MusicLaunch Blasts-Off!
Framing Questions: How can we engage the YMCA & its community in a culture of music learning?
To what extent do intersections exist between the YMCA's core values & those of Music-in-Education?
Guided Internship
Fall 2011

Welcome to our Fall 2011 Portfolio chronicling MusicLaunch at the Wang YMCA of Chinatown!  


Pictures from MusicLaunch classes, December 2011


Portfolio created by the MusicLaunch Team

Andrew Gushiken, M.M., Site Coordinator & NEC CE Faculty

Devin Ulibarri, MIE Concentration Candidate & NEC CE Faculty

Johnny MacInnes, M.Ed,  Boston Teachers Union School & NEC CE Faculty

Randy Wong, Ed.M, Program Manager & NEC College/CE Faculty


Guided Interns:

Pui Duangpon, NEC Continuing Ed 

Juhye Lee, NEC College


Thanks to:   

Angela Tang, YMCA Program Coordinator

Leslie Foley, Dean & Executive Director, NEC Preparatory and Continuing Education

Sean Hagon & Dan Schmunk, NEC School for Continuing Education

Dr. Larry Scripp, NEC Music-in-Education Department Chair



Program Overview;
Goals and Inquiry Questions

What is MusicLaunch?
NEC’s MusicLaunch was founded in 2010 in partnership with the Wang YMCA of Chinatown (Boston), with the goal of providing a place where kids can explore music’s many pathways, at a time when many schools have cut or reduced arts programs. All children who sign up for MusicLaunch learn to sing, play recorder, read music, compose, improvise, and develop listening, interpersonal, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills through music. 
An innovative community-minded music education lab, MusicLaunch’s programs and curricula are driven by the dynamic, multi-faceted, and versatile faculty of NEC’s Continuing Ed Music-in-Education Certificate Program. MusicLaunch follows the YMCA’s commitment to "developing the potential of every child" with its open enrollment (no audition) policy and classes that encourage music literacy from the ground up, starting with parent/child music circles (ages 2-5). Small-group lessons in guitar, band instruments, and recorder are also offered. 
Like the YMCA, MusicLaunch is committed to promoting social responsibility, critical thinking, and socio-emotional development.  While many arts organizations focus on free performances as their way of giving back, MusicLaunch instead puts experiential, hands-on learning and multi-level (sometimes, multi-generational) instruction at its core. Youth are guided, mentored, and instructed by experienced teaching artists from NEC’s Continuing Ed faculty, as well as by adult intern volunteers from the MIE Certificate Program.
Documentation of each child’s MusicLaunch experience is collected throughout the year, in the form of reflective journals, video vignettes, and performance recordings. Personal reflection is encouraged amongst faculty, students, and parents alike; sharing sessions are scheduled on a regular basis to facilitate and allow for flow of constructive inquiry.  Program documentation is assembled on a semesterly basis into digital portfolios that make visible these poignant moments of learning and exhibit MusicLaunch’s efficacy for all to see. 
  • Every child learns to play, sing, and read music
  • Curriculum and teaching methods cross cultural and ethnic boundaries
  • To create a culture of music learning that students share with their families and take with them, beyond Saturdays
  • Nurturing children’s curiosity through composition, improvisation, reflection, and inquiry
Inquiry Questions (Big Picture)
  • How do children find and develop their voices as emergent music learners? What roles do teachers play in this development?
  • How do MIE philosophies translate to MusicLaunch priorities? What do YMCA goals look like in the context of a music-in-education community program?
    • How does MusicLaunch influence a child’s long-term growth?
  • How can we design MusicLaunch so that it is transformative for both students and teachers, regardless of past musical or instructional experience?

(Taken from document "NEC MusicLaunch Retreat", drafted by Randy Wong on August 7th, 2011, and amended October 10, 2011)




Program Statistics & Model:

Current faculty – 2

Current students enrolled – 16


The Wang YMCA provides the facilities and community contacts, and we provide the curriculum and instruction.


