Sep 21, 2023
Perhaps some of you, listening with your mind’s ear, can hear Judy Garland singing these lyrics: “Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue. And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.”
One afternoon during the winter in 2015, I was observing the brother of one of my wife Marcia’s piano students waiting for his sister to finish, so that he could begin his own lesson. During the 1950’s and 1960’s when my mother Helen gave piano lessons in our home in Philadelphia – to more than a few families with pairs of siblings – there was not a whole lot for these young individuals to do beyond reading books or doing homework while awaiting one’s turn at the keyboard.
But this was 2015, and the student sitting on our couch in Bedminster was not reading a book or doing homework, but rather totally absorbed in a video game on his handheld device, using earbuds to hear to the sound effects. That’s when it hit me! Could a video game be devised that would teach children – as well as adults for that matter – how to listen to classical music?
By November of the 2015-2016 season, The Discovery Orchestra had already formed a working subcommittee of the Education Committee populated by yours truly; music educational publishing executive Rick Kaller (long before he’d ever imagined he would now be our Executive Director); guitarist, performer, composer and music educator Dave Rimelis; longtime Discovery Orchestra fan and Chair of the Committee Richard Lamb; and a young techie, Jairo Gonzalez Ward. The ad hoc Music Educational Game Committee – as it was called, soon to become known simply as the Game App Committee – met diligently and frequently to discuss ideas, strategies, and anything else we could think of while enjoying coffee and pastry at the home of Dave Rimelis.
We researched many game apps available on the net to download at that time, and eventually we met with Steven Estrella, PhD., a member of the music faculty at Temple University who specializes in interactive media development. When we submitted our final report to the Education Committee in June 2016, we had largely concluded that The Discovery Orchestra was not yet ready to move on this idea, and, due in part to a lack of sufficient financial resources, the entire project was put on ice for a while. Interestingly, among the recommendations of Dr. Estrella were these words: “…before you spend a lot of money on technology and design creating a separate commercial app… this could be incorporated into your website, using resources you already have, i.e., the Listening Guides.”
FAST FORWARD to 2023. In collaboration with our valued partner Social Impact Studios, The Discovery Orchestra is excited to announce the release of AHA! Classical, our new game app that allows players to interact with, learn about, and practice listening skills using classical music. Experience The Discovery Orchestra in the palm of your hand on your phone, or on your laptop or desktop computer! Join me as I take you on music listening quests that are accessible and engaging for all ages and skill levels. Players can follow the quest pathways of learning or explore individual topics based on interest. New quests will be periodically released, providing more opportunities to develop your listening skills.
“Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue. And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.”