central Mountain Middle and High Schools participated in an Electronic Musical Instruments Workshop this past spring, organized by music teacher Ashley Crust and fully funded by a grant from the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools.
Presented by local electronics technician Brian Douty. who is also a long-time music program supporter and musician in multiple community ensembles, the workshop focused on the integration of electronics and music, with particular emphasis on the design and creation of unique musical instruments using everyday objects and materials. Mr. Douty facilitated discussions on topics such as circuits, electrical resistance, and frequency, and students observed and analyzed depictions of the sound waves created by the musical instruments they play in band and orchestra. Mr. Douty shared several gadgets with the students, including a rather interesting homemade “electronic trombone,” which students eagerly lined up to try out.
“The workshop was a huge success,” said Crust. “The students used 21st Century skills like collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity to apply what they learned about electronics and music in a fun and experimental way. Mr. Douty made the connection between science and music interesting and real for the students.”
Each small group of students experimented with both conductive and non-conductive materials in an effort to design and build a unique, functioning musical instrument using a pre-wired circuit board called a Makey Makey™. Students used cardboard, aluminum foil, clay, popsicle sticks, gummy worms, bananas, and many other items to construct their instruments, and a Makey Makey™ connected each creation to a school-issued Chromebook in order to produce a variety of musical sounds when the instrument was “played.” Finished projects included pianos, xylophones, wind chimes, drum sets, pencil drawings, a dance platform game, and even a magical garden.