Students with demonstrated financial need within the Boston Public Schools system are eligible for a registration and membership discounts. Eventually, we hope to be able to raise enough funding so that the program can be tuition-free. 


Our hope is to also grow the program enough to serve three purposes: 

  • to form a band, chorus, string orchestra and/or other ensemble program at the Y to serve that segment of the Boston community, which will also support the work of Boston Public Schools arts teachers; and
  • to provide a dynamic, interactive teaching lab for our Continuing Ed students who are pursuing MIE Certificates.  
  • to create a series of faculty-driven, MusicLaunch-integrated concerts that bring a new line of cultural programming to the Chinatown neighborhood 

We also plan to begin offering on-site Professional Development workshops for BPS teachers, which would be free-of-charge if we got the funding. An additional idea would be to bring MusicLaunch instructors into BPS to provide in-school MusicLaunch curriculum, with students matriculating either into the main MusicLaunch program at the Y or into NEC Prep. 


Pui Instructs
Intern, Pui, demonstrates recorder fingering while singing. Taken November 19th, 2011 by JuHye Lee
When do we meet?
Academic Timeline
            Fall Semester:
Classes: Oct. 1 to Dec. 17
Interns: Oct. 15 to Dec. 17
Holiday: Nov. 26 (Thanksgiving)
            Spring Semester:
                        Classes: Jan. 21 to May 5
                        Interns: Feb. 4 to May 5
                        Holiday: Mar. 24 (NEC Spring Break)
 Typical Saturday Schedule
  • — 9:15            Students arrive
  • 9:15-9:25             Group Solfege warm-ups
  • 9:30-10:00            Instrumental Lessons
  • 10:00-10:15            Group Reflective Session
  • 10:30-11:15            Staff post-mortem meeting (reflection, to-do items, etc.)

Curriculum Design

Designing Student-Centric Curricula That Challenges Cognitive, Affectual, and Psychomotor Learning

We believe that when students have the space and encouragement to explore new concepts, it is best that they do so through application, so that they build their knowledge around skill set and cognition (rather than via rote or memorization). This approach also helps cultivate imagination and creativity, as the student is then required to incorporate their perceptual, interpretative, and reflective mindsets in order to advance to the next activity.  
In order to engage students in these ways, however, we initially had to overcome some discrepancies between students’ prior musical knowledge and and the wide variety of learning styles—and language fluency—present in our classes. These lessons therefore have to be constructed so that expert students face as much challenge as do novices. Our lesson plans were thusly made with music literacy and musicianship in mind, rather than age/experience level. 

Challenging Students to Build Pitch Awareness
Listening comprehension was a major teaching theme this semester; partially influenced by the fact that the majority of our students are bilingual, non-native English speakers. 
We defined "pitch awareness" as the set of abilities needed to:
  • discern discrete pitches,
  • match them vocally or instrumentally, and
  • describe, perceive, and reflect on their differences horizontally (contour, shape) and vertically (pitch, articulation, dynamic, timbre)

While much of our activities were performance-based, we also felt it necessary have students demonstrate their pitch awareness reflectively; notating what they heard graphically. A few examples of this can be seen below:

La-Si-Do-Re Diagram by Jason

Graphic Diagram of La-Si-Do-Re Song, Transcribed by Jason on 12/03/2011

 – Click Here to see the rest of the diagrams made by students on 12/03/2011



Vignette: Introducing "Musical Building Blocks" 

by Andrew Gushiken

Here at MusicLaunch we are faced with many exciting challenges and look forward to continually meeting these challenges with creative solutions that stimulate our creative capacities and help us as interns and instructors to grow. 

One challenge we face is that from the start we want MusicLaunch to be first and foremost about teaching the art of music. By this we don’t mean teaching students how to cover holes on the recorder and read sheet music. We want our students to learn how to be expressive, how to listen with an expert ear, and learn to feel the beat coursing through their bodies. In effect, we are mimicking the way babies learn to speak. Think of how choppy grade school students make the english language when reading aloud. Now imagine if that is how english were always taught! The only problem with this, of course, is that we are teaching without the aid of western notation.

