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How to Make Your Music Student Happy this Summer

by Lara Levitan

For many music students, summer means no school, fewer obligations, and a more relaxed attitude toward music practice. Rather than fight summer’s chill vibe, why not go with it and have a little fun with a new project?

Whether you’re a teacher, or a parent, or a student yourself, you can put the following project ideas into action, or use them as a jumping off point for coming up with your own. But here’s a tip: the project should feel genuinely fun and exciting to the student, and focus on an area they don’t have time to explore during the school year.

Reevaluate with your student what they love about music. Ask, what do they really enjoy? What would they like to learn more about? When they wake up in the morning, what kind of project would make them jump out of bed with excitement?

Here are 16 ideas for inspiring summer music projects:

1. Learn a more ambitious pop song in a new key signature.

2. Work with a new and/or specialized method book (like one of these !).

3. Dedicate the entire summer to learning songs by one composer or songwriter the student admires.

4. Write a medley of favorite songs.

5. Explore a new genre like jazz or boogie-woogie.

6. Make videos of yourself performing your favorite songs and create your own YouTube channel. (And if you do, please send us a link so we can follow you!)

7. Learn the Bach Inventions! These are a relatively simple way to appreciate the incredible logic of Bach’s brain; each hand plays a one-note-at-a-time sequence, and you watch the two hands interact as if they’re a DNA double helix.

8. Record an album of your work. Use your iPhone for recording, burn the tracks to a CD, and have fun creating album artwork and track listings. For students who like to improvise, work with your teacher to devise semi-structured improvisations, record, and name them.

9. For students who don’t like to improvise, do the same thing but record favorite repertoire from the past year or so.

We also like these ideas from Meridee Winters School of Music :

10. Learn to solo in a favorite style like a favorite performer, artist or band. Learn others’ solos and how to create your own. Jam with your teacher.

11. Learn to play chords in a favorite style, to accompany voice, play in a band, write songs or just boost your playing.

12. Create a band, duo or trio with a new friend or two. Learn to play covers together, or create original music!

13. Prepare a show of any style music. Perform it in front of an audience, whether it be your own family, friends, or neighbors.

14. Make your own book of any theme you like (exercises, solos, history theory or any project).

15. Create a show, list, or portfolio of all of your greatest accomplishments as a music student.

16. Create a glossary of all of your favorite riffs that you can play, and compile them all in your very own riff encyclopedia!

Learn why taking music lessons throughout the summer rules!

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Nine Teaching Ideas for Using Music to Inspire Student Writing

Kelela performing at the 2016 Sónar festival in Barcelona. What artists do your students believe are the future of music? This is just one of our many music-related writing prompts. <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/13/learning/what-artists-do-you-believe-are-the-future-of-music.html">Related Article</a>

By Natalie Proulx

  • May 10, 2018

Some of the greatest written works of our time have been inspired by music. Walt Whitman conceived of and wrote “Leaves of Grass” while listening to opera . Alice Walker, Langston Hughes, Ntozake Shange and Ralph Ellison were all moved by spirituals, jazz and blues . And Lin-Manuel Miranda’s rap musical “Hamilton” was born of his love of hip-hop . These writers understood what many educational researchers know — that music opens up pathways to creative thinking, sharpens our ability to listen and helps us weave together disparate ideas .

In this teaching resource, we suggest nine exercises to use music to inspire student writing — from creating annotated playlists and critical reviews to music-inspired poetry and personal narratives. Each idea pulls from Times reporting, Opinion pieces and multimedia on music to give students a place to start. The activities are categorized according to three genres: creative and narrative writing; informative and explanatory writing; and persuasive and argumentative writing.

How do you use music in your classroom? Let us know in the comments.

Creative and Narrative Writing

Exercise #1: Write a story or poem inspired by music.

One way you might let your students be inspired by music is to have them describe in words what they hear, a method Jean-Michel Basquiat employed in his poetry and paintings.

In “ Bowie, Bach and Bebop: How Music Powered Basquiat ,” Ekow Eshun writes:

In 1979, at 19, the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat moved into an abandoned apartment on East 12th Street in Manhattan with his girlfriend at the time, Alexis Adler. The home, a sixth-floor walk-up, was run-down and sparsely furnished. Basquiat, broke and unable to afford canvases, painted with abandon on the walls and floor, even on Ms. Adler’s clothes. The one item that remained undisturbed was Ms. Adler’s stereo, which had pride of place on a shelf scavenged from the street. “The main thing for us was having big speakers and a blasting stereo. That was the only furniture I purchased myself,” said Ms. Adler, who still lives in the apartment. When Basquiat was around, she recalled, “music was playing all the time.” On Thursday, the exhibition “Basquiat: Boom for Real” opened at the Barbican Center in London. The show focuses on the artist’s relationship to music, text, film and television. But it is jazz — the musical style that made up the bulk of Basquiat’s huge record collection — that looms largest as a source of personal inspiration to him and as a subject matter.

Invite your students to read the article and then listen to the Times-curated Spotify playlist “ The eclectic taste of Jean-Michel Basquiat ” as they view his art and read his poetry . Discuss what they notice about the musical influence in Basquiat’s work. How do the content, colors, textures and shapes in his paintings resemble the sounds they hear? How are these reflected in the words, phrases, mood and rhythm of his poems?

Next, have students listen to a song or playlist (perhaps one they created, one you created or one of these Times-curated ones) and, like Basquiat, let them write what they hear:

• describe the images that come to mind; • name the feelings and thoughts triggered by the imagery and sounds in the music; • mimic the pacing and rhythm through word choice, sentence structure and line breaks; • borrow the words, phrases or lines that resonate most; • or build on a theme or message.

Here’s an example of what one composer wrote as he listened to his own classical piece, “Become Desert”:

From the stillness around you a high glassy sound descends, like first light. Each new sound seems to breathe — emerging from and receding back into the stillness — and the glint of bells, like desert plants, here and there. Almost imperceptibly the music swells and continues falling in pitch. From somewhere above — like a gleam of metal, like sunlight emerging from behind a ridgeline — comes the sound of flutes. You are in a strange landscape. You don’t know how to read the weather or the light. You are unsure how long you will be here, or how challenging the journey may be.

To take this exercise a step further, students might use what they wrote while listening to music to develop a short story or poem. They might share their writing and song choices with the class so their classmates can analyze how music inspired their writing.

Exercise #2: Pen your own song or rap.

Invite students to write their own music about topics, events or themes you are studying in class. How can they summarize in song the role of the mitochondria , the main themes of “Romeo and Juliet” or the events that led to the Civil War?

Here’s an example from Julien Turner , 20, who produced this music video called “ XY Cell Life ” for a college biology class:

For inspiration, students might check out the Times “ Diary of a Song ” video series to see how songwriters and musicians like Zedd , Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber make hits. What stands out to them about these songs? What are the artists’ processes for making music? How do they write lyrics and sounds that resonate with an audience? How do they communicate content and emotion?

You might have students simply write lyrics — like these students who wrote “Hamilton” hip-hop verses and these young people who summed up the year’s news in our annual “Year in Rap” challenge .

Or, invite them to make their own music videos or recorded songs. In this case, you might refer to use our lesson plan “ Project Audio: Teaching Students How to Produce Their Own Podcasts ,” which has a helpful section on audio editing and advice for gathering non copyrighted sound effects and music.

Exercise #3: Share what music means to you.

What role does music play in your students’ lives?

What are they listening to right now? What musicians and bands mean the most to them? What music inspires them? What song lyrics do they consider literature? Which artists do they believe are the future? Which do they think will stand the test of time?

We have published over 1,000 writing prompts for students , including many, like the questions above, dedicated to personal and narrative writing about music. You might have your students choose a question that speaks to them and read the related Times article. Then invite them to share their thoughts, stories, opinions and experiences in writing.

You can search “music” to find our newest music-related writing prompts here , which are open for comment indefinitely.

Informative and Explanatory Writing

Exercise #4: Connect songs to current events.

Music has always been a reflection of and window into society, culture and history — and the current era is no different. Hip-hop, folk, classical and even opera music draw on current events and politics for source material.

What connections can your students make between the music they listen to and current events? How does learning more about the context in which a song was written help them better understand it?

You might start by having students read and analyze how journalists make connections between music and current events every day. Take Childish Gamino’s latest video, “ This Is America ,” for instance. In a roundup of the best writing about this music video, Judy Berman writes:

But Glover’s graceful moves aren’t exactly the point. There’s plenty of messaging about race, violence and the entertainment industry in the song and video — which helps explain why fans and critics have devoted so much time to dissecting its references and debating its meaning.

And Doreen St. Félix from The New Yorker relates the video to the present day:

The video has already been rapturously described as a powerful rally cry against gun violence, a powerful portrait of black-American existentialism, a powerful indictment of a culture that circulates videos of black children dying as easily as it does videos of black children dancing in parking lots.

You might have students read the roundup or one of the articles it excerpts, or let them choose another topic or genre that interests them, such as:

Beethoven’s 200-Year-Old ‘Fidelio’ Enters Today’s Prisons Mouse on Mars at M.I.T.: A Symposium Becomes a Dance Party Eminem Lashes Out at Trump in Freestyle Rap Video New ‘Hamilton Mixtape’ Video Takes Aim at Immigration Celebrating Women’s Rights, ‘That Most American of Operas’ Watch 5 Moments When Classical Music Met Politics Can North Korea Handle a K-Pop Invasion? Review: Beyoncé Is Bigger Than Coachella

For whichever article they choose, students should consider: What current events does the music they read about reference? How do these allusions contribute to the artist’s message? What other themes in the music can they relate to what is happening in the world?

Then, challenge students to pair a song of their choosing with one or more Times articles and write an essay that explains the relationship between the song and the current or historical events.

Students might start by annotating song lyrics themselves or referring to Genius to find explicit connections and discover underlying themes that in some way relate to society, culture, history and politics. Students may also choose to research the artist to find out more about his or her background, beliefs and politics.

For help in writing the essay, what we call a text-to-text pairing , we also have a whole lesson plan that guides classes through the process of generating and writing about relevant connections between their studies and the world today, as well as dozens of example essays written by teenagers .

Exercise #5: Create an annotated playlist of songs related to a topic.

Every Friday, The Times publishes “ The Playlist ,” a weekly tour of notable new music and videos. Times pop music critics choose about a dozen of the week’s most popular or intriguing songs and music videos and write a short commentary for each. They even create a Spotify playlist of the songs each week.

You can use “The Playlist” as a model for students to compile their own annotated playlists — playlists with explanatory text or commentary for each song — related to a topic you are studying in class. It might be straightforward, such as songs that reference historical or current events, use a particular literary device or exhibit a specific musical technique. Or, the playlist could be more symbolic, like pieces that tell a story when played together, demonstrate a theme from a novel or capture the essence of a time period or setting. (You might use one of these as an example of a theme-oriented playlist.) Playlists could even be autobiographical, with students selecting songs that express aspects of their own identities.

Students can read through several of the past columns and listen to the playlists to determine what makes for compelling commentary. For example, on Billie Eilish’s and Khalid’s “Lovely,” Jon Pareles writes:

“Lovely” is the song of someone inextricably attached or trapped: “I hope someday I’ll make it out of here,” Billie Eilish sings with Khalid — not in dialogue or counterpoint, but in unison, as if they’re each others’ partner and burden. “Wanna feel alive outside/I can fight my fear.” The backdrop is piano and strings lingering on two chords; the melancholy never lifts, and at the end Khalid and Ms. Eilish share a chilling greeting: “Hello-welcome home.” J.P.

And on First Aid Kit’s “Fireworks,” Mr. Pareles writes:

First Aid Kit, a duo of sisters from Sweden who usually favor a folky, countryish approach — they’ve got a song named “Emmylou,” after Ms. Harris — turn to a gauzy retro sound in “Fireworks,” a song always about ending up lonely: “Why do I do this to myself every time/I know the way it ends even before it’s begun.” With a 1950s slow-dance beat and echoey guitars, it’s already nostalgic for the next failed romance. J.P.

Ask students: What do they notice about h ow the commentary is written? What does the writer include and why? How is it organized? What makes it interesting (or not)?

After students have curated their own playlists, they are ready to write song annotations. Some ingredients they should include in their writing are: a claim explaining how the song relates to the topic or theme; evidence from the song (e.g., lyrics, instruments, rhythm or melodies) illustrating their claim; and analysis that explains the significance of these aspects of the song.

Students can share their final playlists on Spotify so that everyone in the class can listen to and comment on them.

Exercise #6: Profile an artist in an imagined interview.

The Times Music section regularly profiles artists from different genres, time periods and corners of the globe. Students can use these articles and interviews as mentor texts before doing research and writing their own mini-biographies of a music figure they admire.

In an “imagined interview,” students, working individually or in pairs, play the part of both interviewer and interviewee. They do background research on an artist they select, come up with a list of questions and answers for the interview, and then write a profile on their subject.

To start, have students read one of these interviews with musicians:

Khalid, the Teenager With 5 Grammy Nominations: ‘They Got It Right This Year’ Jay-Z and Dean Baquet, in Conversation John Mayer Has More to Say: The Outtakes Bruce Springsteen on Broadway: The Boss on His ‘First Real Job’ Adele on ‘25’: Song by Song In Hip-Hop, Inspiration Arrived by Way of Kirk Franklin Gwen Stefani on Spirituality, Insecurity, Pharrell and ‘Truth’

Ask students: What types of questions did the interviewer ask? What subjects did the two discuss? What questions were missing from the interview that you wish were asked?

If you plan on having students write narratives based on their imagined interviews, they should also read at least one example of how Times writers write narratives based on interviews. Here are a few:

The 5 ‘Handsome Girls’ Trying to Be China’s Biggest Boy Band ‘I Could Barely Sing a High C’: Pretty Yende Finally Conquers Lucia For Milford Graves, Jazz Innovation Is Only Part of the Alchemy Dua Lipa Was Raised on Pop Bangers. Now She Writes Them. Valee, Kanye West’s New Signee, Is a Rapper Who Just Might Build You a Koi Pond Rafiq Bhatia Is Writing His Own Musical Language Ashley McBryde Takes Nashville, No Gimmicks Required

While reading, they should consider the following: What information did the reporter include and why do you think they made these choices? How did they effectively weave in biographical details to tell a story about the artist and the music?

Next, assign students to choose their own musical artist to interview and profile. The following steps can guide students through the process:

1. Do Your Research : To learn more about the artist you selected to interview, do an in-depth study of several song lyrics or an album, read published interviews with the artist, watch a video or listen to radio interviews to see how the artist speaks.

2. Prepare Your Questions : Consider this artist’s particular music and biography. What more do you want to know about the artist and his or her music? What in the songs or videos you studied struck you that you would like to ask about? For more inspiration, our lesson plan “ Beyond Question: Learning the Art of the Interview ” provides additional advice on how to conduct good interviews.

3. Conduct Your Imagined Interview : Based on your research of artists — their background, their music and the way they speak — imagine how they might respond to your questions. Be creative, but try to stay true to who the artist is. Alternatively, you could role-play the interview in partners, where one person is the interviewer and the other is the artist. It might be helpful to record the interview and take notes.

4. Write Your Article : You may choose to write your interview in a question and answer format , or create a narrative .

5. Share the Final Product : Share your imagined interviews with your classmates and reflect on the activity. Was your writing convincing to readers? What did you learn about writing artist profiles?

Persuasive and Argumentative Writing

Exercise #7: Review an artist, album or song.

Which artists, albums and songs can your students not stop talking about — either because they love them or hate them? Channel that energy into an argumentative essay using our culture review-writing lesson plan . In this lesson, students read Times reviews and heed advice from Times critics to write their own. They practice developing a clear claim, citing evidence and writing with a strong voice.

You might allow students to choose one of their favorite (or least favorite) artists or songs to practice writing passionately and knowledgeably about a subject. Or, challenge them to explore a genre of music they might not normally listen to and see what they can learn.

Consider having your students submit their finished pieces to our annual student review contest . They can read winning reviews from past years here .

Exercise #8: Weigh in on the latest criticisms, trends and news in music.

Music today incites opinions not just about the artists and albums themselves, but also about universal themes, like the music industry , social media , morality , the human condition , culture , the past and the future. “ Popcast ” is The Times’s podcast dedicated to discussing these very criticisms, trends and news in music.

You can invite students to weigh in on the music-related topics they care about most in a group writing activity that mimics the conversational style of this podcast. Here, they learn how to make a claim, develop it with evidence, write counterclaims and respond directly to one another in an informal and fun way.

First, you might start by having students listen to one full episode or excerpts from “ Popcast ” to analyze how the discussion unfolds. What background information is provided? How do the critics talk to and respond to one another? How do they open and close each episode?

Popcast Poster

Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar Break Boundaries

Or, you might have students examine what a conversation like this looks like in writing. “ Kendrick Lamar Shakes Up the Pulitzer Game: Let’s Discuss ” by Times music editors provides a good example. The conversation begins:

JON PARELES To me, this prize is as overdue as it was unexpected. When I look at the Pulitzers across the board, what I overwhelmingly see rewarded are journalistic virtues: fact-gathering, vivid detail, storytelling, topicality, verbal dexterity and, often, real-world impact after publication. It’s an award for hard-won persuasiveness. Well hello, hip-hop. ZACHARY WOOLFE … But there is also wariness, which I join, about an opening of the prize — not to hip-hop, per se, but to music that has achieved blockbuster commercial success. This is now officially one fewer guaranteed platform — which, yes, should be open to many genres — for noncommercial work, which scrapes by on grants, fellowships, commissions and, yes, awards. PARELES That response is similar to many publishing-world reactions when Bob Dylan got the Nobel Prize in Literature — that a promotional opportunity was being lost for something worthy but more obscure, preferably between hard covers. A literary figure who had changed the way an entire generation looked at words and ideas was supposed to forgo the award because, well, he’d reached too many people? Do we really want to put a sales ceiling on what should get an award? The New York Times and The New Yorker already have a lot of subscribers … uh-oh.

