The Mosaic of MusicLaunch
A year of transitions, challenges, and coming together through music
Spring 2013

3…2…1… Blast Off!

MusicLaunch Students at the beginning of the 2012-2013 year.

This portfolio will take you on a tour of many of the cool things that we did in the Spring of 2013, as well as reflect upon the 2012-2013 year as a whole. We hope that you enjoy!

Spring 2013 Teaching Team:

Devin Ulibarri, Program Coordinator & NEC CE Faculty

Johnny McInnes, MusicLaunch Instructor

Jacqueline McNulty, MusicLaunch Intern

Tim Feil, MusicLaunch Intern

Liz Tobias, MusicLaunch Intern

Yan Zhang, MusicLaunch Intern

Randy Wong, MusicLaunch Faculty Advisor & NEC Faculty


MusicLaunch made possible with support from:

Wang YMCA of Chinatown Boston

(Pat Murphy, Director of Operations; Richard Chin, Community Programs; Angela Tang, Weekend Programs)


New England Conservatory School for Continuing Education

(Leslie Foley, Dean & Executive Director; Sean Hagon, Director; Dan Schmunk, Assistant Director; Jos van der Linde, Administrative Director; Larry Scripp, MIE Department Chair)

The Quilt-Like Fabric of Our Program

What is MusicLaunch?

NEC’s MusicLaunch was founded in 2010 in partnership with the Wang YMCA of Chinatown (Boston).  MusicLaunch is an innovative community-minded music education lab, where programs and curricula are driven by the dynamic, multi-faceted, and versatile faculty of NEC’s Continuing Ed Music-in-Education Certificate Program. It 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 from a child’s first exposure to learning through music. 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 (even 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.

Portfolios put together by previous MusicLaunch teams can be viewed as follows:

Semester or Year Portfolio Title ID #
Fall 2010 YMCA Chinatown Band 146
Spring 2011 Bringing Music Back to the YMCA 178
Fall 2011 MusicLaunch Blasts-Off 203
Spring 2012 Overcoming Obstacles 237
Spring 2013 The Mosaic of MusicLaunch 269
Summer 2013 Summer MusicLaunch 309

Additionally, a Case Study was written about our Spring 2012 team by Tamara Win, a music & psychology double major from Tufts University. Please contact MusicLaunch Faculty Advisor Randy Wong ( if you are interested in reading it.  

"The focus of the YMCA on young people represents our dreams and vision of a society where people are able to take control of their own lives and decide on their own future. We work towards global citizenship for all, and our goal is to improve life in community by developing body, mind and spirit.

Although our central focus is on youth, we provide opportunities and services for everyone – all ages – because we believe we are all one."

Quote Taken from "What we do" page of the YMCA International Website


An image of the YMCA logo. At MusicLaunch, we believe that music has the power to engage young people in all of the goals of the YMCA: Youth Development, Healthy Living, and Social Responsibility.

An image of the YMCA logo.

An image of the YMCA Continuing Ed logo. NEC’s partnership with the YMCA has allowed student-interns from the New England Conservatories Music-In-Education programs opportunities to teach and mentor children.


Jacquie Pic

Illustration of Intern Jacquie McNulty playing harp, as drawn by Chie Yasuda.


A Cubist’s Approach to Teaching Creativity

The purpose of this section is to teach students creativity.  To teach students creativity in music I used a working definition of creativity to mean a skill in applying information from one discipline (such as language arts or math) and applying those skills to a seemingly unrelated discipline.  Here are ways we connected Language with Music, Math with Music, Movement with Music, and Visual arts with Music.

Language and Music 

Here are two ways our class connected language skills with musical skills.

1. Phrase groupings

Rules of how people chunk words together is applicable to music – people who can read music in larger phrase groups and see larger structures will have a better chance at playing notes on a local level.  If asked to say what the word ‘told’ is without the ‘t’ at the beginning, only literate people will be able to answer that question with the response of ‘old.’  This is analogous to understanding a pickup note to a musical phrase and understanding larger phrase structures.  

I had each student write down their own lyrics for "Ode to Joy" on their parts.  They were only given a few minutes and I told them their lyrics did not have to be interesting or even make complete logical sense but that the goal was to just make a complete sentence that covers the first phrase.  This helped the students to stop playing the melody note by note and start understanding larger phrase structures.  

