Brooklyn Elementary Offers Digital Music Production Class

A new after-school program at a Brooklyn elementary school is taking a modern approach to teaching children about music.

Three times a week, students at P.S. 38 in Boerum Hill are layering beats and manipulating sounds, learning how to craft their own songs in a digital music class.

Hassan Salaam, parent coordinator and professional music producer, began offering the eight-week paid course to students in February after transforming his office into what he now calls “The Network Recording Studios.”

Salaam filled the narrow space with speakers, keyboards, computers, a mixing board and other equipment, with the help of his principal and support from the Department of Education and the school’s Parent-Teacher Association

“Creating music, it’s like writing a paper, it’s like solving a math problem,” Salaam said after a recent class. “And they can start to own it, they can start to say this is my composition.”

During the class, students divided into groups and passed headphones back and forth as they collaborated on songs using various music programs on computers. They then took turns sharing their creations over the speakers with the rest of the class.
“It makes us feel super cool and it makes us feel like one day we could be our own music producers,” said fourth-grader Jaylen Holt.

Salaam believes teaching music through technology is the best way to reach his students and keep them interested.

“Technology is where the kids are and we have to meet them at their playing field,” Salaam said.

Sam Rosenthal, a musician and a parent of one of the student’s in Salaam’s class, agrees with the approach. Rosenthal said that while his son, Sasha, a fifth grader, already takes guitar lessons, learning how to compose music digitally is just as valuable today.

“I think that’s really the way people make music now,” Rosenthal said. “It isn’t just one person on one instrument -- anyone can control all the instruments.”

Salaam is often impressed with the music his students create. After listening to one composition with an unexpected transition, he cheerfully called his students "show-offs." Fourth-grader Troy Douglas proudly grinned.

“I think the music that we made today was excellent,” Troy said after class. “I hope we learn some more so we continue on making music.”

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