Then, in small groups, have students come up with their own music topics worthy of debate. For inspiration, they might browse some of the past “Popcast” episodes.

You might then have them brainstorm some initial ideas and conduct research in the Times Music section to deepen and broaden their knowledge about the subject.

Next, invite them into a written conversation about their chosen topic. One student initiates the conversation and then each person in the group takes a turn responding to what each other writes — acknowledging their classmates’ remarks, voicing their own opinions, making connections and citing evidence to support or disagree with others.

Exercise #9: Write an editorial on a music-related topic.

Many musicians and music aficionados also contribute Opinion pieces to The Times, where they write passionately and persuasively about music’s influence in their lives, culture and society.

What music-related topics do your students care about? Do they believe music should be a required subject in school? What do they think today’s artists say about the world they live in? Can and should musicians’ work be separated from their personal lives?

Have your students write an editorial on a music-related topic that matters to them. We’ve written several lesson plans on teaching argumentative writing, including “ For the Sake of Argument: Writing Persuasively to Craft Short, Evidence-Based Editorials ,” “ I Don’t Think So: Writing Effective Counterarguments ” and “ 10 Ways to Teach Argument-Writing With The New York Times .”

You can pair any one of these lessons with music editorials as mentor texts, like the ones below:

A Note to the Classically Insecure The Real Song of the Summer Three Cheers for Cultural Appropriation The Heartbreak of Kanye West Is Music the Key to Success? Graceland, at Last The Songs That Bind

Students can also search for their own examples in the Music or Opinion sections. Or, refer to the many music-themed argumentative writing prompts we have published.

They might consider entering their finished editorials into our annual student editorial contest . And they can read essays from past winners here .

100 Epic College Event Ideas for Students on Campus [2023]

By: Author Nicole Booz

Posted on Last updated: September 26, 2023

Categories College

Are you looking to host college events that students will actually want to attend? A fun campus event attracts a crowd and engages students. These college event ideas listed below can also help build school spirit and camaraderie among your student body.

“I don’t have time for events, I need to  do my essay ” shouldn’t stop you from having fun at least once in a while. Check out these 100 college event ideas that are perfect for any campus!

Links in this post may be affiliate. Thank you for supporting this resource.

100 College Event Ideas for Student Body Participation

Host a music concert.

A free music concert is something most people will enjoy! You could have a variety of music genres or stick to one type.

Host a trivia night

Trivia nights are always popular and they are a great way to get students engaged. You can either do this on your own or team up with another campus organization.

Throw a party

Who doesn’t love a good party? Themed parties are especially fun. Be sure to advertise well in advance so everyone knows about it.

Next, be sure to use disposable dinnerware sets with different colors for both matching your themed parties and allowing yourself to enjoy the time by not doing the dishes.

Have a movie night

A classic movie night is always a hit with students. Be sure to choose movies that everyone will enjoy.

music project ideas for college students

When I’m overwhelmed with school work, and need time to relax, I look for someone to write my essay and help me achieve my academic goals . That was I have time to relax as well.

Play sports

Sports are always a popular activity among college students . Whether you play indoors or outdoors, there’s something for everyone.

Host a food drive

Food drives are always important, and they’re a great way to get students involved. You could partner with a local charity or organization. University life is about fun and learning, and what better way to help that mission than with community events that give back ?

Do a service project

Service projects are always beneficial, and they’re perfect for college students . There are plenty of organizations that would love to have your help.

Have a dodgeball tournament

Dodgeball tournaments are always a lot of fun. You could either have them as a standalone event or add it to another event.

music project ideas for college students

Have a bake sale

Bake sales are a classic fundraiser and they always do well. Be sure to have plenty of delicious goodies for students to choose from.

Host a charity walk/run

Charity walks and runs are always a great way to raise money for a good cause. You could partner with a local charity or organization.

Visit a nearby amusement park

Amusement parks are always a lot of fun, and students will love the chance to get out and have some fun.

Rock climbing

Rock climbing is a great way to get active and have some fun . You could either do this at a local rock climbing gym or outdoors.

Play laser tag

Laser tag is always a blast, and students will love the chance to compete against each other.

music project ideas for college students

Have a karaoke night

Karaoke nights are always a lot of fun, and they provide a great opportunity for students to show off their singing skills even if it’s a hidden talent.

Bowling is always a fun activity, and it’s perfect for a night out. You could either go to a local bowling alley or have a bowling tournament .

Volunteer at a homeless shelter

Volunteering at a homeless shelter is a great way to help those in need. You could also partner with another campus organization to do this.

Visit a local museum

Museums are always a great place to learn about different subjects, and students will love the chance to explore them.

music project ideas for college students

Free massages

Who doesn’t love a free massage? Give students free 10 minute massages and the line will be out the door.

Paint night

Paint nights are always popular, and they’re a great way to get creative . Be sure to provide all of the supplies students will need.

Create a puzzle hunt

Puzzle hunts are always a lot of fun, and they’re perfect for a day or night out. You could either create your own puzzles or use ones that are already made. College campuses are made for events like this!

music project ideas for college students

Pet therapy

Pet therapy is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety. You could partner with a local pet therapy organization. This may help new students feel less homesick, too!

Promote a campus theatre production

Theatre productions are always a lot of fun, and students will love the chance to see one on campus. This is a great way for current students to support their fellow students even if they aren’t in the same major.

music project ideas for college students

Host a casino night

Casino nights are always popular, and they’re a great way to raise money for a good cause. You could partner with a local charity or organization.

Have a talent show

Talent shows are always a lot of fun, and they provide a great opportunity for students to show off their talents.

Board game night

Board game nights are always popular, and they’re the perfect way to spend a night in. Be sure to have a variety of games for students to choose from.

Host a debate tournament

Debate tournaments are always a lot of fun, and they’re perfect for students who love to argue.

Have a science fair

Science fairs are a throwback to elementary school. Let students get creative!

music project ideas for college students

Host a pizza party

Pizza parties are always a lot of fun, and they provide a great opportunity for students to socialize and take a break from the dining hall food.

Donate blood

Donating blood is always a good thing to do, and it’s perfect for college students who want to help out those in need.

Meditation class

Meditation classes are a great way to reduce stress and anxiety. You could either partner with a local meditation organization or have your own class.

If you’re looking for a unique event idea, goat yoga is definitely it. Students will love the chance to do yoga while surrounded by adorable goats.

Board game cafe

Board game cafes are becoming increasingly popular, and students will love the chance to spend a night in playing their favorite games.

music project ideas for college students

Adult Coloring Books

Adult coloring books are a great way to relax and de-stress. You could either provide coloring books and pencils or have a contest to see who can color the best picture. You can even invite students to draw their own and share!

Murder mystery night

Murder mystery nights are always a lot of fun, and they’re perfect for a night out. Students will love trying to solve the mystery.

Scavenger hunts

Scavenger hunts are always a lot of fun, and they’re perfect for a day or night out. You could either create your own hunts or use ones that are already made .

Paint and sip

Paint and sip events are always popular, and they’re a great way to get creative. Be sure to provide all of the supplies students will need.

TEDx Speakers.

TEDx speakers are always a great way to learn about different subjects, and students will love the chance to see one on campus.

Certain student organizations such as the newspaper or student council may enjoy collaborating to host the event.

music project ideas for college students

Olympic games

The Olympic games are always a lot of fun, and they’re perfect for students who love to compete.

Obstacle course

An obstacle course is always a lot of fun, and it’s perfect for students who love to challenge themselves.

Balloon Drop

A balloon drop is always a lot of fun, and it’s perfect for students who are looking for a little excitement.

Celebrity guests

Celebrity guests are always a popular draw, and they’re the perfect way to get students excited about an event.

Alumni Speakers

Alumni speakers are always a great way to get students excited about an event. They can provide valuable insights and advice . This may especially helpful to senior students who are about to graduate.

music project ideas for college students

Pajama party

Pajama parties are always a lot of fun, and they’re the perfect way to spend a night in. Be sure to have a variety of games for students to choose from.

Cooking Lessons

Cooking lessons are perfect for students who love to cook. You could either partner with a local cooking organization or have your own class.

Paint a Mural

Paint a mural is always a lot of fun, and it’s perfect for students who want to get creative. You could either choose a theme or let students come up with their own ideas.

music project ideas for college students

Yoga classes are always a great way to relax and de-stress. You could either partner with a local yoga instructor or have students teach.

A flash mob is always a lot of fun, and it’s perfect for students who love to dance . Be sure to have a choreographed routine or let students come up with their own.

Book clubs are always a great way to get students excited about reading, and they’re perfect for students who love to discuss books. You could either have your own book club or partner with a local organization.

DIY crafts are always a lot of fun, and they’re perfect for students who love to be creative. You could either provide the supplies or have students bring their own.

Community garden

Community gardens are a great way to get students involved in their community, and they’re perfect for students who love to garden. You could either have your own garden or partner with local businesses.

music project ideas for college students

Photo booth

Photo booths are always a lot of fun, and they’re perfect for students who love to take pictures. Be sure to have props for students to use.

Photo backdrops

Set up various backdrops around campus that students can pose in front of and post on social media . Make it fun for them!

Dessert bar

A dessert bar is always a popular draw, and it’s the perfect way to finish an event. Be sure to have a variety of desserts for students to choose from.

music project ideas for college students

Ice cream sundae bar

An ice cream sundae bar is always a lot of fun, and it’s the perfect way to cool down.

Spirit week

Spirit week is always a lot of fun, and it’s perfect for students who love to dress up. You could either choose a theme or let students come up with their own ideas.

Food truck rally

A food truck rally is always a lot of fun, and it’s perfect for students who love to eat.

Comedy night

Comedy nights are always a lot of fun, and they’re perfect for students who love to laugh. Be sure to have a variety of comedians for students to choose from.

music project ideas for college students

A picnic is always a great way to spend a day, and it’s perfect for students who love to eat outside. Be sure to have a variety of food options for students to choose from.

Door decorating contest

Door decorating contests are perfect for students who love to be creative. You could either have a theme or let students come up with their own ideas.

Car smashes are always a lot of fun, and they’re perfect for students who love to destroy things.

Easter egg hunt

An easter egg hunt is perfect for the spring semester once it starts to get warm out. Leave easter eggs all around campus with little prizes in them.

Pumpkin patch trip

Great for the fall time, organize a trip to the pumpkin patch.

Apple Orchard Trip

Just like above, take students to the apple orchard for a fun fall weekend.

music project ideas for college students

Fall Festival

If your campus has a fall festival , take advantage of it! It’ll be a lot of fun for students.

Thanksgiving Feast

What’s better than spending Thanksgiving with friends ? Have a Thanksgiving feast on campus and let students bring their favorite dishes to share.

Christmas Party

Christmas is the perfect time for a party, so why not have one on campus? Be sure to have a lot of Christmas-themed games for students to play.

New Year’s Eve Party

Ring in the new year with a bang by throwing a party on campus! Be sure to have lots of food and drinks for students to enjoy.

Professional headshots

Hire a photographer and let students get professional headshots taken for free. Help your student body put their best foot forward.

music project ideas for college students

Sign Language Classes

Teach the introductory signs and help each other communicate better.

Language Nights

Devote a night to learning basic phrases from various languages. These can even be held as virtual events if needed, and what better way to attract speakers across the globe?!

Breakfast for Dinner

College students love free food and they love brunch! You may be able to include local restaurants to participate.

Walk a Thon

Walk a thon to raise money for a good cause.

Charity Auction

Host a charity auction and have students bid on various items.

Students can wash cars to help raise money for a good cause.

music project ideas for college students

Trampoline Park

Take a group to the trampoline park for a day of bouncing around.

People love free stuff, and giving away small prizes is a great way to get students excited about your event.

Another great way to giveaway prizes is by having a raffle. This will make students eager to buy tickets.

“Your School” Day

Dedicate a whole day to school pride. You can invite high school students as a way to encourage them to pursue college degrees or get a sense of what college can be like.

“Your State” Day

Dedicate a whole day to celebrating the state your school is located in!

Host a homecoming dance and game to celebrate your school spirit.

music project ideas for college students

Graduation Party

Throw a graduation party for all of the students who will be graduating.

Gingerbread House Contest

Have a gingerbread house contest to see who can make the best one.

Holiday Tree Lighting

Light up your campus for the holidays with a festive tree lighting ceremony.

Snowman Building Contest

See who can build the best snowman on campus.

Teach students how to do their taxes . It’s a valuable life skill many students aren’t prepared for once they graduate!

Personal Finance Night

Teach students about personal finance and how to budget their money.

music project ideas for college students

Ice Skating

Take a group to the ice rink for a day of skating.

Embroidery Class

Learn how to embroider and make personalized gifts for your friends.

Arts and Crafts Night

Take a night to do various arts and crafts projects.

Sewing Class

Teach students how to sew and make their own clothes.

music project ideas for college students

Pottery Class

Learn how to work with clay and make beautiful pottery.

Knitting Class

Teach students how to knit and make cozy winter clothes.

Cooking Class

Teach students how to cook their favorite dishes.

Host a bingo night and see who can win the most rounds.

Wheel of Fortune

Host a wheel of fortune night! Everyone loves a game show with high stakes.

Spelling Bee

College edition! Let each other see who can out-spell the competition .

Netflix Party

Host a Netflix party and play some popular shows.

music project ideas for college students

Mario Party or Mario Kart Party

Race each other in Mario Party or Mario Kart!

Real Life Clue

Play a game of Clue on campus and see who can solve the mystery first…which may be a great idea to include faculty members as characters!

In Summary: College Event Ideas

The best way to boost student engagement is to be creative , innovative, and include student input. There are so many great event ideas that you can try out at your college campus! University events don’t have to be boring, they don’t have to be limited to either a panel discussion or local city tours (though both can be great ideas).

Be creative! And remember, college students love free things! They also love fun things so anything that is free and fun is sure to be a hit. Good luck!

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About the Author

Nicole Booz

Nicole Booz is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of GenTwenty, GenThirty, and The Capsule Collab. She has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and is the author of The Kidult Handbook (Simon & Schuster May 2018). She currently lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two sons. When she’s not reading or writing, she’s probably hiking, eating brunch, or planning her next great adventure.

Website: genthirty.com

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50 Ways to Teach Using Music in Your Classroom

  • April 6, 2021

Music has the power to calm minds, inspire joy, and help people process tough emotions all at once. But did you know that teaching children about music can boost school performance? Bringing music into your classroom can not only make lessons more engaging, it may also promote cognitive and social-emotional advantages for your students.

Read on to learn more about the emotional and academic benefits of musical education. Then, discover kid-friendly books and activities about music that are perfect for elementary classrooms.

How Music Affects Brain Development and Social-Emotional Learning

music project ideas for college students

In addition, music education is linked to social-emotional development. For example, children who participate in extracurricular music programs typically develop stronger social skills—particularly communication with their parents, teachers, and classmates.[3]

Music education also has the potential to raise self-esteem. A study at Northwestern Oklahoma State University found that children involved in their school’s music program felt better about their individual growth and had fewer feelings of alienation.[4]

40 Music Activities for the Kids in Your Classroom

1. Use the New York Philharmonic KidZone to play musical games and learn a little about orchestras.

2. Print out a music-themed I Spy activity and see how many of the items your students can spot.

3. Play a singing game for a musical activity that requires no instruments.

4. If you have a copy of the picture book at your school library, try this Chicka Chicka Boom Boom-themed rhythm game .

5. This brain break uses a popular children’s song to help students practice literacy and music skills.

6. PBS Kids offers plenty of music games featuring characters your students may already know.

7. To teach your students about different notes, try dot composing .

8. Learning music history can be fun with Classics for Kids as a guide.

9. If your classroom is learning remotely, try Music at Home Bingo .

10. If you have a piano or keyboard on hand, this Grizzly Bear music game can be a lot of fun.

11. The solfeg.io website teaches children musical notation using classic or pop songs.

12. As long as you have dice on hand, this Shake and Tap activity is both fun and easy to set up.

13. For a musical social-emotional learning activity, try listening to classical music that can help children learn about emotions .

14. Put together DIY pan flutes and see what kind of melodies your students can come up with together.

15. To teach students about different musical notes, print out and play with these matching cards .

16. This Music Monsters activity is great for teaching older elementary students a quick lesson on composition.

17. Try one of these clap-along videos to practice rhythm with your students.

18. Make these Baa Baa Black Sheep puppets together, then sing the popular nursery rhyme.

19. For a kid-friendly activity of a more advanced concept, play the Monkey Game , which teaches children about crescendos and decrescendos.

20. This interactive music game is great for classrooms that are still distance learning.

21. Play musical charades (#2 on this list) to get your students moving and bonding as a class.

22. The Utah Symphony offers music scavenger hunts that students can complete while watching a performance on YouTube.

23. Sing “Charlie Over the Ocean” , a popular call-and-echo song that’s great for classrooms.

24. Play MusicMan (#1 on this list) , an artsy and fun twist on hangman.

25. This My Book of Instruments print-out can be enjoyable for students to color in while learning about different instruments.