2. Reading Fluency

Once a person is literate in language they are forever unable to stop reading and can always break up larger words into smaller phonemes.  One way I tried to teach this to my younger students was by having them play the ‘Ode to Joy’ theme and have them stop on every beat 4 (or beats 1, 2, 3) and sing the next pitch.  Once they are able to hear what they are supposed to be playing they are really reading the pitches rather than merely putting down three fingers and blowing every time they see a black dot on the 2nd to bottom line of a staff.  

This is building musical literacy where the students can look at a piece of music and hear what they want to play.  For wind players, it is easy to simply associate a note on a page with only the fingering on the instrument, but I wanted the note on the page to associate with a particular pitch.


Math and Music

There are strong correlations between math skills and musical skills.  This, in part, deals with a musician’s need to divide a beat into smaller divisions such as eighth notes, sixteenth, and triplets – or dividing the number 1 by 2, 4, and 3.  This is practiced everyday by students at MusicLaunch, but we also came up with some additional methods of teaching and understanding math through music.  


Music related math problems


In Devin’s unit on Hertz, the students were given music related math problems.  This lesson a worksheets on the right are directly math related because the students used logic to figure out which numbers to multiply together.   


Instrument making

Making an instrument is not explicitly math related like the multiplication problems above, but requires math skills to understand the properties of frequency and the ratios involved in creating intervals.  It was Pythagorus, the Greek mathematician, who is credited with discovering that an octave is a 2:1 ratio, a musical interval of a fifth is a 3:2 ratio, and a fourth is 4:3. This was demonstrated with our straw instruments where if the straw is cut in half, the pitch goes up an octave. 

To make the straw instrument, cut the top of the straw into a V shape to blown into. The two flaps that are created vibrate against each other at an equal pressure to create a sound – this is an example of the Bernouli Effect.  You can also cut holes into the rest of the straw (closer to the bottom works better)so  that you can cover or leave open to play different pitches.



 Above is a video showing the straw woodwind instruments.  Devin asked questions about how these instruments are similar to the actual instruments played by the students.  This helped build more intuition about how their own instruments work and how they adjust pitch.



Movement and Music


On the first day of class, I didn’t know what to expect.  I wasn’t sure what level the students were at, if they took private lessons, or if they could even read music.  I came prepared to take lesson plans from my eurhythmics class in hopes to equalize any skill levels they might be at, meaning it doesn’t matter if they read music or if they are beginning players because this would be an entirely new skill that would applied to their rhythmic accuracy.  We did two different tasks throughout the semester – clapping off beats with a metronome and the "Cosmic Whole Note." Cosmic Whole Note- A metronome was set to click every 10 seconds (something they didn’t know) and they would walk in a circle and count the number of steps until the metronome clicks again.  This is a way to help build a sense of rhythm through movement.  

We tried doing the cosmic whole note in four different ways that each provide a different solution to the same goal:

1. Walking in a circle at a leisurely pace and counting the number of steps it takes to get to 10 seconds – often times 16-19 steps.  This is one of the more effective ways because it breaks up a larger time structure (10 seconds) into approximately 17 smaller, equal, and more manageable units.

2. Walking in a circle at a very slow pace – This is meant to be the least effective way because instead of breaking up 10 seconds into 17 (or so) equal spaces, the students had to try to control a very slow and steady step for around 6-9 times per beat.

3. Jogging in place and counting the steps – For some this is the easiest way because jogging in place is very easy to do at a consistent rate and breaks up 10 seconds into the smallest parts.

4. Sitting and counting out a number of beats – This is one of the more challenging strategies, but is closest to what we do as musicians.  Counting to yourself often times requires additional units of subdivision.

These different strategies of dividing up a 10 second space of time are helpful in engraining a sense of rhythm.  The students had to be self reliant on maintaining a pulse, and walking without thinking about pace is an easy way of subconsciously maintaining a pulse.



Our conducting unit introduced the idea of communicating your own musicality through hand and body gestures.  This was done by first learning beat patterns, then by having each student conduct something a little different while their classmate play.  We focused on how to cue people in and how to cut people off together while also giving a sense of dynamic contrast between loud and soft.  

