Which songs evoke vivid memories for you? There is one particularly embarrassing pop song from my high school years that reminds me of sitting in my brand new car (at the time – I still have it!) with my best friend, Erin. It certainly seems that there is something magical about melodies and the way they “stick” in your mind. In the lab, neuroscientists have also found that songs are special. In line with many anecdotal accounts, research has shown that music can conjure up very detailed, autobiographical memories from one’s distant past – even in Alzheimer’s patients. Think of all of the songs you can sing along to without missing a beat, and all of those catchy (or annoying) radio-friendly tunes you can’t get out of your head. Now imagine if the chorus you keep singing to yourself and the beats you can’t stop bobbing your head to could help you learn something meaningful, like formulas to memorize for a physics exam, or a list of vocabulary words for Spanish class. That’s where KlabLab sees enormous potential.
KlabLab is a Pleasanton, California-based startup on a mission to disrupt education through music. Last week, I had the unique opportunity to meet the co-founders on one of the first stops of their Sound of Knowledge Tour at the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts (SotA) and the Academy of Arts and Sciences.
When I first arrived at SotA, I observed the tail end of a taiko drum class in the World Music Dojo. In preparation for a performance that night, the enthusiastic students wrote and performed original raps to KlabLab-provided hip hop beats about performance anxiety and how to overcome it. Mohina Sen Cervone, World Music teacher, called the KlabLab experience “world changing,” and wishes her students could have more class time to dedicate to their creations. Ms. Cervone was so inspired that she booked computer lab time at SotA later in the week for students to continue to refine and record their songs.
KlabLab’s founding team is currently taking their tour bus/recording studio all over the West Coast to build a grassroots effort to create customized, engaging, and polished musical lesson plans for schools. Dave Haberman was earning his teaching credentials when he started developing musical lessons as part of his coursework. He then partnered up with music producer Doug Allen. The two agreed that the current state of “educational music” was not engaging enough to pique students’ interests, and aimed to create music that sounded like hit songs on the radio – but with content that was pertinent to classroom curricula. Rounding out the team is Joe O’Loughlin, an experienced musician and educator who serves as “Executive Producer” and business manager.
KlabLab on the road:
In American Literature class, teacher Laura Godden was excited for her students to create original lyrics incorporating vocabulary from One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest that they would be quizzed on in a future class session. Ms. Godden had already participated in one session with the KlabLab team, was impressed with how engaged the students were with the material, and would highly recommend this approach to other educators. Teachers do not need any musical training to incorporate these methods into their lesson plans, as KlabLab provides free templates online. Victoria, a junior at the Academy of Arts and Sciences, who participated in KlabLab sessions in both U.S. History and American Literature, told me that she and her peers got a lot out of creating their own songs to a strong beat and rhythm. She felt that having a “good beat” in the background inspired her and fellow students to be more creative, and believed that the music would help her remember definitions and concepts better than more traditional ways of instruction.
The students, obviously energized and engaged in class, were even more motivated to record and share their creations online with the KlabLab community. The group whose recording receives the highest number of votes will be awarded iPads for each of their members, as well as $10,000 for their school.
KlabLab is currently in seed stage, is funded by angel investors, and plans on embarking on a national tour starting this summer. Within two days after launching their tour, the team gained nearly 2,000 users, and has over 8,000 fans on Facebook. While their monetization strategy is still in development, KlabLab plans on creating an album from the recordings made by students on their tour, and will introduce a mobile app in the near future so students can easily record and share their songs. Curious what some of these creations sound like? Here is a peek at Geometry class at the Academy of Arts and Sciences in San Francisco:
From lyrics written by an Honors History student at Amador Valley High School in Pleasanton, KlabLab’s Studio Master Doug produced this video. Here is the finished product: