When you walk into the new Briarcliff Middle School’s (BMS) state-of-the-art digital electronic music lab, it doesn’t feel like you’re walking into a classroom.
It feels like you’re walking into the room where Steve Jobs came up with the idea for the iPod.
“The new lab is a tremendous learning experience that truly engages and teaches our students music in their world,” BMS music teacher Chris Melito told Patch. “It’s very exciting to see them take off with it and explore. This whole room is the definition of 21st century technology – it really speaks to you when you walk into it, when you see it.”
Melito’s description does not include hyperboles. It is easy to see why any musician – or anybody for that matter – would be get excited upon entering the new BMS music lab, which was officially unveiled to the public on Monday, Jan. 13.
The learning space puts the power of digital music composition at the fingertips of students through the use of 26 iMac computers equipped with MIDI piano keyboards, a 3 JamHub practice studio, software such as Music Delta and GarageBand, and a practice studio with acoustic and electric guitars as well as electric basses, drums and keyboards.
Students have had access to the lab since the fall.
“It’s super cool,” sixth grader Andrew Winiarski told Patch while taking a break from a session on the electronic drum set. “In this room, you can pretty much find a way to play or learn any instrument on a computer. I’m really excited I get to use it for three years.”
Briarcliff Union Free School District Board of Education President Jennifer Rosen, Superintendent of Schools James Kaishian and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Kusum Sinha joined BMS Principal Susan Howard, BMEF Co-President Susan Johnson, and music teachers Marc Tartell and Melito and several excited young composers and musicians for the official ribbon-cutting Monday morning.
Community members also had the opportunity to take a look at the new facility during a Briarcliff Manor Education Foundation (BMEF) Grant in Action Night held later in the evening.
The unveiling of the music lab was a long time in the making. Two years ago, Howard envisioned a state-of-the-art digital electronic music classroom. With the help of Tartell and Melito, her goal was to design a new curriculum that would engage students with music creation, develop their skills in musical performance and enhance their music appreciation. Their shared vision was realized with the generous support of the BMEF, which funded their $76,000 grant request.
That money was used to expand and soundproof a space that had previously been used for storage, along with all of the equipment. Now, teachers and students alike are reaping the benefits.
“I felt nervous the first time I invited students into the music lab and launched into our first music creation project using GarageBand,” Tartell said. “But when I observed how engaged they were in learning how to create their own musical ideas, I knew we had designed a great learning environment.”
Two Briarcliff graduates who are currently music majors at their respective colleges, Tyler Cottrell and John Alecci, stopped by the ribbon-cutting ceremony to check out the new facility and hold a brief little silent jam session in the studio portion.
They were very impressed.
“It’s incredible. I am insanely jealous that they didn’t have this when I attended school here,” said Alecci, who is majoring in music education and psychology at Crane School of Music at Potsdam. “If I were still in school in Briarcliff, I would spend every single free minute of every day here.”
Current students are already forming such habits.
“One of my students said to me he didn’t realize how good he was at creating cool-sounding music,” Tartell said. “I told him the best is yet to come. I’m confident we now have the projects and technology in place that will engage and inspire all of our students, especially those without traditional musical training.”