The pandemic provided an unforeseen opportunity for Rob Chilton. “When school shut down in March 2020, I decided to make videos lessons to continue teaching my beginning band students,” he explains. “I decided that the option that provided the most value would be investing my time in strengthening my students’ literacy from home. Teaching the nuts and bolts of rhythm, staff notation and piano keyboard seemed to be easier to do remotely than monitoring their embouchure, hand position and other elements of performing.”
Starting with a basic camera, white board and colored dry-erase markers, Chilton soon began experimenting with graphic design and more professional software. He then added special effects and different characters into his lessons. Videos became a viable virtual tool to teach his students at Killian Middle School in Lewisville, Texas, throughout the 2020-2021 school year.
In May 2021, Chilton made the tough decision to leave the classroom to develop his video series that he named RC Theory, which is geared for beginning band, orchestra and choir classrooms. During its first year, RC Theory was used in 12 schools in two states. Currently, it is being taught in 85 schools across 10 states. “I’ve had the opportunity to visit multiple schools that use RC Theory, and the reception has been incredible,” Chilton says. “Students tell me that they love the videos and often ask for autographs and want me to do impressions of myself from the videos!”
Music educators say that RC Theory introduces concepts quickly and efficiently and makes reading music fun. They also tell Chilton that the series of 36 weekly videos lessons gives them a little breathing room in their busy schedules.
Chilton started RC Theory as a way to connect with today’s generation of learners, who are living in a drastically different world than the one he grew up in the 1990s. “They play video games, watch YouTube and scroll social media,” he says. “My videos are professionally made but with a YouTube feel. Colorful graphics, special effects and quick dialogue make learning to read music feel more relevant to today’s generation.”
Chilton’s immediate goal is to reach more music educators to introduce them to RC Theory and how it can help streamline their musical literacy instruction. His long-term goal is to develop more content that positively impacts the experiences of both teachers and students. “The job of a teacher isn’t getting easier, and I want to bring relief to the table to empower educators to do their job with efficiency and longevity.” Chilton says. “For students, I want to make learning to read music fun and desirable!”