Music Education Alum Brings Modern Music to Palmyra Middle School

Lebanon Valley College music education graduate Dean Howey is using modern band techniques with his students.

Palmyra middle school students are enjoying jamming out to some of their favorite songs from the radio during band class with teacher and band director Dean Howey ’16. Howey, who studied music education at LVC, is applying a Modern Band concept to the classroom.

Howey pulls from typical music curricula to teach guitar, bass, drums, keyboard, and vocals. Then, once the basics are covered, students transition into playing more modern tunes. Howey stays away from the stereotypical songs music classrooms are believed to sing, such as Row Row Row Your Boat. Instead, the chosen songs come from a variety of genres including pop, rock, rap, and country.

“We can take that song and have some students jump on guitars, one jump on bass, one on drums, some on keys, etc. By the end of class, we have a 25-person rock band jamming out to songs they would already be listening to in the hallways between classes,” said Howey, who has a rock background and has played in bands.

In addition to the modern music blend, Howey also has his use technology for songwriting, mixing, and recording. The students are mainly interacting with iPads for virtual instruments and the popular app Garageband.

Outside of class, Howey encourages his students to participate in his newly-formed Ukulele/Pop Song Club. Students learn songs through YouTube and other online resources. Howey said his door is always open for students who want to pop in and play throughout the school day, too.

“This informal learning has had quite an awesome response, not only from students getting involved, but from parents who are ecstatic that their child has found a talent that they never knew about,” Howey said. “Opportunity is the big push for this program here at Palmyra, and if I can start a kid’s path to play drums in a punk band during college, then that's awesome.”

Howey added, “As a Band director, I love incorporating aural and informal learning to instruments that are traditionally printed-music centered. I wish this kind of stuff were around when I was a kid, and I think that's my drive to do what I do.”

Howey’s approach at Palmyra is becoming increasingly popular and is part of the reason LVC is launching a Modern Band certificate program aimed at school music educators. The program includes six online courses and then a two-week summer residency at the College.