The Arts News

Studio Music offers new kind of musical learning

Students collaborate with fellow classmates to produce, arrange and record music

Posted on February 9, 2017 by Julie Funasaki Yuen

Mid-Pacific middle and high schoolers are now able to express their musical interests and talents in a new way. Starting in fall 2016, the school began offering a Studio Music course where students collaborate with fellow classmates to produce, arrange and record music while playing a variety of instruments, many of which are not generally associated with a traditional band or orchestra program. High School Orchestra Teacher Elton Masaki was inspired to create the Studio Music class after watching student performances at the Mid-Pacific Welcome Program and Aloha Program every year.

"If you're an ukulele player, or rapper, or singer of pop music, you don't really fit into the current Band, Orchestra or Vocal Ensemble classes," said Masaki. "There was no place for these students to get any kind of musical training. That was one of the reasons we created the Studio Music class."

Studio Music courses in high school are rare and what makes Mid-Pacific unique is offering the opportunity to students as young as middle school.

"Almost all of the middle school students currently taking Studio Music don't have any musical background," said Middle School Band Teacher Jeremy Lawi. "What's so cool is we're giving students musical instruction without an instrument in their hand. I'm so used to teaching through an instrument, but it doesn't always have to be like that."


A Mid-Pacific middle schooler writes notes in Studio Music class.

Middle school students taking the course are learning major scales, general keyboard instruction, singing skills, and how to create beats - techniques that may be applied in multiple musical mediums. In both middle school and high school, the students create digital music portfolios of their work.

"The course is an extremely fun and great experience if you want to extend your knowledge of singing, instruments, and how other famous people make their songs," said 7th grader Caleb Hardee. "In this class, you get to learn how songwriters make their songs and you're able to experience it for yourself. For example, we made our own Mid-Pacific rap. We all made our own lyrics, drum beat and melody to rap to. I really recommend trying this class because you can make new friends and have a great time."

High schoolers are producing music using the Acapella app that records videos of multiple participants playing specific parts and combines the music into one production.

"If you were to record in a studio, the process is the same," notes Masaki. "You would record just one part, and play it back for someone else to play along with. The sequence of how music is recorded is taught to students in this class. When you play in band or orchestra, six or 10 people are playing the same part, but in Studio Music, it's just you. It makes the students more critical listeners."

"It's really an authentic learning experience," agrees Lawi. "When you gig, you have to do stuff like this. You have to arrange your own music and learn to make it work. When the students record, they make a lot of mistakes, which is great. They can get frustrated but it's good for them to go through that process. They end up creating a lot of what they want to."

"In a standard class, we spend a lot of time mimicking a composer's style, but in Studio Music, we experiment with our own stylistic interpretation and have the chance to use cutting-edge technology to create our music," said senior Mahina Smith. "We adapt a song to fit our own style. Studio Music is a self-guided class. The teacher is there to answer questions, but everything else is up to our group and us."


A Mid-Pacific high school student listening, performing and recording music in Studio Music class.