26. These music games all get children moving by mixing music with sports.

27. For an activity your students will love to take home, make rubber band harmonicas .

28. This Musical Jars activity doubles as a great STEM experiment.

29. This name game can help your students learn a little more about treble clefs.

30. The Isle of Tune website is great for teaching children about musical composition in a visual way.

31. Print out these rhythm cards and use them to practice clapping along to a song.

32. This Song Cubes activity can be a fun way for early elementary students to learn about simple tunes and rhythms.

33. For an activity you can keep going throughout the year, visit the Composer of the Month website as a class.

34. Explore Carnegie Hall Listening Adventures for plenty of kid-friendly activities from the renowned music venue.

35. For a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) activity, try one of these Science of Sound experiments .

36. If you’re looking for a sensory activity that younger students will enjoy, make rainstick bottles .

37. This rhythm game is great for teaching students about percussion.

38. If your classroom has tablets available, try TuneTrain —a free app that teaches children how to create music.

39. These singing activities are all Zoom-compatible for distance learning classrooms.

40. Do the robot dance for an exciting way to practice gross motor skills.

10 Picture Books About Music

1. movin’ to the music time by cherry lyon jones and wayne andreason.

When one little girl hears music, she can’t help but dance. This book is a free digital copy offered by Waterford—meaning you can print or share it online with your class.

2. Ketzel, the Cat who Composed by Lesléa Newman and Amy June Bates

Did you know that Jewish composer Moshe Cotel had a cat who helped him write an award-winning song? This picture book is extra special because it’s based on a true story.

3. Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra by Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney

Duke Ellington is known as one of the best jazz musicians of all time. Learn about his life and art in this Corretta Scott King Award-winning book.

music project ideas for college students

4. Do Re Mi: If You Can Read Music, Thank Guido D’Arezzo by Susan Roth

The invention of musical notes revolutionized the art form and made it so that songs can last forever. Learn all about Guido D’Arezzo, the man who invented written music.

5. Becoming Bach by Tom Leonard

Johann Sebastian Bach grew up surrounded by music. Learn how this composer used his knack for patterns and melodies to create his renowned art.

6. Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin by Lloyd Moss and Marjorie Priceman

Looking for a playful and vibrant way to teach children about instruments and musical notes? This picture book uses colorful illustrations and light humor to offer a quick music lesson.

7. Elvis Is King! by Jonah Winter

Elvis Presley is the indisputable king of rock ‘n’ roll, and people of all ages still love his songs. Learn what made his music so revolutionary and how he battled stage fright as a child in this picture book.

8. We Shall Overcome: The Story of a Song by Debbie Levy and Vanessa Brantley-Newton

This picture book shares the history of “We Shall Overcome,” a song known as the anthem of the civil rights movement. Discover how this song has inspired generations to fight for freedom and against injustice.

9. I Know a Shy Fellow Who Swallowed a Cello by Barbara S. Garriel and John O’Brien

Need a picture book that you can sing along with? The rhymes in this story follow the tune of “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.”

10. Red Bird Sings: The Story of Zitkala-Ša, Native American Author, Musician, and Activist by Gina Capaldi and Q.L. Pearce

Zitkala-Ša was a Native American activist known for her musical talent. Learn about her life and mission to fight for civil rights, along with her artistic achievements.

  • Gersema, E. Children’s brains develop faster with music training . University of Southern California News. https://news.usc.edu/102681/childrens-brains-develop-faster-with-music-training/.
  • Wetter, O. E., Koerner, F., and Schwaninger, A. Does musical training improve school performance? Instructional Science: An International Journal of the Learning Sciences, July 2009, 37(4), pp. 365-374.
  • Broh, B. A. Linking extracurricular programming to academic achievement: Who benefits and why? Sociology of Education, 2002, 75(1), pp. 69-95.
  • Jenlink. C.L. The Relational Aspects of a School, a Music Program, and At-Risk Student Self-Esteem: A Qualitative Study . Northwestern Oklahoma State University. https://shareok.org/bitstream/handle/11244/316911/Thesis-1993D-J53r.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y.

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Using music effectively in project work

Ideas to have students consider as they work to use music to convey feelings and match the goals of their work.

abstract image of colors and music notes

Background Music

  • Make sure the music has a steady pace and tone, with no heavy shifts. Abrupt shifts in pace and tone diverts attention to the music itself and away from your content.
  • Play the music at an appropriate volume. Play it too loud, and the music becomes distracting; too low, and the viewer won’t hear anything at all.
  • Use instrumentals the majority of the time. Having lyrics can easily move music from the background into the foreground of your work, distracting your viewer, even if they don’t know the words.

Test, preview, and get feedback

Finally, make sure to always test and preview your work before finalizing it! Here are a few things to consider as you choose and implement your musical choices:

  • Does the music fit?
  • Why did you choose this sound/song/music in the first place?
  • How are you using the music? As a neutral background or to evoke emotion?

Music matters

Dylan Agoncillo

by Dylan Agoncillo

Dylan Agoncillo is an aspiring musician and a student at San Diego State University. This article was originally written in 2018 when Dylan was a high school intern for Tech4Learning, Inc.

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Community Service Projects for Music Majors

music project ideas for college students

Do you have a plan for applying to college?

With our free chancing engine, admissions timeline, and personalized recommendations, our free guidance platform gives you a clear idea of what you need to be doing right now and in the future.

When you are applying to college, it is important to present a cohesive application. As we discuss in Well Rounded or Specialized? , that means showing that you are especially committed to a particular skill or area of interest. This specialization should be reflected not only in your academics, but in your extracurricular activities as well.

If you are planning on majoring in music or attending a music conservatory following high school, finding ways of incorporating music into your extracurricular activities can make you an especially competitive candidate for admission. Even if you are planning on majoring in something else, colleges do like to see a connection across activities—so if you’re involved in band or wind ensemble or have been taking oboe lessons for 10 years, finding other activities that put your musical talents to use will strengthen your application.

We have talked about the importance of community service on the CollegeVine blog previously; for more tips and information on volunteering in general, read Do I Need Community Service for My College Applications? and Can I Volunteer if I’m Under Age 18? . In this post, we will discuss how to complete service hours and better your community while strengthening your application and doing something about which you are passionate.

Volunteer music classes

One idea for getting involved is to start or lead free music classes. Try reaching out to local nonprofits or elementary schools to see if there is interest in pro bono music tutoring among low-income students. You could offer free music lessons individually, or recruit a network of fellow musicians to start an organization dedicated to providing no-cost music lessons to local elementary or middle school students.

You will need to raise money for several aspects of the program—such as helping students buy or rent instruments (pianos, guitars, violins, and other instruments can be very costly)—so try hosting a fundraiser. For ideas on how to raise money for your cause, check out How to Plan and Execute an Effective Fundraiser for High School Extracurriculars .

Colleges respond to seeing self-started initiatives on applications, so if you can demonstrate that you turned your personal passion into an established program to help others in your community, you will stand out to admissions committees.

Discover your chances at hundreds of schools

Our free chancing engine takes into account your history, background, test scores, and extracurricular activities to show you your real chances of admission—and how to improve them.

Be a leader at a music camp…or help start your own

There are many summer music programs at high schools and local community centers. You can rack up community services hours by being a leader and helping introduce students to the world of music—playing instruments, reading and composing music, and even simply appreciating different genres.

If a program like this doesn’t exist at your school or within your community, talk to a music teacher, band conductor, or other music mentor about starting one. You might also reach out to your location parks and recreation department to see if there is a possibly of starting a summer or after-school program. That way, you could serve as both an administrator and a counselor. Consider recruiting friends and classmates to serve as fellow counselors, help fundraise, develop marketing strategies, and work through other practicalities. As with volunteer music classes, starting a camp or program shows initiative and leadership qualities.

Start a charity music group

If you have performing experience, try using it for charity or in another volunteer capacity. Like the other activities we have discussed, you could do this solo or with a group of friends who are also musicians. You could even form a traditional band featuring a vocalist with instrumental accompaniment.

Your group could play free concerts at hospitals, senior homes, local schools, or other community centers and program. You could also offer to play accompaniment for local plays. Many elementary schools don’t have musicians to play live music for their performances, although many middle and high schools do. Local theatre troupes might also need musicians, so try contacting them as well.

Turning passion into meaningful service

While we offer a few ideas here, there are many ways to turn your talent and passion for music into meaningful service for your community. Make use of friend, teacher, and other networks to find other musicians interested in playing alongside you. Reach out to community leaders, program directors, teachers, and anyone else who might share your interests and want to join your project. Before you know it, you may have a huge network of volunteers helping with your idea. Be creative and thoughtful. Brainstorm ideas, and try them out. You are sure to find a means to blend your passion with ways to help your community.

Want some more community service ideas? Check out some of our posts on getting involved with and bettering your community:

Do I Need Community Service for My College Applications?

Can I Volunteer if I’m Under Age 18?

Community Service, Reimagined: MCC’s Recommendations for High School Service

Looking for ways to get involved in more music extracurriculars, want to build your music extracurricular profile for your applications, or interested in pursuing a music degree? Read these posts:

A Guide to Leadership Roles in Music Groups

Should I Submit an Arts Supplement? The Dangers of Submitting Supplementary Application Materials

Dual Degree Music Programs: The Best of Both Worlds

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#42: Project-Based Learning in the Music room

  • mrsmiraclesmusicroom

The what, why, and how of PBL in the music room!

Have you ever wondered why or how you should try PBL, or project-based learning, in your music room? In this blog post, I'll outline what PBL is, why you should try it, and will give you a couple project ideas for you to try in your own music classroom! You can also listen to a podcast episode here:

What is Project-Based Learning?

According to  PBL works , Project Based Learning (PBL) is a teaching method in which students learn by actively engaging in real-world and personally meaningful projects.

According to DefinedStem , Project Based Learning (PBL) is an instructional methodology that encourages students to learn and apply knowledge and skills through an engaging experience. PBL presents opportunities for deeper learning in-context and for the development of important skills tied to college and career readiness.

I've learned that PBL has some distinct characteristics: a driving question (a question that drives the whole project), an entry event (some kind of event that kicks the project off), a real world/ community connection, integration to other subject areas, and a way to share with the world.

Why Use Project-Based Learning?

Project-based learning connects students to their learning in ways that traditional instruction often doesn't. Melinda Kolk Tweet

PBL allows students to work on a real-world problem, fosters creativity, and gives students so much ownership in their learning! It's also a wonderful way to encourage cooperation among students.

What does it look like in the Music room?

It depends!

In my music room, we are still singing, dancing, playing games, playing instruments, etc. During a PBL lesson, I might spend 25 minutes doing more of a “typical” lesson, then will give students the other 25 minutes to work on their PBL.

It can be messy. And noisy. But the student engagement is so high!

Mickey Mouse and the Haunted House PBL

I was first introduced to this project through this blog post by Katie Wardrobe from Midnight Music. The general overview of the project is that students create a film score to accompany the short film, “Mickey Mouse and the Haunted House,” which can be viewed here:

In the first lesson, students watched the original film, and we discussed how music and sound effects were used. Then, students split into small groups and were handed a storyboard sheet (which can be downloaded in the blog post above) with a portion of the short film for which to create a score. Students logged into Schoology on Chromebooks and began watching their part of the film.

In the second lesson, students split into small groups and began making a plan for their score. Then, they got instruments, tried out what they had come up with, and revised.

In the third lesson, students had time to work, but then also performed for each other. During the performance, I put the short film on my View Sonic Board but muted the soundtrack. Then, each group performed their part of the score! Afterwards, students discussed how it went, what they could change, etc.

In the last lesson, students continued reflecting on what they could change or add. Then, we had their final performance. For this performance, I once again muted the sound, but this time I recorded the class with my iPhone. I sometimes was recording the film, and sometimes panned out to the class playing instruments. After the performance, I mirrored my screen to my View Sonic Board so students could watch the performance (which they loved!)

Here is an overview of the PBL, with the characteristics outlined.

Driving question: How do we create an entertaining score?

Entry event: Watching the video with the original soundtrack

Real/ world community connection: Students could Skype with a film composer or sound effects specialist, to discuss their process.

Integration: There is technology integration, as I embedded the videos into Schoology and had students log in to view the video. There is also science integration, as we discussed how different instruments, such as the thunder tube and rain stick, create sound.

Sharing with the world: Last year when I did this project, I shared with Padlet . This year, I'm planning on sharing with parents through SeeSaw (read more about using SeeSaw to assess here .)

Students really enjoyed this PBL, and were so proud of their work!

Let's Go to the Symphony

In this PBL project, students decide on a theme for an orchestra concert, then choose pieces for their theme, by watching videos in a YouTube playlist. Once they've made their selections, they have to add up the minutes and seconds to make sure their program is between 40-50 minutes, and if not, make revisions. Then, they can create a printed program for their concert, and create their own YouTube playlist to share their concert with the world.

In the first lesson, students watched a video of a “Star Wars” symphony performance, discussed different themes (such as Halloween, Christmas, Space, and Variety) and chose a theme.

In the next few lessons, students got an iPad or Chromebook and watched videos in the themed playlist, then made decisions about which pieces they wanted to program. Once they had their pieces, they did the math to make sure the program was between 40-50 minutes.

Some students got done quicker than others, so those students were able to begin working on their printed program in Google Slides, and then could create a YouTube playlist to share their program with the world.

In the last lesson, students got into small groups and shared their programs.

Driving question: How do we create an entertaining program?

Entry event: Watching the video of a symphony orchestra piece (although it would be even better to take students to the symphony!)

Real/ world community connection: Students could Skype with a orchestra conductor or symphony manager

Integration: There is technology integration, as students watch the videos on Chromebooks or iPads. There is also math integration, as students have to do addition, subtraction, and division to figure out the length of their program.

Sharing with the world: Last year when I did this project, I shared printed programs on  Padlet . This year, I'm planning on sharing with parents through SeeSaw. Students could also create their own playlists on YouTube.

Students really enjoyed choosing pieces, and it was a great way to expose them to lots of different selections! To purchase this PBL, which includes printables and YouTube playlists, click the picture below:

music project ideas for college students

How Do I Get Started with PBL?

I would suggest just trying one out! If one of the projects above appeals to you, go for it! Here are a couple good resources to try when implementing PBL:

  • PBL planning guide by April Smith (Performing in Education)
  • Hacking Project-Based Learning by Ross Cooper and Erin Murphy (note: this is a referral link)
  • Anacrusic Podcast about PBL

I hope this has been helpful to you as you consider implementing project-based learning in the music room! Happy planning, and happy teaching!

5 Responses

Your PBL examples are helping me in my integrating technology class at ESU with kusic education emphasis. Thank you for your shared experience.

Sheri Moore

PBL,though it takes time to initialize but it is useful for the learners for it enhances their learning. Creativity and cooperation based.

I love the Mickey Mouse PBL. Did you have an issues with children or parents about the racial undertones in the film? I would love to do this one, but as I saw the cartoon I had questions. I work at an inner city school and I’m not sure how it would be received. It could be incorporated within the lesson or turned into PBL for multiple grades….I would really love to know your thoughts?

I’m so glad you brought up this point. I wasn’t aware of racial undertones until recently. I bet there is another film that could be used…I’ll do some research and comment again here when I have a solution. Thanks for asking the question!

Hello….I have done this style of pbl but used an old Charlie Chaplin film, usually The Lion’s Cage. I think there are 3 clear sections just over a minute in length, the 3 scenes addressed by groups with sound effects and musical themes and the remainder of the task is pretty much the same.

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music project ideas for college students

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Top 30 Mini Project Ideas For College Students.[UPDATED]

  • February 20, 2015
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30 mini project ideas

Choosing the right mini project idea for UG & PG assignments is a tough battle for college students. Isn’t it?

As a budding star on the planet of projects , you might feel overwhelmed by the project submissions & deadlines. Worry no more!

This comprehensive guide with Mini-Project Ideas for college students is a go-to handbook for your successful mini project completion . This blog lists 30 tailored ideas for your college mini project , ranging from beginner to pro-level projects.

The time and effort involved in the project creation will be minimal compared to the time taken for your ideation and research. So, we’ve made the groundwork for you. Read the entire blog to find the project idea that best suits your specialization.

List of Easy-to-Build Mini Project Ideas

The main objective of creating a mini project for college is to facilitate students to gain profound insights on the subject matter with practical knowledge . This project creation brings out your creative thinking, analytical skills, and reasoning ability. These real-life projects are the foundations for your successful career in the future. Let’s get started!

Mini project ideas

1. Word Processors like Notepad or Notepad++

Creating a word processor like Notepad can handle characters and fonts from a pre-defined library. This mini project is practical because it is a widely used software. You can create a  primary document with menus such as File, Edit, and Help.  You can develop this project using Python and JAVA.

2. Syntax Checker

You can build a simple syntax checker, a widely used application by students like you. Developing a syntax checker would require a good understanding of parsing techniques . One would also need to create a complete description of the language parsed. 

3. Code Indenter

Another interesting mini-project idea related to your study is code Indenter. Code Intenders are generally used to improve code readability and facilitate easy formatting .

Using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, one can build a code indenter to help format and indent the input code. You can introduce features like syntax highlighting and light and dark themes to make the indenter more professional and operational.

4. Simple Paint Application

Try to invent an Interactive Painting or drawing application with adequate drawing tools using Java or an API like Open GL or even HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

5. Library Management System

A Library Management System(LMS)  is a programmed software to organize books in the library in a way it is easy to access by the readers and the library itself. 

With the help of LMS, one can track the books available in store,  lost/ out-of-stock, books issued and returned, etc. The LMS streamlines the operational processes of a library.   

