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Making Music Easy

A new project aims to give kids the experience of making music intuitively, without the need for formal training. ZooBeats is an animal-themed music education tool developed by WYEP 91.3 FM.

"The idea, basically, is that technology is something kids really like, and that music is something kids really like," said Alexa Belajac, Director of Education and Community Engagement for WYEP. "So we're combining them to encourage kids to explore how to put music together."

The ZooBeats kiosk uses a simple touchscreen interface to let kids create their own compositions, made up of either pre-loaded musical samples or sounds they record themselves. Those elements, or "sound nodes," can be easily looped and sequenced into original arrangements in a way that young musicians can understand, whether or not they've studied music.

"A lot of times kids are asked to create music, and they have to have technical expertise. You have to hold the guitar right, you have to sit at the piano properly," Belajac said. "And this removes those barriers and just gets them to kind of experiment. And so then, music just becomes a part of their life. It becomes a way of expressing themselves."

ZooBeats was unveiled to enthusiastic reviews at WYEP's annual Holiday Hootenanny event in December, Belajac said. It will be used in WYEP's music education programs starting in 2012. Belajac is currently developing a curriculum that makes use of the ZooBeats kiosk, which will travel to local schools and libraries in the future.

The ZooBeats project receives funding from the Sprout Fund and PNC Bank. Essential Public Radio is owned by Essential Public Media, a partnership of WYEP and The Public Media Company.