play / 2014

Play With Music Platform (PWMP)

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by The New History

#PlayWithMusic = creative learning + career building - A music education platform for the 21st century #PuttingThePlayInMusic

Please describe yourself.

Collaboration (partners are signed up and ready to hit the ground running!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

Research & build a platform to teach LA kids music & tech skills, by playing in “virtual bands” with peers & pro musicians.

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

  • South LA
  • The year long pilot program will benefit kids & the community of South LA, but our app based platform will benefit the entire Green Dot Network and then hopefully all of LAUSD

What is your idea/project in more detail?

PWMP is a comprehensive, scalable music platform for education. We’ll start as a pilot after school program & scale into a tablet app based platform.

PWMP will teach not only basic music skills, but the fundamentals of modern audio engineering, sound design, production & editing. Starting with a song structure provided by The New History, students will create & play their own song “parts”. They’ll choose an instrument (or use what is being taught in class), and each student will perform their own original “part” on video. Then they’ll build a “virtual band” by assembling their video performance with other videos made by classmates, and/or from our PWMP Database (a database of peers, including kids in other schools, & pros).

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

We have a 3 phase plan!

1) Introduction & development:

We’ll present the PWMP to students, refine our ideas based on feedback & research (with our partners: Green Dot, CalArts, NRBLB) & prepare the pilot after school program

•Needs assessment & partner alignment •Research indicators: assess wants/needs of teachers & students, youth attitudes, career aspirations, music level & preferences •Survey at-risk indicators (crime rates, enrollment, grades, etc) •Refine & plan pilot after school program •Recruit & video/record well-known LA musicians for the program •Strategic partnership & sponsorship development (includes academic feeder programs)

2) Implement after school pilot program at Locke:

The pilot enables students to work on a song, make a virtual band, learn tech, music & performance skills, culminating in a live student music concert (hopefully with celebrity participation). The pilot will also focus on translating skills into scholarship & career opportunities.

•After-school pilot program in the Locke “Jetspace” (2 hour sessions) twice/week for 20 weeks •CalArts teacher/mentors & The New History will run all sessions •Program will align with & supplement Locke’s existing music curriculum •Students build skills in a safe & fun environment after school •Students will write, record, produce (using Garageband, with both physical & software instruments) and perform (live for video capture) their parts to a song •Students learn to use basic video editing software (iMovie) to compile their performances together with those of peers and pro musicians to make a “virtual band” •Students can share their performances & virtual bands online •Students will perform a community music concert with pro LA musicians

3) Build app to scale the PWMP

Informed by the pilot, we’ll build a scalable model using a tablet app based platform that automates the audio/video recording, editing process, as well as creates a student virtual music network.

•Evaluate pilot (follow-up research w/students, community, teachers, musicians) •Reassess research indicators (comparative study of students before/after program) •Connect students with career opportunities/scholarships •Based on the above, build app and online platform to automate and scale PWMP •Provide Green Dot network & other under-funded schools with the new PWMP tablet app, to implement a full-scale test program. •Create opt-in teacher training program to help implement PWMP

How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to PLAY today? In 2050?

By creating a platform that gives our students the skills to play with music, technology & each other, we’ll build the foundations of a truly creative generation in LA.

We want LA in 2050 to be a city where our public school kids don’t see the recording industry & famous musicians as being inaccessible. Using basic tech we can enable them to actually play together, create together & inspire each other.

Last year, in Green Dot’s winning LA2050 proposal, they wrote: “More than ever, the city’s communities require inspiration & motivation to believe that something better is possible (…) We work to equip them with the tools necessary to become empowered & authentic agents of change”. The PWMP will validate & expand upon that work to make LA the best place not only to Play in 2050, but to Learn, Create, & Collaborate.

At a time when arts education funding has taken a stark downturn, it’s more vital than ever to use innovative methods & practices to ensure LA’s students (especially the at-risk) have places & contexts to acquire tools to be creative, imaginative & productive members of an engaged society.

Our education system is often accused of separating students from engaging deeply in play & benefiting from the incalculable value & creativity it fosters. The current system can isolate students in a narrow academic paradigm, that earnestly tries to ensure their basic economic survival, but can become deeply uncreative & alienating to kids, resulting in their rejection of education entirely. This, coupled with a rapidly changing society & economy, can leave them unprepared for the “real world”, and/or with skill sets for menial jobs soon obsolete.

We want our kids in 2050 to be given (at least in their music classrooms) the tools to play & collaborate on positive creative projects, & be inspired by mentors that have succeeded in ways they admire. We want our students to then use these tools as a gateway to good jobs in LA.

Music is not just an art form or a career path… at it’s core, it’s a platform for sharing, storytelling & playing together. That’s why music has almost always been at the heart of our communities. If every school in LA participated by 2050, our virtual music network would bridge socio-economic and physical distances, foster connection, & unite students across the city through creative play. Not only would this nourish our economy, but contribute significantly to a safer, more equitable and vibrant city.

Whom will your project benefit?

First, it’ll benefit Locke students, teachers & the Watts community. Post-pilot, it’ll grow to impact students & educators across LA, and eventually, any school with internet access.

Locke was opened in ‘67 in response to the Watts’ riots, to provide the community with a safe & prosperous school. The band program quickly became one of the country’s best, performing at LA Rams games, marching in the Rose Bowl Parade, & traveling globally. Several Locke alumni even went on to successful recording careers as well.

The program has since dwindled into obscurity, with nearly zero enrollment. The equipment & facilities have fallen into total disrepair with broken instruments & band rooms.

This year, Green Dot launched an effort to return Locke’s music program to its former glory, from repairing instruments to renovating classrooms & building an outreach program. A new music curriculum is being designed from scratch, creating a unique opportunity for the PWMP to innovate & inform that process.

Today, Watts is the 4th deadliest neighborhood in LA County, with 6.6 killings per square mile, and a median age of 21, among the youngest in the county. We must rally hard for these young minds. In 2003, California cut arts funding by 94%. Today, the state spends less than $1 per kid per year.

Music is enough. A study released in 2012 by the National Endowment for the Arts, monitored over 70,000 at-risk American students of various ages for 19 years. They found at-risk students with access to arts-rich curriculum had: higher GPAs & test scores, graduated from high school, attended college, read the newspaper, volunteered & voted.

Another UCLA study of 25,000 middle & high school students found that students involved in the arts watch less TV, did more community service, and were generally more engaged with education.

Our response: create a platform that’s as compelling & fun as it is relevant & useful. We want to build communities & economies by inspiring kids. There’s no lack of opportunity - LA employs more artists than any other city in the U.S., with a sector that consists of nearly 1 million direct & indirect jobs. By 2016, these numbers are projected to grow; for example, we’ll have 14% more sound engineers (earning $59,470/year on average).

When we foster creative platforms & programs, we prepare LA kids for these jobs, creating generations of sustainable communities. Laying these foundations will benefit all of LA by 2050.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

Our confirmed partners are Green Dot Public Schools, No Right Brain Left Behind (NRBLB) & CalArts Community Arts Partnership (CAP).

Green Dot is the largest charter school organization in Southern California, serving 10,300 at-risk students in 18 schools across LA, half of them turnarounds of LAUSD’s lowest-performing schools. 90% of students graduate with 76% going on to attend college, making their schools among the highest performing ‘minority’ schools in California. In 2008, Locke was one of the lowest-achieving schools in the nation. Four years into Green Dot’s leadership, Locke scored over 600 API compared to a pre-transformation score of 511. Green Dot’s expertise will guide our implementation at every stage.

NRBLB’s LA2050 award-winning project created the Locke “Jet Space”, which we’ll use as our program’s epicenter. We’ll increase the Jetspace’s impact by bringing music programming and permanent technological infrastructure. In the future, as we expand the PWMP’s reach, we hope to work hand-in-hand with NRBLB as they continue to imagine the future of creative spaces and programing in more schools.

Additionally, we’ll partner with CAP, harnessing their expertise to mentor, teach, research, and co-create school-based arts programs. CAP offers free, after-school and education-based co-curricular arts programs for youth ages 6-18. Their teaching corps comprises of accomplished CalArts faculty, alumni and student instructors. As expert program creators who enable youth to discover and create original works of art, they’ve received numerous honors, including the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, for fostering the creative & intellectual development of America’s children.

Under the leadership of Locke’s new music director, Matthew Cotton, we’ll also forge ties with USC & the LA Opera. We hope to provide access to internships, scholarships, and feeder programs with CAP, USC, LA Opera & more.