A favorite entry point for the kids is something we call Musical Building Blocks. (The activity is derived from one we did last semester using blocks, but nowadays we can use just about anything. The kids recognize the activity as one that builds toward something.)

For these two examples, we use the blocks to help us portray song form. Each block represents on a fragment of a song much like how a puzzle piece is a part of a much larger image; multiples of the same block have the same meaning.

Students E. and L.

E. and L. are twins who have lived in America for only a matter of months. They are still in preschool and have limited English skills (however incredible German skills!). I fear some days E is actually able to outsmart his teachers! Getting back on topic, we wanted to teach E and L some english, so we decided musical building blocks would be a great way to teach rhythm, symbol recognition and english at the same time.


So, for this activity I brought in fruits. After giving me their names in German, they learned the names in english. Then, I attempted to engage all their senses. I had them touch, smell, and in the case of the strawberries, eventually eat the fruits to give as strong of a memory to these newly learned words.

In our version of the building block game, I assigned specific rhythms to each fruit. Limes were a quarter note, lemons were two eighth notes (le-mon), strawberries were an eighth followed by two sixteenths (straw–ber-ry), which we all learned through the mother tongue method (i.e. Kids, repeat after me!). Student E (as well as the rest of us) thought it’d be funny if he switch lemons for limes and vice versa. Music-in-Education Director Larry Scripp would’ve pointed out that it takes creativity and mastery of an activity to deliberately incorrectly execute in the same way every time.After learning our initial fruit “composition”, we took it a step further. We clapped the rhythms. Then we got up and clapped while marching. Finally, we unleashed Eric the mad scientist to do his worst and make his own compositions much like Students K and W with the lego blocks.

Through this lesson both and Students E and L demonstrated full mastery of the material and were able to fluidly execute the rhythms in a natural, uncontrived manner.

Student MI

In the same way the Lime/Lemon/Strawberry was designed as a Music Plus english integrative activity, so was the Pie/Apple/Blueberry musical building block game. While waiting for her father to finish a discussion with one of our staff instructors, MI noticed the sketches drawn by Devin’s wife Chie Yasuda and immediately recognized its’ purpose from previous group sessions. That in itself is quite impressive.

MI took it upon herself to make her own game. Often times it’s hard to get kids to buy into our activities, and here is MI, fully engaged!

MI laid the sketches out and made a pattern. She then executed her “composition” by walking around the table and reciting the names of the images as she passed and touched each sketch. Then, Devin joined in and performed MI’s composition in canon!!!

In Conclusion

In each of these examples the juiciest part of the activity was when we, the instructors relinquished control in a constructed environment. We set the manner in which they could manipulate the situation and let them loose. This freedom without fail has encouraged creativity and has resulted in full engagement. In the case of Eric and Wesley, some of our kids will go to great lengths to try and stump the class and teachers!


Vignette: Musical Building Blocks for Rhythm and Pitch

by Devin Ulibarri


The video below is a peek into one of our first explorations of using ‘Multiple Representations’ to teach musical concepts at the YMCA in Chinatown. The video shows intern, Pui, taking the lead in demonstrating rhythmic concepts, numeric pitch identification and solfege using Lego blocks that we found in the classroom at the YMCA. The students were surprised by this use of the Lego blocks initially, but caught on quickly.

At the beginning of the video is the initial introduction of rhythmic concepts. One sees intern MusicLaunch intern, Pui, pointing to a block and together with intern Devin Ulibarri demonstrating the desired action – in this case, clapping according to the size of the blocks. The clapping patterns were introduced separately (1,2 and 3 beats), but were combined to create an 8 beat pattern consisting of three of the smaller patterns. The students were then asked to manipulate the blocks in order to come up with their own structures. For example at 0’53” in the video, one observes Kayla’s pattern (2+1+3) and then her brother changing the pattern (2+3+1). This moment is important because it empowers the student and demonstrates that musical concepts can be mastered and manipulated – it develops their creativity.

