Monday, March 26, 2007
Faculty member helps area students make music
By Rebecca Wyatt Thomas, OU Web Writer
Music education is a way for students to learn more about themselves and engage in a form of expression. A group of special needs students at a Port Huron high school had no music instruction in their classroom, but their teacher, Sue Manuilow, thought it was something they could benefit from. At a conference last fall, she reconnected with Deborah Blair, a music education professor at Oakland University, and the two constructed a program that lets the students become composers.
Blair and Manuilow had worked together when Blair was a teacher in the district before she came to OU. They developed a music education class for the students — and Blair is using it as the topic of her research.
“The students listen to music all the time,” Blair said. “They like hip-hop, they like rap, and they like country. Each of them has a different taste in music. So we started the class by listening to the music they like and learning more about it.”
Blair said the students are very engaged in the material. Using the software Super Duper Music Looper, the students string together musical loops to construct their own compositions.
“They make their own musical decisions,” Blair said. “We talked about building songs and what goes into it, but it’s up to them to determine what sounds good together. That’s part of what I’m researching — what is it that sounds good to them and why.”
Using observation, video and audio tapes of the session, Blair tries to catch the verbal observations of the students in relation to what sounds good to them.
“The goal of this is to provide relevant music instruction — something that is meaningful for them at their level,” Blair said. “Second, it’s an opportunity for me to learn, on a professional and personal level, about music education and special education students.”
Blair plans to share her research through her courses here at OU, through presentations and through publishing.
Blair said the students will soon move on to hand drumming. Using hand drums the school district owns, the students will be able to create more of their own music. The program will run until the end of the school year.