Creating a library management system is a popular project among college students. You can accomplish this mini project with SQL and a programming language like Java or Python . You create login provisions and profiles for each user to maintain the records in the database. 

6. Hospital Management System

 A hospital management system is a cloud-based system that facilitates managing the effective functioning of the hospital. When you create HMS software,  confirm you turn all paperwork functionalities into online services such as prescriptions, insurance details, treatment charges, and more. 

You should build respective databases, forms, and pages to manage all the information regarding patients, doctors, staff, Pharmacy, Lab, Billing, etc. You can follow HTML, CSS, JScript, ASP.Net, C#, and SQL Server to construct HMS for your project. 

7. Code Editor

Code Editor helps programmers develop codes in a streamlined manner. Creating a code editor requires basic knowledge of web development, i.e., HTML, CSS, and JavaScript . Styling the editor, compiling the code, and representing the result can make it look like a complex project, but it isn’t true when you start exploring the learning part behind it.

code editor mini project idea

8. Website for Business, Portfolio website, Website for your city 

You can build a highly-operational website for yourself, your business, and your city. It is a gratifying idea because you get a portfolio/your business site, and an academic project in one go . 

A simple website with several web pages and a navigation system can be a simple yet rewarding mini project for college students.

9. Inventory System

You can build an Inventory System application using PHP and MySQL . The steps involved include designing the database, setting up the phpGrid, and creating a user interface.

10. Mini Search Engine

You should include servers and content pages to enable the engine to index while creating a mini-search engine like Google. This search engine should be programmed to perform parsing, crawling, indexing, and query-serving functions, and return the results on a result page .

Mini search engine project

11. Resume Builder Software

You can create resume builder software using web development tools, a PHP server, and MySQL . Ensure your software encrypts passwords, converts web pages into PDF formats, and secures the data. Also, incorporate a creative dimension to the User interface of the website. 

12. IRCTC Railway Booking System Clone

This mini-project idea is a simple replica of IRCTC, a railway booking system. This booking system will create and manage ticket reservations, display timings, routes, and availability, and generate PNR numbers for passengers.

13. GUI for Databases like MySQL, Oracle, MongoDB, etc.

One of the best ideas in this list is to build a user-friendly GUI for databases. It helps users access the underlying database efficiently. You can achieve this project using Python frameworks like pyQT or Tkinter .

14. Build your own Linux Commands/ DOS Commands

There are millions of commands we use in Linux. Have you ever thought of creating your commands? 

You need to have a good knowledge of Linux commands with their attributes to build this project. Try to focus on integrating Linux knowledge with scripting.  You can construct Linux commands by creating a bash script and making it executable.

15. Mini Facebook/ Twitter

You can build your social networking site or Facebook/Twitter clone for your Mini project. Creating a social networking website can be exciting and rewarding. These real-life-adjacent projects will help you identify an innovator within and develop similar useful apps or products in the future.  To execute this project, you need frontend and backend development, a clean UI with defined information architecture, a prototype , and an interface concept.

16. Online Banking System

Developing an admin-controlled banking system is a great idea. Equip users to create an account and carry out seamless transactions. You could construct an online banking system using PHP and MySQL .

17. Online Ticket Booking System

It is similar to the banking system project. You would require a database, a homepage, and modules for agents, administrators, and users to produce this fascinating mini project. Plus, you can define your frontend UI with the utmost creativity and usability to make your mini project stand out from the rest of the class. 

18. Music Organizer

Everyone loves Music. “Music organizer” is a solution project for our hassle-free music experience. You could use Java programming to create a system that organizes digital music files. You can incorporate features such as filter, sort, and sync.

Mini project using Java

19. Price Comparison Website

A price comparison website should enable users to access price data from other websites and compare them for random products. In addition to web development, this project would require web scraping tools.

20. Amazon/ Flipkart Clone

Building Amazon/ Flipkart is similar to building a website. Since it is an e-commerce site, it involves creating an online store and a payment gateway . Using Python and Django is a popular way to build such a website, even if it is a professional need.

Want to learn in-depth concepts in Python to create a website like Flipkart? Learn Python in your language for free by signing up for GUVI’s comprehensive course today!

21. YouTube Clone

A Youtube clone is another impactful mini-project idea for you. When you create a YouTube clone application, allow users to update, convert, play videos, like, dislike, and comment, and generate thumbnails for the videos. You can develop this clone successfully using your object-oriented programming skills.  

22. Matrimonial Website

You can build a matrimonial website using PHP . You can create a web portal to connect users and allow them to make impressive profiles. You can bring out your creativity in UI/UX to communicate the matches, chat features, etc.


WYSIWYG stands for what-you-see-is-what-you-get . Creating this document editor with HTML can be beginner-friendly and a last-hour mini project idea for college students.

Do you have to revisit the concepts of HTML to build this project? Sign up for this beginner-friendly HTML & CSS course that gives you globally recognized certifications and free access to gamified practice platforms (here, you can build your mini project for free). 

24. Web Scraper

Web scrapers are useful for mining and extracting data from the web, provided it occurs within the legal framework. Explore the most popular Python’s Beautiful Soup library for building a web scraper. 

25. Simple Chat Program

You can establish a simple chat room program using socket programming and multithreading concepts. You have to write both server-side and client-side scripts to achieve this mini-project . 

chat room mini project

26. Quiz Website

A Quiz website revolves around a set frame with repetitive actions. So, it is very uncomplicated to build a quiz website. You can create your interactive quiz website using HTML, CSS, AngularJS, and Bootstrap .

27. Stack Overflow Clone

Stack Overflow is a popular online community for developers like you to learn, share​ ​their programming ​knowledge, and build their careers. You can try a replica of this site with all its signature features for this mini-project. While Stack Overflow is not open source , you can reciprocate a Q&A website with discussion forums.

28. Online Voting System

You can create the need-of-the-hour online voting system using PHP and MySQL . You should include various modules, such as a voter module, a committee module, and an admin panel with a defined set of functions.

29. Expense Tracker App/ Website

The expense tracker website/app is similar to building any website or app. Specifically, this project requires a spreadsheet and budgeting features. You can bring in visual and graphical illustrations such as graphs, pie charts, and other statistical representations to boost the user experience of the website/app.

30. A Chatbot

You can build a super-simple chatbot for your college’s mini-project. It can design for mobile and web. The project aims to understand the user intent in the queries and to give them more human answers.  

The basic functionality would be this: when a user enters a question in the system, the bot will analyze the keywords and generate an appropriate response specific to the user’s intent. 

Ensure you feed data on different topics such as art, science, psychology, food, entertainment, education, culture, travel, health, politics, and more. Since chatbots are a show-stunner in today’s world, this project would be an excellent choice for you.                

chatbot mini project

Wrapping Up

All the above mini-project ideas don’t just boost your scores in college but will also help you understand the infinite possibilities to practice real-life cases. Remember that getting your hands on these projects helps enhance your technical, non-technical, and “problem-solving” skills and land a dream career in your respective fields.  

Are you looking for self-paced online courses on technical concepts & programming languages to help you build your next project?

Sign up for our expert-led Zen class courses to build a stunning, job-ready portfolio with real-life projects & IIT certifications.

1. How do I select a mini project topic?

Choose a problem statement that needs a solution in real-life. Create a software/ website/ app or any related project to establish the solution for the objective. This way, you’ll have a structured approach to your mini project. Also, ensure that this project aligns with your future career goals. 

2. How do I find a good project topic?

Always choose a topic that interests you. Remember that this project will have an impact on your portfolio. So, choose a topic that will align with your career goals. 

3. How do you make a mini project in college?

Follow these steps to make mini project in college:

1. Find a simple topic that interests you 2. Draft a clear-cut plan before you start working on your project 3. List 3 potential topics and choose the one that fits your future career goals 4. Always have a backup project idea & plan ready.  5. Construct a business problem statement and provide a solution for it via your project

4. What are the latest project topics?

The following are the latest project topics & ideas:

1. Mini Search Engine 2. Sentiment Analysis system 3. Music organizer 4. Chatbot 5. Social media apps

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20 Interactive Classroom Activities for College Students [Plus: Free List of 45+ Activities]

Planning to use interactive classroom activities intentionally can really transform the learning dynamic. Here are 20 activities to get you started.

music project ideas for college students

Top Hat Staff

20 Interactive Classroom Activities for College Students [Plus: Free List of 45+ Activities]

How interactive are your classroom activities? Do you have less energy for class than you used to? Do you find student grades declining? And are the teaching methods you’ve always relied on not working as well as they once did? We spoke to two college instructors, Chris Merlo and Monika Semma. Their strategies for interactive classroom activities will energize your class and get the discussion moving again.

Table of contents

  • Why are interactive activities important in college?

6 community-building activities

5 communication activities for college students, 3 motivational activities for college students.

  • 6 team-building activities for college students

Interactive classroom activities, in short

Why are interactive classroom activities important.

Merlo, a computer science teacher, says that interactive classroom activities are not new to students, and one main reason why teachers have trouble connecting is that they fail to adapt to their students’ perspectives.

“My six-year-old son doesn’t find iPads amazing; to him, they’ve always just existed. Similarly, to a lot of students today, experiences like team exercises and flipped classrooms, while foreign to many instructors are not new.

“If we care about reaching today’s students, who seem to have a different idea of student responsibilities than we had, perhaps we have to reach them on their terms.

“In my thirties, I could still find a lot of similarities with my twenty-something students. But now, in my forties? Not so much. What I’ve started to realize is that it isn’t just the little things, like whether they’ve seen Ghostbusters. (They haven’t.) It’s the big things, like how they learn.”

Semma, a humanities TA, found that the chalk-and-talk approach failed on her first day in front of a class. “It was a lot like parallel parking in front of 20 people,” she said. “I looked more like a classmate. I dropped the eraser on my face whilst trying to write my name on the board. One of my students called me ‘mom.’”

“I chalked it up to first day jitters, but that same quietness crept its way back into my classroom for the next tutorial, and the next tutorial and the next. While nearly silent in class, my students were rather vocal in the endless stream of emails that flooded my inbox. That way I knew they wanted to learn. I also knew that I had to find a way to make tutorials more engaging.”

From these experiences, Merlo and Semma now share some interactive classroom activities for students and for teachers that can turn a quiet classroom full of people unwilling to speak up to a hive of debate, making the student learning experience more collaborative for everyone.

Energize your college classroom and get discussions flowing. Download The Best Classroom Activities for College Courses to engage and motivate students.

1. Open-ended questions

Chris Merlo: Open-ended questions don’t take any planning. All they take is a class with at least one student who isn’t too shy. I remember a class a few semesters ago that started with nine students. Due to a couple of medical conditions and a job opportunity, three of the students had to drop the semester. The problem was that these three students were the ones I counted on to ask questions and keep the class lively! Once I was left with six introverted people, conversations during class seemed to stop.

By luck, I stumbled on something that got the students talking again. I said, “What has been the most difficult thing about [the project that was due soon]?” This opened the floodgates—students love to complain, especially about us and our demands. This one simple question led to twenty minutes of discussion involving all six students. I wasn’t even sure what a couple of these students’ voices sounded like, but once I gave them an open-ended opportunity to complain about an assignment, they were off to the races. A truly successful classroom activity.

2. What’s wrong with this example?

Chris Merlo: Students also love to find a professor’s mistakes—like me, I’m sure you’ve found this out the hard way. When I teach computer science, I will make up a program that, for instance, performs the wrong arithmetic, and have students find the bug. In a particularly quiet or disengaged class, you can incentivize students with five points on the next exam, or something similar.

If you teach history, you might use flawed examples that change a key person’s name, such as “King Henry VIII (instead of King John) signed the Magna Carta in 1215,” or match a person to an incorrect event: “Gavrilo Princip is considered to have fired the first shot in the Spanish Civil War (instead of World War I).” Beam these examples on the whiteboard, and let the students’ competitiveness drive them to get the right answer before their classmates.

3. Let students critique each other

Chris Merlo: This can go badly if you don’t set some ground rules for civility, but done well, classroom activities like this really help open up collaborative learning. One of my colleagues devised a great exercise: First, give students about half of their class time to write instructions that an imaginary robot can understand to draw a recognizable picture, like a corporate logo, without telling students what will happen later. Then assign each student’s instructions to a randomly chosen classmate, and have the classmate pretend to be the robot, attempting to follow the instructions and draw the same logo.

After a few minutes, introduce a specific student who can share their results with the class, then ask their partner to share the initial instructions. This method gives students a chance to communicate with each other (“That’s not what I meant!”) and laugh and bond, while learning an important lesson.

This exercise teaches computer science students the difficulty and importance of writing clear instructions. I have seen this exercise not only teach pairs of such students meaningful lessons but encourage friendships that extended beyond my classroom.

4. Pass the “mic”

Monika Semma: As an instructor, it’s amazing how much information you can gather from a student-centered review session. Specifically, if you leave the review in the hands of your students, you can get an easy and thorough assessment of what is being absorbed, and what is being left by the wayside. The more you encourage participation, the more you’ll see where your class is struggling and the more comfortable students will become with course material. Here’s how to transform a standard review into one of your more popular classroom activities:

  • A week before the review, ask students to email you two to five key terms or theories that they feel they need to brush up on. Take all that data and compress it until you have a solid working list of what students want to review most.
  • In class, provide students with visual access to the list (I found writing all the terms on a chalkboard to be most effective). Instruct the class to have their notes out in front of them, with a pad of paper or blank Word document at their fingertips, and encourage them to take notes as the review is in progress.
  • A trinket of sorts (I highly recommend a plush ball), used as a “microphone,” helps to give students equal opportunity to direct the review without putting individuals on the spot too aggressively. The rules are simple: she or he who holds the “mic” can pick one term from the list and using their notes, can offer up what they already know about the term or concept, what they are unsure of, or what they need more elaboration on.
  • Actively listen to the speaker and give them some positive cues if they seem unsure; it’s okay to help them along the way, but important to step back and let this review remain student-centered. Once the speaker has said their piece, open the floor to the rest of the class for questions or additional comments. If you find that the discussion has taken a departure from the right direction, re-center the class and provide further elaboration if need be.
  • Erase each term discussed from the list as you go, and have the speaker pass (or throw) on the “mic” to a fellow classmate, and keep tossing the ball around after each concept/term is discussed.

Students will have a tendency to pick the terms that they are most comfortable speaking about and those left consistently untouched will give you a clear assessment of the subjects in which your class is struggling, and where comprehension is lacking. Once your class has narrowed down the list to just a few terms, you can switch gears into a more classic review session. Bringing a bit of interaction and fun into a review can help loosen things up during exam time, when students and teachers alike are really starting to feel the pressure.

5. Use YouTube for classroom activities

Monika Semma: Do you remember the pure and utter joy you felt upon seeing your professor wheel in the giant VHS machine into class? Technology has certainly changed—but the awesome powers of visual media have not. Making your students smile can be a difficult task, but by channeling your inner Bill Nye the Science Guy you can make university learning fun again.

A large part of meaningful learning is finding interactive classroom activities that are relevant to daily life—and I can think of no technology more relevant to current students than YouTube.

A crafty YouTube search can yield a video relevant to almost anything in your curriculum and paired with an essay or academic journal, a slightly silly video can go a long way in helping your students contextualize what they are learning.

Even if your comedic attempts plunge into failure, at the very least, a short clip will get the class discussion ball rolling. Watch the video as a class and then break up into smaller groups to discuss it. Get your students thinking about how the clip they are shown pairs with the primary sources they’ve already read.

6. Close reading

Monika Semma: In the humanities, we all know the benefits of close reading activities—they get classroom discussion rolling and students engaging with the material and open up the floor for social and combination learners to shine. “Close reading” is a learning technique in which students are asked to conduct a detailed analysis or interpretation of a small piece of text. It is particularly effective in getting students to move away from the general and engage more with specific details or ideas.

If you’re introducing new and complex material to your class, or if you feel as though your students are struggling with an equation, theory, or concept; giving them the opportunity to break it down into smaller and more concrete parts for further evaluation will help to enhance their understanding of the material as a whole.

And while this technique is often employed in the humanities, classroom activities like this can be easily transferred to any discipline. A physics student will benefit from having an opportunity to break down a complicated equation in the same way that a biology student can better understand a cell by looking at it through a microscope.

In any case, evaluating what kinds of textbooks, lesson plans and pedagogy we are asking our students to connect with is always a good idea.


Group size: 10 students (minimum)

Course type: Online (synchronous), in-person

This activity helps build rapport and respect in your classroom. After you tackle a complex lecture topic, give students time to individually reflect on their learnings. This can be accomplished through guided prompts or left as an open-ended exercise. Once students have gathered their thoughts, encourage them to share their views either through an online discussion thread or a conversation with peers during class time.

Concept mapping

Collaborative concept mapping is the process of visually organizing concepts and ideas and understanding how they relate to each other. This exercise is a great way for students to look outside of their individual experiences and perspectives. Groups can use this tactic to review previous work or to help them map ideas for projects and assignments. For in-person classes, you can ask students to cover classroom walls with sticky notes and chart paper. For online classes, there are many online tools that make it simple to map out connections between ideas, like Google Docs or the digital whiteboard feature in Zoom.

Group size: Groups of 5–10 students 

Propose a topic or issue to your class. Group students together (or in breakout rooms if you’re teaching remotely) according to the position they take on the specific issue. Ask the groups of students to come up with a few arguments or examples to support their position. Write each group’s statements on the virtual whiteboard and use these as a starting point for discussion. A natural next step is to debate the strengths and weaknesses of each argument, to help students improve their critical thinking and analysis skills. 

