“QuarenTeen Music” shows the creativity of the perseverance of Ann Arbor’s students during COVID

ANN ARBOR, MI – With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing schools into distance learning, John Churchville knew he had to think outside the box to teach his music composition and theory classes at the Rudolf Steiner School.

At the end of the year, Churchville students released QuarenTeen Music, an album of 14 compositions they worked on year-round using music software that helps them work with their teachers, fellow students and even overseas students helped from the comfort of home.

It is the second album that Churchville students have put together, with Churchville directing and producing last year’s six-song “Music From a Distance”. Both albums can be purchased from Bandcamp.

“For me, it comes under the umbrella of student-led, project-based learning,” Churchville said. “The students are the leaders in deciding what the project and what it is, and it is through this project that the learning takes place.”

Steiner student Calvin Hillman sent a social media callout looking for musicians and connected with students at Titus Brandsmalyceum School in Oss, Netherlands to create his song “Miami” through a music creation platform called Soundtrap.

It was the second year in a row that a Steiner student worked with students from Titus Brandsmalyceum after student Alex Nitsche worked together to create the song “No Rest for the Tired”, which has since participated in the Dutch national education award competition Nationale Onderwijsprijs Has.

Soundtrap enabled Hillman and the students to work together around the clock by contributing their own instrumental tracks or samples to his composition and combining the students’ talents into a sound all of their own.

“I changed the title of the song to ‘Miami’ because the genre and style of the song were inspired by this low-rider style from Miami,” said Hillman. “I was also inspired by a lot of Dutch EDM because there is a lot of good EDM music there. It was a funny song. “

Churchville, a Grammy-winning tabla player, describes Soundtrap as an online portal that combines music software like GarageBand with Google Drive and allows students to invite others to contribute their instrumentals. The program also allows messages to provide real-time feedback and gives updates when new music is added to a song.

Churchville used Soundtrap to record production adjustments he made to the songs and gave students a “scrapbook” of step-by-step creation.

The course and program helped Maya Liljegren, Junior Steiner School, develop a greater desire to compose songs after growing up with a passion for dance and acting.

The course was a gateway into the world of songwriting for Liljegren, which provided vocals, ukulele, keyboards and loops, while Churchville took on bass and drums on her contribution to the album “Echo”.

“When you add those other elements, it was really interesting to see how much that changed the whole dynamic of the piece,” said Liljegren. “The knowledge I’ve gained over the course of this year has been tremendous for me, especially as someone just starting out to write their own music. Now I feel like I have the tools to be independent and do it myself when this course is over. “

Liljegren’s desire to create her own album is music to Churchville’s ears, encouraged by the students’ ability to compose their own music remotely.

As the school year ended in early June, Churchville students asked to play their songs during a school meeting – a testament to how confident they had become during an unusual school year.

“Now students are demanding ownership of their work,” Churchville said. “For me as a teacher that is all to observe that.”


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