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Winburn Middle School teacher Kristen Salas helps students maintain the beat through digital music

Winburn Middle School students taking Kristen Salas’ digital music class have maintained a steady beat despite the COVID-19 pandemic upheaval. Via distance learning, they primarily create music independently on their Chromebooks using the audio workstation Soundtrap, and Salas uploads select projects for Warrior Radio.

Kristen Salas (Photo from FCPS)

“The digital instruments are made to sound like real instruments, and students can put several together. At its most basic, they are dragging over colored blocks to see what sound it makes, but it can get very complex,” Salas said. “Students use the software to make their own beats, loops, and remixes. We make simple music videos and have a YouTube channel to share our work with the community.”

A couple of years ago, Principal Mike Hale asked Salas to pitch some ideas for a new exploratory course, and he chose digital music. “I wanted to provide classes that were relevant, engaging, and unique,” he recalled. “Anyone who works with middle school understands the influence and impact music has on students in this age group.” In addition, Winburn tries to embed technology in various classes to enhance learning, so digital music was an ideal fit.

“Mrs. Salas has worked tirelessly to create lessons that engage students, broaden their understanding of how technology impacts learning, and create collaborative pieces (with) other classes,” Hale said. “Her music production lab extension course is one of the most popular choices students make during our REAch (Recovery, Extension, Achievement program) each Wednesday,” he added.

Digital music lab at Winburn Middle School (Photo from FCPS)

Salas, who teaches six sections of digital music a day, has embraced music technology for years. “It was a hobby of mine in high school, and I really fell in love with making my own music on my own time with all the digital tools available,” she said. “And it sounds good.”

Eighth-grader Janaiah Commodore is enjoying her second year with Salas. “When I was in elementary, we mostly sang or played little hand-held instruments, but this is way different,” she said. “It’s pretty easy – you just have to know what type of music you like. I use a lot of drums. It’s a great opportunity to understand how to produce music – how you put beats together, and how to make sure the music is steady and not all over the place.”

Janaiah said it usually takes students about a week to complete a project. “My favorite video was when I was able to mix in some guitar. It’s kind of like a rap,” she said. “The main name I was thinking of is ‘Be You,’ (as in) ‘Never do anything you’re not comfortable doing.’”

Salas noted her students cover the same curriculum content, though through a different modality. “They’re learning composition, form, the elements of music,” she said. “There’s different ways to be a musician. Some kids are not instrumentalists, but maybe this is the way they can be creative.”

From Fayette County Public Schools

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