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Introduction

This episode continues a conversation with Tyler Swick, a music educator who focuses on music technology from Nevada, USA. If you haven’t already, check out episode 1 of this series by clicking here!

About ‘Read the Episode’: Sometimes we would rather skim visually instead of listening to a podcast! That’s a great way to learn too! The transcript to episode 018 of The Crescendo Music Education Podcast is below.


Episode 018 Transcript

Introduction from Debbie

Here is The Crescendo Music Education Podcast, Episode 18.
And now for part 2 of my chat with Tyler Swick, we left you in part 1 with a bit of a cliffhanger, when he was talking about the journey of his YouTube channel and he had that almost overnight success, though we know that overnight successes aren’t really overnight successes. They’re like a lot of work behind. But lots of people had discovered his We Don’t Talk About Bruno video. And we’d like to know what happens next. So part 2 of my chat with Tyler Swick.


Tyler Discusses His YouTube Videos

Tyler
I put out an Encanto video a day where I was like, Okay, We Don’t Talk About Bruno, Surface Pressure, The Family Madrigal or Columbia, and each of them doing successful in their own ways. And that launching and saying, Okay, this is the future. The video I put out a year ago was now getting a couple of thousand views a day. And I went, aha, it was just a little too early.

So it’s, yeah, ahead of it’s time, it’s sent me into a rush, where I then made about five videos a week. So I was going to school, I would then leave school or after school would do choir and instrument club, I would go do two or three private lessons a day, I would then get home, have dinner with my wife and child. And then I’d go to the computer room for the rest of the night. And I made as many videos as I could and when it was said and done, I made about 57 videos over the next couple months.

And I was taking requests, and people come in ooh I love this song and the video would be up two or three days later, in some cases the next day. And it was really fun, exciting, and a pace that I could not keep up. But the fun part was I posted a video, I would schedule it and time zones are a funny thing. I would schedule it to release at like 3am my time because the East Coast of the United States would be just waking up ready for school. And they would wake up and say hey, a new boomwhacker video. And then they’d put that in their lesson that day. Oh, yeah.

So then by lunchtime in my timezone, the video would have 2000 views. And I’d go Wow, another success and that motivated me. Okay, go home and make another one. And so I made as many as I could and sometime around two months ago, I was like, I’m done. I’m done making these. And part of the trouble of YouTube is rights and the reason why nobody, probably nobody, has done this before with popular music is because there’s no money to be made stealing other people’s music.

Debbie
In fact that was my next question, was about using that music. Because yeah, I was just going to ask you how that works with rights and got obviously you can’t monetise. If you’re using those videos, that soundtrack I should say, however, YouTube could still take it down, couldn’t they? Or can’t they?

Thoughts on YouTube Copyright Issues

Tyler
Absolutely, you got me to launch me to two stories, this is great. Yes. I forget the music manager group, or forget, it’s three letters, I forget it. But anyway, they represent like all the record labels, and they work with YouTube, where they do content identification, as soon as you upload something. Yes. So as it’s uploaded to YouTube, it’s scanned, and it immediately catches copyrighted material, it will tell you, you will not make money from this, the funds will go to and it tells you who the money, so it will show an ad, but the money will go to Disney or it’ll go to the respective artists.

And so I know some people kind of claimed that I was doing that stealing or pirating and that kind of put a negative spin on it. But in my perspective, polarity, I’m making other people money in this process, like people who are having no idea what a Boomwhacker is are getting cheques from my YouTube channel. Yeah, so Encanto, just some quick math, about a million views of Encanto Boomwhackers. It’s about $3,000 that was sent to Disney on my behalf.

‘Encanto’ Setting

Debbie
So does Disney have to approve that boat, then that goes to Disney and they say either, yeah, leave that I’ll get the money or no bugger him, take it down?

Tyler
100%. So here’s the second story. Okay, so We Don’t Talk About Bruno is up for months, months, three months, four months and it’s getting wonderful views. Maybe one of the best videos on my channel. I don’t see a dime from it. But I like the idea that because it’s being seen, it’s pushing the other videos and it just kind of trickles down.

I wake up to about 50 emails and Instagram messages and Facebook messages and it’s nothing but strangers, people I’ve never met before in my life, and they’re all saying, “Hey, why did you you take down the Bruno video.”

And I’m, I don’t know what they mean like I’m just opening my eyes. And it’s every complaint in the book. “I’m getting observed today. Where’s the Bruno video?” My Principles in my classroom. Where’s the Bruno video?” “My concerts tomorrow night? Where’s the Bruno video?”

Every, every possible inconvenience you can imagine where these emails panicked teachers saying, I will pay for it, I will buy it. Where is it? So I go on to YouTube as fast as I can. And it says Disney decided last night at like three in the morning that you don’t get to have this video anymore. Okay, they just took it down, took it down. No warning it’s gone and I go, Oh, okay.

So I panic, and I start emailing video files to and all of the panicked teachers, here’s the video file, just take the hard file, here’s the like, just go, go, go go. Like, in my mind, it’s more about the teacher. I’m sure there’s some legality issues there but in my mind, it’s more about the teacher, how do I get the teacher through their day through their class, because I’m not gonna be the one responsible for a bad review, because I know how good, important reviews are, and how important the concert is you can’t he can’t risk those things.

And so anyway, there is a process to argue that you have the right to do that and so there’s two things of commentary and parity are maybe the two possible realms that you can go through. And so I had learned as many ways as possible to get around this. But the idea is, if I were to change the key signature, the speed of the song and comment on the quality of the song, it would all be dandy. So if I started every video with I like this song, do you like this song? And then I interrupt the middle of it, I interrupt the middle of and go, are you having fun? I’m having fun, and then I can start to sunken and very annoying, nobody wants that to happen.

