Middle and Upper School Arts News & Stories

Project Learning Week: Jigsaw And Jam
Posted 02/03/2015 05:29PM

This jug band has a truly unique sound.

During Project Learning Week, a group of Middle School students imagined, designed and engineered their own musical instruments under the supervision of Josh Merrow, the STEM integrator and a Middle and Upper School art teacher, and Jason Curry, the head of the Middle and Upper School music department and director of the Riverdale Jazz Ensemble.

For three days, students sawed, hammered, ground, screwed, and torqued wood, metal, and plastic. The result: drums, guitars, didgeridoos, a banjo, a harp, a clarinet, an electric cello, as well as other improvised sound machines.

Some elements, like the pickups for the guitars, banjo, harp, and cello, were harvested from defunct audio equipment. Students had to cut the repurposed components from the original housing using a jigsaw. Others used everyday building materials, like a layer of vinyl stretched across a plastic bucket to create a drum. Golf balls attached to dowels served as the drumsticks.

As with all innovative projects, some ideas needed rethinking. A grand idea for a piano, for example, was revised into a wooden box with pluckable strings.

At the end of the week, the DIY musicians put it altogether. Watch the video and hear them jam.

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