Music Recommendations from VHS Learning Students
By Carolyn Bennett
In Spring 2023, VHS Learning students had the first opportunity to experience the new course, Music Composition and Songwriting. In this course, students learned about various elements that make songs unique. They identified the qualities that they found appealing in music, sharing their favorite tunes with the class. Students were able to use these insights to create their own original music, drawing from their rich personal musical identities while being enriched by the diverse musical perspectives of their classmates.
At VHS Learning, we know that every student brings a wealth of experience to their online learning. Weekly class-wide discussions are one way we celebrate and center these assets, helping every student understand the link between course content and their own communities, identities, and perspectives. When a globally diverse group of students shares personal connections to the curriculum, everyone’s learning is enriched.
Here are seven recommendations from the inaugural Music Composition and Songwriting class:
1. One student was inspired by The Beatles’ “Let It Be.” They shared that this song was inspired by the passing of Paul McCartney’s mother, and marveled that “he phrases every line with joy instead of sorrow.”
2. One student was involved in a school performance of Mama Mia, leading them to appreciate the juxtaposition of melody and harmony in “Chiquitita.” They explain, “The first two verses contain a lone voice on the melody… after a soulful and gloomy start, the song brings bright sounds to fill the once empty space… Chiquitita inspires me to take more of a deeper listen at the background sounds/voices.” Two students mentioned that they added this song to their regular playlists after hearing it in the class discussion!
3. One student was inspired by Green Day’s “Wake Me Up When September Ends” as they explored composing in major keys. They reflected, “This song shows sorrow, loneliness, and a sense of wanting to escape… proving that minor keys don’t always mean sad songs, and major keys don’t always mean happy songs.”
4. Students explored how different instruments interact to create texture. A classically-trained student shared Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” and reflected: “The texture is a big draw of this piece and allows the listener to experience all sorts of sounds by the way the lines come together. I can be inspired by this piece because it shows how much texture you can get from one orchestra.”
5. While exploring how visual aesthetics can complement a song’s style, one student shared “Another Day of Sun” from the film La La Land, noting how fashion and design reinforce the song’s sunny mood.
6. A student who plays in their school’s jazz band introduced the class to “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” by Charles Mingus. A classmate said it best when he reacted, “I hope the tenor saxophonist playing had an audience full of stank faces because this is an ABSOLUTE masterpiece.” Though some readers may need to find a hip teen to translate, we’re sure you’ll agree!
7. Several students throughout the course shared pieces by Jacob Collier. Other students appreciated being introduced to his music, and felt a connection with him as a young person who enjoys playing instruments, experimenting with novel sounds, and the artistic journey of music composition.
We hope you gained some fresh inspiration for your playlist and enjoyed songs from VHS Learning students’ adventures in music!