So I just chose to never do that. But if I commentated on the video, it’d be considered commentary. And it’d be fine. I would receive money for such things but nobody wants that, nobody in the classroom wants to have my face pop up in the middle and go, are you having fun right now? I am and then like, go back playing it, right.

So I looked up legal ways to purchase the rights to these songs and one website boasted, you know, you can get real music from us for a low price. They actually look at how many subscribers you have, and charge you appropriately. And lucky for me, I was in my low numbers at the time, and I bought the rights to a song, I put it on the video, I posted the video, and I got an email saying like your video does not pass our fine print essentially the fine print was it cannot be the focus of the video. It has to be background music and so then they took it back again.

Debbie
Oh, I hope you got your money back.

Issues Making Money on YouTube

Tyler
Correct. Yeah, I got my money back. But it was essentially I was running out of reasons to make videos that help everyone, which is all good, and that makes you feel good. But basically, there’s no return of like, you know, there’s no cheque in the mail for ‘Hey, you worked four hours a day on YouTube. Here’s your cheque for a good job.’

There was a lot of views and no money. And so I started pushing videos that I would own the rights to like warm ups, and like the dubstep. I mean, I found like backing tracks that had no royalties on them. So I can make like warmups to have a fun beat in the background. Or there are some ones where you read the rhythm and just play along and those are the ones that I was like, okay, when you view that, yes, I get my like, 30% of a penny. Yeah. And that’s cool and all and so I just, it just got tough to justify continuing to make pop song videos, especially when there was there’s kind of no back end to help me out. To make it worth the time, right?

Editing a Video

I can be doing other things. And so it’s hard to sound selfish. And I feel selfish saying that because this all started such a humble place of the idea that this is helping someone excites me and then when I saw my own life of like, my wife’s wondering where I am always in the computer again. It’s like, okay, if I had dollar sign to show for and say, ‘Hey, I bought this wonderful, blank because of YouTube.’ That’d be cool. But that wasn’t the case.

Debbie
Yeah. And you know, the other side of it is too, as someone who dabbles a little bit, I’d also be a little bit scared to use a copyright song because I think they are out to get me and I’m just such a I like to do the right thing. I don’t want to, you know, risk. I don’t know if they’re going to charge me am I gonna have to go to court am I going to have to pay some huge fine and I just create my own. Either I get a legal backing sort of rhythm or I just make one on GarageBand or soundtrack or something. You know, and the kids like that, but boy, there’s something really engaging about a song they know, absolutely. I would love to do that. But I’m not. So you’re very brave.

Tyler
So the your third party question was how and and how takes some describing. I, luckily, for those who are super interested, I put a video on my YouTube channel. That’s called Boomwhacker video tutorial, and the thumbnail is just a giant how, and I’ll explain a little backstory. Currently, I’m in the running for Grammy Music Educator of the Year in the United States, which is super exciting. I think it’s the next exciting thing on my plate, and part of their requirements for the next round, is that you have to teach teachers something. Right? And I thought, what better topic than this, this ability to teach other teachers how to make these Boomwhacker videos.

And my hope being that it’s very topical, you know, there’s many topics that we would want to talk to other teachers about, or maybe teachers already have their ways they’re set in their ways, or here’s a nice way to enter your room, here’s a nice way to exit your room. Here’s a nice way to get out your ukuleles. You know, we all kind of found our own way. And I thought, here’s something that maybe has not been said before. Here’s exactly how you make these Boomwhackers videos where the colors fall down. And they make the sounds all the same time.

Music Technology that Tyler Swick Loves: Synthesia

And so if you want a really in depth version, Boomwhacker video tutorial is currently the fourth or fifth video on my YouTube channel. There’s just a giant red how on there. So I was hoping to grab the eye. But essentially, there is a software that’s called Synthesia. And it’s been confused with synesthesia, but it is Synthesia. And the purpose of it is that it was basically going to be Guitar Hero for piano, that was our original intent is that you can load any MIDI file into it. And then they would fall down and you would get graded on how well you played an ADA key keyboard. Yes.

Synthesia, Piano for Everyone
Synthesia

And I was super excited. I thought it was genius idea. Could you imagine, you know the very beginner it could be a C and you press a C? Yes. Awesome. And it went the wild friends out there realised you can load symphonies into this thing, and your hands can be flying all over the place. And people posted YouTube videos of them doing that. It was incredible to see that and I thought so I took the same software and just loaded in C to C octave. And when they fall down, they’re all and this is the kind of the magic, they’re all one colour.

They’re all whatever colour you set it to. I set mine to green. And then when I edit that footage, I green screen out the dots. The dots become transparent, and then behind the video I put columns of colours. And so I choose the boomwhacker red ,boomwhacker orange, boomwhacker yellow, lime green. And what do you call? What do you call A? Because A is that right in between? You call it purple? You call?

Debbie
I call it purple? I call it purple? And I call B pink?

Tyler
Yeah, okay, good. So I have a group B is pink and the amount of children that correct me tell me like B is violet, or B is purple. And I go okay, well then what’s blue? And I always land on my running joke is Blurple. Because I don’t know if it’s blue or purple. I go everyone grab a Blurple. Here we go.

Debbie
Love it. Oh, that’s very clever.

Tyler
So yeah, so the dots are transparent, and whatever you put behind it becomes the colour. So then you’re not forced to do Boomwhacker colours by any means. You can take a picture of an instrument in your classroom. If you have a xylophone, you can take a picture of it, and you can put that picture behind the squares.

Debbie
Yes and it could come down the bar. Yeah, and hit the bar. I love it.

Tyler
Yes exactly, and so now I’m just toying with the idea of what else can you do. And so I was challenged by a good friend of mine that lives in Michigan, and he was like, can you make a series of videos where it’s all the same song boomwhackers, xylophone for the same song, drum and percussion for the same song, recorders for the same song.

