Camelot Education Teacher & Musical Artist Inspires Students with Songwriting Challenge

 In Camelot Blog

Like most school systems across the United States, Camelot Education is facilitating distance learning and academic growth for its students as the COVID-19 virus keeps children at home. Teachers are connecting with their students using a variety of resources and platforms both paper-based and digital.

Creativity is key to inspiring students to express themselves in alternative and engaging ways. Luke O’Brien, Camelot’s Philadelphia KAPS music and arts counselor, is no stranger to ingenuity and has recently turned to virtual learning by teaching students to create sounds and songs by showing them how he pulls beats together with technology.

He recorded and posted a 20 minute YouTube video so students could see his process of creating beats and then called upon students to record beats of their own as part of a songwriting challenge. Incorporating technology with music and learning is not uncommon for O’Brien, who is also a hip-hop musical artist under the name Lukey the Bird.

In the video, viewers hear a former student rapping to the beat O’Brien created. “Do what you got to do in your school. Mr. Luke don’t want to only teach you rules.”

Indeed, O’Brien doesn’t only teach rules.

Within the video are kernels of important lessons. As O’Brien gets started in choosing his beats, he samples a few before making his choice as to which represents the desired sound he seeks. Demonstrating this process conveys the importance of the creative principle, imparting that students should experiment with different sounds before reaching the right one.

As he places different rhythms on top of one another, he stresses the importance of organization – not just in making music, but in all aspects of life. In this way, he communicates a universal principle. For organizing this track, he keeps the instrumentals on top.

For O’Brien, innovation and creativity are important. After three years as a counselor providing behavioral support to kids, his supervisors at Philadelphia KAPS noticed his passion for incorporating music into the work he did with students. Five years ago he was given his own classroom and the freedom to develop a musical education model that works.

Now, he wants to see his students take the next step forward and be more confident with writing lyrics.

“The one thing that I want to see in my classroom is putting the songwriting in the students’ hands a little more. It’s been a goal of mine to achieve this. The fact that we are at home gives us this opportunity.”

In the video, O’Brien also showed how to color-code each of the underlying sounds in the song. His sample audio track is green. His main drum is purple. His kick is yellow. His snare is blue. According to O’Brien, the color-coding method of creating beats is pleasing to the eye and it adds organization.

Philadelphia KAPS alumni Jeremiah Johnson assisted O’Brien with the online musical instruction and performance. The video concludes with Jeremiah’s own rap: “Do what you got to do in your school. Come to school in a really good mood. Yeah, I just go to do what I do.”

After Jeremiah’s freestyle vocals end, the beat continues to run for a few more minutes to give students who watch the video the opportunity to write their own lyrics over the beat.

Jeremiah credits Philadelphia KAPS for transforming his life, not only by inspiring his love for music and the arts, but by instilling in him the importance of positivity, respect, and seeing his potential. According to Jeremiah, a lot of educators pushed him to his higher self and allowed him to get better.

Camelot Education looks forward to more song submissions from students.

“This is your quarantine writing challenge for Camelot KAPS,” O’Brien remarks at the end of the video.

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