Harold Stephan is a NYC based songwriter, producer and educator. Harold is an Amp Up NYC certified teacher and teaches at a new public school in Manhattan called City Knoll Middle School (MS933). He was the top PULSE user from Amp Up NYC in January, so we invited him to share his thoughts with other music teachers:
How do you utilize PULSE in your classroom?
I usually begin class with a warm-up activity in PULSE. The ear training tools in the Study Room are fantastic for a warm up activity. I ask my students to try and identify the intervals, for example, then give out raffle tickets for correct answers with a weekly drawing for various prizes. I also love the PULSE games available to us. I recently had students work in pairs, playing Music Match on iPads. Since all of my students have their own PULSE accounts, their scores flow into my account in real-time. A few minutes into the game, a student asked what team was winning, so I projected the game results from my account on the board. Suddenly, the kids could watch the game in real time! The added competition and excitement brought student engagement to a whole new level. I also like the end of unit quizzes, which I assign as take home tests. I let the students take the quiz as many times as they like to achieve the best score possible; this way they are motivated to learn anything they might have missed in class.
Have you used PULSE resources in any special projects?
Yes. Back in December, I deejayed the school dance and requests for Silento’s “Watch Me (Whip / Nae Nae)” were off the chart. I got to thinking, “How could I leverage a song like this in the classroom, to teach theory or composition, for example?” When I took a closer listen to the song, I realized the tempo and the length of the chorus could work well in the context of a 12-bar blues. I fired up Logic Pro X and got busy on a blues remix of the song. I thought it worked nicely, so I made it the basis for a unit plan to teach about the Blues. I used the chorus rhythm from “Watch Me (Whip / Nae Nae)” as a rhythmic scaffold for a lesson in which the kids composed an original 12-bar Blues. I used Noteflight within PULSE to create the rhythmic transcription and I synched it with the YouTube video of the song to create the lesson hook. I tied Take Me To The River from PULSE into the unit plan by having students write an essay on the historical context of the Blues, with Memphis, TN front and center. I scaffolded the VENN diagram included with TMTTR to include specific genres so that students could use it as a visual guide to assist in writing their essays. Click here to download lesson materials for this series.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
As a 20+ year music industry professional, I see many similarities between the role of music producer and music educator. Both hats require strong communication skills coupled with a high degree of empathy which honors the cultural background of artists and students. I am looking forward to empowering kids to express themselves through songwriting, production and performance in ways that lead to incredible, original music. Check out my website to see a bunch of “hit ready” backing tracks on SoundCloud created by Henrik Tala, one of my production partners and a co-writer on MattyB’s hit “Hooked On You.” We are making these tracks available as songwriting scaffolds for educational purposes to PULSE teachers and their students.