Music and Learning

In July 2018, I enrolled in an OPC Module focused on Collaborative Leadership Inquiry & Digital Leadership Portfolios. Although all of my ‘classmates’ did some fantastic work (I have been and will continue to share samples on Twitter over the course of the summer), I was struck by the non-educational content of two participants: our moderator, Debbie Donsky and fellow school leader Jennifer Robinson. Jennifer’s site includes a comprehensive list of places and experiences from around the world. I hope she plans on elaborating on some of them; they sound fantastic.  Debbie’s site includes her ‘reflective stance’ on a variety of topics (77 posts at the time I published this) but also includes samples of her artwork along with reflections and/or commentary.

The ‘inclusions’ reminded me of another educator, Royan Lee, who I find songsmithing on his guitar on Instagram as often as I find him waxing poetic about trends in education. I often take a quick peek at his Insta live jams.

It is these brief glimpses into non-educational lives but also the ‘non-educational’ talent that lives inside people who are also extremely talented educators  that resonated with me as I perused the blogs being created as a result of the discussion from this course. Multi-Dimensional was the word that came to mind.  So…

It prompted the page & post entitled ‘Music and Learning’.

I am for all intents and purposes a musician. Talented might be a little bit of a stretch.  I can sing and have been for a long time. And, because of a ‘bet’ with a young student at my previous school, I have even taken lessons.  I also refer to myself as a ‘campfire’ pianist (that’s a pianist who plays in the same way a campfire guitarist might – by pushing out a few chords and simple melodies). And a synthesist (that is my passion – that’s creating a tweaking sounds and samples – I have a great A/B comparison of the intro to “Shout’ by ‘Tears for Fears” that I’ll share later as an example).

I often mess around with acoustic or scaled down versions of classics or find myself striping down some random song.  Currently on my playlist are a Wurlitzer (yes, I have an actual original Wurly) version of “She Talks to Angels” by the Black Crowes and a campfire piano chord version of ‘Perfect’ by Ed Sheehan.  I also mess around with of couple of buddies a few times a month on a variety of acoustic-style songs that span decades from the 60s to now. And, of course, I occasionally play synths for a local 80s cover band.

I love it. But I struggle… My household can sometimes hear some unprincipal-like expressions coming from my studio as I try and try and try again to get a sound or section or vocal right. At times I’m successful. At times I’m not. Nonetheless, warts and all, I will start to archive a sample of those trials here. If learning is messy then I might as well share this part of the process.

As a sidebar, I have one more post to make as a requirement of this course.  But that’ll have to wait until tomorrow.

First, a little tour of my workspace:

My two controllers: Akai Advance 49 and Arturia Keylab 61


Dual monitor and controller #3 0 the Arturia MiniLab – and Clark Kent 🙂

Yes… I have 3 controllers, and only two hands to play them at the same time. The Akai and Arturia are typically used live when I’m running my digital ‘onslaught’ of computer-based samplers and plug-ins. Click here for an 80s sample. (In our 80s band, I get to play synths side by side with my 23 years old son. How sweet is that!) I use the MiniLab because I’m not 25 and my body doesn’t twist easily. This way, I don’t have to twist and play the Akai or Keylab to trigger sounds. I can test them out on the Minilab first. 🙂

My baby… The Roland Fantom

This is my baby… I bought it new in the early 2000s. It has been in my classroom, my school, my car, multiple houses and venues. It sounds fantastic still. Yes, that’s a 3 1/4″ floppy drive. It is where I do most of my playing and singing. (hence the SM 58 and sock and, the print out of chords, just like a guitarist.)

Mix and interface.JPG
Control Centre

It all runs through my Steinburg UR-44 interface and Mackie Pro FX8, both pieces of technology I’m still not using to their full potential.


And, just slightly visible in the bottom corner (in another permutation of my studio), is my Wurlitzer A200 series electric piano, loaned to me by an acquaintance many years ago and still in frequent use here.

I use this studio in the same way a painter might use their paints and easels. I dabble a little, try and create a little, copy a little, but most of all, I play… a lot.