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Arcadia High School

Categories: High School, Auralia

A Music Program Like no Other

The CMAS (Contemporary Music and Sound) program at Arcadia High School, in Phoenix (Arizona, USA), is a music program like no other. It combines an academically and musically rigorous curriculum, with real world experience in writing, performing, recording and producing original music. "Each year, CMAS students present over 9 hours of live music performances, write more than 200 lead sheets of original music and record over 250 original pieces of music. All CMAS events are 100 per cent student created and executed," says the program's creator, music teacher Mr Richard Maxwell.

Introduced around 12 months ago, Musition 4 is a welcome addition to the program. This comprehensive music theory software develops students' skills in areas like reading and writing notes, chord spelling, and, transposition. "Musition has been great to help students make better use of applied music theory skills in their work." Richard Maxwell

Technology as a Tool

Arcadia High School, a public secondary school for 1700 students in Phoenix, has a reputation for combining academic excellence with practical, real world training experience. This philosophy is reflected in the school's CMAS program, where students use professional music industry technologies to compose, perform and produce original music. Richard Maxwell says, "Proper training in the use of technology is vital to the development of a 21st century musician."

Teachers at Arcadia recognise what an important tool technology is in the classroom and state of the art software like Musition 4 means that teachers can cover a wider range of musical subjects in their classes. Musition's 34 music theory topics - covering all aspects of pitch, harmony, rhythm, terms and symbols, and instruments - can be customised to suit any style, be it classical, jazz or contemporary.

Finding the Fun

The majority of CMAS students have little or no music experience when they join the program. Richard Maxwell's philosophy is that all music is valid: he uses the CMAS program to develop students' musical instrument technique and performance skills. Musition 4's friendly interface and interactive drills allow students to develop their knowledge and skills in a fun, relaxed and comfortable environment. Richard Maxwell confirms this: "Students enjoy using Musition very much. It's a fantastic program - very accessible and appealing to the students."

By the end of the CMAS program, students can earn over 15 hours of credit towards a college music course.

"I cannot emphasize enough that it is only because of how we're furthering the use of Musition that this even remotely possible"

More Time for Students

Arcadia's CMAS program has 170 students of mixed ages and abilities. In the past, developing lessons that suited the needs of each student was a very time consuming exercise. Now, teachers can use the pre-prepared lessons that come with Musition 4 to plan their classes, or easily develop and save their own lessons. Musition also allows teachers to store and monitor students' progress at the touch of a button, giving them more time to work with students in the class.

"The Musition software has made it possible to cover a lot more material a lot more efficiently. It has been a tremendous time saver, not only in how the students more effectively make use of instructional time, but also in the time it takes to properly evaluate their progress on music theory topics. I don't see how we could possibly be getting as much done without Musition." Richard Maxwell

Specific Challenges

  • Students compose, perform, record and produce their own music
  • The Contemporary Music and Sound (CMAS) program, the only one of its kind in Arizona, was developed by one of the school’s teachers, Mr Richard Maxwell
  • The CMAS program combines an academically and musically rigorous curriculum with state of the art sound recording and production technology
  • Around 10 per cent of the student population (170 students) are involved in the CMAS program
  • The majority of CMAS students have no prior experience with 8th grade band, strings or choir
  • Every year, students perform over 9 hours of live music, write more than 200 lead sheets of original music, and record over 250 original pieces of music
  • Work done as part of the CMAS program can count towards college music courses
  • Students gain real world training


  • Comprehensive music theory lessons that cover 34 topics
  • Friendly, interactive drills that students find enjoyable and easy to use
  • Customised courses for any music style – classical to jazz and contemporary
  • Facilities for teachers to create customised exams, quizzes and worksheets
  • Easy tracking and assessment of students


  • Students who are engaged and enjoy using the software
  • Students who are better able to apply music theory skills
  • Teachers spend less time marking exams and more time working with students
  • Teachers see improved musicianship and test results