Rock Camp On a Roll

The summer program at USF’s School of Music is helping to define a new way to teach music education.



By Dani Barta

USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (July 19, 2012) Wearing a headset, 10-year-old Dillon Baker practiced on an electric drum set, tapping away and creating the beat.


Just two days before, playing the drums was just a dream for Baker.

Baker, along with his sister, got the chance to rock out this summer by enrolling in Rock Camp at the University of South Florida, hosted by the School of Music and Music Education.

Rather than following traditional music teaching standards, USF Music Education is leaning toward more contemporary teaching methods.

“Vernacular musicianship, or teaching without any notation or being under the direction of one person, is part of the key to the future, I think, in music education,” said Clint Randles, assistant professor of music education.


He demonstrates this during the summer with Rock Camp: a week where kids select their instruments, form their own bands, and play the songs that they choose.

The music room for Rock Camp boasts a total of five complete band setups where students can plug in headphones and play without disrupting the group next to them. Students can also listen to each other through the headsets and learn from their bandmates.

“There’s not a school of music that I know of with exactly this,” said Randles.


USF is one of the few universities working toward significant changes in their music education programs. While Rock Camp is fun for the students, it’s also helping reshape the music education program for future teachers.

“We haven’t changed in 150 years as far as what we expect music teachers to know to go out and teach,” Randles said. “It’s interesting because other people in the building will ask, ‘What do you have them play?’ Well, I don’t have them play anything, they choose what they’re going to play.”

Students like Aiden Kelley, 11, were pleasantly surprised on their first day of camp.


“I thought it would be so boring, but then I came here and it’s awesome,” Kelley said.


Kelley joined the camp with the hopes of performing a solo in a band. At the end of the week, Kelley got his wish as he performed “Wipe Out” in front of his family and friends.


“The University of South Florida's music education curriculum is one of the top programs in the United States in terms of pushing the boundaries of music teacher musicianship,” said John Kratus, Randles’ doctoral advisor from Michigan State University. “USF's music education majors learn to develop their skills in contemporary and creative musicianship, as a means to educate their own future students in relevant and lasting ways.”


Lasting ways like with Baker, where Rock Camp was more than just a week out of the house; it was a chance for him to learn a new skill with his sister.


“The experience that I got here was great,” Baker said. “Now I understand music and we can both make songs.”

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