I hope that this lesson was beneficial in a few different ways

1. To help learn to communicate non-verbally

2. To better understand other conductor’s non-verbal cues

3. Learn to conduct for the sake of learning a new musical skill 


 Visual Arts and Music

On the last day of class, we had time for one more exercise.  We broke this unit down into two parts

  • Coloring a short motive to introduce the idea
  • Coloring the "Ode to Joy" melody that we had been working on

Coloring a short motive

On a regular piece of paper I wrote down the note names ‘Bb-C-D-F-E.’  I chose this sequence of notes because it is short but also quickly establishes a key area of Bb Major and then quickly switches at the end with the E natural.   Everyone played this motive and then got some crayons and started coloring the notes.  I played for them a few different logical note groupings where the Bb and C belonged together and the D-F-E were grouped together, one time with the Bb-C-D together and the F-E together and one time with Bb-C-D-F together and the E distinctly different.  

Everyone chose to color the Bb-C-D the same color while one student then made the F-E the same color and another made the F-E similar colors.  

Coloring "Ode to Joy"

This first activity would be a prequel exercise for how they would color "Ode to Joy."  On the right you will see their coloring and a short description of their explanations.  I did not give any instructions on how what process to use for coloring and just left the students to their own methods.  They came up with two different methods:

1. Coloring by corresponding measures (the upper photo)

2. Coloring by personal reactions to notes (the lower photo)




Here are Carissa’s lyrics to "Ode to Joy."  She was only given a brief amount of time to come up with lyrics that both fit the note values and match the phrase structure.  This type of musical learning seemed to appeal to her more than the other types (math and movement). She also has solfege syllables written above her line of music.

Above are the student’s transcriptions of a part from "Ode to Joy."  They heard it played on a bell set and had to write down the pitches themselves (the one on the left is for Bb clarinet and the one on the left is for trombone).  They used their instruments to map out the intervals and to test which notes were correct.  Rhythmic values also had to be determined. 


Click Here for a PDF of the "Math, Music, and Physics" quiz handed out during the March 23rd class when Devin did the Oobleck Project. Students were asked to answer questions about cycles, hertz, and wavelengths and write down observations and questions from the classroom and the project.

 Carissa's Graded Oobleck Quiz

This portion of the assignment was completed by a ML student in class. She was able to solve the math problems for "If you dropped quarters in a piggy bank at the rate of 12Hz, how many quarters would you have after 3 seconds? 7 seconds? 3 minutes ad 5 seconds".




Metronome shown above





This is a video of Carissa conducting three other students (one was cropped out by accident).  We started with just conducting downbeats (note attacks) and cut offs.  She takes a big breath to help cue the others in and finishes with a cutoff.  We then move to a conducting a 4/4 beat pattern.



Carissa’s coloring of "Ode to Joy."  She chose to color measure by measure.  She also colored analogous measures the same color-looking at measures 1 and 5, 2 and 6, 3 and 7, and 4 and 8 are similar colors (one is red the other is pink) to represent how the cadences are similar but not quite the same.

Elysia showed a different method for grouping notes. She colored both the high Gs (this line is read in bass clef) at the beginning red but then later (3rd full measure shown) colored the dotted E (which is an appogiatura) green and its resolution (the eight D and half note D) yellow and green which shows a relationship between these notes.

Learning About Motivation Through Teaching

Intern, Jacquie McNulty, Gains Deeper Understanding about Motivation through a Challenging Situation, asks Important Questions.

Summary of Jacquie’s Video (March 9th, 2013):

Devin Ulibarri’s Creative Transcript of Video Content from March 9th, 2013 video referred to in Jacquie’s Blogpost (right-hand side):
        In the video, intern Liz Tobias shares with the student that she plays music for a living, in which the student responds, “that’s not fun.” Liz, then posits the question “Do you think the better you get at it, the more fun it might become?” There is a noticeable pause after this question, in which both teacher and student seem to be thinking about this question. The student asks, “what?” Liz tries the same question again to which the student replies, “no”.
       Jacquie, behind the camera, asks bluntly “Why don’t you like music?” The student replies, “cause, I just sit there and do nothing.”
       Liz keeps probing, “If you maybe did something, do you think it would be more fun? Maybe if you show some more effort? …I think the better you get at it the more you’ll enjoy it.” Jacquie piggy-backs off of this idea, ending her argument with, “It takes a lot of time and patience to understand it, but it’s so much fun.”
       The student rebuttals with, “You know what, if you don’t make any money then you don’t get to buy anything” to which Jacquie replies, “that’s true. That’s very true.”
       “But some people are poor”, says the girl after some thought. The connotations of this statement are unclear.
       “Some people are poor—yes”, replies Jacquie, “but that doesn’t mean that… (starting again) Enjoying music is not dependant on how much money you have, which is why it is so wonderful.”
       The video continues with Jacquie talking about what is wonderful about music, citing friendships, feeling good, and understanding emotions, and the student talks about dance. However, the first portion of the video is what I would like to examine for the next section.

