Running a music ensemble with different groups of teenagers is an incredible experience. I had the great opportunity to test out the Vindor ES1 at Zumix with two different “Experimental Music Ensembles” with students who had a varied range of musical experience. It both gave me unique insight into how different people view the creation of music, and it gave the students a great chance to explore new forms and styles of music that they hadn’t seen before. But with both the ensembles, the students mostly appreciated being part of a group and creating and playing music together.
One of my favorite experiences took place in the second semester of the Experimental Music Ensemble. There were only a few students in the band. We had already written a few songs together, but when looking for inspiration, one person thought it could be fun to write a hip hop groove and invite two other students to rap over it. The students all found their own role in this song only using the Vindor ES1 and one person on drums. One, who was also taking bass lessons at the time, decided to play in the lower range of the ES1 and the other, who was taking saxophone lessons at the time, wrote some very interesting rhythmic figures to play over the drum beat.
The first rehearsal with the rappers was very inspiring. The rappers had only ever worked with pre-recorded backing tracks before and had never had the experience of playing with a live band. When they started rapping more aggressively, the band followed suit and started playing a bit louder. When the band switched grooves to something more mellow, the rappers would switch who was on the microphone to change dynamics. These moments don’t always happen with professional bands, and I was certainly not expecting this with students who had only been playing the Vindor ES1 for two months. After that first rehearsal, the rappers were really excited and expressed to me how fun it was to play with a band.
Putting something new in front of these kids gave us back some life experiences that the students will never forget. Trying out a new instrument put them in a situation where everyone was willing to get out of their comfort zone and create something as a group. They worked on finding weird sounds they could make from the instrument and took new directions of influence in their songwriting. A big part of running an ensemble at Zumix is to let the kids take their own direction with the band, and it was incredibly rewarding to see where they took it and how they grew as a group.