And then we learn each video, and then he’s like, then we’ll find a way to play all four videos at the same time. So the whole class can play their instrument. And again, all we’re doing is replacing notation, right? We could all teach the treble clef until we’re blue in the face, and then still it wouldn’t maybe be this good at it by the time they’re in fifth grade.

And I know there’s some traditionalists out there that are already like shaking their fist at me about like you’re replacing classic notation, traditional notation. But I just I haven’t seen a faster way to get polyphony in a classroom than this.

Debbie
Yeah, no, but then those traditionalists, which probably I fall more into that as well, I did both but what you’re suggesting, is such a great enhancement to that. Like it doesn’t have to be one or the other. In fact, you could add a video in there, that is more notation based that could just be one element and then it all ends up tiled, with them all happening together. But that’s difficult to learn from because they’d all be too small. But you have the series of videos to learn, then the tile video is the culmination.

Tyler
Absolutely Yes, like a small reminder because I’m hoping you do it enough or it’s like, students start to memorise patterns and so many pop songs are four chords on repeat. Anyway. So it’s like, once they learn it goes red, then I don’t, then I don’t, then I don’t, red, then I do, exactly right. And I think once they get that pattern in their head, it’s like, okay, I don’t care if it’s tiny, I just know it goes red, then three not reds. Love it.

Music Technology that Tyler Loves: ViewSync

So we found a website that’s called ViewSync, view as in like I see in sync. ViewSync, you can load in multiple YouTube videos, and it will press play on all of them at the same time. I know, it was exactly what we were looking for. So the last two videos I posted on YouTube, Viva la Vida by Coldplay, not a recent song, but a beautiful a very fun song. I think it was like a World Cup song at one point, or something I don’t know. It’s got crazy views. But I made a video that xylophones how to play a xylophone part.

And then the boomwhacker video, and then the website will play both at the same time. So for me, it’s a super exciting of like, okay, I could say half the class, you’re on xylophones, half classroom boomwhackers. We’re gonna play at the same time, keep your eyes on your part. Awesome, and then at the halfway point, I can say now we’re switching choose another instrument. And I really love that switching element.

ViewSync

Debbie
So does this website, play both videos, but you would have to make sure the videos are exactly synced, you would have to make sure say the first node happens at 1.03 seconds, your second video would have to match exactly.

Tyler
Correct. So it’s on me the Creator. Yeah. To make sure that happens. So I made sure these two videos painstakingly, that they started the exact same time. Yeah, and even when I listen to it, there’s a small echo suggesting that there’s a fraction of a second Ron. But it’s very close, where I can entertain myself with this idea of like playing on both at the same time. And then one feature, let’s say if it’s horribly off, you can mute one. But it plays so plays one audio but shows both videos.

So if you want to have a big delay, you can semi work around that. I wish to the web, I wish it was closer to like it matches the real Audio, that would be amazing. That’d be something from the future. Because I have a couple of songs where I made them. I have this in mind. And I didn’t I when I make these videos, I don’t care when they start, I would have like the title. And then I would just start the audio whenever I felt like it.

And I’m going Ah, if I can see the future, I would have forced myself to start like every song starts on the five second mark or something. Because then you can start playing two at a time three at a time. I mean, some that are easy, and some that are difficult of the same song. They don’t start at the same time. But it’s so code. Like if this is difficult read the left and if this is not difficult read the Right.

Debbie
Yes, that would be great. There’s your differentiation.

Tyler
Yes 100%. Are you recording the video? Does the video gets shown anywhere? Is it just the audio?

Debbie
Well, I’m hoping, I have plans for the video. Yes.

Tyler
Oh, you’re like pointing the camera? I’m wonder like if anyone is going to see this.

Debbie
So no video not anywhere yet. But it will be, I hope.

Becoming ‘Magical’ Again

Tyler
Too fun. Yeah. And of course, of course. It’s so that’s where the boomwhackers came from. And then there’s a little bit of burnout where I was like, I need this to be magical again. I attempted something fun, where I got a suggestion because the dots fall down. And someone suggested What if you rotated the video so the dots went right to left. And instead of being color coded? They were on a treble clef Yes. And it became this new fun game of what if the dots traveled across the clef. And when it struck the clef, it made a sound. And I tried, tried, tried, tried, tried and I could not land on something that I enjoyed watching. To me, it was always just kind of clunky, I’ll say.

And then another YouTube channel ran with this idea. And they actually did it just fine on their own. And part of this is kind of it’s fairly open source. There’s nothing copyrightable about this whole process. I’m using free softwares with borrowed music. And so anyway, other people are doing the same thing now, and I’m seeing them doing it. Oh, yeah, they do make it look nice. And so they’re kind of a shout out to the other people who are taking this and saying, Yes, and I see what you did, and you could and it’s it’s so fun, because then it keeps me on my toes. This kind of excitement of like, Oh, you made that look nice. I’m gonna go ahead and take mine somewhere else now and try and make mine a little bit nicer as well.

A fantastic example of getting better who the community I put out We Don’t Talk About Bruno and I only colour coded. I did not I didn’t think of anything else. I said red goes to red. And one of the top comments after a month or two was it’d be nice if you labeled these I’m colourblind. And I went oh, I never, it never crossed my mind and I just felt this guilt of like, How dare I? How did I not know? And so because of that one comment every video after that had labels and it’s just funny then like one person says like, you know, it’d be cool if there was a drum or a percussion part.

It’s like, of course, and then every video after that I tried to involve one like non pitch percussion instrument, because it’s obvious that, let’s say I don’t class sizes, are all different. Let’s talk class size for one second. But you might have 30, Boomwhackers, if you had two students without Boomwhackers, but you do have, let’s say, a corner full of drums, you go Okay, those two students get a drum. And now that’s the envious instrument. When’s my turn to play the drum? Okay, cool. Now we’re rotating, and everyone gets a turn.

