By Maggie Pilloton, Kite Writer/Editor
What role does music play in your life? You might listen to music on your way to work, while you work out, or even before you go to bed. It might be a part of your daily routine, a method used for self care, or even a form of relaxation. It’s a simple activity that we barely even think about while we’re doing it. But music is highly complex.
We might think of our exposure to music as something as simple as that, putting our headphones in and turning on our favorite song. But what if you were able to get an inside look at how that song was produced? Or what if you could learn more about the thought process behind the song-writing? What if you could look at music and its production in a completely different way?
At Marin Country Day School last year, students got the opportunity to do just that. Twenty 8th graders decided to partake in the Storytelling Podcast Project, led by Upper School Music teacher, Noah DeMoss. Through this project, students learned about the role of music in the storytelling process.
The goal of this project was simple: to transform the stage play Around the World in Eight Plays by Patrick Greene into a podcast. That was the main focus. Noah had other goals in mind as well.
“One goal of this project was to open the student's eyes to another medium of music they hadn't experienced before,” Noah said. “My second goal was to create a project that was accessible to all students despite their background in music.”
At MCDS, students have access to learning opportunities in a wide variety of subjects and interests. They also have the power to choose not only what they want to learn more about but also which of their interests they’d like to explore more. Noah’s project and many others around the MCDS campus provide those kinds of opportunities.
For this project, Noah first taught the students about the role of music in films and how it can evoke certain emotions in different scenes. To put this into practice, he taught them more about sound effects, music, and voice acting. This type of background knowledge showed the students how to, as Noah said, “push a story forward in a compelling way” and, ultimately, “create an immersive podcast that transports the audience into the story.”
He divided the students into groups of four. The students were in charge of the whole production process from start to finish. They were tasked with reading through the script, assigning roles and recording their lines onto an iPad using the Garageband app. The 8th graders also had to create music and sound effects using resources around the MCDS campus and, finally, work together to edit their podcasts.
Listen to some of their podcasts from Around the World in Eight Plays:
This project naturally inspired a lot of creativity as students had to bring this play to life without the use of any visuals. Because of the focus on audio alone, students often had to get creative with how they produced and conveyed certain sounds. As Noah shared in this story from the project:
“My favorite story came from my first quarter when we went out to get sound effects. We spent the whole double period scouring different locations on campus for whatever groups needed. Finally, our search culminated on the Lower Field, and most groups used the dock to get water sound effects. However, one student needed the sound of beating wings. She took her iPad, slowly crept as close to the geese on the field as she could, and then took off running after them holding the iPad in front of her as they scattered. I didn't think there was any way the iPad microphone was going to catch the wings of those birds, but it did! They had an incredible, authentic beating wings sound effect and helped to maintain our lower field in the process.”
Not only did this project challenge the students creatively, but it also gave them the opportunity to possibly discover a new passion that they didn’t know they had. It revealed some new aspects of music that they might not have been exposed to before, and it revealed new pathways in the music industry that they could potentially want to learn more about in the future.
“I hope that students take away from this project that there is more to the world of music than just playing an instrument or being born a talented musician,” Noah said. “If you have a passion for music and want to make a career out of it, there are far more avenues than just a performance track.”
There is beauty in running after geese to get the perfect sound effect. Or voice acting a role you never thought you would. Or learning how to construct a podcast on Garageband. The unique qualities of this project opened doors for our students for more creativity and passion while they’re at MCDS and beyond.