At 4’22” into the video, one can see the culmination of the entire lesson. In this final review, Pui asks students to identify the solfege names of the notes by hinting at the numeric name. Pui asks the class what the second pitch in the scale is to which a student answers, “Re”. Pui then asks the class to answer using pitch to which the class accurately sings the intended pitches that she is identifying using her fingers (numeric name). At the end of the review, Pui tests the students mastery by asking them to skip “Re” and accurately sing “Mi” from “Do” – the students have some difficulty doing this, but this is their first time and subsequent videos will reveal their progress.

The video ends with quick demonstrations of other types of multiple representations that we have used in the break off sections of MusicLaunch. Future blog posts will keep you posted on the significance of these other forms of multiple representations and how they have helped the development of the students in MusicLaunch at the YMCA in Chinatown.

(This article was first written for the MIE Blog. Click here to read it and comment on the MIE Blog.)

Family Involvement

What are ways that we can involve parents in active listening and musical analysis?

This video shows a particularly involved day for parents. (Taken on December 3rd, 2011 at MusicLaunch by JuHye Lee)

Typically in a classroom, parents would sit by themselves while the learning happened separately between teachers and students. Students and teachers benefit from the experience, but parents are left with little benefit and the result outside of class is that parents and their children are unable to have a meaningful conversation about what happened in class.

At MusicLaunch, we are trying to engage parents in a fun way so that when everyone goes home they can talk about music in a meaningful way.

Parent, Teacher, Student Interactions

A rough diagram of parent, teacher, student interactions and how that translates outside of class. (Devin Ulibarri 12/20/2011)

As stated in the "Overarching Goals", we are working to create a culture of music learning that students share with their families and take with them, beyond Saturdays. However, this is not a simple task – students and parents have a myriad of things that could distract them between the weekends that threaten the Saturday learning environment. Also, putting pressure on parents to facilitate their children’s practice time may fall short of its goals.

For MusicLaunch, we would rather not burden parents with homework – so we racked our brains for a way to engage parents in a way that they could easily respond to. This engagement, we are proposing, will create a common experience that all the family members can talk about in the car or at the dinner table, which creates more continuity for the students outside of the classroom and gets the family involved.

Our lesson plan involved watching various YouTube videos that used unique representations of the music that followed their own logic however unconventional. A series of questions were composed about the relationship of the representation to the music for students and parents to answer, which became discussion. The entire family was involved in critical thinking, dialogue, cognitive development in a safe and fun environment.

Teaching Multi-Culturally

How do we encourage and utilize our diversity in the classroom?

With a diversity of us, we feel comfortable to link many lesson with our students who also come from different countries and cultures. With that paradigm, we don’t hesitate to adapt some lesson with cultural topic; singing and playing German folk song "Winter Ade", La Si Do Re song which is also a European folk song, so that students can appreciate music, give more value and respectful to music from another cultures that they are not familiar with.

Below is an example video of our La Si Do Re song, also known as the Israeli folksong Hashivenu. With Pui’s teaching style, all students are able to sing this song in solfege name before playing song. After learning the song both in solfege and on the recorder, Pui taught them to play in canon.

Above is a clip to a performance of the "La-Ti-Do-Re song" (translation of original title is "Peace on Earth"), which is a well known song from Israel and was a focus in this year’s class.

Two girls play La Si Do Re in Canon before adding variations that really help student learn to be creative and productive as it’s a kind of improvisation as well. Right now, students at Music Lunch can play this song in Canon. The next step is improvising with another another accompaniment.

Who are the teachers?

Our Interns are from diverse backgrounds and they maintain deep relationships with many different cultures. This is important because the students that come to the YMCA in Chinatown are also from a variety of backgrounds. We celebrate the things that make us unique and search to create an atmosphere where we can learn from our diversity.

