Five years ago I took the giant leap to leave the classroom. To paraphrase the great Martin Luther King, “I had a dream!”. It was born from my own experiences of classroom music lessons at Secondary & Further Education. As I entered music college, I reflected over my time flowing through the system as a student, that the balance between practical music making and the study of the subject academically were out of kilter. Obviously music college changed all that, but I couldn’t help but wonder how many talented musicians do we lose as Year 6 progresses to Year 7, as Year 8 progresses to Year 9 and Year 11 progresses to Year 12. Could there be a way to empower all students to experience music in a way, that they could make a truly informed decision as to whether the subject was for them? Absolutely there is and this is how JamPod™ was born.
The program launched in 2011 and is all about enabling students to experience music in a totally unique way. By controlling the sound within headphones the empowerment delivered to all abilities is tremendous. Its best summed up by a music teacher who uses it every day:
“JamPod has totally revolutionised both my teaching and student’s learning in my classroom. Students are no longer tied to desks and are now able to perform in an informal environment, rehearsing songs of their choice without disturbing others. Students are really enjoying the challenge of rehearsing and perform as a band and I’m able to offer feedback to individual groups without disturbing others. I’ve completely changed the way I deliver the traditional blues lessons. Students don’t simply perform a blues piece on keyboards. They are now able to work together, writing lyrics, working on chords and putting together a performance that is full of enthusiasm and creativity. I’ve also had an influx of students after school that want to use the pods to rehearse with their new bands. Many of these students had never even considered learning to play an instrument. The classroom is a hive of activity at the end of the school day. It’s fantastic.” Stuart Shepherd, Music Dept, Turton High School – 2012
It was feedback like this that drove us on to keep growing, but most importantly innovating to keep improving the interactivity and learning capable within the suite. In many of the JamPod™ suites appearing across the country, out of school access was beginning the thrive. The facility naturally empowers larger groups to be able to access instrumental lessons. Crucially, because the leading tutor was able to communicate with students individually, the experience for all proved to be superb.
“The students are all so engaged with it, the equipment makes such a difference to delivering the tuition. After the first session they all came away feeling that they’d achieved something, everyone seemed to want to just stay and keep playing. I was really impressed with how the students conducted themselves, their enthusiasm and how much they achieved. It’s really proved what a fantastic resource and teaching aid it is. Even at such a basic level they really felt like they’d engaged in real music making. It’s brilliant.” John Metcalf, Keyboard Tutor, Gwent Music Support Service – 2011
As the program grew, our team started to as well. It was proving impossible for me to support everyone now engaging with us in the way I wanted. That, for me, is the most important part. Any relationship we enter into we want to be long term, so we support with lesson plans, site visits and launch events. Omar Khohker gave us this great feedback in the year JamPod™ won ‘Best Technology Resource in Music Education':
“I would recommend JamPod™ without hesitation! It is more than a product. You are investing in an ethos, which is delivered with a passionate drive, a proven confidence in the product, and quality support.” Omar Khohker, Head of Music, Severn Vale School – 2013
Throughout the year we are constantly assessing and improving the instruments and technology we embrace in all our programs, not just JamPod™. We have developed a strong reputation now for recommending the right products for the classroom and that comes from the careful assessment we undertake with everything we use.
“One thing that makes this stand out as a purchase is not just the extremely low prices, but the service and after-care. Dan Jones, the Mix Music founder, is there from project conception to way beyond purchase and implementation, freely giving advice based on the experience of other schools, his own ideas (previously Music Teacher of the Year, no less!) and asking the sorts of questions that sharpen your focus and help you deliver what you both want and need in your situation. He’s not there to make money or sell-sell-sell, Dan and his team are there to help you make music in the best way to suit you in your situation, to help you turn ideas into reality for your musical ambitions. You’re not just buying a load of flashy gear, you are buying a new way to teach music, a new way to engage students, a new way to meet Ofsted criteria, a new way to encourage young people. Mix Music Education are on your side, even by your side if you need help. Dan knows what will last and what will just break. Everything is specially selected to be durable and tough without compromising the musical standard desired.” Matt Allen, Head of Music, Chessington Community College – 2014
I am so excited that after initial testing in 2014, we can launch the tutor interface I had always aspired to deliver as part of the program back in 2010. It has taken us five years of hard work but I can now confirm that all installations from April 1st 2015 will feature our new JamPod™ Tutor Control. We have designed it from the ground up to:
- Be easy to use – you can access the ability to talk back to groups or students, send a range of audio resources to students, group your students as you see fit and much more. All this can be done at the push of one button on either your desk top PC/Mac or via your iPad or iPhone
- Completely mobile – previously your interactivity with your class was delivered from your desk area, you were effectively tied to that spot if you wanted to send audio or talk/listen to students. This can now all be empowered as you move around your classroom via an iPad
- Enable easy recording – you can now record whoever you want to with the push of one big red button!
- Fit the use it is intended for – up until today we have had to reverse engineer mixing desks and all sorts of other technology to allow the features JamPod™ is now renowned for. This new JamPod™ Tutor Control has a workflow and options designed specifically by our team for delivery of classroom music lessons. We have also built in a clear workflow for delivery of instrumental lessons
- Grow with you – as your confidence grows with JamPod™ our experience with other schools tells us you will want to do more. As you develop your lesson plans if you need additional functionality or features, we can create specific functions bespoke to your school, and upload them to the interface
The above only scratches the surface of the capabilities of our new JamPod™ Tutor Control. We will work with new schools from April 1st 2015 to tailor the relevant features specifically. I am as excited about this new innovation as I was on installation of the very first JamPod™, this is the final piece in the jigsaw of the initial conception.
The problem, and its a positive one, is that the jigsaw keeps changing! As the needs of the classroom change, we must change with them. For me that is the most exciting part of what I now do. I get to work with all of you, assessing the needs of the classroom and then marrying that to the new instruments, software and approaches that appear every year. Back in 2010 we set out to be the link between the music industry and the music classroom, helping educators create vibrant and exciting spaces. We were absolutely delighted to see Matthew Arnold School Music Department reach the final of Most Innovative Classroom in 2014. The challenge is a great one, empowering every who wants to, to engage with music. Then support them in the best way possible throughout there musical journey. Surely though it is one we must succeed in. Anyone who has seen their student sing their first song, pass their first exam or just play there first note knows the sense of self worth and empowerment stays with you a lifetime. I truly believe that when we do succeed, the world will be a better place.
The Mix Music Education