How a Norwegian Music Educator Motivates Self-Expression

Eldar Skjørten is a lifelong music teacher dedicated to helping students throughout Norway creatively express themselves through the art of music-making. Back in 2014, seeing a need for greater resources, methods, motivation, and engagement for music composition in schools, he started Skapia, an NGO/foundation dedicated to music learning. Skapia’s core program is a musical composition competition in which participants are given an opportunity to use Soundtrap’s online studio to produce their song submissions. Over the years, Skjørten has also expanded his project musikkpedagogikk, an open resource for music teachers in Norway to develop courses and webinars, including a partnership with Soundtrap to produce teaching materials adapted to Norwegian curriculum.

The Musical Composition Competition

“Creativity is a key to life mastery,” says Skjørten. Music offers young people a playful and intuitive approach to the creative process and Skapia’s competition organizes that effort in an environment that celebrates the creativity of all. “The focus is on the compositions based on the children’s own heartfelt musical expressions and all kinds of music is submitted,” Skjørten adds.

The competition invites schools from all over Norway to participate, and participants receive valuable feedback from professional composers and songwriters. Two competitions are held annually, one for students ages 6-12 (Veslefrikk – after a well known fairytale) and the other (U-trykk – a double meaning referring to youth and expression) for students 13-16 years of age. Six groups from each competition are chosen as finalists and are invited to Skapia for an additional round of evaluation. From the six finalists one winner from each group, Veslefrikk and U-trykk are chosen to perform in Oslo with the Norwegian Radio Orchestra.

Before the performance, winners’ recordings are sent to a group of master students in composition who, in collaboration with their teachers, arrange and score the pieces for the kids to play together with the orchestra. The students come to Oslo for a workshop and a rehearsal that culminates with a live performance along with the orchestra. The event is live-streamed to many of the schools in Norway, presented by a well-known television personality. At last year’s event, the minister of education handed out the award, signifying the country’s appreciation for music education.

A recent winning performance:

The Soundtrap Experience

Early on in the formation of the competition, Skjørten came to realize that a collaborative, easy-to-understand recording tool would be necessary to help facilitate the process. He immediately thought of Soundtrap because of its balance between ease-of-use and multiple built-in tools that allow for the recording of acoustic instruments, digital music, sound editing, and collaboration between students. In addition, it presents teachers with an uncomplicated program to launch the composition process. 

“With a tool like Soundtrap, it’s ready [right away]. It’s easy enough to learn yet powerful,” he says.  “When I teach students to make music digitally, I want them to be able to do that later in their life.” 

According to Skjørten, Soundtrap offers a springboard into professional pursuits, being able to use loops, tracks, mix, chop a region and do it backwards much like an engineer. “The principles behind Soundtrap are the same as the principles behind any other professional [endeavor],” he adds. “It’s relatable in all directions and that balance for me as an educator is really, really important.” But most of all, Skjørten enjoys how the program remains intuitive enough to encourage creation and self-expression for those just starting out.

A project submitted to Skapia: 64 Å – Gjøre – Ditt – 2

The Creation of musikkpedagogikk

The popularity and success of the songwriting competition led Skjørten to further efforts with musikkpedagogikk, a website that provides courses and webinars geared to the educator. Using Soundtrap, he gives teachers curriculum ideas to expand music learning inside the classroom.

Below are a few examples of curriculum Skjørten developed using Soundtrap:

  • Freestyle Beat! A lesson plan for music class or in language class when creating lyrics. Ages 5-10
  • Luna (build a song with “songstarter”) – Skjørten’s original composition “Luna”, based on a songstarter loop in Soundtrap’s loop library. Students access his Soundtrap project, creating their own songs from a songstarter-loop. Ages 8-10. 
  • Podcast – Students become producers of academic content, making choices about what to include and how to communicate in podcasts. Music contributes to the engagement process. Ages 5-10.
  • Explore sounds and moods – Introduction to making music, exploring sounds and moods. It focuses on letting students learn Soundtrap by exploring the tool rather than having the teacher demonstrate it all. Students learn from each other’s exploration. Ages 3-7
  • Sound stories – Recordings of speech, colored with sounds and moods. Students learn storytelling, communicating what they have learned in one or more subjects. It’s educational, creative and fun! Ages 1-7

The Future of Self-Expression Through Music

Skjørten’s commitment to Skapia and the website musikkpedagogikk rely on the generosity of individuals as well as the backing of composers’ associations in Norway to keep operations up and running. He plans to continue his efforts with the competition, developing teaching models, live events, and video offerings to add to his playground of self-expression. Skjørten has an unyielding commitment to uplifting kids through music. 

“I believe there are really two main goals,” he says. “Children and youth should be able to explore creativity through music and explore their potential. They should also look at themselves as creative people who can collaborate with others. It’s an important part of life.” 

Undoubtedly, he is doing more than his part in providing music resources, knowledge, and opportunities to allow the youth in Norway (and perhaps beyond) the ability to express, experiment, and creativity open their minds to discovery. Learn more about Skapia and musikkpedagogikk and the extraordinary efforts of Eldar Skjørten and his team.