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7 Reed Care Tips for Beginners



Installing an alto sax reed

It’s a scenario every band teacher has experienced: a student walks up with tears in her eyes and wails, “My clarinet is broken!” or declares, “My sax squeaks on every note!” You look under the ligature, and an ugly swamp monster stares back at you; the reed is nearly black with who-knows-what and chipped so badly you suspect it was used to carve rock. You shudder, tell the student to carefully place this reed in a disposable bio-hazard container, and put on a new one. In the end you’ve lost valuable time – and the focus of the band.

Avoid this scenario with a few simple reed care tips, saving time, money, and headaches for you and your students.

1. Clean Mouths = Clean Instruments

Simple, right? Encourage students to take a few minutes at the end of lunch to go brush their teeth. Their reeds, pads, and dentists will thank you for it.

2. Beware the Ligature

Make sure students start by placing the ligature on the mouthpiece. When inserting the reed keep the tip pointing out, away from the ligature as seen in the images above. Putting the reed on in this way (heel first) safeguards the tip from deadly encounters with the ligature.

3. Get a Case

Reed cases keep reeds flat as they dry, which prevents warping. The clear plastic cases reeds are packaged in don’t actually keep them flat; they simply protect the reed from getting chipped during shipping. Cases also help prevent accidental chips since students can more easily slide reeds into place. A small reed case that holds four reeds will suffice and are online for as little as $15. A case will quickly pay for itself in savings on reeds.

4. Pick a Goldilocks Reed

Reeds should be not too hard, not too soft, but “just right.” I suggest starting students on a strength 2 reed and moving up from there. If a 2 is too hard, it’s probably a sign that the student is not using air properly or even biting rather than the reed actually being too hard. By the middle of their second year, students should have enough wind power to move up to a 3. Don’t get too carried away with reed strength, though – a 3 1/2 to 4 is about as hard as most players need to go. We’ll leave getting red in the face to the brass section.

5. Have at Least Three Good Reeds at All Times

Accidents happen. Reeds will get chipped, and reeds will get warped. If students have three reeds in a case ready to go, then one can chip, one can warp, and one will still be just right (or at least playable). At the very least, the odds are in your favor.

6. Rotate Your Reeds

Playing the same reed day after day will wear it out very quickly, sometimes within a week or two! Play a different reed every day to give the others a break. Let students know that a reed should only be played about five minutes a day for the first week. The reed has been dry for at least two years before your student even gets it, and this “breaking in” process controls and slows the inevitable warping. Breaking in and rotating reeds will make them last significantly longer, saving parents money and helping students make consistent sounds.

7. Be Patient

Reeds are going to be difficult, finicky, and generally a giant pain – it’s a fact of life for a reed player. Help students be patient when a reed warps or chips. And just because a reed is warped, don’t throw it out! Moisten it daily and let it dry on a flat surface, and it may just straighten itself out over time.

Following these easy reed care tips will save time, money and frustration for your beginning reed players, their parents, and your entire ensemble.

Maggie GreenwoodMaggie Greenwood directs the woodwind studios and orchestras at the Colorado School of Mines.

An active teacher, clinician and performer in the Denver area, she holds the Master of Music degree in clarinet performance from the University of North Texas, where she studied with Daryl Coad.

New SmartMusic Home Page



Carosel at TOP 700

Today we are excited to release a completely new look for SmartMusic home page. The top of the new page, seen above, features a rotating (and frequently changing) carousel. Our intent is to draw students’ attention to music in SmartMusic that may be of interest to them. In fact, inspiring students to explore SmartMusic content (and practice more) is the driving force behind this update.

Below the carousel we’ve placed select SmartMusic titles into 15 genres, from Rock and Masterworks to Cinematic Sound and Pirates:

Genres 2

When you select any of these genres (as I’ve done with Musicals above) you’ll see several related titles, and, in a glance at the upper right corner of each piece, the JW Pepper skill level associated with that piece:

Musicals 2The JW Pepper skill level abbreviations are: B (Beginning), VE (Very Easy),  E (Easy), ME (Medium Easy),
M (Medium), MA (Medium Advanced), A (Advanced), and NR (Not Rated).

In addition to giving students more ways to explore new music, we hope this interface will also be useful to you as you seek out music to engage your students. To be clear, these genres are just a subset of all the music included with SmartMusic, which can still be found by clicking on “Find Music” or “Browse All Music.”

Even though the appearance of the home page has changed, rest assured your students’ assignments remain easily assessable under “classes” on the bottom left side of the page (as seen below):

Classes 2

Have any questions, reactions, or concerns surrounding the new home page? Please let us know by clicking on “Comments” below.