We also hope to attract participation from famous musicians, and inspire students with an opportunity to be in a “virtual band” with them. We’ll lean on our entire professional & personal network to achieve this goal.

Finally, we have relationships with many socially conscious local tech firms, including Pull Creative,100 Years, Ludlow Kingsley & Arts of Olympus, who are all on board to help. Together we will create the most impactful program and platform possible.

How will your project impact the LA2050 “Play” metrics?

  • Number of children enrolled in afterschool programs
  • Per capita crime rates
  • Number (and quality) of informal spaces for play (Dream Metric)
  • We feel “Attendance at community music events” is a true grassroots community building and bonding metric in harmony with “Attendance at major league sporting events”.

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

We’ll be running a 20 week long “after school” music & tech program, as part of the PWMP’s pilot in Locke High School’s “Jet Space”, culminating in a community music concert.

This directly addresses the “Number of children enrolled in after school programs” metric. Inspiring kids to feel there are real opportunities for them here in LA, to access jobs that are creative, doing something they might actually like to do (like edit film/video, or sound/audio engineering), is very possibly the most effective way to keep those kids in school. This in turn directly impacts lowering “Per capita crime rates” as well.

Our goal is to scale the PWMP into a tablet based app that simplifies the creation of video, audio, and the teaching of editing & engineering skills. However, most importantly, the app will allow us to create the biggest network of student musicians ever assembled. It will be a network of students with access to each other through the common language of music via their “virtual band” performances.

Imagine kids in South LA creating “virtual bands” with kids from Beverly Hills, interacting together to build something they love, with musicians they mutually admire.

This is how we imagine “play” in 2050 and it also addresses the metric,“Number (and quality) of informal spaces for play”. With unlimited opportunity for virtual creative collaboration, comes unlimited “informal spaces for play”.

As stated above, we feel that “Attendance at community music events” is in true harmony with the metric of “Attendance at major league sporting events”. It may even be a better articulation of what we imagine was the intent of that metric: events where communities gather, for a common interest or passion, with fans bonding over shared experience. This is a way we certainly envision music events. Not only will our pilot program culminate in a community concert, but we think the kids that go though our program will be more likely to participate in, & attend music events in the future.

Music is a true grassroots community building and bonding platform, but unlike sports, it has the power to tell stories & touches on a much wider array of human emotions, with no winners or losers.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

We will measure success in 3 stages! Working with Green Dot’s experienced Knowledge Management Team, CalArts, and software developers, we’ll document quantitative & qualitative data at each phase of development.

  1. Pilot Program Indicators:

-Acquisition of musical and technical skills -Levels of attendance, engagement & collaboration -Quality of output -Student, teacher and legal buy-in for an expanded program/platform -Demand for 2nd generation program

  1. Scalable App Platform Indicators:

-Launching a working app that allows kids to: view & listen to versions of a PWMP song, record video/audio in an automated PWMP format to facilitate editing & arranging -Build a database back end solution for sharing the “Virtual Band” parts (video). -Creation of a simple, approachable user-experience -Teacher acceptance and integration

  1. Documentation of Outcomes

-User-centered qualitative research (in-depth interviews, surveys, and observation), before and after the pilot of student behaviors, desires, career aspirations, understanding and enjoyment of music, and technical skills -Quantitative research, before and after the pilot, measuring enrollment, GPA’s, crime and detention rates. Methods will include gathering of hard data, and administering the Torrance Test for Creative Thinking, one of the most-respected assessments in the field of divergent and critical thinking skills, and the analysis of student test scores in California Standards Tests (CSTs).

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

Lauren’s work with NRBLB, project managing the creation of Locke’s “Jetspace” (2013 LA2050 Grant winner) inspired the inception of this project. Working hand-in-hand with Green Dot & Locke faculty offered valuable lessons about how to innovate within established institutions. Doing the job well requires deep consideration & incorporation of many stakeholders. But most importantly, interacting with Locke students first hand, seeing how thirsty they are for resources, mentors, and information, listening to their hopes, dreams & feedback was transformational. It was impossible not to see the enormous window of opportunity to build upon NRBLB & Green Dot’s succeeding efforts. When we discovered that for the first time in nearly 30 years, Green Dot is investing THIS year to revitalize Locke’s music program, we knew the opportunity to contribute was unparalleled. Most critically, we knew we had to act now.

