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Victoria students embrace 21st century with music technology program

Creative Music Technology Program for Youth teaches hard skills like coding paired with creativity
Daniel Brandes with a couple of students at the Sonic Pi outreach class at South Park, 2024. (Tereza Anderson)

When musician, educator and artistic director Daniel Brandes is asked how fast music technology is changing, his answer?

“So fast. Not only is software changing so fast, but hardware is changing so fast, too,” he said.

Many educators, like Brandes, are working to keep up with the modern world and change curriculums so that students are taught the 21st-century skills they will need – including in the music realm.

The Victoria Conservatory of Music (VCM) started the Creative Music Technology Program for Youth to address this need. The program is part of VCM’s School of Music Technology and Creativity, which Brandes has been the artistic director of for two years.

Thanks to TELUS Friendly Future Foundation funding, the VCM can deliver the program at multiple schools with brand new equipment, reaching more than 100 students at no cost to the schools, Brandes said.

“It’s giving them an opportunity to learn these skills and have this experience where they might not have access to these kinds of tools at home or in the classroom,” he said.

In the 12-week curriculum, the students learn how to create music while learning “transferable hard coding skills through exploration and creating,” Brandes said.

Using a coding language called Ruby and a looping music software called Sonic Pi, students learn core coding concepts and create their own projects that involve sound looping (layering and repeating different segments of sounds to create more complex pieces). This can have a lot of applications including narrative sound design – think of the sounds you might hear in a video game.

At South Park Family School this year, Brandes taught students in grades 4 and 5, much younger than the usual grades 7 and 8 that he usually teaches.

“It’s been just amazing to me how quickly they’re able to understand and integrate the concepts. When I mentioned that it was a free, open-source software, they asked their parents to download it on their computer at home,” he said.

“There were a handful of students who got into some coding concepts with me that I had not even planned on introducing because they seemed a little bit too advanced. So that was really cool.

“That’s sort of the proof. You don’t get that level of work out of the students if they’re not being positively challenged and engaged with what’s happening in the classroom.”

Brandes added that the program is about opening one’s mind to the fact that music is not a monolith and can be many things.

Classes like this offer learning environments where kids get to explore creativity through play and exploration, he said.

VCM is currently working to launch a Sonic Pi class that will run at VCM’s downtown location, likely in May or June.

They are also still looking for one or two more partner schools for this year, plus partner schools for the fall. Administrators can contact him at

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Sam Duerksen

About the Author: Sam Duerksen

Since moving to Victoria from Winnipeg in 2020, I’ve worked in communications for non-profits and arts organizations.
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