SmartMusic Repertoire Released: 34 Ensemble Titles



SmartMusic Repertoire Release for August

This week we added 34 new ensemble titles to the SmartMusic Repertoire Library. These additions included choral titles as well as pieces for concert band, jazz ensemble, string orchestra and full orchestra:

‘S Wonderful Gershwin, Ira; Gershwin, George; Baker, Paul Alfred Publishing Co., Inc. Jazz Ensemble ME
Witching Hour, The Standridge, Randall D. Grand Mesa Music Publishers Concert Band ME
Silver Skies Rogers, Mekel FJH Music Company Concert Band VE
Little Suite for Band Standridge, Randall FJH Music Company Concert Band E
Evocatio Balmages, Brian FJH Music Company Concert Band MA
Storm Warning! Sheldon, Robert Alfred Publishing Co., Inc. Concert Band E
Feliz Navidad Feliciano, Jose; Blair, Peter Belwin Jazz Ensemble E
Days of Wine and Roses, The Mancini, Henry; Rivello, Dave; Mercer, Johnny Belwin Jazz Ensemble M
Jeannine Pearson, Duke; Dana, Mike Belwin Jazz Ensemble MA
Deck the Halls Traditional; Collins-Dowden, Mike Belwin Jazz Ensemble E
Don’t Steal My Stuff Goodwin, Gordon Belwin Jazz Ensemble M
Salsa Caribeña López, Victor Belwin Jazz Ensemble MA
Excelsior King, Karl L.; Milford, Gene LudwigMasters Concert Band ME
Suite from The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Shore, Howard; López, Victor Alfred Publishing Co., Inc. Full Orchestra M
English Carol Collage Traditional Carols, ; Holmes, Brian Wingert-Jones Publications, a division of J.W. Pepper. String Orchestra M
Midnight at the Mausoleum Smith, Brent D. Wingert-Jones Publications, a division of J.W. Pepper. String Orchestra M
Pioneer Sky Spata, Doug Wingert-Jones Publications, a division of J.W. Pepper. String Orchestra ME
Wisp Atwell, Shirl Jae Wingert-Jones Publications, a division of J.W. Pepper. String Orchestra M
Andante from Symphony No. 94 (The Surprise Symphony) Haydn, Franz Joseph; Farrar-Royce, Janet Alfred Publishing Co., Inc. String Orchestra M
Tidings of Comfort and Joy! (Based on “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen”) Traditional English Carol; Story, Michael Belwin Full Orchestra ME
South County Sketches McBrien, Brendan Highland/Etling Publishing Full Orchestra MA
Arizona Sun Wood, Mark LudwigMasters String Orchestra E
Bach to Rock Wood, Mark LudwigMasters String Orchestra M
Come Fly With Me Wood, Mark LudwigMasters String Orchestra M
Wood’s Bolero (Grade 2) Wood, Mark; Baldassare, Joseph LudwigMasters String Orchestra ME
Wood’s Bolero (Grade 3) Wood, Mark; Baldassare, Joseph LudwigMasters String Orchestra M
String Thang (Grade 2) Wood, Mark LudwigMasters String Orchestra E
String Thang (Grade 3) Wood, Mark LudwigMasters String Orchestra M
Jubilate Deo – SATB Halmos, Laszlo Santa Barbara Music Publishing Choir ME
Nada Te Turbe – SSAA Szymko, Joan Santa Barbara Music Publishing Choir ME
Diffusa Est Gratia – SATB Miskinis, Vytautas Santa Barbara Music Publishing Choir ME
Sonnet of the Moon – SATB Childs, David N.; Best, Charles Santa Barbara Music Publishing Choir ME
Ave Maria Gratia Plena – SSAA Busto, Javier Walton Music Corp Choir ME
Afternoon on a Hill – SATB Barnum, Eric William; St. Vincent Millay, Edna Walton Music Corp Choir MA

You can request a piece for a future SmartMusic release here.

SmartMusic Update August 2015



SmartMusicUpdates_BlogHeader_FNL.jpg

Today we released a SmartMusic update. While a few small improvements are included, the primary purpose of this release was to resolve two issues:

  • Certain Mac users were crashing when exporting MP3 files or submitting assignments
  • An SSL handshake issue was preventing some Windows users from launching SmartMusic

If you are using the latest version of SmartMusic, this update will be applied automatically unless you have turned off automatic updates. To update from earlier versions of SmartMusic, download the latest version from www.smartmusic.com/support/downloads.

