MILL HALL — Nearly 50 instrumental music students from Central Mountain middle and high schools participated in an electronic musical instrument workshop last spring, hosted 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 longtime supporter of the music program and a musician in several community ensembles, the workshop focused on the integration of electronics and music, with a 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 representations of sound waves created by the musical instruments they play in the group and the orchestra. Mr. Douty shared several gadgets with the students, including a rather interesting homemade one “electronic trombone”, that the students were eagerly waiting to try.
“The workshop was a huge success” says Crust. “Students used 21st century skills such as collaboration, critical thinking and creativity to apply what they learned about electronics and music in fun and experimental ways. Mr. Douty made the connection between science and music interesting and real for the students.
Each small group of students experimented with conductive and non-conductive materials with the goal of designing and building a unique, functional musical instrument using a pre-wired circuit board called Makey Makey. Students used cardboard, foil, clay, Popsicle sticks, gummy worms, bananas and many other objects to build their instruments, and a Makey Makey connected each creation to a Chromebook provided by the school in order to produce a variety of musical sounds when the instrument was “play.” Finished projects included pianos, xylophones, wind chimes, drums, pencil sketches, a dance platformer, and even a magic garden.