Talk to any serious musician over the age of 30 and they will tell you that the state of music education in America is not what it use to be. With the combination of short budgets and short attention spans, it is nothing short of a miracle for anyone to master an instrument these days.
However, there is a small start up called Chromatik that is looking to transform the way we learn, practice and play music. Still in beta stage, they have attracted the attention of American Idol and hand full of VC’s who think they may be able to revitalize music education. Here is an interview that I recently had with CEO Matt Sandler; about the state of music education in public schools and his plans to make Chromatik the Rosetta Stone of music.
Where did the idea for Chromatik come from?
I’ve been a teacher and student of music for years, working at UCLA and the Los Angeles Unified School District. I play saxophone and I’ve played with a lot of musicians at all levels, so chromatic was born out of those experiences. I wanted to create a great way for teachers and students to get all of the resources that they need.
How would you explain Chromatik to a music teacher or band director who was interested in incorporating technology into the education process?
As a music teacher you distribute sheet music, students play their instruments, practice at home and then you hope they have a great performance. We provide a platform where students can actually practice, annotate, record themselves at home, send it back to their teachers, and receive feedback. Our platform replaces pen and paper while capturing more data to enhance the education process. In addition, music education has the worse student to teacher ratio, so we are helping teachers to work more efficiently.
How were you able to attract the attention of American Idol?
One of my friends from high school is involved in American Idol and we were able to get an introduction. It was a really natural process, so we didn’t have to go searching for a contact. We showed it to the musicians, they loved it and they wanted to use it.
Why do you think so many people have embraced what you guys are doing at such an early stage?
A lot of people would love to play or have tried to play before and quit. So the idea of providing an engaging experience is what people like. On a macro level, what we are doing before has been done but not in the right way.
What’s the right way?
We are the first to a provide cross-platform which is available on the iPad are on the web, and that’s huge. In addition, the usability of the product is fantastic, and it can be used by all genres at all levels.
What do you think about the current state of music education in public schools?
It’s an interesting question… I believe that students have more accessibility to music now and its easier to get involved but we don’t do a great job of providing all of the necessary tools that they need. A lot of that has to do with budget and funding, so we would like to provide a cost-effective platforms that engages students and expands the education process.
What impact would you like for Chromatik to have on music education?
We plan for Chromatik to be the default way that people practice, learn and perform music. We would like to be Rosetta Stone of music education.