The following videos will give you a glimpse into how varied the backgrounds of our faculty are. Please click and watch our performances.

Pui – Click on the link to see Pui’s performance at the "Asian Music and Culture Festival" at Berklee College of Music

Devin – Click on the link to see Devin’s performance with Alyssa Griggs (flute) at the "Japan Benefit Concert" at Jordan Hall, New England Conservatory

Juhye  – Click on the link to hear Juhye’s arrangement of Psalm 23 performed by the church chamber group Dwelln at the Korean Community Church

Andrew – Click here to see a video about NEC’s brass department (See 0’43" for Andrew)




Teacher/Intern Preparation

Collage of Kids

Collage of students from MusicLaunch’s 2011–2012 season. Image created 12/21/2011 by Devin Ulibarri.


Initial Student Profiles

We thought it would work well to write a few basic profiles of each student so that we can easily see their growth from the beginning of the program. We had planned to individually test each student for basic singing skills (such as pitch, rhythm, and expressivity) but that plan fell through — maybe next semester? Names have been ‘anonymized’ for privacy purposes.

Student M:
Medium proficiency in English. 
She improved a lot after the first that she had no skill in playing recorder. However, by having 2sisters who could be able to teach her, she can play at least 75 % of La Si Do Re song and 80% of Winter Ade song with group and also she has a very good voice.
Student G: 
Helps to keep her classmates engaged and enjoys demonstrating for her peers when asked. Both her sister and her father play music; her father was her first music teacher. My goal as a teacher is trying to improve her singing and reading skills so that she can be able to learn new songs by herself (faster) and be more self-sufficient. Her confidence and self-esteem are motivating for her peers, and I use her responses to my teaching as a gauge for how I communicate with the students. 
Student E:  
Has a natural ability to listen, discern, and comprehend pitches; particularly with Solfege syllables. Although he sometimes gets distracted, he is obedient when instructed and shows steady improvement from week-to-week. 
Student C: 
She is a natural leader and is able to hold her own when it comes to singing/playing in canon. Her self-confidence sets a good role model for her peers. 
Student A: 
Student takes initiative and leadership roles in medium-size group but does not yet feel comfortable doing so in larger groups. Wants to start playing trombone.
Student M.I.: 
This student enrolled 3 weeks into the semester, and loves to sing. She is more comfortable singing than playing recorder. We are working with her on practice skills so that she can catch up with her peers. 
Students L & E:  
Both are ESL students (speaking very little English). Their cognition for identifying rhythms, patterns, steady beat, etc is much stronger than that of pitch.
Students K and W:
Both are entering their 2nd year at MusicLaunch. Last year they focused entirely on learning to read music via recorder & solfege. As a pair, they can comfortably play duets; switching off between parts. We need to help them build their confidence when singing and sharing/reflecting.  
Student J: 
Second semester studying guitar at MusicLaunch. Previous experience on saxophone. J is highly enthusiastic and has already developed good practice techniques, but some of his peers may feel intimidated. We can use him as a teaching aide and use his enthusiasm as positive reinforcement though. 
Student MG: 
Second semester of flute at MusicLaunch. Very focused and reads well. 
Student JA:
Second semester of acoustic guitar at MusicLaunch. Graduated from Devin’s first method book (See Blog)!

MusicLaunch as an education lab; a place to practice & hone teaching skills!

MusicLaunch is a great laboratory to take things we learn from MIE classes and put them into play. One good example of this is with Student Assessment.

Both the MIE Teaching Seminar (MIE 511) and the Art & Science of Assessing Music Learning (MIE 525) discuss different methods we can use to tell what and how our students learn.  In other words, how effective is our teaching? What do students take-away from it? How can we measure growth and development of musical skills?

Having an actual class of kids with different personalities, learning styles, and musical backgrounds really helps us to see this for real. When the year started, one of our first questions was, "where do we start with these kids?" 

