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Creating a High School Record Label

by Felipe Calderon,  High School Music Teacher, Colegio Franklin Delano Roosevelt, cross posted to Teaching Journal Blog.

Creating a high school record label

It’s funny how ideas develop, just recently I asked a friend of mine who leads a band called Led Bib what he thought was relevant now to music education, I asked him: what’s an ideal music curriculum for you in light of were you are now in your career? This was his response:

Hard to say! I think it’s important from the start to have an understanding of how it all works, harmony, melody, etc etc…..for me the route into that was classical music, but i dont think it has to be. Also, something which exposes you to as wide a musical world as possible….And then later on, when you want to go ‘pro’ as such….something which prepares you for the business side.

Music curriculums definitely focus on the how-it-all-works part but there is always the little technology/business side that gets put aside and sometimes even treated as not-music. Many educators feel that learning an instrument is the most important thing and I agree! but what about the rest? Even-though Mark thought that the business side was something for ‘later on’ I think it’s important to include this early especially considering how music is consumed nowadays by teenagers, there is almost zero regard to copyright and downloading is just something you do, plus the concept of albums is (almost) completely lost! I needed an opportunity to see wether I could create something that encapsulates all areas of music including technology and business. I needed objectives that could be flexible for all of these areas as well as a a project which highlights students strengths, collaboration, inventiveness and resilience. All driven by students. At my current school there is a subject called Design. Although traditionally this subject is more about making things which provide a solution to a problem, there is a current trend nowadays of design thinking which focuses more on the cognitive processes that designers go through when creating. The benefits of design thinking are becoming an important aspect of 21st century learning:

Design thinking, which is a variation of problem based learning, is an effective means of differentiating for student strengths. It reveals strengths in 2D and 3D spatial reasoning. It reveals inventiveness, collaboration, empathy and resilience. It encourages self-direction, ideation, and collaboration. Design thinking can become a part of your teaching toolkit and a means for sharing student capacities that are not usually assessed.  The most significant investment is in the educator’s shift to a student-centered space of possibility…Mindshift

After a series of ‘failed’ projects we found something that seems to work: A student-run record label. We’d be able to hit some important aspects of instrumental music and theory and we will also be touching on important aspects of the music business, marketing and music technology.

Apart from the important learning goals I also want students to understand music making from a collective perspective. Record labels are more than a studio making music cd’s and profiting from sales, there’s an element of collaboration based on vibe which is very very human and organic, it’s humble. People need to listen to one another and decisions are always based on the music not the person.

What I am loving about this project is how students are driving this forward. After 2 classes of project tuning, we have all agreed on specific roles which each student has to fulfill.  The class has 4 sections: Music, marketing, business and sound recording. We have a starting budget of about US3,500 which was donated by the school’s PTA (parent teacher association). We are planning to use crowd funding to reach our ultimate goal which is currently being discussed. There is a class leader who oversees everything. This role was chosen and voted by students. Also, each section has a leader. The ultimate goal is to release an album.


Logo designs. Student ideas.


Building the teams.


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