The Contemporary Music program is designed for students who are interested in learning popular styles of music including rock, blues, jazz, bluegrass, folk, and more! Classes are offered to increase your knowledge and sharpen your musical ear to perform, improvise, write songs, and use technology to record and produce your own music. We offer ensembles so you can develop your new-found skills while learning to play in a band; technology classes where your laptop is your primary musical tool; or classes in the harmony and language of modern music with a special focus on improving your listening ability for improvisation and playing by ear.
Private and Group lessons in these instruments:
Electric and steel string guitar
Contemporary vocal style and technique
Keyboards and piano
Violin/bluegrass and traditional fiddle
Classes and private instruction available in:
Pop Music Ensembles (different styles available)
Music Production (with GarageBand)
Ear-robics (intensive ear training)
Contemporary Harmony and Music Theory
Workshops and Master Classes (with local pop music luminaries)
Contemporary Music Faculty
Harry Chalmiers, Program Director
Learn under the guidance of Harry Chalmiers, lifelong performing guitarist and composer who has returned to teaching after a career as Vice President of Berklee College of Music, President of McNally Smith, and Executive Director of MacPhail Center for Music.
Randy Sabien, Violin and Mandolin
Internationally known performer, recording artist, and former chair of the String Departments of both the Berklee College of Music and McNally Smith College of Music, Randy Sabien is a highly sought-after educator who will teach a variety of musical styles, including jazz, blues, rock, bluegrass, and traditional fiddle, while also coaching contemporary string ensemble and start-up bands.
Arthur “LA” Buckner, Drums
LA Buckner holds a master’s degree in Music Performance from McNally Smith and is the co-host of Sound Field, a new video project by PBS exploring the music theory, production, history, and culture behind our favorite songs and musical styles.
Yazmin Bowers, Keyboard and Songwriting
Yazmin started studying piano at age 4 and started singing shortly after that. She went on to study at McNally Smith College of Music, receiving a full scholarship. She also attended the highly esteemed Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana, Cuba. For many years she’s been immersed in the world of Cuban music and dance, and also has an active career as a singer-songwriter performing regularly with her group Beat Zero. She will be teaching private lessons in piano and offering several group courses in her specialty field of Cuban music and dance
The Contemporary Music program will employ other experienced and highly talented teaching artists previously on the faculty of McNally Smith College of Music.
Contemporary Music Classes
Check our registration page for currently offered group classes.
Pop Music Ensembles
Ensembles may be formed to explore one or more popular music styles such as jazz, blues, rock, bluegrass, hip-hop, and more. Artist/educators who specialize in the styles you wish to explore will work with your group to improve your rehearsal technique, your understanding of the history and fundamentals of the chosen style, and help you improve your musicianship as you hone the sound of your band to achieve melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic accuracy.
Learn basic songwriting techniques and common song forms through listening, analysis and performance of songs. Students will develop a strong sense of melody, harmony, bass line development, and rhythm. Learn how to write your own lyrics, how to set them to music, and become familiar with technology to help you record and present your songs at their very best.
Music Production (with GarageBand)
This eight-week course introduces the technical and musical skills you need to create and produce songs on your computer. Use the amazing sounds, instruments, recording and editing capability of GarageBand to make music to share with a few friends or with the world! Explore the basics of song writing including song forms, chord progressions, shaping a melody, choosing rhythm and tempo, lyrics and titles, and how to arrange these elements into original music that expresses your creative spirit.
Ear-Robics (intensive ear training and music theory)
Nothing is more important to musicians than developing your ability to listen to music carefully, intelligently, and with confidence. Good listening leads to better performance, deeper understanding, and greater creativity and imagination in experiencing music. Test and improve your musical ear with highly specific training exercises carefully developed in the classroom, in practice, and performance. Gain deeper understanding of contemporary harmony, rhythm, and melodic practice by learning to hear it!