What are the class sizes like, where you are?

Discussing Class Sizes in Australia and USA

Debbie
Oh, we have generally in our state system, our government schools, we have our early childhood up to grade three up to 25 kids, and up to 28 to 30 kids in upper primary.

Tyler
Yeah, that’s cool.

Debbie
About the same for you?

Tyler
About the same, I am, I feel like I’m letting down my classroom teacher friends, I want to say that the younger classes are capped at 27. And then four and five are not capped. So we were told that next year, our fifth grade classes currently have 37 in each class.

Debbie
Oh that’s a lot.

Tyler
So they’re gonna what they have to do, then we do a thing called count day, it’s very archaic, but they actually physically count the students, of where they are when school starts

Debbie
We have that, it’s called day eight in our system, day eight of the school year, they’ve all got to be counted. And that’s what your school gets staffing for. And funding for its Yep.

Tyler
But when you say eight, is it the eighth day of school?

Debbie
Yep the eighth day of school

Tyler
Okay, so that makes sense. Ours is about the 40th day of school. There’s a short period of suffering where teachers go, you can sit there, but you’re not going to be sitting there come November, but you go ahead and sit there because you’re definitely gonna be in a different class, you know, in a month or two.

Debbie
But that’s really hard. That means it’s over a month that those kids are sitting in a class that’s not going to end up being theirs.

Tyler
Absolutely, yes.

Boomwhackers

Debbie
That’s hard on the kids and the teachers. Absolutely. I totally agree. They got to change that. Tell them to change it to day 8. Tell them, say Debbie said.

Tyler
It’s so clean. It’s such a clean concept day eight, I get it. I got it immediately. But so that’s the idea. So then my classroom. My, so then on top of that, do they come to you one at a time?

Debbie
A class at a time? Yes.

Tyler
Yes. Do they ever come two classes at a time?

Debbie
No, they’re not supposed to. I sometimes request it but no, they’re not supposed to.

Tyler
That’s cool, requesting it, exciting. So we are occasionally forced. And by occasionally, I mean, we’re definitely going to have it this year. But you’ll get two classes at a time. So my peak classroom last year was 65 students, and myself. So I procured 65 Boomwhackers.

Debbie
That’s just No, that’s too many. I mean, look, it’s okay for a one off. I mean, I’ve done, been guest conductor at a festival where I’ve had 600 kids and like, that’s amazing. And I’m not talking about that, your every day stuff. That is too many children. You’re expected to teach them report on them, assess them?

Tyler
Yeah, I need another name. I needed other names on top of that.

Debbie
No, that’s ridiculous.

Tyler
Oh, yeah, that was a fun. I’m glad we got that out. So these Boomwhackers videos became quite the saving grace for that class where, okay, I didn’t have 65 Boomwhackers to begin with. So I involved stuff that had drumsticks. very fortunately, during quarantine, I sent home drumsticks with students and I found a website that is selling for like $1.50 a pair. And so I sent home yeah, it was wonderful. And I was part of the reason they sold out because I bought 900 pairs of drumsticks.

But I sent the drumsticks home and then at the end of the year, and of course, I said if you don’t want them anymore, don’t throw them away bring them back to school. So luckily at school now we have an insane amount of drumsticks. So I tried to make as many rhythm click alongs as possible, because I had no shortage of drumsticks, students could click all they wanted, and then about 30-40 got Boomwhackers and then as my story continued, I was like, I need these Boomwhackers I need everyone to have a chance at Boomwhackers but yeah, and I’m sure there’s somebody listening to this going only 65, I had 70 I’m sure somebody somewhere is saying that.

But yeah, it’s part of our situation, and it’s some of its hyper specific to Las Vegas as opposed to the whole country because our school districts are vastly different. I’m sure across Australia, I’m sure it’s everything right from the greatest situation to the absolute worst, but yeah, to our specific situation. Our school’s in a growing neighborhood where they’re building homes as fast as they can because land there was a there was a demand for Californians moving to Las Vegas because of lower taxes and lower land costs.

And so we were a booming neighbourhood, and so we got about five new students a week, which is pretty crazy. And so now we’re growing rapidly, which is pretty exciting, because the funding will follow eventually. But yeah, until then we’re just kind of in a growing situation where each time, we get a little bit a little bit bigger.

So we’ll figure that out as we go. But the cool part is, there’ll be some proportionate positiveness that goes to the music program. Because when you have a lot of students, there’s usually a funding that follows and says, Okay, you need that new xylophone, we can afford one, you need that new something or other, we can do that.

Debbie
Wow. Well, I’m going to have to put the links to those programs and sites that you talked about for people to have a go at, and of course, naturally, the link to your channel will be there. So people can get in and check it out and try some out with their kids.

Tyler
Easy peasy.

Debbie
That’s amazing. We’re really on a roll here. I mean, like there was sort of eight areas to talk about. And we’ve just finished like two. Yeah, this is so great. I’m learning so much, and it’s so wonderful to talk to you. Now.

Tyler
Appreciate that. It’s very easy to speak back to you. I appreciate that.

Debbie
Just isn’t it great meeting with, anyway, love it. The highlights of your journey as a music teacher. Now, you’ve already talked about some like it has to be obviously your Yamaha award, and you know those? Absolutely. What else would you consider? Apart from the things in your bio? What else would you consider a highlight? I mean, mind you, you’re not terribly old. You’ve got a lot of career left to build, right? A lot more highlights.

Building a Caribbean Steel Drum Program

Tyler
We’re not at the halfway point yet. Wow. Yeah. So it’s a fun thing that’s not in the biography, or it’s, it’s slightly said that I got to go to Panorama, and Panorama is a world steel pan competition in Trinidad and Tobago. Oh, and so steel pan. That’s classic Caribbean sound, I was exposed to that in high school where I got to learn how to play a steel pan. And usually it’s right over my shoulder right here, but I had a gig and I’m too lazy to put it back up.

And so I got to learn to play steel pan and play it through college, and as soon as I got a job in Las Vegas to teach, I also got an invitation to go to Trinidad and compete in this International competition. And this one band was gracious enough to accept international players, basically, some are very strict, and they want their neighbourhood. You know, like a football team. We want people that were born and raised in New York to be on our team, and this team is a little bit more of a pan ensemble, a little bit more open to the idea of let’s bring people who want to learn, let’s bring people who want to, you know, basically come here and be a hired gun or something and play along with us.

And it was this incredible situation, I got to learn how other countries taught music. And I know, you and I were talking about the differences we have, there’s a lot of similarities. And I thought when I was in Trinidad, the differences were just kind of vast where schools did not provide education, largely schools were religious institutions and where students had to wear uniforms. And the buildings were a little bit older. And they talked about it was a good school if you had air conditioning, but most schools just had windows at the top of both classrooms where air would blow through.

And you know, if the weather the weather, just kind of constantly nice, but the idea was if you wanted music, you would have to kind of seek it out on your own. And because Trinidad has a ton of oil, and I’m I don’t want to quote that it has the most oil in the Caribbean. There’s a fact somewhere, but it’s plenty. There’s plenty of oil there. Yeah, and all of these oil companies went in. And unfortunately, they’re taking all of the oil, of course as they do. And then part of their pay back to the country is that they fund some public entities. Not enough, of course, and probably not the amount that they absolutely should be, but they fund some of them. And part of it was paying for these steel pan ensembles.

So they’d kind of be like a community like a rec center. The idea is it would there be one within walking distance of your neighborhood, everywhere you went? And then there’d kind of be this turf game of if you’re in this neighborhood, you should be part of this band. And that was kind of a fun like It’s like sports in the United States like a Super Bowl. You’d like a certain football team. Or if you like, I don’t know, rugby is rugby the game?

Debbie
Well it depends what state you are in Australia in Queensland here we’re rugby league if you’re Victorian, it’s AFL if your of other, sometimes it’s rugby union. It’s yeah, generally football of some sort. Would be close though. We have so much sport here. I mean, we just live and breathe sport because our weather is like amazing, you know, whether it’s hockey or soccer or so yeah, it’s not quite the same. We don’t seem to have one national sport.

Tyler
I mean, I enjoy the diversity as opposed to our whole country really, really really carried about three sports anyway. But the punchline at the end of this story, is essentially that students would have to outwardly seek out music education after school, they can kind of elect to what they wanted to play, but you’re going to commit to it, if you wanted to learn how to play the melody, or the chords, or the baseline or percussion, you kind of committed, it was more of like, like work study, where there was an adult that also did it, that adult would usually be a section leader to say, Okay, this is how you do it.

And that would be your instrument for the rest of time, the rest of his life, and then you would play devil seconds or lead, and then became just kind of your outward expression, your musical expression, and those rehearsals would go late into the evening. And it kinda was like, I don’t know, if you have the same mentality where it’s like, only schools want to keep students in school longer, because only bad things happen after school, right, if they have time on their hands is when they go out and do drugs or whatever.

But the idea was that these musical ensembles, you went from school, had a meal went to the pan yard, and then you did pan yard until bedtime. And then you went home and did it again the next day. And the idea being that the students would not have time to get in trouble. Because their community was in the instrument, they are around the instruments, yes, in a social element, of course. But anyway, that was a huge impact. I took that home with me, and managed to get steel pan in my classroom.

Debbie
Oh wow.

Tyler
Ever since that time, yes. So ever since that time, steel pan has been a part of my elementary classroom. And I just recently was able to get a full steel band, which I’m very excited about, but essentially allowed me to take that education, of seeing students learn by rote, they didn’t, they didn’t mind having sheet music and the ideas a section leader, but maybe look at the score, figure out the next four measures, and then would teach the whole thing by rote. And when it was said and done, the students would all know about 12, a 12 minute song that was close to 200 beats per minute.

Steel Drums

And so just a lot of notes, they’re going for the whole time, and they would perform, then they would go and do a competition where 32 bands would compete, and only 16 would survive, and then 16 would get turned into 10 and 10 would get turned into 5. And there’s kind of like a tournament style, musical experience. And the idea that the whole country gets behind it. And then there was a cash prize, the winning band would get, and I believe it was a million TT a million Trinidadian dollars, and then they’d be split amongst the band. So if you had 100 members, nice, but if you have, you know, 150, it’s like you get a little bit less.

You know, if you can pull it off with 80 members cool, like, alright, it’s everyone gets a little more money but yeah, so that was the motivator behind a lot of how I like to teach now in person was seeing this experience of students wanted music education, so much, so that they would walk, you know, not a couple blocks but they would walk a significant amount of time to get to a place where music education could then be free, right, and they would have their meal and then have community members and their outward family or these other musicians.

And I really started to take that to my classroom where when we have our instrument clubs, I’d like to just make it where like, I was in marching band, which is maybe the closest thing we have where its like the marching band becomes your social family, because you are with them 10 hours a week, you might as well be friends.

And so I liked the idea of team building just as much as making music because I like the idea of the second grader that loves xylophone, is standing next to the fifth grader that loves xylophone, and together, they can both love xylophone. And when they see each other on the playground, they go hey, xylophone. Oh, yeah, xylophone.