Assignment for the reader:
1) Read the transcript above
2) Ask yourself, what do you think is going on this situation? What are your feelings about this situation? What are some possible implications?
3) Read Jacquie’s Blogpost on the right—how might you approach this situation?
4) Give Jacquie your feedback here at the MIE NewsBlog

What are the boundaries a teacher must respect when helping a challenging student? – Jacquie McNulty (April 8th, 2013. MIE NewsBlog)

One of the challenges at MusicLaunch that I have become more sensitive to this semester, is working with a 5 year old girl who is often un-enthusiatic. She seems uninterested in music, what I am trying to teach, and with things in general that most 5 year olds are usually interested in. She seems to have difficulty forming friendships with the other students, does not like to present things she has done to others, and exhibits feelings of embarrassment and frustration when she does not understand something right away.  Part of the challenge in knowing how help this student, lies within my own inability to properly understand and asses the situation. As was discussed in one of our last MusicLaunch meetings, it is difficult to know where the boundaries lie when trying to decipher the root of an issue. As a music teacher who only gets to spend a little over an hour with her every Saturday, it is perhaps none of my business to inquire deeply into her personal life and that of her family’s. However, as the wonderful Liz Tobias mentioned, not understanding the true cause of a problematic attitude makes the job of teaching that much more difficult. It would be more beneficial to treat the cause and not the symptoms. 

I feel a bit of a moral dilemma when considering this issue. I very much wish to respect the privacy of my students, especially perhaps with a child. They are unaware when boundaries are being crossed when adults are asking them questions. However, this is perhaps an adult’s responsibility? Perhaps as someone who would like to help this little girl, it my duty to ask difficult questions? With more older children, teenagers, and adults, I don’t really seeing knowing whether one is stepping over boundaries or not is an issue. More mature individuals are able to assess situations for themselves and can choose whether or not they feel comfortable answering potentially invasive questions and choosing to let someone into their personal world. -Jacquie McNulty

MusicLaunch as a Developing Community

Learning from Friends, Muppets, and Mentors

For preparing performing on the YMCA Healthy Kids Day, Jacquie and I decided to teach the kids playing the “Ode to Joy” on the xylophone last Saturday. We introduced who is Beethoven and how this song sounds like. I showed the pictures of Beethoven to the kids and also a amazing video of a representation of “Ode to Joy”. This video was created by The Muppets. What breaker performs in the video really attracted the kids, and after watching that video, they were interested in learning this song. I was inspired by their passion at that moment. The learning process went pretty good after they watched that video. Especially, one of the students learned so fast that I was totally surprised. At the beginning, I taught them how to read the matrix of the first, second sections of ” Ode to Joy” since they haven’t learned how to read the music on the staff. I only showed the student once how to play what she read from the matrix on the xylophone, and she tried to play it, not taking too much time, she got it and played it fluently which totally surprised me since she is usually a little bit shy in the class, but what she did that day was unexpected.

The experience of teaching on that day tells me that teaching young kids in a passionate way and make them interested in what they are learning will make things different and always believe that every student has potential. The teacher should cultivate them carefully and patiently with love and passion.

—Yan Zheng, May 2013

This video shows two of our Youth Mentors as they help teach the younger children how to play Ode to Joy (April, 6 2013).


Here is the video that interns showed students, The Muppets presents "Ode to Joy".

Kids play "Ode to Joy"

This photo shows all the students concentrating on playing "Ode to Joy" after having watched The Muppets video.

Integrity in Performing

Picture of Moy Family at Healthy Kids Day, Chinatown YMCA

A picture of children from two families, who have participated in ML for two years, before their performance for "Healthy Kids Day" at the Wang YMCA on April 27th, 2013.

