The Sheldon SOLID Music Project

The Sheldon SOLID Music Project is an education program of the Sheldon Arts Foundation, underwritten by the Boeing Company, with input from the St. Louis Science Center, St. Louis Public Schools, St. Louis Archdiocesan Schools, Grand Center Arts Academy and Boeing scientists, in which students invent their own musical instrument – using science and math to make music – and using music to encourage use of science and math. It is a STEAM project, combining the creativity of the arts with the STEM disciplines of science, technology, engineering and math.

Students will learn about the science of sound and how vibrations are created by the three kinds of musical instruments – percussion, wind and string - and are transmitted to our ears. Students will learn about musical instruments from around the world and how to construct their own instrument from found objects and common materials, making an instrument that can change pitch and volume, while making an instrument that is also a work of visual art. Students will utilize the engineering cycle of identifying the challenge, designing a solution, building and testing, and redesigning to improve the solution. Students will employ the creativity of the arts while using STEM disciplines to create their own instrument.

There are several components to The Sheldon’s SOLID Music Project:

  1. Free, 3-hour Professional Development workshops for teachers at The Sheldon, or brought out to your school district, organized by The Sheldon, St. Louis Public Schools, St. Louis Archdiocesan Schools and the St. Louis Science Center, will provide teachers with the tools to have their schools participate.

  2. Performances - Schools are encouraged to attend Sheldon music education programs in jazz, folk, blues, classical and world music where instruments, including world instruments, are demonstrated.

  3. In-school classroom activities will take place over approximately ten weeks, one class period per week. Participating schools will be offered either the St. Louis Science Center's "Science of Sound" touring program or teaching materials for the local teacher to demonstrate vibration, sound and the basic creation of music. Teacher handbooks will provide the tools for teachers to involve their students in an innovative set of classroom activities. Students will work in teams as they implement the engineering cycle in creating a musical instrument that can change pitch and volume. Schools may request the participation of a Boeing scientist in the classroom process. Musical instruments both function and are three-dimensional works of art, providing opportunity to teach the principals of visual art. All students will write a description of their project, their goals, issues faced and solutions found. Students will demonstrate their instruments for classmates and possibly other classes in the school, with performances presenting both individual instruments and groups of instruments.

  4. Exhibitions - Schools will be asked to submit one or more instrument entries to The Sheldon for possible inclusion in an exhibit of student work to be shown in the Sheldon Art Galleries in the Fall of 2017.

  5. A special end-of-the-year celebration at The Sheldon will recognize students and schools for their work on the project, with opportunities for students to speak about their work and demonstrate their instruments.

The Sheldon SOLID Music project will help schools meet Missouri and Illinois education standards.

supplies for program

man plays paper towel roll

rubber bands

woman blows a horn

group doing project together

Photos by Odell Mitchell, Jr.

Additional Resources:

Suggested Apps for the Classroom:

Vibration Research for iPad and Android
n-Track Tuner for iPad and Android
Spectrum Analyze for Android

Hartenberger World Music Collection Online Catalog

Instruments made from scrap materials

What happens when textiles meet modern dance all dressed up in a "Sound Suit?"

Street Musicians with unbelievable handmade guitars

A carrot-clarinet

Yaybahar; a new acoustic instrument that creates sounds like a digital synthesizer

Cymatics; the science of visualizing sound

Frequency and pitch

How does length affect pitch?

Changing guitar string length

Scales and keys

How string instruments work

How woodwinds instruments work

How percussion instruments work

A metal plate is vibrated by using a tone generator, as the pitch of tone increases, geometric patterns will form and become more complex

Fun Science Demonstrations: How do vibrations make sound

Makerspace: A unique classroom designed to promote creativity at Grand Center Arts Academy