University of South Florida


Join the fun at the next free performance on Tuesday, April 4, at 7:30 p.m. inside the USF Concert Hall on the Tampa campus.

USF iPad band launches international tour

By Torie Doll, University Communications and Marketing

The University of South Florida’s iPad band, Touch, is taking its interactive musical show on the road as part of the “Turn the Quiet Down” tour. Audience participation is a key part of the band’s concerts, creating a lively experience where everyone is on their feet. The student-led music ensemble is visiting schools across the U.S. and England to showcase the unique benefits of non-traditional music education and recruit students to the USF School of Music.

A group photo of the six members of the USF iPad band, Touch, holding up iPads to display digital instruments.

Band members (L to R) Jonah Watson, David Williams, Ryan Boots, Haley Garrett, Merry Spagnuolo and Amanda Coleman [Photo by Cassidy Delamarter, UCM]

“We really get to have a one-on-one moment with all of these students and share our ideas on how music education’s future should look,” said Merry Spagnuolo, band member and music education student. 

Touch features founder David Williams, director of the USF School of Music, and five undergraduate music education students. The students have full creative control over the shows, choosing what songs are played – from covers to original music – to how the songs are played and the roles of each member in the ensemble. Touch is a unique example of a learner-centered teaching method, where the focus of activity shifts from the teacher to the students. 

“Educational research suggests that it’s the one who does the work who does the learning, and allowing students to do all of the creative musical work in an ensemble allows them to grow musically in ways that can better help develop lifelong musicianship,” Williams said.

The USF iPad band, Touch, performs on a stage in front of an audience of children. Everyone has is having fun waving their hands in the air.

The band performs as part of an outreach program with Hillsborough County Public Schools  [Photo by Bryce Womeldurf, College of The Arts]

“Music education should be about putting the student first and putting them having fun first,” said Jonah Watson, band member and music education student. “It should be getting the kids invested in something, so they want to learn it and they want to have fun doing it.”

Another educational component of this unique band is the accessibility to music. By using digital technology, students have a variety of instruments in the palm of their hand and can get started making music with just a simple touch. The iPad is just one of many digital musical instruments available today, all of which can be used to create new pathways into music education. Using an iPad breaks down the barrier to entry because the participant can start creating music and expressing themselves right away with no prior music experience, and it establishes that music is for everyone.

Touch was formed in 2010 when Apple first introduced the iPad. Williams, inspired by the possibility of creating music with the tablet, gathered a few USF faculty members to experiment with the new tool and by 2011, formed a band. Over time, band membership expanded to include students and now exclusively focuses on them.

Since its formation, Touch has performed at two TEDx Tampa Bay events, appeared on a segment for ESPN, been invited to audition for “America’s Got Talent” and has played for six national music and technology professional conferences. Exclusive to the band’s annual concert at USF, Touch includes collaborations with student and faculty vocalists, dancers, actors and visual artists. The band is also dedicated to helping make positive change to society through music and often partners with non-profit organizations.

The “Turn the Quiet Down” tour includes multiple stops across Florida, as well as a visit to Philadelphia, Nashville, San Diego, Los Angeles and an international stop in England. Catch Touch while the band is back in town for a free performance on Tuesday, April 4, at 7:30 p.m. inside the USF Concert Hall on the Tampa campus. The concert will feature several original pieces, including collaborations with the USF School of Theatre and Dance and the School of Art and Art History. Click here to reserve tickets to the show and learn more about other performances available for free to the public here

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