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Mamaroneck School's Electronic Music Lab Has All The Bells And Whistles

Hannah Israel, front, and Anna Daum, make music with a handmade gadget -- basically, cardboard and copper wires -- that is hooked up to a computer. The Hommocks Middle School's new eMusic Lab was officially launched Tuesday. Photo Credit: Jon Craig
Eighth-graders Hannah Israel, front, and Anna Daum, use a "Makey-Makey" to create music in the new eMusic Lab at Hommocks Middle School Tuesday. Photo Credit: Jon Craig
Larchmont Mayor Lorraine Walsh, far left, and Mamaroneck Supervisor Nancy Seligson, far right, were among the public officials taking a tour of the new eMusic Lab at the Hommocks Middle School. Photo Credit: Jon Craig
Mamaroneck Mayor Norman Rosenblum, left, talks to music technology teacher Jeremy Franzé. Schools Superintendent Robert Shaps, far right, also toured the new eMusic Lab at Hommocks Middle School this week. Photo Credit: Jon Craig

MAMARONECK, N.Y. -- Music students at one Mamaroneck school may have already had the requisite oboes, tubas and drums, but now they have all the latest bells and whistles as well.

The ribbon for the brand-new eMusic Lab was cut this week at Hommocks Middle School, and teachers there say the kids couldn’t be more engaged or excited.

A $55,000 grant from the Mamaroneck Schools Foundation, and $24,000 worth of equipment donated by Ableton, a music, technology and software company based in Berlin, helped make the lab a reality.

According to the foundation, the money was used to replace the school’s existing keyboard lab with an electronic lab.

This, it said, has allowed the district to expand the Exploring Music curriculum for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders.

The school’s choir, band and orchestra will be using the lab, too.

There are about 400 sixth-graders, 90 seventh-graders and 130 eighth-graders involved in the eMusic program.

Students use iMacs and MIDI keyboards. Music is played on a synthesizer keyboard and entered into the computer where it can be manipulated by the students.

Projects will include individual and group compositions, musical arranging, film scoring, commercial and jingle writing, musical recordings.

Among the things that the younger kids will be learning are the basics: melody, harmony and rhythm.

One of the cutting-edge aspects of the new program, said music teacher Jeremy Franzé, is a device called the “Makey-Makey.”

The invention kit uses a computer chip to turn everyday objects -- even bananas and modeling clay --  into touchpads and combines them with the internet.

This allows students to, design, code, create and perform on those instruments.

Eventually, their work can be showcased in concert-like venues, Franzé explained.

At a recent tour of the lab, eighth-graders Anna Daum and Hannah Israel showed a visitor Tuesday how they composed music on their computer with the "Makey-Makey" attached to a simple object made out of cardboard and copper wires.

Local officials joining the tour were Schools Superintendent Robert Shaps, Mamaroneck Mayor Norman Rosenblum, Mamaroneck Supervisor Nancy Seligson, Larchmont Mayor Lorraine Walsh, a representative from state Sen. George Latimer's office, and several school board members.

The district -- partnering with Shift Learning, a London-based education market research company -- is taking part in a year-long study of music, technology and student engagement.

“Engagement is at a high level, for sure,” Franzé said, and not only because of the new technology.

“We’re exploring all genres of music,” the teacher said, adding that the program is also tapping into the kinds of music the kids like.

“It’s all been very exciting,” Franzé said.

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