The Kindle Farm Music Program: Traveling the World Through Sound

Written By: 
Todd Roach

"When considering the sound of any one particular room, you have to deal with the acoustic elements of absorption, reflection and diffusion."  As I stood there listening to Gary Henry, engineer/owner of Northern Tracks in Wilmington talk during our recent high school class visit, I realized it was the students that were engaged with him in this incredible conversation about sound and music, and I was just an observer enjoying the unfolding dialogue. This was a moment that made me proud to be a part of the Kindle Farm music community and inspired me to reflect on how far we have come.

  Studio tours, trips to Boston and New York to see live shows, museum visits, making beats on computers, guitar instruction, music theory, music appreciation, studio engineering, and percussion ensemble have all been a part of how we deliver music programming at Kindle Farm over the years.  Currently, there are four groups (totaling twenty-two students) that come down to The Loft in Brattleboro to receive music instruction every week. Each class has a different focus, but all of the classes experience as much of these different elements of instruction as possible.

  My training in music is as a percussionist.  Basically, I play drums from all over the world. Every class from K.F. that comes through the studio spends a significant amount of time learning how to drum.  We also interact with music technology, but the drums give us the hands-on experience that creates a bridge to understanding all of the other categories of music that we explore. 

  In our drumming sessions, there are many educational elements at play. Students are building on the academic skills of memorization, following directions and counting.  They are also working with the social skills of paying attention, teamwork, empathy and mentoring.  One of the greatest things that can happen in these sessions is when students who would not otherwise be together outside of school join forces.  Through the music, they work together to create and accomplish something that at first seems unachievable to them.

  In music technology, students are learning to operate the music creation software called Acid Pro 7.  This program helps the students put together music from pre-made instrument loops, samples from outside sources, and their own performances.  The sessions include instruction on how to edit sound and how to use song form to create original pieces of music.

  All of the classes at The Loft are ultimately project-based and goal-oriented.  Some of these projects have included making audio recordings and video shoots: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDUBiLcUnUA), creating music for slide shows, and giving annual performances for the Kindle Farm open house and graduation events.

  In the spring of 2011, the high school class went to Possum Hall Studio in Carlyle, Mass.  Together with staff, the group was able to record four pieces of music.  These included pieces written by staff and students.  You can sample some of this music here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PRnSlHcsre8

This work will be paired with recordings that are being made by current Kindle Farm students and will be featured on the first full length Kindle Farm production, which will be released later this school year. 

  Another project that is taking place is percussion-based.  All of the students and staff that come to The Loft from Kindle Farm, over 35 people total, are learning the same piece of drumming music.  This is a song called Signs Point West.  It features hand drums, found objects, bass drums and melodic percussion.  The piece was created out of the sessions with Kindle Farm students and utilizes material from a variety of world music traditions.  Each group has worked with this in their individual classes and we will all come together to perform it in the spring.  You can listen to a sample of this piece here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3FUG2LPwBh0&feature=youtu.be

  There is almost too much to talk about.  We started drumming with Kindle Farm students in 1996 with buckets and barrels, and now we are creating albums and having conversations with engineers about the science of acoustics.  The road in-between has been full of variety and we have truly traveled the world through sound.  We have been fortunate to be supported by great students and hopefully we will be making music for many years to come.  Please check out the Kindle Farm website (www.kindlefarm.org) for music program updates in the future.  I will leave you with one last video link of a project that the high school program was involved with last spring: (Kindle Farm is represented by the drummers in the studio): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQkQ0gEhHVY.