CNMN > Projects > Online group music lesson framework for collaborative creativity

Lauren Best

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  • Found objects or art supplies
  • Voice
  • Acoustic instruments
  • Rock band instruments
  • Digital devices
  • Uses Muzie as an online lesson platform- could use other videoconferencing or music teaching platforms
  • 5 to 12 years of age
  • 13 to 18 years of age
  • Adults
  • Intergenerational

weekly 50 minute groups, 32 sessions across 10 months

  • Education
  • Community music, group music lessons

Tech Considerations

Online group music lesson framework for collaborative creativity


This frame­work for online group music lessons pro­vides a col­lab­o­ra­tive expe­ri­ence of devel­op­ing musi­cal­i­ty through cre­ativ­i­ty, while still encour­ag­ing each stu­dent to work inde­pen­dent­ly towards their own per­son­al music goals.

The Frame­work

Each ses­sion cycles through the Kalei­do­scope Music framework:

Con­nect­ing & Preparing

Explor­ing & Skill Building

Cre­at­ing & Collaborating

Quests & Questions

Shar­ing & Reflection

See scores below for exam­ple activ­i­ties for each part of the framework.

Length of time spent in each part of the les­son depends on focus of the group in the scope of the year plan (such as prepar­ing for shar­ing), and the stu­dents’ indi­vid­ual needs and inter­ests. The frame­work is designed to adapt and use ongo­ing feed­back from par­tic­i­pants to co-cre­ate with the teacher, while using the exper­tise of the teacher to facil­i­tate effec­tive activ­i­ties and exploration.

Quests & Ques­tions is the time when stu­dents work indi­vid­u­al­ly on their own projects, goals, and explo­rations. Exam­ples of this include:

  • learn­ing a song they have cho­sen using sheet music or chord charts
  • work­ing through the activ­i­ties in a method book (ie. Piano Adventures)
  • work­ing on a song­writ­ing project, record­ing impro­vis­ing activ­i­ties, etc.
  • prepar­ing a song for a performance

We use the pri­vate audio chan­nel fea­ture in Muzie to allow for indi­vid­ual feed­back and dis­cus­sion between each stu­dent and the teacher. The teacher cycles between stu­dents dur­ing this part of the class, keep­ing an eye on the video feed and chat for which stu­dents need assis­tance. Stu­dents should use this time to proac­tive­ly work on their Quests, rather than wait­ing for the teacher to tell them exact­ly how to pro­ceed. This time is intend­ed to devel­op stu­dent ini­tia­tive and inde­pen­dence, which can take time and coach­ing to cul­ti­vate. It’s impor­tant to regard stu­dent explo­ration as valu­able rather than see­ing it as off-track or unfo­cused. For exam­ple, a stu­dent that is impro­vis­ing rather than prac­tic­ing a par­tic­u­lar goal (like a song they had cho­sen) isn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly dis­tract­ed. If they are self-select­ing to explore ideas and tech­niques, inte­grate skills, and cre­ate new music, it may be that they are quite focused indeed!

Stu­dents are encour­aged to work on their Quest in between group ses­sions, and to send ques­tions via Muzie chat, Muzie clip record­ings (short videos), or email if they feel “stuck” in between lessons. The teacher can record or upload duet and back­ing track parts with­in Muzie’s audio recorder, and the stu­dent can also make lay­ered record­ings with teacher accom­pa­ni­ment (this can be done dur­ing groups or out­side of group time).

When the group comes back togeth­er to share, stu­dents have already dis­cussed with the teacher dur­ing their 1:1 time what they would like to share, if any­thing. Some­times stu­dents per­form just for applause and some­times feed­back and reflec­tion activ­i­ties hap­pen dur­ing this time. Stu­dents can also share about their process and dis­cuss strate­gies, goals, etc.

Select­ing activ­i­ties for each section

How do we decide how to spend our time in each class? The facil­i­ta­tor can plan and sug­gest activ­i­ties for the group and also stay flex­i­ble. See attached scores for activ­i­ty examples.

