Switched on by Music, Enabled by Technology

Gareth Ritter, Leader of Learning for Creative Arts, Willows High School, and Partners in Learning Teacher Award Winner 2011, came to teaching through his passion for music. As a young tenor horn player (and member of the world’s number one brass band), Ritter taught his instrument and led local youth bands, passing his love of music on to other young people. The rewards of that experience convinced him to become a teacher full-time.

Today, Ritter uses music technology to inspire students. We’re not talking about the endless repetition of scales, and we aren’t even (necessarily) talking about traditional musical instruments.  Ritter uses tools like Kinect and even students’ own mobile phones to engage them in music.

“When students are playing on their game consoles at home late at night, if they fail a level they don’t give up. They keep trying until they pass,” notes Ritter. “It’s this determination we need to bring into the classroom.”

And that determination sparked by technology leads to impressive results. Telling the story of  Saurel, a shy former boy soldier from the Congo, Ritter recalls,
“Through the use of technology I witnessed him fall in love with music and music technology. I saw how it changed his life forever.” Saurel is now studying music production at the university level.

And then there’s Flowdem, a rap group comprised of Ritter’s students who overcame
difficult socio-economic circumstances to become finalists on Sky One’s Must be the Music talent show and then sign a major record deal.

“I want my students to take control of their own learning,” says Ritter. “Creating YouTube video tutorials on music technology, then seeing thousands of students and teachers using the tools, gives the students an audience I can’t compete with, and the confidence to succeed.”

About Gareth Ritter
Birthplace: Abergavenny, Wales
Current residence: Raglan, Wales
Education: Ebbw Vale Comprehensive School, Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama
Websites I check every day: 4barsrest.com (a go-to resource for brass bands) and Twitter, for networking and sharing best practices with other educators
Musical instrument: Euphonium
Favorite book: Long Walk to Freedom, the Autobiography of Nelson Mandela

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