Like, you know, the second grader needs help and they can go to that fifth grade xylophone friend. And I think that kind of community is what you cannot replace. If the students never touch the xylophone again, they might remember the camaraderie of the music room. Yes. Just as much, if not more.

Debbie
Yes, and I think that that’s very powerful. I’ve got sons. Well, now young adults, obviously. And being involved in the instrumental program. And when they go into high school, it just helps so much with that sense of belonging. So they were straightaway in the band, and in the band, oh the school leaders are in the band.

So they would walk past these tiny little grade eights, well now grade sevens in high school, but then grade eights were, and they walked past I won’t actually tell you what they call one of my sons who played trombone, but it was, they would just wave didn’t know their names, necessarily, but they would have it a wave to them, and how are you going and they were part of the school already, although they were new.

And they were looking around going this is big. Yeah, there’s like one and a half thousand kids here and I only know the few from my school, but that’s one of the things that band and the music program choral work, of course, if they’ve got choirs, that’s what we can offer as music educators that belonging, and it’s not the same anywhere else. It’s not the same in the football team because you’re not playing in the same team as the grade 12. You know, first division, A grade. So I just think that’s one of the magic things about music.

Tyler
Absolutely agree with that. Absolutely agree with that and it can’t be quantified, you’ll never see what you just said on a document.

Debbie
No, I but I wish we could get it on a document, though. You know.

Tyler
Right and almost looking like an exit survey from education and say, alright, top 10 things you remember, and we’re going to find a way to quantify if you chose, you know, if you hint that music made your life better than that’s a tick, that’s a point for us.

Who Is a Great Teacher for You?

Debbie
Yes, we need that, we need research done in that. I’m sure there’s some around. But yes, so that festival, was it a festival, competition would have been a huge highlight. And it sounds like it’s influenced the way you work as well?

Tyler
Absolutely. And I have to point out that the leader of that group that time was a gentleman named Liam Teague, who is one of the living legends of steel pan, and one of his highest qualities is his humbleness. And it’s kind of undeniable that he could, if provoked, could outperform everyone. Wow, what but would not play more than necessary, because he doesn’t need to. And that was a such a moment in not just musicianship, or being a music teacher, but a humanity also of like, he could if chosen, he can let us all know that we all are terrible at our instrument.

Debbie
He could put you in your place.

Tyler
Yeah, 100% 100%. They can make you want to quit tomorrow. And instead, he offers a smile and guidance and the occasional like, watch me do what you just did with one hand, which is hilarious, because he’s like, I’m trying my best over here he goes, Yeah, that was very good. And he, and anyway, it wouldn’t have been the same without him there. And so there has to be said that it took an educator to make it as special as it was. And he’s at he’s at Northern Illinois University. If anyone is interested about steel pan in the United States right now.

Debbie
Well, I wasn’t expecting to go down that road.

Tyler
Right, right, right, right, right

Debbie
Oh that’s really interesting. Ah, so if we got to the people that have been influential in your life, personal and professional, you probably would have him in that?

Tyler
Yes, absolutely. Yes. Liam Teague is definitely on there indirectly and directly, because he was definitely one of those people where you read about them on the internet. And then one day you meet them, you go, Whoa, they’re real. You know, kind of like our conversation, our conversation started. We’re just kind of two pieces, people on the internet, and then it’s like, oh, hi, there you are. Now we’re talking about it. But yeah, as far as a long list, I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up my dad is a guitar teacher.

Liam Teague - NIU - Huskie Spotlight
Liam Teague

And he was one of the first guitar teachers in the country, not like first first, but like, let’s say like, first 20, they do that guitar education, the United States was severely lacking. We think about how entirely popular the guitar is. Yeah, it’s an all of the rock bands. It’s an all of our folk music is and all of our country music, and the guitar education is absent. It’s nowhere to be found about, I don’t know, 25 years ago. And so anyway, my dad was very fortunate where he got his jazz education in jazz guitar.

And he went through the college circuits. And one day it clicked that maybe he should be teaching guitar as an elective, as a choice, not as a mandatory, but you can choose guitar the same way you can choose band, you can choose orchestra and choir. Isn’t it funny, you could choose to play a French horn in the year 2000. Yeah, but not guitar, but you couldn’t pick, you couldn’t pick guitar, which, you know, what’s, what’s on the radio, guitar or French horn. So anyway, he made it his goal to make guitar a part of public education.

And he rose the ranks where he ended up at the Arts Academy, where students would purposely drive further distances to go to one school where it’s all art and music majors, which was basically heaven for a high school aged student to be surrounded by people who think the way you think, so I was fortunate enough to go there for drums. And so all of my best buddies were also drummers. And we all have the same ideas of the same habits, whether good or bad, but it was very fun to be around a bunch of high school aged drummers.

Debbie
Yeah. Now when you say drummers, can I just say because in our system, we have instrumental in our government schools here, right from grade three and four. And we have specialist teachers come in, and it’s really amazing. Again, worldleading sort of program, I’ll have to tell you about it.

But if kids do percussion in our program, they will eventually do kit like when you think but they have to do all auxilary tuned percussion, all of that. So when you say you’re a drummer, you were training in drumming? Are you doing all percussion? Or were you a kit? Well, obviously and steel pan, but were you more a kit drummer?

Tyler’s Drum History & Training

Tyler
It’s a great question, and not it’s not the only thing in the United States to be absolutely backwards from the rest of the world, the drum set, the kit was the motivator. The school would dangle the kit in front of everyone say you want to play this. You want to play this, go learn how to play tambourine. And that’s and that’s what got us and so because of it and the backwardness of it is that no one wanted to learn how to play the marimba, the xylophone, the triangle, the concert bass drum, the timpani, all these things because we’re just trying to get to what they’re dangling in front of us.

