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Make Time For Cross-Curricular

We were finishing an assignment of creating a Theme and Variations with my Music Technology Intermediate level students and I wanted to get into the next topic.  I wanted to get into using the Garageband Apple AU Sampler and get into the idea of sampling in popular music in general.

I showed my kids some clips from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off when he uses is Emu Emulator II ( to fake his horrible sickness to his school friends and family.  I also showed the Ted talk of Mark Ronson and how he explained that the music landscape is now forever changed due to the development of digital sampling (

Well, I could have just had students find samples from songs that they liked and have them mash them together to create some hodge podge of musical sounds, but it was the end of February.  February is African American History Month. I had an idea!

I went to work finding inspirational speeches from African American leaders and began compiling them as choices in a cross-curricular assignment.  Below are the instructions for their assignment:

As we approach the end of February and African American History Month, Intermediate Music Tech students will compose a short sampling musical work which showcases a recording of a notable historical speech from an African American leader.  The spoken words themselves serve as the "samples" that students may use for their work. In addition, the Garageband AU Sampler will need to be used in one track in an expressive way. A completed work will be between 1:00 and 1:30 in length.  Choose phrases (samples) from the speeches that mean the most to you--I do not intend for you to put an entire speech to music. MAKE AN EMOTIONAL CONNECTION WITH THE SAMPLES YOU CHOOSE!

What I saw from the students next was really remarkable.  They were really listening to the speeches--unlike hearing them in a social studies class, as some of the students had already mentioned.  They were listening for words that meant something to them!  They were looking for ownership!  They were also trying to see what styles and emotions their musical additions could bring to their selected speech samples.

I ended up with a mixed bag of results, as one would expect from 7th and 8th grade students.  However, all of them tried. All of them connected. And all of them CREATED! All of the students used their abilities to take ideas from where they exist and merge them into a totally new form that is both artistic and personally meaningful.  Isn’t this what we want from our students--to take what they learn and internalize the information so that it is pertinent, timely, and meaningful?

I am encouraged to look for more cross-curricular projects to place in front of my students.  The value I see for cross-curricular projects is one of personal connection and ownership that the creative aspects of Music Technology is ideally situated to provide.  I hope you also look outside the box for creative ways to connect our students with their world.

David Dover - mttnPro

David DoverComment