The first ever Music Education Hackathon took place June 28-29 in New York City. Around 300 people gathered together in the 24 hour time frame to develop more than 40 usable music education tools. The hackathon brought together groups that rarely collaborate: educators, developers, and the music industry. Collaboration in the music industry is extremely important if we want to progress, and educating the next generation of musicians, music entrepreneurs, and music business professionals is a solid investment in this industry’s future.

Spotify was the catalyst. “We’ve done a lot of hackathons and seen such creative things come out of them,” Kerry Steib, Spotify’s director of social responsibility told EdSurge. “We wanted to unleash that creativity onto something like music education and support the next generation of music makers and musicians.” The Swedish company’s U.S. operations are headquartered in Manhattan, making the New York City school system an obvious partner. (The event was co-sponsored by Spotify andInnovateNYC, an iZone initiative that, among other things, builds bridges to the entrepreneur and edtech communities.)

More than 300 people flowed in and out of co-working space Alley NYC over the course of the hackathon. About 170 were developers. The rest were designers or other helpers, business people and teachers. Some executives and teachers attended as mentors to give developers advice. Bob Lamont, who teaches performing arts at Manhattan’s Gramercy Arts High School, said his most frequent recommendation was to add assessment features. “I asked the developers, ‘How do we know the kids know it?’” he told EdSurge. “The apps should be fun, but also illustrate, ‘I know how to do xyz in terms of musical technique.’” Teachers also shared ideas during the hackathon’s open-mike session. Jamillah Seifullah, who teaches math at Brooklyn’s Pathways in Technology High School, a.k.a. P-TECH, used that time to request an app that would express math equations in sound waves.

The hackathon kicked off Friday night. Developers learned about available tools and formed teams. They could add functionality to their apps via 14 application programming interfaces, including APIs from the Echo Nest,Peachnote and Spotify. Projects were due late Saturday afternoon. The tight turnaround allowed little rest. Roger Li, a Stuyvesant high schooler who participated in the hackathon, said he slept for three hours in a chair inside Alley NYC.

Despite the rush, the resulting projects were relatively polished and incredibly diverse. There were apps that focused on analyzing music, teaching music and making music. Sometimes music served as a bridge to another subject. One developer took Seifullah’s suggestion and built an app that lets users graph trigonometric functions and listen to corresponding sounds. Another app, “Poke A Text,” leverages rap and hip-hop lyrics to teach spelling, grammar and listening comprehension. Users listen to audio clips then translate the lyrics into grammatically correct English. “Map That Music!” links music to geography. Students can click on a world map to listen to songs from a particular country or listen to a song and guess where it originated.

To read the full story and learn about the winners, see the full article on EdSurge.

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