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DARBY – Electronic music is a big part of kids’ lives these days, and Darby music teacher Alex Petrusaitis is working to make it a part of their educational experience as well.

Using $3,000 of his own money, more than $2,000 from the school budget and another $6,000 in grants from the Darby Schools Excellence Fund, Petrusaitis has built a sophisticated computer-based electronic music studio in the back of his band room that would rival any public school’s studio in the state, including those at the two major universities.

And his students love it.

Petrusaitis said his goal is to allow his kids to experiment with music production on their own terms.

“I always listen to the kids talk, and they always talk about dubstep and electronic music,” he recalled. “So I was able to purchase a copy of Ableton Live, a music production software, and start our own electronic music studio. The computers have a program that lets you create music and control music without having to look at the computer, so I get kids to compose with computers.”

Petrusaitis said electronic music is a genre that is quickly gaining popularity with the younger generations.

“There is a big electronic music scene, and this gives them a brief taste of what that is like,” he said. “I’m sure there are other schools that have keyboards, but I would be really surprised if we aren’t the only school in the state that has something like this. Some of the kids did their own rap song. They get excited.”

Petrusaitis has slowly added more and more equipment over the past few years.

“I’m trying to build up an electronic music lab,” he said. “We have MIDI controllers and the kids make beats with them, compose with them. You can take a vocal microphone and plug it into an audio interface and record yourself. It’s fairly unique in our specific setup.”

Right now, the kids only use the equipment when they have free time or after school, but Petrusaitis is working with school officials to create a full electronic music class next year.

“I’m the kind of a teacher that wants you to like what you do,” he said. “I can still teach music fundamentals like rhythm, pitch, harmony and timbre and use computers to facilitate that stuff. There is a lot of trial and error to learn, you could never master all of it.”

The class would actually offer a career that students like Chase Hetland, a junior, would be interested in.

“It would be awesome to make music a career,” he said on Thursday as he toyed with the Ableton Push control board to create a song. “I would definitely be excited to take it as a class. I would move everything to take it.”

Petrusaitis said that as computers become more and more prevalent, students with computer experience will be in demand.

“Most things are going digital, from TV to movies,” he explained. “It’s ‘compose a song on a computer.’ Computers are such a big part of today’s society, it just makes sense to incorporate it into the classroom, and this is a great way to do it musically. The kids love it. I teach grades 5-12 and I even have fifth-graders saying, ‘Hey, can I play around with it?’ I can accommodate it for any age level. Most kids like to hear those cool electronic sounds.”

Reach reporter David Erickson at 363-3300 or

Reporter David Erickson can be reached at


Reporter for the Ravalli Republic.