Charley Lutz demonstrates one of the apps the “Making Music with Electronics” class uses to perform Silent Night and Carol of the Bells. | Alison James

Archived Story

There’s an app for that

Published 11:50am Tuesday, December 18, 2012

iPads are becoming a go-to gadget for all aspects of life, but one class at Benjamin Russell High School is having to face the music when it comes to technology in the classroom.

“Making Music with Electronics” brought 17 students and assistant band director Mike Muncher together to hit the right note on incorporating iPads into the school.

“We’ve got a pretty good mix of kids – from two or three band and choir kids to people that have never played an instrument before,” Muncher said. “We’re really focusing more on popular sorts of music rather than band stock music. We’re not putting as great an emphasis on learning how to read (music) as we are just using our ears.”

The class uses a number of apps – like Samplewiz, Spacewiz, GarageBand and MorphWiz – to create music.

Charley Lutz is one student involved, and she said she saw the class as “the best of both worlds.”

“I’m really interested in computers and all that stuff, and I also like music,” Lutz said. “I really like it and enjoy it, and there’s a lot of neat people in that I probably wouldn’t have met.”

The iPad band played a concert Sunday afternoon before a Rising Starz ballet recital at BRHS.

“The opportunities to do different things with a touch screen are so much greater than they are with a traditional synthesizer,” Muncher said. “There’s so much you can do with it, and I gave (the students) a lot of time to explore that on their own.”

Much of the class is based on exploring and learning, although performance and presentation grades are also a focus.

“Anyone can do it,” Lutz said. “We have a couple of guys you would never think would learn how to play an instrument, and this year they stepped up and said, ‘We’re going to do this.’”

Muncher said he envisions iPads continuing to become an ever more integral part of the school day.

“Teachers are starting to figure out we’re not going to get rid of this,” Muncher said. “It’s just going to keep getting to be a bigger part of these students’ lives, and we’ve got to figure out ways to use that rather than fight it.”

And the band has embraced that idea of figuring out ways to use it.

“If we had the money, and all the music was ready to go, and it wouldn’t be such a headache, we could theoretically run the band program with iPads on stands rather than music,” Munch said. “There are several good apps for doing that now.”

Lutz said she plans to take the iPad class again next year.

“It’s definitely opened my eyes to what could become (possible) in the future,” Lutz said. “I never really thought you could make a band with just iPads.”

But as to whether technology will ever completely replace the traditional instrument, Muncher said he thinks not.

“There is a certain amount of nuance and heart that comes from infusing your own physical self into an instrument,” Muncher said. “That sense of heart is never going to be in that electronic sound.”