By Lily Birdt
Along with its rigorous academic standards and high test scores, Granada Hills Charter High School (GHC) is also known for its wide variety of performing arts courses. One of these many classes includes Music Technology, taught by Jeffrey McCandless. The class is focused on creating music digitally through computers.
According to the course description, students “learn basic piano skills, fundamental audio engineering, audio editing, audio mixing techniques, beat design, instrument/effect design, and music theory to become independent songwriters and producers.” The class satisfies students’ visual and performing arts credit for graduation and has no requirements for entry into the class. McCandless accepts students of all levels. In fact, most students who enter the class have little to no musical experience.
McCandless has teaching for 15 years, with this being his eleventh at GHC. During his time here, the music lab located in D2 has expanded and become one of the most advanced music classrooms in the area. Students have access to acoustic guitars, electric guitars, keyboards, a recording booth, and professional music editing software.
“Aside from teaching guitar, music tech, and keyboards, I have spent much of the last two years modernizing my personal teaching practice in order to provide accessible-anywhere instruction, seamless communication via Google Sites and Google Classroom, and a grading system that is consistent, fair, and accurately reflects what students have learned,” McCandless said.
By the end of the first semester, students are able to piece together their musical ideas into full compositions, complete with polished music editing and production value. Students are graded based on the skills they demonstrate within each song. There are seven categories for each project: variety, tone, flow, balance, form, skills, and creativity.
“I learn a lot from the class, and it’s really fun because it helps me make my music skills better. Mr. Mac is one of my favorite teachers because he’s really good at what he does, and he gives us his feedback on our songs and helps better our music,” sophomore Tabitha Chadwick said.
Most projects are open for student creativity and interpretation and have a minimum length of 1:45 minutes. There are some projects with specific guidelines for music genre and required skills, but they are framed within an instructional unit, and the genre highlights the skills they need to demonstrate.
The class uses Logic Pro X, which is an Apple-based music production platform. It is expansive and offers many tools for students to cultivate their skills and inspire their creativity. The students especially get a lot of use from the Apple loop library included with Logic. Those loops allow students to add a polished sound to their drum tracks without having to devote a lot of time to them.
“I love that Granada offers such a fun course that also teaches us discipline,” junior Eden Mollica said.