Having goals is important—the define the direction that a person or group will move in. In order to make sure that we were preparing for our performance for the "Healthy Kids Day" with the utmost integrity, we drafted some goals for the performance that we used to measure our progress. Our Goals toward Healthy Kids Day were the following:

Our Goals toward Healthy Kids Day are:
1. Establish a Spirit of Community Through Music
2. Build Confidence Through Our Continued Efforts to Share with Others
3. Maintain Curiosity and a Thirst for Knowledge Both in Music and in School

Youth Mentor Specific Goals:

4. Youth Mentors Exercise Leadership Through Their Own Growth and Support of Others

Creating a Healthy Classroom Culture


The conductor game is where one person leads and everyone else has to be watching closely to follow. It’s a musical take on "Simon Says." This game helps to focus the students at the beginning of class and enhance their concentration and awareness, because they have to be watching and following in order to stay in the game. The kids responded positively to this game and all took turns in leading it. We then went on to discuss the role of a conductor in an orchestra. One of the great things that came from that discussion was the introduction of classroom and bandstand etiquette. The kids were immediately aware of having to be silent if the conductor is about to bring them into a song. They ability to concentrate and be "in the music" was definitely helped by this game.

Students learning composition in a hands-on way. Clockwise from left: Student 1, Student 2, Student 3, Student 4.

Teaching composition at MusicLaunch to 8 and 9 year olds. They knew the notes of the major scale, so I encouraged them to yell out random notes so we could explore what melodies we could create. They went on to play this melody in "chunks" on their bell sets. Within 10 minutes, they had been given the tools they needed to immediately improvise, compose and arrange. 

Student 2 was given the main G – C melody

Student 1 was given an off-beat note to "keep the groove"

Student 4 played our brand new composition in chunks 

Student 3 improvised over the top of it all

It was interesting watching the reaction of the kids when they realised they could compose. I remember hearing one of the kids humming the tune we’d composed together as we were packing up for the day. 

One of the other things that became evident with this set of kids was the need to "even the playing field" for them. By that I’m talking about the fact that they were at very different learning capacities from each other. Student 4, although he didn’t make it obvious, was the quickest at picking up concepts and would say statements like, "I’m bored," which would immediately effect the the classroom vibe. In order for him not to say statements like that, i had to keep him challenged and engaged. However, on the other side of the spectrum was Student 3, who struggled to keep up with the new concepts we talked about. He would get disheartened and required constant encouragement, and i would make sure that he experienced more successes initially to build up his confidence to try harder concepts. We had a serious breakthrough with Evan on the week that we played linguistics  rhythms, Eg. monkey, buffalo, alligator, zoo.

Initially, Student 3 didn’t want to even try reading the music, but after some encouragement and coaxing, he finally did it. It was a real challenge for him, which required all of his concentration, perseverance and willingness to be vulnerable in front of your sister and friends. When he read the music, we all cheered for him and felt the victory together! I am positive he walked away feeling pretty great about that week’s lesson.

"Keeping the Groove"

This game was inspired by Henrique Eisenmann and the body beats that he taught us in the Intro to MIE class (Fall, 2012).

The kids were introduced the funk rhythm and then they had to maintain the groove and feel the music in their clapping and slapping.

At one point, I got them to shut their eyes and just feel the pulse, and instantly their groove improved. We also took turns in improvising our own rhythms, which they found quite challenging and confronting. 



 One of the biggest struggles was that Student 2 and Student 3 are brother and sister, and Student 4 and Student 1 are brother and sister. It took me a few weeks to gain the trust of the kids and I had to crack down on them talking between themselves in their little secret languages and codes. After a few weeks of putting some strong boundaries in place, the classroom culture was much more balanced. Here’s some of the things we agreed to:

Listen to one another speaking.

Only say something positive about/to one another. 

Bell sets must be treated with respect

Bell set mallets stay on the table until you’re ready to play

Do your best to help one another and teach each other. If you know something, share it with your classmate so that they can learn it too.

(Based on the El Sistema model where everyone is a student and everyone is a teacher).



I love this photo of Student 3 putting his head on the table. Keeping these kids interested and engaged was a constant challenge. 


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