Music Hack 2016 – Innovating for Impact

We welcomed an amazing group of participants, contributors, partners, and audience members for Music Hack 2016 on Saturday, April 9! It was our second annual hackathon event, and our open invitation to Chicago’s brightest minds to dream and build music tech that takes music education to the next level. This year’s event was hosted by 2112 + Fort Knox Studios – just the right space for music-focused creative thinking. Watch our video recap and read below for more details!


Zachariah, a first-year TPMS student, kicked off the day with a performance – and a reminder that the ultimate goal for the day was to make music education even better for him and his 500 fellow students at The People’s Music School.


The hack challenge, previously hinted at but not yet revealed to participants, was posed by TPMS President + Artistic Director Jennifer Kim Matsuzawa, along with TPMS students and Professor Bryan Pardo of Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering + Bienen School of Music…


CHALLENGE: Make a tool that lets students compose music with at least one nonmusical input or inspiration, such as a photo, feeling, movement, or poem – and increases their understanding of musical concepts in using the tool.

Teams formed and got down to work for 8 hours of brainstorming, researching, prototyping, and building.


Coaches from PwC’s Tech Lab, VL Group, and Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering made the rounds throughout the day to suggest resources, answer questions, and push thinking.


Nine teams presented ideas and tools that went beyond our imagination, from tools to create rhythm patterns, to an app that scans visual inputs to synthesize music, to a composition game that teaches the fundamentals of melody – and lots in between.


Judges evaluated teams’ design, impact, technology and presentation.


Judges in the thick of deliberation. From left: Sumit Varshney – Head of Corporate Strategy, Spotify; Chris Amos – Chief Digital Officer, Carnegie Hall; Andrew Barber – Founder + CEO, Fake Shore Drive.

Not pictured: Bryan Pardo – Associate Professor, Northwestern University: Department of Electrical Engineering + Computer Science, Bienen School of Music, Interactive Audio Lab; Jennifer Kim Matsuzawa – President + Artistic Director, The People’s Music School.


Three teams from Northwestern University placed in the top three:

Third place was awarded to Haley De Boom, Aaron Karp, Nikita Patel and Matt Thompson – along with TPMS student Luis Vidal! – for creating “Simplicity,” a web app using user-recorded sounds to collaboratively compose music.

That’s Luis with the mic – a true illustration of the music-tech connections!


Second place went to Yuxuan Xiao and Andy Bayer for their “Drumline” tool, which uses shapes placed on a grid to help students create 3-tone rhythm combinations.


First place winners Alexander Fang, Eric Hao, Dylan Ong and Chengxing Zou created “Color Improviser,” which uses color and a computer keyboard as a tool to teach how music notes combine for twelve-bar blues composition.

Judges + Scott Fetters, Director of 2112, with Music Hack 2016 winners!


Capping off the celebration, our high school string ensemble performed alongside the Avalon String Quartet, who was in residency at TPMS throughout April in partnership with Rush Hour Concerts. Just when everyone thought the day couldn’t get any more inspiring, their beautiful interpretation of Gustav Holst’s Brook Green Suite left the audience with even-bigger smiles and prompted the most resounding applause of the day.

TPMS students in our high school SLAM program perform with the world-renowned Avalon String Quartet


We are grateful to the many sponsors and partners that made Music Hack 2016 a success!


We hope to see everyone again next year!

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