Furthermore, throughout the process of building the Play with Us project (the project on which our Play With Music Platform for education has been modeled), The New History has evolved & troubleshooted their open “virtual band” platform, sharing it on stages from Chicago to LA and Mexico (including two TEDx conferences).

Harley, though his work at “Interconnected” (an LA based creative agency he co-founded), is deeply involved in the evolution of media, social media, storytelling and communication. His understanding of both the power and impact that could be made by the Play With Music program, as well as the limitations of scale it faced, was a catalyst for developing what we envision today as the Play With Music Platform. Built around a simple but powerful app that runs on a tablet computer, we will have the tools not just to change a classrooms, but an entire city.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

Experience. The New History team, lead by Harley Cross and Lauren Turk, are uniquely well-suited to build the PWMP.

Harley Cross is not only a serial entrepreneur, (CEO of Hint Mint Inc, Partner in Creative Mfg, and Co-founder of Interconnected), he also produced Caine’s Arcade, a short film that led to co-founding the Imagination Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to fostering creativity & entrepreneurship. Harley is also a musician and film maker with a deep understanding of the impact that an arts education has on personal success.

Lauren Turk holds two bachelors degrees in Business & Communications, and a masters in Political Science. Working at UIUC while pursuing her masters, she helped refine the program by pioneering & creating a year-long exchange program at Sciences-Po Paris. Lauren has a deep personal & professional connection to this project, having managed NRBLB’s “Jetspace” renovation at Locke. She also works for the innovation & design firm, Pull, that created the Jetspace’s ed-tech. Musically, Lauren is a singer & multi-instrumental performer, with 15 years of experience.

Additionally, our goals are achievable because we’re not reinventing the wheel, we’re simply using it differently.

The technologies we’re hoping to develop are all, individually, largely ubiquitous. Video playback on a tablet is as common as TV a generation ago. USB/MIDI enabled audio recording & software instruments are now standard (and even downloadable as free apps). Video recording & basic editing software come pre-installed on tablets, laptops, and even phones. Video database are accessible on & offline, and video sharing is as common as email.

By combining these existing technologies in a new, creative & integrated way, we’ll build a powerful platform based on simple, inexpensive, scalable, & reliable technologies.

When completed, music teachers everywhere can use the PWMP as the foundation to build their chosen curriculums. They’ll have access to thousands of software instruments & a video library of musicians for students to play with. Implementation costs will be no more than the cost of a tablet, and we’ll work to solidify sponsorships and preference reuse programs that reduce e-waste.

Finally, where we aren’t experts, we have expert partners. Our partners on the tech side are highly experienced: Emarketed, 100 Years, Pull Creative. Our partners in music & education are among the best at what they do.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

Tech Barriers.

Even though the technology we are hoping to use is nearly ubiquitous, there will no doubt be challenges. Anyone who has worked on on tech based project knows the complexity of getting different applications to work harmoniously together can be trying. Staying on schedule is nearly always a challenge. This could be exacerbated, as pro-bono and low rate paying projects such as this one, tend to command low priority over paying clients. However, the combined connections of our team will allow us to have personal relationships with the firms who are building our app and therefore unique access to the decision makers who can keep PWMP a priority. These are not just companies, these are invested partners who believe deeply in this project and its ability to bring transformative change to our city.

The second tech related barrier is design. We must make sure that the interface we build not only functions, but has an easy, intuitive user interface (UI). In order to make sure that the UI does not become a challenge, we’ll use the 9 month pilot after-school program to beta test our designs and get feedback directly from the students and teachers who will use the app, understanding how to make it not just functional, but easy to use.

Legal issues. Understanding how to implement a rights management system so that the parents, students, teachers and schools all are fully protected will present challenges. Compliance with all relevant regulatory statutes associated to the distribution of the images of minors will have to be fully addressed. Our intention is to integrate this compliance directly into the app itself, making profiles for every student user and a mandatory parental release for video, audio and sharing (that must be confirmed by the school administration). The app will know who has what clearance and will unlock features accordingly.

Finally, our research will be relevant to any number of future projects, not just our desire to scale the PWMP. It is plausible that additional time and funding will be necessary, but will not diminish the value of the pilot after-school program.

What resources does your project need?

  • Money (financial capital)
  • Technical infrastructure (computers, etc.)