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How to Make a Music Video in Five Simple Steps

By Christy Crawford on April 28, 2011
  • Grades: 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

Do the names Willow Smith, Selena Gomez, or Justin Bieber pop up in class discussions? Are the folders or book bags in your school plastered with images of singing/dancing Disney and Nickelodeon stars? If so, you are not alone. Today's students have been raised on a streaming media diet of MTV, BET, and other channels that promote prepubescent superstars. American Idol and overnight YouTube sensations like Justin Bieber plant dreams of stardom in young minds. Thus, it is inevitable that students will ask, “Can we make a music video?”

Use that curiosity and taste for fame to unlock hidden talent, skyrocket self-esteem, and discover the work involved in producing a music video. Read on to view videos produced by a group of talented Bronx youngsters and to note helpful tricks for moving students from passive media consumers to critical, powerful music video producers.


Last year, a dozen of my school's preteens created and uploaded their first music video with the help of music director Caroline Barnes. The kids were chosen as finalists in Fruitables Seeding the Arts School Music Mash-Up competition! (Elementary and middle-school choruses or glee clubs competed by submitting a video of their mash-up performance along with a 100-word essay on Apple & Eve's Facebook page.)

After a few radio and newspaper interviews to promote the contest, our students joyfully mastered the 30-second sound bite. They won $1000 for the school's music program, and, of course, they won unlimited bragging rights in the Bronx. Take a look at what happened.  

(If the video above doesn't appear, you may view "Bronx New School Vocal Group Mash-Up" at MyFoxNY.com.)


This year, thirty 3rd–5th grade elementary school students produced a mash-up of The Temptations' "Get Ready," Rockwell's "Somebody's Watching Me," and Rare Earth's "I Just Want to Celebrate."  Ms. Barnes arranged their three-song mash-up and directed our singers and an eight-piece band of 9-year-olds. Our young video producers rehearsed tirelessly to produce their musical story about students protesting overbearing teachers and administrators. Take a look:




While these young video producers were not chosen as finalists in this year's Fruitables contest, there is no shame in their entry. Between multiple practices and performances, sharing with parents/guardians, and solicitation of support from friends, family, and community, these "Hallway Hams" did more than just participate in a contest. Programs like the Seeding the Arts Competition provide a platform for all students to build and harness their self-esteem. Our hams rallied together and demonstrated that an ordinary school glee club can become highly competitive in a national championship . . . that is a victory worth laboring for.   

Arts competitions or performances, along with the Internet, afford every digital native the opportunity to become famous for even 15 minutes. Check out the quick video production steps below for your glee club or "Hallway Hams."



Step 1: Assemble a Teaching TEAM 

Music Director Caroline Barnes jams with The Bronx New School Band!Do you have a principal that is interested in using the power of the arts to promote math and literacy scores? Does he use the arts to build the character of all students? Got a music director that rocks, a theater teacher who can whip up a set blindfolded, or a generous parent teacher association? Then, you are ahead of the game! In the process of assembling adults to guide our glee club, we discovered a world-famous dancer and choreographer who was masquerading as an office aide! Enlist the talents of your entire school and community to help students shine.  

 *Katherine, Missy and Angela master the chimes! Music Director Caroline Barnes jams with the band! 


Step 2: Acquire Release Forms and Assign Student Production Roles

Jonathan works the audio board! Once you have the signed release forms from parents/guardians allowing the children to be videotaped, then assign the roles. Who will be the cinematographer(s)? Who will be the editor or the audio person? Who will operate the soundboard? Who will be gaffer or lighting technician, prop master and set designer? 



Step 3: Choose the Right Song to Storyboard

Use this opportunity to introduce songs that stray away from narcissism or violence. Video of Ozzy Osbourne biting the head off a bat is interesting, but not appropriate. Use KickYouTube to download mentor videos (videos of great old school performances that don't need to be censored for school). Question the music producer's motivation and/or purpose in creating this video. Ask students if there is anything in the video that the producer would be embarrassed to view in front of their grandmother or child someday.

Choose songs with themes or concepts simple enough for visual representation in a music video storyboard. Storyboarding prevents any confusion about the expected look of each shot for young camera people. (Download a FREE storyboard of any size at Printable Paper. Just add lines and copy for your students.)

Recording a live performance of your glee club?  Use storyboards to help young producers decipher which part of the song or video demands a tight shot of the lead singer, a wide shot of the band, a swift pan across the room, etc. 


Step 4: Gather Equipment, Find an Ideal Setting, and Create Props

Theater veteran Emilyn Garrick, helps students create sets and props fit for Broadway! You'll need a camera, tripod, and a computer for editing your video. For the best audio, use a camera with an external mic and be prepared to buy or rent lavalier mics for soloists. If you are shooting indoors, make sure to shut off a noisy air conditioner or mute the booming hum of a cafeteria refrigerator. How big is your set? Unless you are shooting a Twilight sequel, make sure it is flooded with light. If you are low on funds for props, take advantage of everyday school settings. (In the 2010 Apple & Eve Best School Music Mash-up in America contest, another elementary school finalist created an adorable video by popping in and out of the seats of an empty bus.)

 *Theater veteran Emilyn Garrick, helps students create sets and props fit for Broadway! 



Step 5: Editing, Uploading, and Declaring Performance Victory

The Carlton family edits and uploads a music video.

Videos that are easiest to edit utilize just one camera and very few cuts. Use Windows Movie Maker on your PC, or iMovie or Final Cut Pro on your Mac to add a title and credits. Be prepared to share your hard work at an all-school video screening and/or on safe school sites such as SchoolTube!

How are the arts, including technology, used at your school? Please share!


*The Carlton family edits and uploads a music video.

Comments (5)

dear bronx new school, i miss you guys soooooooooooo much. it was awesome to be apart of the school. one day i will vist you, tell dinah abd em, i said hi.

Dear, Bronx New School Staff, Christy,Mr.Smith,and Mr Scott, we the students of the Bronx New School are very blessed to have a teacher and principle and asst. principle, as wonderful as you guys. I have to give credit to Kevin,Nancey,Dinah,claduett,And Rhonda G for letting the students go at busy times.So I would like to thank the Bronx New School Staff For Helping us with this great projet. Especially Quincella,Caroline,and Christy.We love the Bronx New School. Love,Tsedale Forbes and Rodney Byke!;)

You are absolutely right. Winning becomes secondary to producing a product that all concerned are proud of. Kids and adults will work harder than any "regular" school work can get them to...and achieve things that none of them would have thought possible.

School often tries to prepare kids for the adult world of work. The curriculum and the kids themselves may imagine professions like doctor, firefighter, accountant, scientist, and, perhaps, even dancer, singer, baseball player, and artist. But involving kids in real projects exposes them to the kinds of futures that they don't even know are possibilities: choreographer, music arranger, video editor, set builder, publicist and more. And tapping into the expertise of the professionals in the school community expand the possibilities even further.

These students truly are lucky to have the talents and commitment of the adults in their school available to them--musicians, dancers...and of course, a fabulous and creative technology teacher!

We know that most schools can provide children with great experiences. That becomes even more possible when schools like yours provide examples of what can be done.

Somebody *is* "watching you." In fact, thanks to you, lots and lots of people are.


I'm not sure who the blessed folks are here-- the kids?? or the staff??? The kids and the high family involvement makes working at P.S. 51 a dream!! Thank you, Forbes family!

The kids at this school have been blessed with a group of wonderful, creative and talented professionals. Mr. Paul Smith Principal, Teacher and All school staff, Thanks for enriching the life and education of our children.

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