We all want to be the drummer in the jazz band. Yes, or, you know, the one time a concert band needs a drummer. And we would all you know, we would blood each other out for the chance to be that drummer because there’s so many people in the running, but yes, I was forced to be a classical percussionist, and I enjoyed it thoroughly, but I would never have done it, if it weren’t for the dangling drum setup. You might be a jazz drummer one day.

Debbie
I don’t think your Robinson Crusoe there. I think there are many percussionists in this world that they have learned percussion because they wanted to play kit.

Tyler
Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. And once you kind of realize, I’d say later, at the very end of high school, and I realised it’s cool to be the percussionist. That was a big helper, I went to college for percussion. I did music performance, because I was convinced for some reason that I’d be a college professor one day, and or a famous percussionist, as every percussionist thinks. And then my master’s degree, I’m sorry, I don’t know why, I got my music education, my undergraduate was in music education. And I’ll tell you, I’ll tell you why I got those confused.

I desperately wanted to be a performance major, because it looks like the easiest thing in the world to do. And I knew I would be famous one day, and my father having gone this route, basically laid it out as you’re going to be education, or you’re not going to go to college for music. Right. And I thought, what a horrible mean Dad, ah, how could you make me make this decision, and I ended up doing music education.

And of course, it was like my lifesaver, because I did not become famous for my drumming, and then it allowed me to get a teaching job immediately out of college. I did a master’s degree, also in percussion, where I played steel pan about four or five hours a day. And then I got a job teaching elementary music, which is, you know, just the way they imagined it when they made these degrees. Get an advanced degree in drumming and percussion and then going in teaching Tata titi ta for eight hours a day.

Debbie
But at least we know your quavers, sorry, your quarter notes, are nice and even Yeah. Nice and even when you play them.

Tyler
Yeah, that’s the goal. I keep it on the downlow, and then like once a year, I’ll set up the drum set in the classroom. And I’ll teach the students how to do it. First, I’ll teach the students the beat their basic rock, and I’ll let everyone gets 20 seconds.

And then as they’re leaving, I go cool, good job, everybody. And then I’ll go to town and show them all the things that I remember from you know, college, and they go whoa, whoa, wait, wait, wait, wait, you can play drums and like, you know, old Mr. Swick looks kind of cool for two seconds.

Debbie
Oh, yeah. They’ll think you’re cool forever now. Yeah.

Tyler
That is one of the funny challenges and I know this is not on your list of things to talk about but it’s funny how there’s a bit of notoriety coming with the internet with getting subscribers and their videos are going around the world is exciting. And as teachers we’re excited to meet each other. And then if you saw how unsurprised my students are, but it’s reality, it’s it’s like, there’s the teacher and it’s just kind of funny how we might be a celebrity outside of our worlds, and then you go back to your classroom and your students are the most humbling people on the planet.

They’re the first to tell you, your hair looks funny today, or, you know, Oh, didn’t you wear that shirt two days ago? And it’s like, they just they can tear you down in a heartbeat. And it just one of the maybe the most humbling factors of the whole job is that the students are mildly impressed with the YouTube channel that has all the things they like on it.

Debbie
No, absolutely. Nothing is more grounding than teaching. It keeps it real doesn’t it. It does tell it like it is however, even my little YouTube channel that’s like tiny, they still especially the younger kids, they are very impressed that I have one.

You have a YouTube channel and its like anyone who can click a few buttons can have one. Right. Exactly anyway I just love it. I love the reality of kids I love every single day. There are things that my kids say that bring me joy and make me laugh . Oh my goodness, and anyway, I really wish I’d written them all down because they’d have made a great book.

Tyler
Oh, for sure. Yeah, no, a book sounds like a good idea because you can’t say most of it as your, as it’s happening, as that student is the age and they’re at your school. But I think a book would be a fantastic way to end everyone’s career because they can’t get you after that.

Debbie
Yes, and you don’t name any, no years, no names for this. You know, that would be so good.

Tyler
Yeah. I would love a book of like every teacher’s worst or funny, you know, funniest story, wildest classroom story, because I feel like we had a reach a part where just reality is not a part of this, you know, they eventually would just seem too strange.

Debbie
Yes. I agree. I agree. I had one recently. No.

Tyler
You’re tempted, you’ve got to save it for the book.

Debbie
No, I can’t. I’ll have to save it for the book because it’s too recent. Okay, but it was good. Oh it was yeah.

Tyler
No, I believe it

Debbie
It was a first for me, and I’ve been teaching for 40 years and it was a first for me. Anyway, lets go back to, we started with your Dad and we got sort of sidetracked. People, people who’ve been influential in your life.

Who is a Great Influence in Your Life?

Tyler
I’ll try to do some bullet points. Mr Tyler was my middle school band director and he was the first person to force me to learn a major scale and I don’t know why, like learning your scales was pulling teeth. But he was the first person to and he had this funny rule where if you volunteered, first, you played one scale. And after like five volunteers, you had to play two scales. So if you purposely waited until like, the last day, you had to play like four scales.

Debbie
Actually that’s a good trick. Yeah, I like that.

Tyler
Quite a lesson in just do it? Yeah, just go ahead and do it. I got to high school, and I had a gentleman named Mr. Townsend and his hilarious gimmick that I’ll never forget was, he would send the percussionist out of the classroom, and he would say, you’re gonna go learn this song, that’s a percussion ensemble song, and you’ll learn this song on your own and no matter how good it sounds, it’s on the concert. So you can either go in that room and learn it, or you can go in that room and talk and text. But whatever happens, you’re gonna go on stage and perform this song.

School Concert

And we took total ownership over, this better be the coolest song on this concert and we learned it up and down and sideways, and even arranged it a little bit to make it even cooler. And that was the greatest tool I thought of that time was taking ownership of what you create, you know, a lot of, you play other band songs, and I’m just the ding in that four minute mark. But that percussion ensemble piece during the band concert was like you went from one of the least important musicians to you’re at the front of the stage and you get to look just as important as the flute or the clarinet.