  • encour­age the par­tic­i­pants to co-cre­ate and con­tribute ideas for activities
  • lis­ten and encour­age par­tic­i­pants to share thoughts about what would serve their learn­ing and cre­ative journey
  • plan times to to ask the par­tic­i­pants dis­cus­sion prompts or just to to check in (a good oppor­tu­ni­ty to see what they had on their minds and learn from their per­spec­tive, which can also help oth­er students)
  • ask par­tic­i­pants to help iden­ti­fy the next steps (so that they can prac­tice self advo­cat­ing and plan­ning cre­ativ­i­ty and learning)
  • invite par­tic­i­pants to share musi­cal or inspi­ra­tion brought from their lives
  • dis­cuss musi­cal ques­tions as a group and ask what the stu­dents are won­der­ing about in an open-end­ed way
  • invite par­tic­i­pants to share music they have been play­ing or just enjoy­ing, and try using those songs for oth­er activities
  • repeat activ­i­ties for sev­er­al weeks, return to them inter­mit­tent­ly, or evolve and iter­ate the activ­i­ty to explore ideas or con­tin­ue to devel­op skills or techniques

The cat­e­gories of activ­i­ty can change over time- for exam­ple, what starts out as a cre­at­ing and col­lab­o­rat­ing activ­i­ty that appears mid-class after a warm-up, may become more of a warm-up activ­i­ty if the par­tic­i­pants are already famil­iar with the activ­i­ty. They may want to pick up where they left off from an activ­i­ty in a future class, or cre­ate their own “quick start” sim­pli­fied ver­sions of an activity.

As the reper­toire of songs and activ­i­ties devel­ops, and as the par­tic­i­pants gain musi­cal skills and learn to col­lab­o­rate, new pos­si­bil­i­ties to extend songs and activ­i­ties emerge. What start­ed off as just a sim­ple song can become a long series of activ­i­ties as the kids explore, adapt, remix, and how­ev­er else they dis­cov­er to cre­ative­ly make music. Some of this can be sug­gest­ed by the teacher but often the par­tic­i­pants have a lot to share from their already rich cre­ative expe­ri­ences, innate musi­cal abil­i­ties, and intu­itive wis­dom about their musi­cal journey.

Back­ground and Context

Lau­ren Best taught pri­vate music lessons for more than a decade in Toron­to, Owen Sound, and online. She expe­ri­enced the pow­er of group par­tic­i­pa­to­ry music and an empha­sis on par­tic­i­pant cre­ativ­i­ty while facil­i­tat­ing music pro­grams as well as across mul­ti­ple art forms includ­ing inter­ac­tive the­atre and dig­i­tal media arts. She want­ed to keep the best of what worked well teach­ing pri­vate lessons, but add the ben­e­fits of group music mak­ing, col­lab­o­ra­tion, and shar­ing in a peer group. By offer­ing lessons in groups, it also allows for more oppor­tu­ni­ties for schol­ar­ships through slid­ing scale or waived tuition.

In 2021 Lau­ren launched online group music lessons for ages 6+ with an empha­sis on col­lab­o­ra­tive cre­ativ­i­ty, and in 2022 the groups were rebrand­ed as Kalei­do­scope Music. Groups were com­prised of stu­dents who were most­ly locat­ed rural­ly or in small towns.

In year 1 (2021–2022) the pro­gram began with piano and ukulele group class­es in same-instru­ment groups meet­ing week­ly for 1 hour. In year 2, (2022–2023) class­es were changed to be mixed-instru­ment (piano, voice, and ukulele in the same class, with stu­dent wel­come to com­bine or switch instru­ments over time) and 50 min­utes in length. In year 2, the groups were also offered for adults but there was insuf­fi­cient enrol­ment to cre­ate a test group with adult participants.

See attached PDF titled “Tech Con­sid­er­a­tions” for fur­ther tech­ni­cal con­sid­er­a­tions and options for the teacher/facilitator.

What Kalei­do­scope Music par­ents say:

“​I love that my chil­dren have some­thing that they can work at, puz­zle out, play with, and progress on. I can see how their pride and self-con­fi­dence have grown this year.”

“The best part about my child learn­ing music is see­ing their inter­est and pas­sion grow deep and wide.”

“It is beau­ti­ful to watch your child learn and mas­ter a new skill, and to wit­ness them per­se­vere and grow.”

“​What I val­ue most about [my child’s] music lessons is learn­ing a new musi­cal lan­guage with which to express yourself.”

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