Compare and contrast

Group size: Groups of 5–10 students

Ask your students to focus on a specific chapter in your textbook. Then, place them in groups and ask them to make connections and identify differences between ideas that can be found in course readings and other articles and videos they may find. This way, they can compare their ideas in small groups and learn from one another’s perspectives. In online real-time classes, instructors can use Zoom breakout rooms to put students in small groups.


This activity will improve students’ problem-solving skills and can help engage them in more dynamic discussions. Start by proposing a topic or controversial statement. Then follow these steps to get conversations going. In online classes, students can either raise their hands virtually or use an online discussion forum to engage with their peers. 

  • Assessment: What is the issue or problem at hand?
  • Diagnosis: What is the root cause of this issue or problem?
  • Action: How can we solve the issue?

Moral dilemmas

Group size: Groups of 3–7 students 

Provide students with a moral or ethical dilemma, using a hypothetical situation or a real-world situation. Then ask them to explore potential solutions as a group. This activity encourages students to think outside the box to develop creative solutions to the problem. In online learning environments, students can use discussion threads or Zoom breakout rooms.

Conversation stations

Group size: Groups of 4–6 students 

Course type: In-person

This activity exposes students’ ideas in a controlled way, prompting discussions that flow naturally. To start, share a list of discussion questions pertaining to a course reading, video or case study. Put students into groups and give them five-to-ten minutes to discuss, then have two students rotate to another group. The students who have just joined a group have an opportunity to share findings from their last discussion, before answering the second question with their new group. After another five-to-ten minutes, the students who haven’t rotated yet will join a new group.

This or that

Course type: Online (synchronous or asynchronous), in-person

This activity allows students to see where their peers stand on a variety of different topics and issues. Instructors should distribute a list of provocative statements before class, allowing students to read ahead. Then, they can ask students to indicate whether they agree, disagree or are neutral on the topic in advance, using an online discussion thread or Google Doc. In class, use another discussion thread or live chat to have students of differing opinions share their views. After a few minutes, encourage one or two members in each group to defend their position amongst a new group of students. Ask students to repeat this process for several rounds to help familiarize themselves with a variety of standpoints.

6 team-building classroom activities for college students

Snowball discussions  .

Group size: 2–4 students per group

Assign students a case study or worksheet to discuss with a partner, then have them share their thoughts with the larger group. Use breakout rooms in Zoom and randomly assign students in pairs with a discussion question. After a few minutes, combine rooms to form groups of four. After another five minutes, combine groups of four to become a larger group of eight—and so on until the whole class is back together again.

Make it personal

Group size: Groups of 2–8 students

After you’ve covered a topic or concept in your lecture, divide students into small discussion groups (or breakout rooms online). Ask the groups questions like “How did this impact your prior knowledge of the topic?” or “What was your initial reaction to this source/article/fact?” to encourage students to reflect on their personal connections to the course concepts they are learning.

Philosophical chairs

Group size: 20–25 students (maximum)

A statement that has two possible responses—agree or disagree—is read out loud. Depending on whether they agree or disagree with this statement, students move to one side of the room or the other. After everyone has chosen a side, ask one or two students on each side to take turns defending their positions. This allows students to visualize where their peers’ opinions come from, relative to their own.

Affinity mapping

Group size: Groups of 3–8 students 

Course type: Online (synchronous)

Place students in small groups (or virtual breakout rooms) and pose a broad question or problem to them that is likely to result in lots of different ideas, such as “What was the greatest innovation of the 21st century?” or “How would society be different if  _____ never occurred?” Ask students to generate responses by writing ideas on pieces of paper (one idea per page) or in a discussion thread (if you’re teaching online). Once lots of ideas have been generated, have students begin grouping their ideas into similar categories, then label the categories and discuss why the ideas fit within them, how the categories relate to one another and so on. This allows students to engage in higher-level thinking by analyzing ideas and organizing them in relation to one another. 

Socratic seminar

Group size: 20 students (minimum)

Ask students to prepare for a discussion by reviewing a course reading or group of texts and coming up with a few higher-order discussion questions about the text. In class, pose an introductory, open-ended question. From there, students continue the conversation, prompting one another to support their claims with evidence from previous course concepts or texts. There doesn’t need to be a particular order to how students speak, but they are encouraged to respectfully share the floor with their peers.

Concentric circles

Group size: 20 students (maximum)

Students form two circles: an inner circle and an outer circle. Each student on the inside is paired with a student on the outside; they face each other. Pose a question to the whole group and have pairs discuss their responses with each other. After three-to-five minutes, have students on the outside circle move one space to the right so they are standing in front of a new person. Pose a new question, and the process is repeated, exposing students to the different perspectives of their peers.

Making your classes more interactive should help your students want to come to class and take part in it. Giving them a more active role will give them a sense of ownership, and this can lead to students taking more pride in their work and responsibility for their grades.

A more interactive class can also make things easier for you—the more work students do in class, the less you have to do. Even two minutes of not talking can re-energize you for the rest of the class.

Plus, these six methods outlined above don’t require any large-scale changes to your class prep. Set up a couple of activities in advance here and there, to support what you’ve been doing, and plan which portion of your class will feature them.

The reality remains that sometimes, students do have to be taught subject matter that is anything but exciting. That doesn’t mean that we can’t make it more enjoyable to teach or learn. It may not be possible to incorporate classroom activities into every lecture, but finding some room for these approaches can go a long way in facilitating a positive learning environment.

And let’s not forget, sometimes even an educator needs a brief departure from the everyday-ordinary-sit-and-listen-to-me-lecture regimen.

Recommended Readings

music project ideas for college students

A Guide to Navigating College and Career Readiness (+ Quiz)

music project ideas for college students

11 Teaching Styles to Increase Student Engagement

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15+ Free Classroom Music Activities and Lesson Plans for the Classroom

These are 15 amazing resources for teaching classroom music, suitable for use by specialist and non-specialist teachers.

Poison Rhythm Game

This is a fun aural clapping game for just about any age group. The teacher claps a series of patterns, and the students echo. Then the teacher claps the “poison rhythm” which the students have learned in advance. If they clap, they’re out! Its loads of fun and educational at the same time.

classroom music activity posion rhythm

Musical Pizza

A music composition lesson plan where students will create their own rhythms. They will use the concept of word association. Pizza ingredients put together terrific rhythm patterns!

Musical Tic-Tac-Toe

This is a flexible idea which is usable in many different grade levels. The concept is simple. The teacher writes a tic-tac-toe board on the screen. Then a students needs. to “earn” the right to place a O or X on the board. They do this by identifying whatever musical symbol or concept the class is working on!

Classroom Music Activity 1 - Poison rhythm game

The Importance of Aural Training

While most teachers know of echo clapping to be a standard “attention grabber”, music teachers can extend this simple habit into an amazingly effective way of getting students to listen better while teaching the aural/ listening component to any music curriculum.

Grade One Composing Lesson

A composition lesson with simple questions and answers suitable for early grades.

Homework and Hotdogs Rhythm Activity

A fantastic little rhythm piece which is great fun for percussion instruments.

Classroom music resources using tuned percussion

Moving from Singing into Playing

Learn how students can quickly move from singing a song through to learning some simple tuned percussion parts in grade two in a few easy steps.

Fun Action Song for Grade One

Learn this wonderful fun action song called “Kye Kye Kule” to inspire grade one students to sing and play their first classroom instruments.

Grade Three Tuned Percussion Lesson

A fun way to introduce xylophones, glockenspiels and how to play simple repetitive patterns called ostinati.

Classroom music worksheets

Treasure Island Music Theory Quizzes

These Treasure island quiz games will get your students to test their music theory knowledge while they find clues to answer the trivia treasure question at the end.

Emergency Pack Worksheets

This Fun Music ebook provides crosswords and find-a-word puzzles to leave in the classroom for a substitute lesson or a quick five minute filler.

Listening activities for the classroom

Musical Who Am I?

A fun beginning idea for grade three students to get into learning about some early rock and roll artists.

Stravinsky Listening activity

A fun music appreciation activity for junior high school students learning about some amazing music from Igor Stravinksy.

Grade Four Listening Lesson

A music listening and appreciation lesson based on “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong. It’s a lesson designed to teach more than just the music.

Classroom music resources using boomwhackers

Mystery Boomwhacker Game

A fun listening game for Boomwhacker tubes, suitable for grades Kindergarten to Grade 4

A Video Lesson for Boomwhackers

If you’ve ever wanted to teach or play Boomwhackers, but don’t know where to start,  this video is an online play-along resource.

Boomwhacker Piece for Primary or Elementary

In a few minutes, your young students will be having fun playing this fun warm up tune called “Elephants Walk, Monkeys Run” on Boomwhackers.

Technology and software resource

Using the GarageBand Beat Sequencer

We show you how to get students started in Garageband on iPads then move onto using the beats Sequencer tool within a few easy steps in this blog video post . 

Lesson Plan for GarageBand Manual Drums

A complete lesson for GarageBand using iPads where students learn to create their own drum pattern using a function of the GarageBand software called the “manual drums”.  

Ukulele resources

Ukulele Playing Exercises

if you’ve ever wanted to get your students started with playing melody and chord patterns on their ukuleles, you can do it in minutes with these three fun beginning activities!

Equipment you will need

Many of these activities will need little or no equipment. Some may need a classroom whiteboard or display screen. You will also need a sound system, such as a high quality Bluetooth speaker so all of the instruments can be clearly heard.

Looking for more?

Checkout our four outstanding music teaching ideas for more inspiration!

More classroom music resources: 

If you’re serious about teaching the K-6 Music Curriculum to its full potential and learn more about how all these smaller teaching ideas build into a full music curriculum, you might want to join one of our signature  programs called the Fun Music Curriculum . It’s all laid out step by step and you don’t even have to do any extra preparation to get it started with your classes. You can learn more by watching this video:

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Great resources here for utilizing music in an educational setting.

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Yeah I’m a teacher and this has been really helpful

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I’m a teacher and this has made things easier

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Hey, I have considered purchasing the software program DubTurbo Beatmaker and was hoping anybody could give me an actual genuine review of the application. Almost all of the online resources that supply experiences are in fact affiliate marketers endorsing the software program so I doubt that the product reviews are trustworthy. Thank you in advance for just about any insight any individual can provide.

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Hi Giselle,

DubTurbo Beatmaker is not a software program we are familiar with, so can’t really provide much of an insight. We will have a look and see if we can do an independent review. I agree that most of the ‘reviews’ one finds for most software programs are in fact affiliate links, so can’t be considered ‘independent’ at all

[…] http://funmusicco.com/music-lesson-plans/15-free-music-activities-and-lesson-plans-for-the-classroom … […]

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accidentally stumbled on this great thing..m a music teacher from india..i will start using this..thank u..any other great sites available please do suggest..

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Any help you can provide will be appreciated! New Music Teacher here.

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i, would you be kind to email me some musical lesson for gr 9 to 12. am new in teaching music.

Hi Ben, I suggest you begin by checking out our resource archive of lessons – https://funmusicco.com/resource-archive/ to see if any of these ideas might suit your students.

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  • Longterm projects
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Archive for the ‘Project Ideas’ Category

Reflecting on reciprocity, post-fieldwork.

A few weeks back I wrote a post on reciprocity in research. In that post, I shared my resolve to find ways to engage my research participants in Timor-Leste in an exchange of knowledge and information of mutual value. I discussed with different organisations the possibility of leading training workshops for their staff, in order to ‘give something back’ to people, so that taking part in research was beneficial to them, as well as to me.

I did lead these workshops, and they seemed to be appreciated and valued. However, I also observed there were other ways that I could make a tangible contribution to people’s work and lives, simply through having conversations and sharing observations. Two conversations stood out for me as being of particular value to the participants.

The first conversation was at a remote rural school. In 2009, this school had been chosen by a local Catholic organisation to participate in a pilot music education project. Everyday for a week, all the students in the school had music classes, playing percussion instruments, and learning to read rhythms and perform in a piece. At the end of the week the older classes were invited to perform at a concert in Dili, at the Presidential Palace.

School in Timor-Leste

The teachers told me that they had understood that they would be given the musical instruments that the students had used at the end of the pilot project. They would be able to continue doing music with their students with these instruments. However, when the pilot project ended, the instruments were taken back to Dili. “We felt incredibly sad,” admitted one teacher. “We did music teacher training too, but without the instruments we didn’t really know what to do in the classrooms. It meant that everything just stopped.”

This story made me feel sad too. I knew that the instruments used in that pilot project were high-quality classroom percussion instruments, available to buy (if you have money) in Australia, but certainly not available in Timor-Leste. I also felt disappointed that, if the instruments were to be taken away, efforts hadn’t been made to ensure the training the teachers had taken part in modeled some locally-available musical instrument alternatives. (I acknowledge that there are many reasons why this may have been complicated to do at the time, particularly with traditional instruments in Timor-Leste and the rules that surround their usage; but I still feel disappointed to hear the teachers’ stories of essentially having their excitement and interest built up, only to lose what they understood to be the essential tools for the continuation of the project).

The teachers told me they had time to stick around a little longer, so I talked to them, via my interpreter, about the experiments with instrument-making that my partner Tony and I had done in Lospalos, back in 2010-2011. I told them how we’d discovered that our next-door neighbour had instrument-making skills, making for us a simple bamboo log drum called a kakalo. Kakalos were ‘work instruments’ – noise-makers traditionally played by children charged with guarding crops against foraging animals. I told them how, when he made the first kakalo for us, his own children seemed to look on in absolute fascination. It seemed to me that they didn’t know their father had these skills and knowledge. It was as new to them as it was to us.

Perhaps, I said, there are people in their own community who have similar instrument-making knowledge. They may not know about them. We found out about our neighbour’s skills because we were already experimenting with bamboo, and he was jolted into action after observing our (somewhat feeble, albeit well-meaning) efforts.

I played them a video I’d made that showed us making the kakalos , and the local children playing them.

The teachers were fascinated by this story, so next I showed them video of some of our other instrument-making efforts – making shakers by putting stones into empty plastic bottles, or making agogo-bells from empty plastic bottles pumped hard with air so that they gave a bell-like tone when struck with a stick.

The group of teachers were smiling and nodding a lot as this conversation progressed. At the end one teacher said, “I feel happy to have seen these videos and to get these new ideas. I feel like we shouldn’t keep waiting for things like instruments to come from outside. We need to just do it for ourselves.”

I also told them that, at the time of the music education pilot program, other music projects by this organisation had also stopped. I felt that I was picking up a sadness that they had been left behind because they are far from the capital city, that they had missed out because they are remote. I felt that it was important that they knew it wasn’t just them. This didn’t make their situation any better, but perhaps it would help them to feel less isolated or specifically disadvantaged.

On the road to the rural school, May 2014 (G. Howell)

On the road to the rural school, May 2014 (G. Howell)

The second conversation I had that felt like it was giving valuable information to the participants was with a young group of music leaders. They were members of a local rock band, and taught eager young teenagers how to play guitar, bass, and drums, three days a week at a local arts centre. I led a workshop on rhythmic notation with them and their students.

At the start of the class, and at the end, one of the members of the band said to me, somewhat apologetically, “we don’t really know anything about music reading, or other theory. We just play completely by ear.” In his voice I could hear a hint of feeling inadequate. I wanted to address this directly.

“You know, this kind of thing”- I gestured towards the pages we had filled throughout the workshop with music notation – “this is just one part of music knowledge. It’s not the most important thing. It’s useful, for sure, but there are other parts of music knowledge that are also very important. Things like playing by ear, and being able to copy and memorise, create harmonies, and make original arrangements and compositions.”

I told them that in fact, most of the world’s musical cultures don’t use music notation in their traditions. They didn’t know this, and looked surprised to hear it. I listed musical cultures from different parts of the world that don’t use notation. I didn’t want to downplay the usefulness of music notation knowledge, or to suggest they didn’t need it – if they are interested in learning it, then they should have the opportunity to do so, as far as I’m concerned!

But this was not the first time I had heard a skilled Timorese person downplay their own skills due to not knowing how to read music. It wasn’t the first time that I’d heard a hint that knowledge of music notation was considered by many to be the pinnacle of music knowledge – perhaps because not many Timorese people know how to read music. In the past, only those who studied in the seminary were taught to read music. I wanted to remind these guys of the very strong skills they already have, that they already share with their students.

I told them about the Musical Futures program :

“In the UK, for a long time the music education in schools was very focused on this kind of music learning – note-reading. But this kind of music was very different to the music that young people loved participating in outside of school, and students became bored, and stopped doing music in school. Then a researcher named Lucy Green did some research into how popular musicians – musicians that play rock and pop music – learned their musical skills. She discovered that they learned music by ear, from CDs, that they formed bands, and learned through playing with their friends.

“Now, in lots of schools in the UK, they are changing the way they teach music. They are getting the students to learn to play by ear, to copy from CDs, and to form bands. They are trying to teach them in exactly the way that you guys are already teaching your students !”

Later, on the way home I asked my translator what she thought the band’s reaction to this story was. She smiled and said without hesitating, or pausing for thought,

“I think they really liked it, because as soon as you said it was just one part of music knowledge, they started to smile a bit. And they were very interested to hear about this research in the UK. I think it made them feel more confident.”

These kinds of interactions are important. It is easy to forget how isolated many people in Timor can be from the outside world. It is rarely shared with them through their media, although increased access to the internet may see this start to change more in the future. Thinking about these post-interview conversations, it seemed like one of the most valuable things I could offer was to reflect a different version of themselves (and their knowledge) back at them, and to validate their efforts, or suggest manageable alternatives that they can imagine themselves doing. Showing videos offers a kind of proof that it is possible. And describing the situation in other parts of the world helps them to see their own efforts in a bigger context, and hopefully means they start to give themselves credit for all that they have achieved so far.

Constructing sounds in the Music Construction Site 2013

The last workshop for 2013 was Music Construction Site at ArtPlay. The Music Construction Site starts with lots of free (and noisy) exploration of instruments…

Music Construction Site Nov13 Gillian Howell

I love this ten minute block. The instruments are arranged around the room, and children and parents can roam freely, trying out all the things they want. I encourage them to try everything that they are curious about, and I bring in some of my favourite things – like crotales, and a spiral cymbal, thumb pianos, dipping gongs, and wah-wah tubes – for them to try.

I watched one little girl sit down at the djembe, her mother observing her but leaving her to make her own discoveries. Her little face lit up with excitement as she tapped it the first couple of times. The djembe is quite heavy, so I helped her fasten the waist strap around her back, to make the drum more stable. She began to hit it more boldly. She and her mother exchanged many glances of delight, but mostly, this was her own magical, thrilling experience. It was like she had discovered a new side to herself, as well as a new possibility in the world. It was gorgeous to witness, and an important reminder of just how significant some of these workshop experiences can be for participants.

After everyone’s curiousity and exploratory spirit has been sated, we gather to discuss the qualities and characteristics of the sounds that the different instruments make and then everyone sets to work drawing their preferred sound. Not a picture of the instrument, mind, but an image of what you think that sound looks like . Interesting! You learn a lot about how people hear, and what they hear, when they start to draw their sounds.

Drawing sounds, Music Construction Site, Nov 13 (Gillian Howell)

These pictures become part of a giant graphic score – a series of images that depict what we are to play. I stick them up on the wall using blu-tack (in a fairly random, arbitrary order) along a big stretch of wall. Then we play through this first version of the score.

Constructing the score, Music Constructions Site, Nov 2013 (Gillian Howell)

Finally, we experiment with structure. We move the individual images around, making decisions about how to begin, how to end, and where to put a few surprises or unexpected moments. The children know about these kinds of musical conventions. They might not know how to name them, but they recognise what we are trying to do and offer all sorts of thoughtful and creative suggestions. The more I move the images around, and follow their instructions and suggestions, the greater ownership they feel over the piece.

At the end of the Construction process, we perform the piece from beginning to end, no stopping. This is a workshop for 5-8 year olds, which is not an age group often associated with sitting quietly, instrument in hand, waiting for the right time to play, for extended periods of time. But in this workshop, with the strong visual cues coming from the giant graphic score, they do. The piece usually lasts around 10-12 minutes – no small achievement for these very young players and their parents!

After we’d performed our piece and said our good-byes, children came up to me to say thank you, to share a particular experience of the workshop with me, and to collect their pictures from the wall. I love these moments of more personal interaction. I asked one child, “Would you like to take your picture home with you?” She considered this, then asked, “Can I take the blu-tack too?” “Of course you can!” I said, and chuckled a little at the excited expression on her face. We forget, as adults, don’t we? Blu-tack can be just as important as all the other discoveries in a workshop like this.

Slide whistle, Music Construction Site, Nov 2013 (Gillian Howell)

Teaching music for well-being

I’ve given five presentations over the last couple of months and many of these have discussed my ideas about teaching music for well-being, rather than simply for excellence. A striving for excellence is in fact part of well-being, so rather than being alternative approaches, a focus on well-being is simply a broader, more inclusive understanding of education.

Gillian Howell presenting, Music Learning Live Singapore 2013

The first presentation I gave, right before I left Melbourne for five weeks in Singapore, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Brisbane, was as guest speaker for the Scotch College Music Auxiliary Annual Luncheon. Scotch College is one of Melbourne’s most privileged private boys school, with a superb track record of training young musicians, and with some of the best resources and infrastructure (eg. a state-of-the-art, purpose-built music school) for music in the country. I was asked to speak about my music work with refugee children and in post-conflict countries – environments that are typically very poorly resourced in comparison to the Scotch College facilities!

These are the notes from that talk, with some of the videos I played to illustrate my ideas. I note here the huge influence that music therapy researcher Even Rudd’s ideas on qualities of well-being supported by music participation have had on my thinking. They have allowed me to condense what for me have been quite broad, detailed, and endless ideas of music’s beneficial impact under four neat headings.

Scotch College presentation notes

We are all here because we believe music is important. The reasons why we think music is important might be very varied across this group –because beliefs about what music is and why it matters are usually culturally-constructed, informed by the environments we have grown up in and our life experiences thus far.

I believe music is important because of what it can to contribute to human well-being. I see music as an important part of human flourishing, and that everyone has the right to engage in musical participation and development, and to express themselves freely in music. Music is an essential and universal part of being human. It’s not just for the talented!

My work as a music leader, educator, and facilitator is about drawing people together to make music, and I do this is all sorts of contexts using improvisation, composition and other creative approaches – with symphony orchestras, with arts centres and community centres and music academies that want to engage with communities in creative and participatory ways and build flexible musicianship among their professional musicians.

What I want to talk about today is the experiences I have had in working to bring people together through music who have been through some of the most extreme human experiences. I’m talking about children and young people who have been through experiences of war and conflict, and how music participation can support them to increase their sense of wellbeing in body and in mind.

I believe that music participation contributes to wellbeing in four key ways, and each of these four ways are in great deficit in conflict-affected communities:

Bonding and belonging – music brings people together in order to play, and the act of sharing music together can create experiences of social connection that can be very enduring. Music participation can therefore increase experiences of social connectedness, and create social networks.

Vitality and pleasure – music makes people feel happy and relaxed, in their bodies and their emotions. Playing music allows people to ‘lose themselves’ in a state of flow, where time passes without them really noticing. People forget their worries. Dopamine fires up, oxytocin is released, and the body is flooded with feel-good hormones.

Agency – this is to do with a sense of oneself as valuable, as having the capacity to contribute and develop, having a voice and being able influence others even in small ways. The idea of mastery and excellence is contained within this quality of agency – the sense of achievement and therefore pride that can come through developing new skills and learning to do something difficult that takes time, patience and focus. It also includes a sense of recognition and visibility – important when many of life’s choices have been taken away from you.

Meaning and hope – this quality refers to the sense of identity, empowerment and transcendence that can come through participating in music. The meaning of the music experience has resonance and relevance beyond the musical act itself. Committing oneself to learning new skills, and the investment of time and focus that learning an instrument or being in an ensemble requires is a hopeful act. The act of hoping is a health-promoting process in itself. In “Musicking” (1998) Christopher Small talks about the act of making music as a kind of ritual in which we enact a version of the world as we want it to be.

There are three main places I’m going to talking about – post-war Bosnia-Herzegovina, where I worked in 1998 as a musician in a large community music therapy and education centre; in Melbourne with newly-arrived refugee children; and in rural Timor-Leste.

When I worked in schools and kindergartens in post-war Bosnia, children were extremely traumatised. They had experienced many deprivations and traumatic events, had trouble sleeping, maintaining concentration, with temper, and anxiety.

Music in such a fragile situation is a very secure, friendly, self-regulating activity. People participate if they choose and at the level that is comfortable for them. We learned to recognise all kinds of levels of participation – from heads down, eyes shut, to extremely hyperactive participation. Shared group music-making could bring those extremes together into safer, healthier expressions, through emotional entrainment, and energetic or rhythmic entrainment. Music helped children to feel a little safer, more relaxed, and less on alert.

(This video shows Professor Nigel Osborne and some of his team of musicians at work in Mostar in 1996)

When I returned to Australia, I began working as an artist-in-residence with English Language Schools in Melbourne, which have quite high intakes of refugees and humanitarian entrants. These are schools for new arrivals, and support them to learn English and prepare for classroom learning in mainstream schools.

Best CELS photos Gillian 17 Dec 2012 290

Many of the children arriving in Australia from refugee backgrounds had had little or no access to schooling. They had finely honed survival skills but had very little experience in manage themselves in a classroom or group learning situation. Their experiences had taught them to be very self-focused, to be alert to opportunities, and to push others out of the way if necessary, in order to not miss out. Skills like taking turns, or making lines, or not fighting to solve problems, need to be learned, as do looking at the teacher, focusing attention for longer periods of time, and listening.

Music can help with all of these skills, as well as with establishing and reinforcing language and important vocabulary. The opportunity to play music created lots of excitement and happiness. No matter how little English a child knew, they could participate meaningfully in music, because it is not language-dependent. They can participate by looking and listening, and copying what they see others do. Children who struggled in academic subjects like developing literacy would often shine in music, often because they had been exposed to lots of music in their communities.

Best CELS photos Gillian 17 Dec 2012 227

We made instruments out of local materials and according to traditional design, and over the weeks we learned how to play together and connect with each other through music.

This video shows one of the short projects that I led there, in the last week of my residency. These clips come from a series of consecutive days, and lead to a live performance on local radio. You can see the sense of agency, mastery, vitality, bonding, and personal meaning that is taking place here.

This year I’ve embarked on the next stage of my journey in exploring the relationships between children and music in conflict-affected society. I’ve started PhD research into post-conflict music interventions – schools like the one I worked with in Bosnia that were set up as part of post-conflict recovery. Next week I fly back to Bosnia to interview former participants of the music projects I worked on. They are young adults now. Next year I will similar research in Timor-Leste, and in Afghanistan, where an amazing institution of music has been inaugurated.

Finally, I urge everyone here to remember the importance of music to each of us – not just for a well-rounded education, or the mental discipline that may stand us in good stead for future challenges, but because it contributes so deeply to the wellbeing of all people, and can play a profound role in the journey back to wellness for people who’ve gone through major traumatic life experiences.

Jump on the Bandwagon 2013

Recently I led this year’s Jump on the Bandwagon project at ArtPlay. Jump on the Bandwagon is a family jam – an all ages, all abilities, get-your-hands-on-an-instrument-and-play event that is about getting large groups of people playing together and sounding great.

Jump on the Bandwagon 2013 G. Howell

Regular readers will know that I lead lots of jams with orchestras, and these usually take pieces of orchestral music as their starting points for improvisation and jamming. In Jump on the Bandwagon , we focus on grooves and riffs with a more contemporary edge. Often I use a melodic idea that’s emerged in an earlier workshop with young people – some of these can be very enduring and an ideal starting point for a big range of musical interests!

This year I used a short melody created by some students from Preston Girls Secondary College in a workshop with the MSO a few years ago. We started that workshop by asking them to brainstorm “what’s important?” One group wrote these words, and hooked them up to a really catchy melody:

Money does buy food Money does not buy family, friends or love.

We always get a crowd of participants – this year we capped the registrations at 100, and most were these were under-8s, including one 7 year-old violinist, filled with ideas and no qualms at all about being the only violinist there, a little girl who opted to play the keyboard but had brought her own ceremonial trumpet along, and a 2 year old who spent the whole time struggling with his mum to have control of the drumstick and being massively overstimulated by the whole event, but ended the session by helping gather up all the instruments, hugging me good-bye, and not wanting to leave. I hope we get to see him again!

But some of the most memorable participants were the adults. I asked one dad to play the autoharp and showed him how it worked, pushing down buttons for particular chords, and strumming across the strings in time. One of the other musicians in the Bandwagon team told me later, “He loved it! He absolutely loved it and said, ‘It’s my first time EVER playing music, and I think I’ve found my instrument!'” That’s a great outcome, and just as important as any younger child having their first experience playing music.

Research shows that the music experiences children share within their families are way more powerful and potent than any music experiences they may have in school, in terms of impacts their later choices to participate in music experiences as adults. That’s why I emphasise all-ages with the jams I lead. Of course they are for the children. But they are also for the adults. And if that man goes off and buys himself an autoharp of his own then that will be one of the best outcomes of a jam that I can think of.

COmments board at the end of Jump on the Bandwagon, 2013, ArtPlay (G. Howell)

When the beat in the street makes you feel complete

City Beats 2013 workshops drew to a close last week. We finished off this year’s Landscapes theme by creating music inspired by the sounds and rhythms of the city – City Beats. (It was only after I’d planned the project that I realised this third workshop would have the same name as the whole program).

Can you feel the heat rising up from the street? It’s the City Beat – Aha, Aha It’s the City Beat.

For this city-focused workshop, the whole-group composition consisted of a short rap linked to a vocal soundscape depicting all sorts of sounds of the city.  I asked the groups to think about words that rhyme – like ‘street’ and ‘beat’ and ‘feet’ – and that would fit well with our theme. The children brainstormed rhyming words, putting them into sentences, and these came together pretty quickly to form the rap. You can see some of their words in the images below.


We created the soundscape using a Grid Score, setting it up over a cycle of ten beats. Why ten? At first I thought I’d do twelve, but then thought that might be too long. So I thought about doing an eight-beat cycle – but eight seemed too square, too solid and grounded. Ten was the perfect cycle length – uneven enough to give the sounds a sense of never quite landing, and short enough to be achievable (and to fit across the width of the white board).

Grid Score, City Beats G. Howell 2013

I brought along a few bells and whistles to get the soundscape started – we had a bicycle bell, a honky horn, a train whistle, and a strange siren-like whoopee whistle (I don’t know what it is called, it is the kind of thing that might accompany a clown act. The children loved it). We chose numbers in the cycle for these sounds to land on and practiced that first.

Bells and Whistles, City Beats G. Howell 2013

Then, working in small groups, the children decided on other sounds that they would hear in the city that they could depict with their voices or body percussion, and decided where they should appear in the cycle of ten beats, and how many numbers they should cover. Once all the decisions had been made and the relevant squares on the grid had been filled with appropriate symbols (you can see below why I am a musician and not a visual artist), we rehearsed it until it was memorised and ready to record.

Grid score and Gillian, City Beats 2013 G. Howell

The choices of city sounds varied somewhat between the groups, but it was the children from the English Language School who really created something unique. Their city soundscape was influenced by the cities they knew well – like Quetta, and Kabul, and Bangkok. They included the sounds of goats and sheep bleating, of the loudspeakers on the minarets of city mosques calling the faithful to prayers, and a traditional song/chant that street sellers from Afghanistan sing. All the children from Afghanistan knew this chant (perhaps it embeds itself into the vernacular the way “Mind the Gap” does in London). The child who sang the ‘call to prayer’ sang it into a loudhailer, in imitation of the thin, slightly tinny sound that the minaret speakers can have. Yes indeed, the city soundscape from the Language School children was an evocative and energetic affair!

With the whole-group chorus finished, we divided into groups of 6, each accompanied by a musician from the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, to create additional sections of music. One group took xylophones and created melodic material based on the rhythms in our rap chorus. Another group extended the chorus with further verses and some drumming.

Drums City Beats ArtPlay 2013

The third group worked with a fabulous array of orchestral percussion and ‘found sounds’ – bass drum, pitched tom-toms, a tam-tam, a suspended cymbal and two suspended brake drums) – to create a rhythmic city groove, working with interlocking patterns, dynamics, and cues.

Brake Drums City Beats G. Howell 2013

Then, in the last ten minutes of the workshop, we gathered together again, performed our music to each other, recorded the performances, and said good-bye.

City Beats days are probably some of my favourite days in the year! There is so much to love. The children come along to ArtPlay thinking they will get to learn a bit of music, and they leave at the end of each 2-hour workshop just buzzing with excitement and energy at all the music that they have created with us. Their teachers are constantly amazed at how much they achieve, and how quickly. And the MSO musicians, ArtPlay staff and I get to spend two glorious days a term hanging out with fabulously creative children, composing and playing original music. Everyone leaves at the end of each day with all sorts of infectious earworms buzzing in our heads.

The schools that take part in City Beats each year are ‘disadvantaged’ schools – schools without music specialist teachers, or that have student cohorts from less advantaged circumstances. They may have high numbers of families in receipt of the Education Maintenance Allowance, or who are from refugee backgrounds, or who, because of financial circumstances, never get to take part in any ‘extras’. The program is fully-funded, including travel subsidies, thanks to the generousity of wonderfully supportive and visionary funders, who know that for young people to recognise their talents, they have to have the chance to explore and discover them first.

City Beats was part of the ArtPlay/University of Melbourne’s Mapping Engagement 4-year research project at ArtPlay. You can read/download a report of the City Beats program here.

Donkeys can’t fly on planes

I went to a book launch on Tuesday night for a beautiful book – Donkeys Can’t Fly on Planes: Stories of survival from South Sudanese refugee children living in Australia.


This is such a memorable book, filled with powerful, very moving stories written by children about their experiences. Some of the stories describe life before they come to Australia, living in villages with their families, or in large refugee camps like Kakuma, in Kenya. The stories offer us a child’s view of the world there, with snakes that follow you, scorpions that bite, and giraffes that push you over on to the hard ground (“because there is not much grass in Africa”), as well as the story of Steven, the kind and helpful donkey that was a much-loved and valued member of Sunday Garang’s family until they moved to Australia.

I loved the story of Nyawech Ruach. She describes herself as having been “an angry girl” who used to fight with other people a lot. She would hit and slap people until they cried, boys and girls alike. She was clearly a force to be reckoned with. One day her brother came to her with a knife in his hand. He wanted to remove her lower teeth (a custom for people from her tribe). But she kicked and screamed until he gave up. Then, when she came to Australia, she went to see the dentist, and the dentist was very happy that she had been such a tough, fierce-some little girl, because it meant she still had all her teeth!