To stay posted on this and other SmartMusic updates, subscribe to this Knowledge Base article. If you have any questions regarding this update, please contact our Customer Success Team.

Tarpon Springs, Florida: Marching Band Champions and More



Tarpon Springs at Grand Nationals

I keep hearing great things from Florida about the Tarpon Springs High School music program, whose marching band is a seven-time Bands of America AA and AAA Division National Champion (seen above in Grand Nationals). Some of their more recent accomplishments include:

  • 2014 Bands of America Grand National Champions and AA National Champions
  • One of 11 bands selected to perform at the 2013 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
  • Director Kevin Ford named the 2014 Outstanding Educator for Pinellas County Public Schools
  • Director Kevin Ford one of five finalists for the 2015 Florida State Teacher of the Year award

Not only do they also have an incredible jazz band program (a 2015 Berklee High School Jazz Festival Champion), the department has seven different ensembles performing on a national level.

Before you assume they must be from an especially affluent community to be able to fund such achievement, guess again. Tarpon Springs is a tremendous success story; in this and a subsequent post I’ll talk with director Kevin Ford in the hope of discovering some of the secrets behind their success.

Can you give us a sense of what makes your program unique?

Our program’s title is The Tarpon Springs Leadership Conservatory for the Arts. Our program combines leadership development with the performing arts. We are a public school program and there are no audition requirements to participate in our program. During our students’ freshman year, in addition to their performance ensemble course, all conservatory students are enrolled in a Student Leadership course. The course focuses on attitude development, positive role modeling, understanding self-motivation, responsibility assessment, communication skills, personal responsibility, sensitivity in working with peers, action plans that achieve group goals, and in a curriculum that inspires our young students to think beyond just today.

We focus on who they want to become as a person, as a professional, and the impact they hope to make on this world. From the teachers, to the parents, to our students, we are focused on developing “habits of excellence” in all aspects of how we operate and perform in our program. We are committed as an organization to provide professional experiences for our students that will help them develop as both young artists and give them opportunities to grow and develop as individuals.

Quite honestly, if you were to just look at the socioeconomic make up of our school and community, most would think that what our students experience and accomplish would not be possible. It is inspiring to witness the commitment of our parent booster program, our students, and the community and the efforts everyone makes to ensure that our students are able to experience so many extraordinary educational performance opportunities.

There are no auditions?

Not at all, we march anyone and everyone who would like to participate in the program. As teachers we want to provide this experience to anyone who has the desire to participate. Generally, every year we are marching at least 30%-35% of new students to the activity.

How many students and teachers are in the program?

There are 220 students in our band program and approximately 500 total students in our Leadership Conservatory for the Arts Magnet program combining instrumental, vocal, dance, color guard, and orchestra. We have 4 full–time teachers teaching the band and guard program: My responsibilities include all magnet-related tasks, overseeing all our performance ensembles, curriculum, and teaching our wind ensemble, brass, marching band, and our music performance classes.  In addition, we have three other directors:

  • Christopher De Leon teaches our Jazz Ensemble, our intermediate Wind Ensemble, woodwinds, marching band, and all freshman leadership courses which includes all instrumental, string, dance, and vocal students.
  • Todd Leighton, our percussion director, teaches our percussion classes, music theory, and music technology courses. It is a requirement of every magnet student to take one semester of music theory and electronic music. Like Mr. De Leon, he teaches all instrumental, vocal, and orchestra students.
  • Jason Herrington teaches dance courses at both the high school and middle school and shares the daily teaching responsibilities for the color guard with my wife, Jeannine Ford, who is our color guard director.

Tarpon Springs Jazz BandChristopher De Leon directing the Tarpon Springs Jazz Band

How many additional people are on the marching band staff?

Our marching band staff is relatively small but we are blessed to have some extraordinary teachers and designers. In addition to our directors, we have:

  • 4 marching instructors who we divide between brass, woodwinds, battery, and color guard
  • 3 percussion instructors, covering front ensemble, back ensemble, and battery percussion
  • 4 color guard instructors who split up rifles, sabres, dancers, and flags

In addition, we have some of our alumni who come back and help when they can and we are very appreciative to everyone who helps each of our students become the best they can be. Our student leaders take the initiative to hold sectionals each week to assist in the development of their individual sections. It is a total team effort and one I am proud to be a part of.

What does your annual schedule look like?

We start off our year with summer training. We meet once a week on Tuesday evenings throughout the summer for anyone who is in town and not on vacation. We use these rehearsals to introduce students to our musical and visual pedagogy programs.

