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Breaking the Musical Mold

George Pennington has always been interested in "breaking the mold" for the way music is traditionally played and taught. As a member of Touch, USF's iPad Band, and a Harry S. Truman Scholarship nominee, Pennington is getting a chance to make his mark.

  George Pennington performs his solo during "The Love Concert."

As the lights slowly dimmed and the audience settled into the seats at the University of South Florida’s School of Music Concert Hall, the five-member ensemble, took their places on stage. However, when the music began, no percussion, brass or even stringed instruments were in sight.

Touch, USF's iPad Band, gets the audience involved as the show begins.

Touch, USF’s iPad Band, creates music in a “non-traditional” way, described George Pennington, the quintet’s lone undergraduate student. Using applications on Apple’s iPad, the band mimics the sound of traditional instruments, creating what is known as electronic music.

The group headlined “The Love Concert” Friday night, Feb. 3, in conjunction with the “From Recovery to Regeneration Festival,” held on USF’s campus throughout the weekend. The festival focused on using the arts as a form of therapy to assist veterans returning to civilian life.

 The quintet uses multiple iPads to mimic the sound of traditional instruments.

The iPad Band was formed back in 2010, when Apple first introduced the iPad; long before Pennington, a junior, was a USF student.

Unlike most students who go on to study music at the college level, Pennington avoided traditional grade school music classes, learning how to play the guitar on his own time.

His musical experiences inspired him to think outside the box, and created a passion for finding new and exciting ways to share his craft. At USF, he found professors who shared his vision, and a band that represented his passion.

George Pennington takes a break from the iPad to show off his vocals.

“When I first arrived at USF, I did not realize that there was an iPad band,” Pennington said. “Actually, I didn’t even realize that the School of Music offered courses that ‘broke the mold’ of traditional music education curricula.”

That was until he met David Williams, PhD, associate director of the School of Music, and Clint Randles, PhD, associate professor of music education, the co-founders and band members of Touch.

Pennington connected with Drs. Williams and Randles as a freshman, after presenting his philosophy of music education to a panel of the school’s faculty members during his “Foundations of Music Education” course.

“George has a very nontraditional background in a profession that has deep roots in tradition,” Dr. Williams said. “At USF we are very interested in moving the music education profession forward, and students like George are very special for us as they help bring this message to others.”

 From left to right: David Williams, Ph.D, George Pennington, and Clint Randles, Ph.D

Since joining the band, Pennington has taken what he’s learned at USF and has applied it to his teaching throughout the community. From a Rock n’ Roll summer camp to private lessons, he has found a way to connect with students through non-traditional avenues of music, and has even been recognized for it.

Currently a nominee for the highly touted Harry S. Truman Scholarship, which is awarded to students who are actively working to better the future, Pennington hopes to make a difference in the public school system by giving every student the chance to make music a part of their life.

“Winning the Truman Scholarship would allow me the opportunity to bring my ideas about modernizing the music education profession to more people,”  Pennington said. “If we develop in all of our kids a respect and appreciation for music, we will have left the world better than when we entered it.”

Story, photos and video by Ryan Noone, University Communications and Marketing

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