(A funny postscript to this story is that on the night of the launch, her teacher revealed that Nyawech is actually an incredibly quiet, shy girl, and everyone was completely amazed when they read her story, struggling to believe it could be the same girl).

There are heartbreaking descriptions of hunger and starvation (“I could not cry because I did not have the energy to make the crying sound or to squeeze tears from my eyes”), and of feeling sad and empty when there was no food. But one child also writes about a day when there was a big feast, and the girls got to eat before the boys (“I remember that day well because there was plenty of food for everyone”).


Some of the children write about danger. They write about terrible things they witnessed or experienced in very matter-of-fact ways. Sometimes, the danger in the story comes completely out of the blue – much as it would have done in the child’s life. One day, life was normal… and then all of a sudden it was very, very dangerous and people had to flee as fast as possible.

This is a book of stories that need to be told, as the publisher, Victoria Ryle from Kids Own Publishing , said in her welcoming speech. In a political climate that hides the human desperation, loss, trauma, grief and hope of the refugee experience behind numbers, fear-mongering, “business models”, and slogans, the stories offer an alternative image. They also demonstrate just how much refugees can contribute to the communities that welcome them, and how filled with potential they are. A perfect example is given at the end of the book, when we learn that proceeds from the sale of this book will go towards building a school in the village of Bor. The Bor Orphanage and Community Education Project has been started by two amazing young men. They are former Lost Boys of Sudan and child soldiers who were fortunate enough to be resettled in Australia. Now they want to give back to their community, and have initiated the BOCEP organisation and school/orphanage project in response to the huge number of orphans in their home village of Bor who have no adults to look after them and who are fending for themselves, older children trying to teach the younger children.

This is a book for everyone, of all ages. If you are a teacher, please consider buying Donkeys Can’t Fly on Planes for your students to read. There are many possible activities that could be drawn from this book of stories. I haven’t mentioned the artwork yet – but the collages that illustrate the stories are also very captivating and will inspire other children to create artworks using similar techniques. You can order your copies directly from BOCEP, http://bocep.org.au/ .

Lastly, I bought an extra copy of Donkeys Can’t Fly on Planes to give to one of my blog readers. If you would like me to send it to you, please post a comment below this blog post, telling me how you will share the stories with others. I will then contact you directly to get your mailing address, and it will be yours!

And lastly, reading this book brought back many memories of my own work with newly-arrived refugee children in Language Schools in Melbourne. I could hear the children’s voices very clearly as I read the book, and could imagine the gentle line of questioning from the teacher that would have helped these stories come out. I created many songs and music pieces with children about their journeys to Australia. Here is just one:

Hiding the music at the Arts Centre

On Friday I met with the Arts Centre production staff to make plans for the forthcoming Hidden Music workshops and performance at the Arts Centre Melbourne.

In Hidden Music children aged 9-13 compose music for specific locations, then perform their compositions for members of the public. However, there is a twist – the performances are hidden and the members of the public have to follow clues in order to find the performances. The children have to perform every time someone finds them.

ArtPlay - Gillian Howell Hidden Music Workshop

The Arts Centre Melbourne is presenting Hidden Music in the September school holidays. We will be in the Hamer Hall building, and have six glorious levels of formal rooms, stairways, escalators, cupboards, storage rooms, nooks and crannies from which to select our performances spaces.

Here are some of the options on Levels 5, 6 and 7 (Level 6 is street level):

Arts Centre level 5, Hidden Music G. Howell 2013

Some of these spaces will take audience members into parts of the Hamer Hall that they don’t normally get to access. If we choose some of these stairwells, however, we’ll need to make sure the performers actually get found – there will be no chance of audible clues, as these are sound-locked spaces. I don’t want anyone languishing in cupboards, waiting to to get found so that they can play…

Here are some of the options on the lower levels:

Hidden Music G. Howell 2013

I get pretty excited when I see rows of escalators and think of the ways these could be used in a site-specific composition – all that gliding and slow, gradual progression! I also love the thought of what a group of 9-13 year old musicians might make of the space-age green room with the gilt edges and white leather couches. To me it is very Barbarella. What clues will they give people to help them find the performance? And what music will they make to depict this fabulous space?

You’ll have to come along to the Hidden Music performances to find out. The performances are free and open to everyone, but places in the composition workshop are filling up fast, so please book your child in, and/or share this post with any one you think the project would interest!

Drawing a bit of space into music workshops

Music workshops can be very leader-focused, even when the creative content is child-generated, and the process is child-centred. There is a practical reason for this – music-making is noisy, and to facilitate group music-making you need the group to be working together for much of the time. It would be lovely to be able to give everyone time to do their own free explorations – as can happen in a visual arts workshop or lesson – but realistically, this requires lots of separate work spaces, or distance between each of the individuals. Otherwise, everyone would soon find themselves exhausted by the effort of blocking out other people’s sounds in order to focus on their own. And that kind of exhaustion makes people cranky. Or wired. Or both.

Quiet time to explore (One Arm Point, G. Howell)

We all know that taking a bit of quiet, self-focused time is a beautiful way to retreat from the demands of the world and recharge energy. When I worked as a music workshop artist at the English Language School I saw how the children were often at their most contented and peaceful during drawing and construction activities. Being able to focus on their own creative efforts meant they could retreat into their own thoughts – in their own language! Keeping up with a whole day of lessons in English could be very exhausting for the students, especially the most recently-arrived children, and the refugee children who had had limited prior schooling. Teachers also reported that art activities were the times that some students  would quietly disclose troubling thoughts or worries. Children felt safe and acknowledged during the art activities, and responded to the opportunity to process their thoughts while giving their outward attention to the tactile, personal experience of creating marks and visual gestures.

Therefore, I often used drawing tasks as a way of starting creative projects at the Language School. Children would draw as a way of exploring a particular topic and sharing their knowledge and experiences in a non-verbal way. Drawing seemed like a meditation for many of the children.

In my recent composition workshops at the remote community schools on Dampier Peninsula we began by inviting the children to draw ‘maps of the heart’. These maps showed the things in the children’s lives that were most important to them. They also established some other principles – the importance of each person’s contributions, the importance of having time to develop your thoughts, and the importance sharing only what you want to share. We did this drawing activity towards the end of the first workshop day, having spent the morning drumming, singing, and working with rhythms and counting. It served two functions – providing possible content for the development of musical content, and giving the individuals a bit of ‘time out’ from the noise and intense group focus of music-making.

At One Arm Point Community School, we also turned to drawing at the end of the second-last workshop day. We’d been working hard and everyone was ready for a break. And we wanted to spread the word about our concert the next day among people in the town who might not hear about it through the school. So we gathered up some paper and textas and made some posters.


People sat with their friends. Two of the older girls sang quietly away to themselves while they drew. Other children gathered around Tony and me, checking spelling and getting our input on things to include on their posters (some included sponsor messages!), or ways of drawing particular instruments. One or two were less engaged by the drawing task, and they wandered around the room, playing instruments occasionally, but also organising things (putting things away, tidying the space), and enjoying the quiet time.

Sometimes in a creative music workshop, we can feel so time-poor that we give all the available time over to the music. This is important, but I urge people never to overlook the importance of a little bit of space for individuals to retreat into their own heads for a while. Drawing is a way of doing this, while still developing project content and maintaining a sense of group ownership over the work.

Poster in the Community Shop, One Arm Point (G. Howell)

Maps of the heart

Yesterday was our first day at One Arm Point Remote Community School. We met 7 of the children who are going to be our main music composers for the Tura New Music Remote Residency project here. Everyone arrived at 8am. It’s natural for people to feel a bit shy coming into a workshop for the first time, wondering if they will like it, who else will be there, and what they will be asked to do, so we started with names and ice-breaker games, getting everyone relaxed, spontaneous and playful.

Early on, we learned that everyone was keen to play djembes, so we walked over to the storeroom in another building to collect one each and bring them back to our workshop space. We played rhythms around the circle, noting the inventive approaches that students demonstrated, such as incorporating hand-claps into their patterns.

It’s important to get some of the foundations of rhythm established early on, so we spent a bit of time working with regular cycles of beats, using numbers and subdivisions to focus everyone’s attention and to build unison patterns. This generated a cool rhythm that ended with the word “No!” on the 4 th beat of each cycle.

Next we introduced some of the instruments we’d brought with us to share – chime bars (adding to two sets they already have in the school), and wah-wah tubes. People took turns to play these, and we built up another rhythmic pattern, this one anchored with a simple melody on the chime bars and accompanied by guitars. I am pretty sure that this music will end up being in our final concert – it all came together very quickly and smoothly.

Our main task was to decide what kind of themes we wanted to explore in our group compositions. To do this, I asked everyone to create a “map of the heart”. This is a drawing task in which each person draws a detailed ‘map’ (it can be in a heart-shape, or any shape they choose) that depicts all of the things that are most important to them in their life. The most important things take up the most space in the heart-map.

It’s a task that requires gentle facilitation and patience, because often, people aren’t sure how to start drawing their map. But with Tony and I offering questions and suggestions as prompts (“What do you love to do most?”; “Who do you like spending time with?”; “Is there anyone you miss, or think about a lot?”), the maps started to emerge.

I never make anyone share their map with others, or talk about the detail they have included if they don’t want to. Maps of the heart are personal, I reassure the students, and you can choose who you want to share them with. I want them to feel safe to include whatever they want in their maps. I encourage them to draw and use symbols, as well as words. Metaphor can be a powerful way to express something that is important to you that you don’t want to put into words.

As the maps reached completion, common themes across the group were revealed. I wrote some of the main themes on the whiteboard. We then voted for our favourite ideas. People could vote more than once – why not? The aim was to find the main points of resonance for the group, and then build our compositions on these.

What this process revealed was two broad themes – Future Dreams, and Culture, Language, & Country – into which all of the main Map Themes could be incorporated. If you look at the red and green arrows in the image below, you can see how this started to happen.

Theme brainstorm, One Arm Point

Our morning workshop included one further creative task. The tubs of instruments brought over to the workshop space by the teacher in charge included several recorders – a treble and 4 descants. We also had a set of 4 guitars. In the last part of the workshop, we divided into 2 groups – a guitar-learning group and a recorder-learning group. Tony took the guitarists outside to learn a couple of good ‘beginner’ chords (we like E minor), while I stayed inside to give a beginner recorder lesson. The students chose which instrument they wanted to play.

We spent about 40 minutes developing some initial skills and knowledge in the group, then got together to see what we had. And what do you know? The descant recorder notes fitted well with the first of the guitar chords, and the treble recorder notes (a fifth below, using the same fingerings) worked beautifully with the second of the guitar chords. So we jammed together awhile, getting used to the pattern of playing four repetitions, then stopping for four while the other group played, then playing again for four, then stopping for four. And so on.

Again, we have the foundations of a group composition here already.

It was a very productive and organically-flowing morning workshop. We talked to the students about the goal of presenting our music in a community concert on Wednesday afternoon. “But Gillian, what will happen if we’re not ready by Wednesday?” asked one of the younger girls as she left. “We’ll be ready,” I reassured her. “It seems a lot – and it is – but we’ll be ready. Don’t worry about that!”

The 2013 Tura New Music Remote Residency program will be at One Arm Point Remote Community School until Wednesday 26 June, thanks to sponsorship from Healthway SmokeFree WA, and Horizon Power.

Hang-out time

This post is about labels in the world of music work, and about the importance of hanging out in projects. It is inspired by some ‘hang-out time’ I got to enjoy with a new colleague last Friday evening. We had one of those marvellously unrestrained, freewheeling, fast-talking conversations that two like minds meeting for the first time can have.

'Hang out time' (G. Howell)

Lucy B is a music therapist, but more than that, she is a music worker . This was one of our topics of conversation – how the labels that get applied to different roles in a musical life that a leader or facilitator may play aren’t always the right fit. In Lucy’s musical world (and in her PhD research), her work fits into the Community Music Therapy category, but at the same time, she says, it’s not always a very useful term. She works with groups, building collaborations and getting music happening within groups and for individuals. It’s not necessarily therapy, even though there may be strong therapeutic outcomes. She likes the more encompassing term Music Worker (which I like because it fits with the name of my blog :-)), likening it to a case worker who might employ a wide range of approaches in their work with a client, with the needs of the client being the primary decider, rather than the therapeutic label that needs to be applied.

Labels can be frustrating to navigate, especially when your work sits on the boundaries between other more established disciplines. When I was a student at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in the 1990s, I asked one of my tutors in the Performance and Communication Skills course how he described his work to other people. I loved his answer, and I’ve used it for myself ever since. He said,

I just call myself a musician. You know, musicians do a lot of different things – some days they will be playing and performing. Some days they will be teaching, passing on specific musical and technical knowledge to other learners. Some days they will writing and composing new material, and recording it. They will be collaborating and interacting with other musicians during all of these tasks. And that’s what I do, and some of my interactions are with young people, in schools and communities. But we are collaborating… composing… performing… It is the same set of tasks, just differentiated by degree. Other interactions will be with my musical peers. Other times again, I may be positioned as the learner. That’s what we musicians do, that’s what being engaged in the art of music everyday involves.

Back to my conversation with Lucy B. We talked about her PhD research, which I was interested in because it is partly set in a developing country, so some of the questions she is asking about music projects in that context are similar to the questions I am asking about music initiatives in post-conflict countries. Lucy’s primary interest is in collaboration, and in developing a clearer epistemology of what collaboration entails in some of the complex environments in which she is working. One of the ideas that has crystallised for her is the importance of what she calls ‘hang-out time’. This is the time that you spend just hanging out with a group, getting to know them, observing how they interact and what they respond to with each other, what they might need from a new person, before you go in and get started with your workshop or therapy program.

The idea of building ‘hang-out time’ into a project appeals to me immensely. But I wondered aloud, who (as in, which organisations or host organisations) would be prepared to pay for this? I am used to my employers wanting all the time they pay me for to be workshop time. The more days a project runs for, the more expensive it is, so there is a general enthusiasm for getting workshops started on the first day of contact. Lucy suggested that the idea of something like ‘hang-out time’ first needs to get established and understood as valuable. Having a name for this stage in a collaboration, and being able to assert its importance in meeting the aims of the project, is the first step. She said, “It’s like planning time. It’s not that long ago that no-one ever wanted to pay for planning time. Ditto with travel time. But now those things are accepted and understood to be necessary and important parts of the work. So let’s create the language, and then the understanding and acceptance will follow.”

Lucy’s at the writing-up stage of her PhD, submitting very soon. Hopefully there’ll soon be many opportunities to read more of her ideas in other publications. And here’s to more hang-out time for all of us (in projects and in life).

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5 Powerful Music Activities For High School Students

music activities for high school students banner

Do you want to try some simple music activities for high school?

Are you looking for ways to engage your older students with music?

While my personal bread and butter is elementary, I’ve spent time over the years teaching all levels of students. 

Believe it or not: if I can’t teach the younger students, I’d rather skip middle school altogether and teach the older ones. 

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I love how independent and self-motivated they can be if you know how to access that energy. 

I’m asked this question a lot, so I decided to research and ask my high school music teaching friends and generate this list of 5 powerful  music activities for high school students. 

When doing music lessons with high school students, it works best if you can allow them to explore and learn on their own. Your goal as the teacher is the guide (and sometimes moderator). My favorites include: 

Composing A Song

Researching a musician, play an instrument (piano, ukulele, etc.), percussion ensemble, music trivia .

Let’s dig into these resources and music lessons for the high school age. 

Note:  These activities work with any high school class and aren’t geared toward the band, choir, or orchestra kids. These are for all of high school. 

music project ideas for college students

Save time with these 60 FREE Music Resources to use in your room right away!

Stop searching the whole internet to find good activities. I’ll help you cut to the chase with my favorite 60 FREE resources.

Table of Contents

As we dive into these activities, I’ll offer brief explanations on what resources you may want to use for each of them. 

I understand high schoolers come to music with all different levels of knowledge and experience, so I’ll offer resources and ideas for the advanced students and the ones with little to no knowledge. 

There’s something here for everyone. 

Disclaimer:  Some links in this post may be affiliate in nature, which means we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you if you click and buy. Thanks for supporting our content! 

Making up songs and composing is an intimidating task, and most people don’t know where to begin. 

But the chance to create something from nothing is an astounding experience. 

Given the right tools, any high schoolers can compose or create a song, and I’ve seen some amazing pieces and songs written by the age level from those with and without musical experience or training. 

The key for many is picking a form or genre to emulate. 

Before I have students compose, I would have them listen to and figure out the form of a piece or song they enjoy. 

Check out  songs in aba form  and  songs in rondo form  for ideas on how to teach song structure. 

Then, I have them work on creating their own music with those ideas in mind. 

For students with little to no experience, I’ll have them use programs like: 

  • Chrome Song Maker
  • Paint Composer

For students with more experience, they may prefer the traditional sheet music notation program of  Flat.io .

In high school, students are finally starting to figure out who they are and what they’re interested in independent of their peer group (to a certain extent). 

Let them highlight their own individuality by providing a project on researching and presenting on a composer or musician. 

I prefer to let them choose their own topics (with approval, of course). 

I’ll model the presentation process by doing my own on a musician or band (usually, The Beatles). 

Then, I turn them loose. 

I’m all for keeping the specifics of the assignment broad with the older kids and focusing on providing resources. 

As far as presentations go, Google Slides is great for powerpoint-like presentations, but I do push them to get a little more creative. 

They can use a video editor to make their own YouTube video about the person or use a Prezi to make the presentation a little more visually appealing. 