And I thought that was a huge lesson. And where that expanded is the next year, I asked, Can I write the song that we perform? And he said, Yes. And that was my first experience with composition. And that really started the row. Because when the first one went, Well, I was hooked. I was addicted. And I was writing quarterly concerts. I was writing quarterly songs. And so my graduation and my graduation, I got to write my own farewell song, which I thought was like the greatest thing ever again. That is so cool, yeah. So Mr. Townsend, I’ll never forget that.

And then undergraduate, I went to a school with James Campbell, who is a percussionist extraordinaire, where he plays all things percussion. But his greatest attribute was asking the right question, you could take him an instrument he’s never seen before. And he could have no idea how to play it, and you’d play a song. And when it was over, he would just kind of look at you and go, did you play it as well as you thought you would? And you go, Oh, I don’t know. And he’d go, Okay. And does the sound quality get any better with a, with the world’s best version of this? Like, oh, yeah, probably, like the world’s best player would do this and that and he goes okay, o maybe you should do that.

And I go, yeah, maybe I should do that. Yeah. And he just kind of he just had the questions of generalness, you know, and it wasn’t about technicality. But it was again that personal drive of if it was the world’s greatest, and I played steel pan for him. He wasn’t he wasn’t a big fan of the steel pan. But I play steel pan for him and he didn’t have a way to track and say, Hey, your left hand was bad there, you missed a note. It was more importantly, saying if it were a world famous pan player, what would they do differently? And it would force me to come to terms with I know what was wrong, though I chose not to fix it.

Debbie
Yeah, very clever,

Tyler
Very clever. And my last music teacher, Dr. Dan Moore, University of Iowa, his greatest skill set was admitting that a lot of what we’re doing in music is creating lifelong music lovers, or appreciators, as much as we all think we’re creating the next amazing, I don’t even know, world famous musician or concert master of the orchestra.

Our real goal should be when they hear music next month or next year or for the rest of their life. Will they have a flashback to your classroom? Will they understand what a quaver is? Will, they remember you know, the beat that they learned that one day in percussion ensemble, things like that. And it just kind of reset it because I definitely had this killer mentality of if you’re going to be my student, our goal is to win whatever we’re trying to win.

And it really helped me break that of not everything is a competition, and that there is no Super Bowl of general music or elementary music or primary music. The game is really in the mind, as opposed to on a stage.

Debbie
Yeah, I love that. That’s very true isn’t it, because there’s not gonna be that many world famous musicians that come out of our classrooms, but they’re all going to be citizens of the world, aren’t they?

Tyler
Absolutely, right. And now I can say Okay, have you ever heard music from Australia before?

Debbie
Yeah, yes.

Tyler
And they can come out and say oh yeah, no, I’ve heard this before we heard this in our general music class. It’s like, okay, cool. That’s the impact I can have now.

Debbie
Exactly. I love it. I love it. So any more people, or shall we move on to?

Tyler
I feel like that’s a good cut off.

Debbie
I’m sure there’s lots of people. It’s like, it’s a bit of a tough question, you know?

Tyler
Sure. Yeah. So I feel like I have endless stories of small moments. Yes. You know, I had my my college undergraduate roommate, a man named John Deshetler. He was a fantastic percussionist better than me and I had a hard time coming to grips with that at the time, but he did it better than me.

And the first day we met each other in our dorm room, because we were somehow roommates, on top of all this, he goes, my goal is to be a lawyer. And I said, so why are you at music school? And he’s like, because this is part of it. You have to get an undergraduate and I said, Why don’t you get your undergraduate? You know, in you know, as a lawyer, yeah, go get a lawyer thing. Go do lawyer stuff, go read books. And he goes no, no no. He’s like, I think I think people will appreciate that I did music before I did something creative, creative problem solving.

And I went whatever I wrote him off, because in my mind two things, I’m mad you’re better than me and I’m mad you’re better than me and you don’t plan on doing this for the rest of your life. Because that’s my plan and I’m worse than you, and sure enough, like seven years later, to that conversation, he was a lawyer and he still is a lawyer. So he’s working towards the higher up things, but he’s still in law.

And he followed through with exactly with what he said he’s going to do and I thought, wow, to have that forward vision, and say, Okay, I have a plan and I’m going to follow through on that plan, and that plan involves some detours. It involves not a straight line to being a lawyer, but I’ll play music, I’m going to really care about marimba for a while and then I’m gonna go to law school, and then I’m gonna follow through it and yeah. So I feel like I have a good amount of those stories where these moments in time where someone did something, they go, Whoa, I mean, I really like to flow from a YouTube channel, they’ll even see that I have an idea for three or four months, and then my mind changes and then I have a different idea for three or four months.

You know, right before Boomwhackers it was a podcast and before a podcast it was soundtrack videos, before that it was the quarantine videos, how do we survive the quarantine, and it just like whatever’s on my mind at the time that’s what ends up on the YouTube channel which is maybe why it looks so cluttered.

Debbie
Not at all I’ll obviously have to go back further and have a look don’t I. I love it.


A Note from Debbie

Debbie
I appreciate you and all of my colleagues, and hope this episode has been enjoyable and useful. Don’t forget, you’ll find the show notes on crescendo.com.au. I’d love a share, rate or review to help other music educators find this podcast. All I can be is the best version of me. All you can do is be the best you. Until next time, bye. As we know laughter relieve stress. Don’t lose side of the funny side of life. Why was six so afraid of seven? Because seven ate nine, that one takes you back a bit.


Links Mentioned in Part 2 of Technology in Music Education:

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