Randy suggested we conduct some pre-tests with our students so that we could get an initial ‘temperature’ on how the kids sing. Instead of just arbitrarily scoring them on a scale of 1 to 10, Randy challenged us to create a rubric that would asses singing ability in relation to the students’ understanding of pitch, rhythm, and expressivity. He started to design a rubric for us that connects skill development with self-sufficiency and sophistication. It was up to us to finish up the rubric and then apply it in our work. 

Here’s Randy’s draft of the rubric:


Rubric for Assessment

  – Click here to download the full "Singing Ability Rubric" (Wong. 11/10/2011)



We decided to use the Israeli folk song Hashivenu (more on that here) as the common melody on which to base our comparisons. (Hashivenu was one of the first songs we taught the kids, and it is a melody that they all learned in class, having no prior knowledge or experience with it). Using videos from the class, we scored according to our Singing Ability Rubric. While at first it took us a little while to dial-in and agree on students’ abilities, we eventually came to a scoring consensus — Randy advised us that, while we can have different opinions, we have to be able to agree within 0.5 points; otherwise, the scoring system would not be reliable.  


Additional Teacher Prep  

Thursday Meeting 

This picture was taken on 12/3/2011, during an Thursday intern meeting to reflect on the previous class and prepare for the following classes

  • Thursday Meetings

Interns meet every Thursday with Randy to prepare for the upcoming MusicLaunch class. We plan for the next class and discuss it. Sometimes we would do mock lessons where the teachers would simulate the situation by one person pretending to teach, while the rest of us would play the role of students. We would then share our thoughts and get some ideas for teaching during the meeting, so we could be better prepared in the actual classroom environment.  

  • Coffee Session

Interns have a coffee session after MusicLaunch class on Saturdays. This is our time to reflect and share our thoughts on the day’s teaching, our observations of our students and their development. We also gave each other constructive comments on how we could improve the teaching environment. The purpose of the coffee session is similar to Thursday meeting in that we would like to find the better way for teaching.

Next Steps

 Our Future Goals, Challenges for the Program

What do we want to work on next semester?
  • Administer singing post-test
  • Have a public concert
  • Find the balance between continual staff changes, a dynamic curriculum, and fluctuating enrollment
What do we want to accomplish in the future?
  • Faculty concerts and guest artist concert series
  • MusicLaunch Songbook that unifies all program curriculum
  • Small ensemble program (middle school winds & chorus)
  • Published case studies
  • Sustainable funding model is achieved 
  • Scout for another location — perhaps Somerville?
Wish List
  • Summer Day Camp
  • Holiday / Seasonal Programming
  • Instrument building class
  • Sponsorships by local businesses

Closing Reflections

Evaluation of Semester in Nutshell, a Personal Reflection

by Intern JuHye Lee

I have to say that I was very pleased to take this course. The reason I took this course was that I wanted to know about the music-education field more. As an undergraduate composition major at New England Conservatory, this internship was a great opportunity that I could use to broaden my view on extended-music field other than classical music composition. I just wanted to have a picture of music-education field and know how would it be look like. However, the course gave me more than that. I actually learned how to be a better teacher and I think that was the point of the internship. Most of interns were taking music-in education class. It was interesting to see when they were applying their knowledges, which were gained from the music in education class, to their actual teaching. Learning how to teach would be interns’ indicator and actual teaching would be their action on it. I learned that when these two things are properly in parallel, one would be more balanced in teaching.

Even though a few growing pains existed since MusicLaunch is a new program, every class and meeting went well since the course was already well planned and as there were enough communnications. Interns would have meetings before and after the classes and that really helped to communicate each other and letted share each other’s thought. Refletions also letted us know better ways in terms of teaching.

I think most important lesson I got from this internship is the fact that I have to be a genuine person for the kids and to have a heart that really cares them. When I show them my interesting, they will show their interesting to me that’s what I heard and learned from this Internship.

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