Every once in a while, I stumble upon an online resource that truly exemplifies best practice in terms of the intersection of music, education, and technology. It is pretty rare for me these days to find anything new, but when I do I feel like shouting from the rooftops to fellow music educators. I’m glad that I am able to do so here at MusTech.net. When I find examples of these best practices, I often find myself navigating deep into the site with a constant smile on my face and marveling at how well thought out the site is, and how meaningful the resources are in terms of educating the user about a specific topic. Recently, I found one such site. It is absolutely terrific, and I am thrilled to tell you about it. Meet www.fridayafternoonsmusic.co.uk.
As you may be aware, 2013 will mark the centenary of the birth of British composer Benjamin Britten. In honor of this occasion, Aldeburgh Music – an organization that was cofounded by Britten centering originally around the Aldeburgh Music Festival and has become an integral arts organization in England; has helped to create a nationwide singing project that centers around Britten’s set of 12 songs, Friday Afternoons, which was originally composed for the school where his brother was a school master. The culmination of the year-long project will be a concert on November 22, 2013 when tens of thousands of people will join together to perform the songs. What makes this project so special, in my opinion, is that the website that Aldeburgh Music and several partners have created provides music educators with resources to help teach students about the life and music of Benjamin Britten, as well as the 12 songs from Friday Afternoons. Whether or not you participate in the project (registering/signup up is free), you can find some incredible resources for each of the 12 songs, including a resource pack that contains a PDF copy of the music and lyrics, a detailed lesson plan that helps you teach the song and its background, an MP3 backing accompaniment track, and links to various resources, a photo archive, puzzles and games, and an upload section for teachers to display exemplar material. In addition, Boosey & Hawkes publishes full orchestrations of each of the songs, and many orchestras in the UK will be performing these on the day too – so it doesn’t eliminate instrumentalists! In addition to these resources. there is a fantastic About Britten page, complete with an interactive timeline, and a downloadable Young Persons Guide to Britten PDF.
I believe that the look and feel, design, curricular goals, and resources on this site illustrate everything that is great about technology in music education. The focus here is not on whiz-bang novelty animations, but on performance, pedagogy and the work of Benjamin Britten. My favorite quote about technology in music education comes from my dear friend Barbara Freedman who says “Teach music. The technology will follow.” This site exemplifies that philosophy. The education team at Aldeburgh Music has done a magnificent job bringing all of these resources together, and I believe they serve as an example for anyone looking to create online content for music education. I urge you to check out Friday Afternoons today, and find a way to teach your students about this amazing composer, and amazing piece.
Dr. James Frankel is the Head of Digital Music Education for the Music Sales Group, and Former Managing Director of SoundTree. He earned a Bachelor of Music degree from Montclair State University in 1993, where he studied the tuba as well as composition. In 1996, Dr. Frankel completed his Masters Degree in Music Education at Teachers College, Columbia University where he completed his doctoral studies in 2002. Dr. Frankel is an Adjunct Faculty member at Teachers College Columbia University where he teaches courses on music technology.