R-MA MIDI Lab Complete

Last summer, students at Randolph-Macon Academy’s summer camp had the opportunity to take piano lessons on an 88-key weighted piano in a new music lab.  R-MA Middle School students were then able to enroll in a keyboarding class in the fall. However, it wasn’t until the last few weeks that the Academy’s new MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) lab was completed, and the students began exploring the world of composing for the first time.

The MIDI lab consists of six keyboards for the students and one for the teacher. All are connected to computers, complete with recording programs and composing programs such as Sibelius, and to a central sound interface that allows the instructor, Michael DeMato, to have a lot of fun in his instructing.

“I can be at my station over there, and I can tap into what any of the students are doing,” he said. “I can listen in and see if they’re doing something correct or not.” DeMato said he can also instruct the students from his station, and via the headsets, the students are able to speak with him individually and with each other as needed.  When one of his students accused him of enjoying the “listening in” part too much, he laughingly agreed.

As the course continues and matures in future years, DeMato expects it to focus on keyboarding in the first semester of the school year, and address music composition and recording the second half of the year. Already the class has gained exposure, as the students were able to perform at the Middle School talent show and will play at the eighth grade promotion ceremony on June 7th.

Middle School Principal Derrick Leasure noted that the need for a technology-based music class was recognized in 2008 when Randolph-Macon Academy made the decision to require a visual and performing arts (VPA) credit for graduation, in response to the demand from colleges for students to have such credits.


“MIDI labs have been around [for decades],” he commented. “We thought that if kids aren’t interested in regular band or chorus, they might be interested in digital music creation. Our hope is that this course will pique their interest in something traditional—the 88-key weighted piano—that would segue into the digital realm. I worked at a school that had a similar program, and there was a waiting list for five sections of the class. Since in my opinion we have the best MIDI lab in the multi-county area, I would expect this course here at R-MA to become just as popular.”

 “I think it was a good idea to have this, especially for people who don’t want to play in band,” said Meghan Melberg, an eighth grader at the school.

Her classmate, eighth grader Emma Bunker, agreed. “It’s modern so we are able to do things other people wouldn’t be able to do. It’s cool.”

Randolph-Macon Academy (R-MA), founded in 1892, is a college-preparatory, coeducational day and boarding school for students in grades 6 through 12.  Students in grades 9-12 participate in R-MA’s 91st Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) and have the option to participate in a unique flight program. R-MA is affiliated with the United Methodist Church and is located in Front Royal, VA.