Another idea I like to use is to ask them to dress up or act like the musician (within the limits of being school-appropriate) while they present. 

music activities for high school students piano

Students don’t have to be in a band or orchestra to learn an instrument. 

Many schools have keyboards or ukuleles on and to learn to play. 

Even if you don’t have a lot of music experience or skill on that instrument, you can still teach it. 

One of my good friends taught her whole high school class ukuleles despite the fact that she picked it up only one week prior to teaching it. 

Look for programs to help you out! 

For piano, it doesn’t get better than  Flowkey.  

It has thousands of songs, lessons, and practice tools. 

You must check it out at the link. 

With ukuleles, there are lot more great options out there to try. 

One resource I’ve heard that works well is  Rocket Ukulele. 

Check it out! 

A percussion ensemble or group is a blast to do with any group of high schoolers. 

And it’s broad enough you can do many different kinds depending on the level of skill in your group. 

Some will be able to do body percussion or found sound rhythm bands like Stomp! 

Others may want to experiment with the sounds a bit more like the Blue Man Group. 

If they have high music skills, you could do a more traditional percussion group with drums and pitched percussion.

I did this in high school even though I’m a tuba player, and it was a blast. 

We even did a song using balloons. 

Another rising star in the small group percussion world is steel drum bands. 

This one requires a bit more hands-on help from the teacher, but it’s worth it. 

Quizzes are boring. Tests are miserable. 

But  trivia  is awesome! 

What’s the difference? 

For the most part, the questions are more on fun facts rather than testing knowledge (but this doesn’t always have to be the case). 

Trivia also has a more fun format than the standard test or quiz. 

I’m thinking about the trivia games I remember playing as a kid at different restaurants (and bars as an adult). 

There are a ton of fun trivia programs out there.

Right now, my favorite is  Kahoot .

It’s easy, free, and filled with premade quizzes to borrow (or make your own). 

Final Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed these 5 music activities for high school students. 

It’s amazing to me what these kids can accomplish when given the freedom, skills, and resources to explore and create. 

You may also enjoy checking out these other music activity lists: 

  • Music activities for preschool 
  • Music activities for elementary students
  • Music activities for middle school 

Zach VanderGraaff

Zach VanderGraaff is a K-5 music teacher in Michigan with 12 years of experience. He's the President of the Michigan Kodaly Educators and founder of the Dynamic Music Room.

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How to create a college internship where students actually learn − and don’t want to quit

music project ideas for college students

Project Assistant, Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions, University of Wisconsin-Madison

music project ideas for college students

Project Assistant at the Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions, University of Wisconsin-Madison

music project ideas for college students

Assistant Professor of Adult and Higher Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison

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When Angelica landed a prestigious internship with a major corporation just outside of Houston, she was ecstatic about the opportunity to launch her career in finance.

Such optimism was warranted, as research shows that students with internships are almost twice as likely to graduate college , have a 12.6% higher likelihood of being invited to job interviews, and earn 6% higher wages than noninterns once they graduate.

But even with a decent paycheck and scholarships to cover her rent, Angelica considered leaving the internship within weeks. What went wrong?

As part of the three-year College Internship Study at the Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions at the University of Wisconsin-Madison , we found that interns can have a tough time adapting to the culture of a new city, organization and work environment.

In Angelica’s case, the shock was partly about geography. She was the only intern in a group of 17 from out of town, and she felt “alone and in a big city where I didn’t know anybody.”

But more alienating was the fact that she knew of only one other Hispanic woman in her intern group, and the company itself, she said, was mostly white. Ultimately, she believed that “none of these people really have anything in common with me.” She felt excluded and started to believe it would be impossible to work full time at the company.

Angelica’s story demonstrates that not all student interns have positive and productive experiences. In fact, research shows that internships can reinforce gender inequalities in the workplace, create unrealistic expectations for career advancement and even exploit student labor .

Common internship pitfalls

Interns are learners as much as they are workers earning a paycheck. Unfortunately, the educational aspect of internships frequently gets overshadowed, with interns assigned mundane or repetitive tasks unrelated to their academic or professional interests. This can hinder their career development, for example by diminishing their motivation to pursue a career in that field.

Another problem, which our own research revealed, is that too often supervisors adopt a hands-off strategy . They expect interns to define and complete tasks independently.

While this may work for long-term or mature employees , it is unsuitable for most interns who are new to professional life. Interns typically have a shorter tenure, limited authority and less access to resources. This makes it difficult to complete complex tasks with little supervision. The lack of structure and guidance can also cause significant stress that weakens their learning and job performance .

And, finally, unstructured internships can alienate students who are already marginalized – particularly those who are first-generation, low-income or students of color . That’s because the lack of structure or supervision can make students feel overwhelmed, pushing them to seek guidance from family or friends . These students may not have family connections in prestigious or professional occupations and therefore lack support systems to deal with their challenging workplace situations.

Based on our research, we offer four strategies for designing effective and welcoming internships for college students.

Group of young professionals walking with laptops in an office

1. Set clear learning goals

In order to ensure interns acquire new knowledge and skills, supervisors can establish both long-term and short-term learning goals . This is required in countries like France , where internships with companies are fully included in college curricula, but not in the U.S. .

Learning goals can include specific tasks the intern will be expected to perform, technical knowledge they will gain and transferable skills like communication or teamwork that they should develop through the internship.

Ideally, they are developed in collaboration with faculty advisers, students and employers. We especially emphasize the importance of engaging students in these conversations. Different interns will likely have unique objectives for their own internship experience.

Documenting these goals using forms like this one from the University of Minnesota can help students discern where to concentrate and hone their skills during the internship.

2. Structure assignments from easy to hard

A well-known theory in educational psychology shows that people learn best when they are gradually introduced to new tasks or subject matters. In our own study, we found that interns also benefit from starting their jobs with easier tasks and gradually transitioning to tasks that require less oversight.

When internship tasks are structured progressively from easier to harder, it gradually increases students’ understanding over time. Our research also shows that interns benefit from assignments that have clear expectations and deadlines and pose minimal consequences if performed incorrectly.

3. Keep communication open

Research confirms the importance of clear, regular and open lines of communication between interns and their supervisors. This became especially important during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic , when online internships suffered from infrequent and virtual communications. Many interns were left feeling unsatisfied and neglected.

Whether the internship is in-person or online, an effective communications strategy involves regular meetings to review progress, discuss new tasks and ideas and provide students with an opportunity to voice their concerns. Open communication can be especially important for interns who are new to a job, company or city.

4. Connect interns with appropriate mentors

Employees in general benefit professionally and psychologically from having workplace mentors with similar backgrounds and identities to their own. Yet, workers from marginalized groups – especially women – often have a harder time finding supportive and relatable mentors.

However, simply pairing mentors and interns based on characteristics like race or gender may not be the best approach . Different interns – and supervisors – have varying needs, experiences and capabilities. Companies can first survey interns on their values and preferences regarding mentoring and supervision, and then match them in accordance with their mentorship needs and preferences.

Additional strategies to enhance interns’ sense of belonging include peer mentoring and frequent social events – methods that have been proven to help newcomers adapt to new environments .

We believe internships must be seen as more than a part-time job where students simply need to be hired, onboarded and shown a desk. Internships are learning opportunities and, as such, require careful design. Done right, internships can help interns gradually get more acquainted with the culture where they work and the jobs they will be expected to do.

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18 Creative Short Film Ideas for Students [2023]

Discover 18 short film ideas tailored for students to inspire storytelling and filmmaking in the classroom. Learn how to come up with more ideas by yourself.

Learn Filmmaking | By India Mantle

This guide contains a list of our top 18 short film ideas for students to help you get your creative juices flowing and get you started on your next project.

From the hundreds of film ideas we’ve come across, we compiled the following compelling ideas to help you draw inspiration and develop robust concepts for your upcoming films.

So, if you; ‘re looking for a creative short film idea for your next student movie project, let’s dive into the recommendations.

Table of Contents

Top 18 Short Film Ideas for Students in 2023

Here are our top pick short film ideas that will spark your imagination:

Silent Short Film Ideas for Students

For this type of movie, you can choose whatever story to narrate as long as it can be conveyed in silence.

You’ll need the characters to be good at clearly using nonverbal expressions and gestures. You’ll also need to make good use of music to aid in conveying the idea of your movie.

Here are a few of the best ideas for silent short films:

1. Voiceless World

The story of this movie is set in a world where people lose their voices for unknown reasons. That way, they won’t be able to communicate verbally.

In such a world, actions and emotions would become louder than words. The film sequences will show how people would adapt to such occurrences.

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2. The Mountaineer

The film will record a mountaineer’s experience of climbing a mountain silently.

It’ll reflect the mountaineer’s persistence and feelings at each moment throughout the adventure. You’ll need to use a high-quality  action camera  for this.

The movie’s story metaphorically represents all the critical life milestones that need focus and dedication.

You should work on conveying this idea throughout the  video editing  process by adding proper music and effects. Using proper editing techniques can vividly deliver this message.

3. Real Canvas

It’s a film about a poor painter who draws their paintings and lives inside them. The protagonist will paint real places and experiences and then tap on the artwork to enter them.

Once the protagonist touches the paintings twice, they’ll be transported to the location and experience depicted in the painting.

The movie’s main idea is that your imagination can give you the freedom to live many lives.

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Short Horror Film Ideas for Students

Horror films can effectively convey messages because of their strong emotional impacts. Here are a couple of horror film ideas you can use for your next project:

4. Who’s Coming

A person reading a horror novel starts to hear knocks at their door.

After a few minutes of being terrified, the person opens the door to find a delivery man waiting for them with a pizza.

You may add more ironic events to the story if you want to include a bit of additional complication, humor, or horror.

The main idea of this movie is that things aren’t always as you expect them to be.

5. Faceless

The movie is set in a town where people start losing their faces. They all start to look identical.

You’ll create a story depicting how people would behave when experiencing the complications that can arise when they all look identical.

A  VHS effect  can help take this horror film idea to the next level with its added grain and noise.

Short Film Ideas for College Students

This list of ideas will perfectly suit you as a college student filmmaker:

6. A Day in a Robot’s Life

This movie’s story is set in a world where robots have become highly intelligent and live side by side with humans.

The film shows how robots would deal with humans and their emotions that they find difficult to understand.

The film will briefly discuss how life would become as robots live among humans. You can cover this topic from many angles.

Choose one that you believe will resonate the most with your audience.

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7. The Life of the First Human on Mars

The movie imagines how the first person to live on Mars would start their life on a new planet. It’s up to you to include some complications that will resonate with your audience.

8. An Invisible Person

The movie is about a person who has become invisible for any reason. It shows how this invisible person will approach life in this situation.

To write a good film script for this work, you can simply think of yourself if you grant the ability to be invisible.

Unleash your imagination and write down what you’d do in this situation. Then, pick the most exciting ideas to incorporate into the film.

9. Inside a Suicide Prevention Center

The film is about a life-changing call with a professional at a suicide prevention center. You’ll showcase one or two main problems through the call that drove the person to think of suicide.

These issues can be the absence of social support through a deep depression or any similar story.

Pick a common real-life issue in its extreme case and try to reflect it deeply. You’ll also need to provide a reasonable solution to solve this problem throughout this call.

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10. The Only Person Left on Earth

The movie is about a day in the life of the last person on Earth. What would you do if you were the only person on Earth?

Imagine the empty streets and silent world. Picture yourself as the central character and write down everything you believe you’d do in such a situation.

11. Travel Through Time

In this film, the central character will find a way to travel to the future or the past. The film will address this change in time from different perspectives.

You may select a time with remarkable historical events and provide a unique perspective on this time.

There are a lot of topics you may discuss through this film’s idea. There are also several  camera movements that you can opt for to make your film dynamic.

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Short Film Ideas for High School Students

This is a list of easy yet powerful ideas you can choose for your short film as a high school student:

12. The Sequence of Seasons

The film will show vivid visuals of specific greenery locations and their transformation as each season starts and ends. Your camera will focus on the trees and plants all year long.

Show how the sequence of seasons changes plants.

You may also include an animal in the film sequences and capture how its activity changes dramatically from one season to another.

13. A Day in the Life of Your Furry Friend

The film will focus on the key moments in your dog’s or cat’s day as if you capture life from their perspective.

It’ll showcase all the important moments in the daily lives of the pets from their wake-up until they go to sleep.

This includes how they play, have their breakfast, chase shadows, watch the outside world from the back door, and more.

You can also focus on how your little friend reacts to you and other pets inside and outside your home.

Try to capture as many reactions and real-life events as possible to reflect the pet’s real emotions.

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Easy Short Film Ideas for Students

If you’re looking for ideas that are relatively easy to execute, this list contains a few ones you can count on

14. The Nightlife in a Certain City

You’ll start shooting this film at midnight and end as the sun begins to rise.

The film will feature an aerial view of the city first, and then it’ll start to showcase certain streets and activities.

15. Getting Over a Personal Challenge

Despite the abundance of personal challenges stories in movies, creatively executing this idea will still resonate with the audience.

After all, this is a compelling theme as it speaks directly to the heart of humans. Everyone likes to see the journey of personal growth because it motivates them.

The main challenge to include in the film can be financial hardship, a breakup, illness, or any other adversity.

16. Before the Digital Media

The film is about a few children living in a world without smartphones or digital media.

The movie will focus on how these children would entertain themselves without the existence of today’s digital entertainment.

It’ll showcase how interaction with other people would be without the dominance of digital devices and social media.

It’ll also depict how the abundance of entertaining digital devices distracts people and keeps them weakly connected.

Try to replace the voice of smartphone notifications in the film with a non-digital notification like the tick of a physical watch every hour.

After each watch tick, the children will start a new activity.

3-Minute Short Film Ideas for Students

The following couple of ideas can be turned into 3-minute short films:

17. Stranger at Home

After being abroad for 10 years, a man returns to his hometown to find that everything has changed and no one remembers them.

The film will highlight the disappointments the person will experience as they visit places they used to go to and find they’ve completely changed.

It’ll also show how the people that person expected to find are no longer there.

You might include a happy ending to the movie, such as a neighbor who can recognize the returning person.

The ending scene may be the protagonist spending some time with that neighbor.

18. A Close Look at a Local Landmark

The film idea is about highlighting one of your local landmarks and presenting it through your lens from a deep perspective.

You’ll need to capture the place from a wide-angle view. Then, show it side by side with each of the surrounding buildings.

You’ll also capture close-up scenes of the intricacies of the landmark, showing its smallest details.

You might use a soundtrack in the background for events associated with this landmark. This sound design will evoke the audience’s emotions and boost their engagement with the film.

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How to Come Up With Short Film Ideas

We’ve listed the above 18 ideas to help you draw inspiration for your next short film. However, you always need to have your own method of generating original film ideas whenever you want.

Here are a few tips to help you easily come up with film ideas:

Keep Yourself Updated With the Latest News

By being knowledgeable about the latest and current events, you’ll be aware of the problems and stories the people are interested in.

That way, you can turn these problems and issues into film stories with the addition of a bit of imagination.

Watch Many Short Films With Analytical Eyes

By watching many short films and breaking them down, you can figure out the elements that make a great film. This will allow you to select your ideas meticulously.

You can watch these films online or attend film festivals where you can meet other filmmakers and expand your network.

Watching feature films can also help you generate creative ideas for short films.

Analyze Your Own Life

If you take a close look at your life and those of people around you, you’ll find many stories worth telling.

Pick a bunch of the most interesting stories around you and think of them as film ideas.

When you add a bit of imagination and dramatic elements to these stories, you’ll likely have winning film ideas.

Still, if you plan to use a story of one of your friends or family, ask for permission first.

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Use Generative AI Tools

You can use generative AI tools, such as ChatGPT or Google Bard, to develop ideas for your new films. You’d be surprised by the ideas these handy tools can generate!

Go for a Walk in Nature

One of the best ways to come up with creative movie ideas is to walk in nature. A  study  by Stanford University found that walking can improve creative thinking.

In addition, being out in nature surrounded by a world of various creatures will inspire you.

By watching nature while walking, you’ll be able to come up with a bunch of ideas, whether related or unrelated to nature.

Short Film Idea Generator

Here are the key points from the Short Film Generator clip shown above:

  • Each short film must have four different elements: genres, family and friends, separate pieces of paper, and hats or buckets.
  • Label three hats: one for characters, one for props, and one for locations, and write down different options for each category to generate ideas for short films and comedy skits.
  • Use a random selection of genres, characters, props, and lines of dialogue to create a short film that incorporates all four elements.
  • Use a formula with genre, character, dialogue, and prop constraints to creatively tell a story in a short film.
  • Other elements in a story don’t have to be the main focus or come from the main character, they just need to appear somewhere, like a pink umbrella used symbolically or a line of dialogue.

For example: “A guy carrying pancakes gets hit by a street and drops them on the sidewalk.”

Imagine You or a Friend in an Unusual Situation

Imagine someone you know well in an unusual situation, like the person being a superhero, and picture the scenario that would result from this.

Keep the ideas flowing and generate more, no matter how silly the ideas seem. The key is to have as many ideas as possible and then filter them to pick the best.

When you select an idea to proceed with, you can use AI-powered story software to assist you in generating a lot of narrative possibilities based on your central concept.

You can also use screenwriting and storyboard software to craft your scenario.

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As the Content Manager of Shotkit, India Mantle brings with her a lifelong love for photography that she developed during her childhood, watching her father document their family moments with his Nikon EM. In her free time, you find her enjoying the awe-inspiring natural beauty of her home, Northern Rivers, Australia.

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