We also hold several camps in the summer. We have a middle school concert band camp that lasts two weeks, a jazz camp, and a dance camp. We have found these to be very beneficial.

We start off our school year in August with our Wind Ensemble, Jazz Ensemble and Marching Band curriculums running simultaneously. We like to keep the music ensembles together for the first few months, so that our more experienced players can mentor our younger musicians. It allows us to build a consistent approach to their instruments and to creating music.

In September, we have our All-State auditions. In November, we break up the program into several different performance ensembles and have our all-county auditions. Additionally, we conduct our audition for wind ensemble placements and separate our groups by ability and experience. We also separate our color guard program into our World and A Guards. We begin our brass, woodwind, and concert percussion choirs and we start our indoor percussion ensemble.

In December, we have all our students select a solo and ensemble selection and we begin that 12 week process where we have various area recitals concluding with our district solo and ensemble evaluations. We utilize SmartMusic to help assist us with this process.

We host a guest artist workshop in the fall and spring semesters. We have a guest artist come in and work with our Jazz Ensemble students for a few days in the winter, and another artist who works with all of our students in the spring, concluding with a concert. We have been blessed to host some extraordinary guest artists including Wycliffe Gordon, Marcus Printup, and Scotty Barnhart.

In February, we have our annual solo and ensemble district evaluations and in March we have our concert district evaluations. In April, we often take our wind and jazz ensembles on a spring trip to a national concert and jazz festival. In April, we host a Showcase Concert that allows us the opportunity to perform with our local middle school feeders and we do another guest artist concert that includes our Wind and Jazz Ensembles. In May, we have our annual Spring Concert and then we begin the process all over again.

Tarpon Springs Wind Ensemble Atlanta Symphony HallThe Tarpon Springs Wind Ensemble at Atlanta Symphony Hall

Specifically regarding our use of SmartMusic in the fall, we test our students on their marching band music. We also use this as a resource for our students to help them become better sight readers and help prepare them for their All-State and All-County auditions. In December, we use SmartMusic to assist our students with their solos and we also assign our students assignments on their Wind Ensemble sections throughout the year utilizing SmartMusic.

What are the expectations for students outside of rehearsal?

First and foremost, we expect our students to be individuals of high character; to make decisions based on values that they have set in place for themselves and have nurtured in our student leadership curriculum. As freshman, every one of our students is required to take our student leadership course that focuses on Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens.

When our students are asked to practice we are working towards making a paradigm shift from them choosing to practice not because it is required, but rather from a commitment to becoming the best they can be in all aspects of their life. Of course this is a work in progress. Not of all our students achieve at the same rate, but we have noticed a substantial difference among our students since implementing this philosophy and structure to our curriculum.

Regarding specific practice strategies for our students, we ask that each of them use a metronome, tuner, and SmartMusic whenever available. We believe SmartMusic is a greater asset for them as a practice tool than an evaluation mechanism.

What are the biggest challenges you face?

We now have seven different performance ensembles that all perform on a national level. It can be overwhelming at times in terms of ensuring that each performance ensemble has everything they need to be successful both from a resource and logistic perspective.

I can recall one day this past spring, where we had five of our performance ensembles performing on the same day in and out of the state. The amount of logistics that go into ensuring that each ensemble is taken care of is substantial. I credit our entire organizational team and teachers that allow us to provide these opportunities for our students.

As I mentioned earlier, we require every student to annually participate in our district solo and ensemble evaluations. I truly believe that there is no other event in our curriculum that helps develop our individual musicians as much as preparation for this evaluation. This is a lengthy process and it requires myself and my colleagues to work with every student multiple times in preparation. As we have grown in student population and have had more and more students participating in multiple events, we have had to adjust our approach.

When the band was smaller, it was relatively simple to schedule and listen to each student individually every week. While we still value one-on-one experience, we have had to rely on other methods of assessment to assist us in our quest to provide every student individual feedback. As a result of the educational value of SmartMusic, our principal has purchased a subscription for every one of our students. Mr. Christopher De Leon, our associate director, has done an amazing job assigning relevant assignments and recordings several times a month. This has allowed us to continue to hear students individually, provide feedback, and to make adjustments to our pedagogical program to accommodate the needs of our students.

What was your introduction to SmartMusic?

Mr. De Leon joined our faculty as one of the directors at Tarpon Springs in 2012. One of our collective initiatives was to develop ways to provide more individual feedback for our students’ so that they could better develop as individual musicians. Knowing that many of our students would not be able to afford the SmartMusic subscription, he approached our principal and explained how SmartMusic was not only a terrific practice tool for our students, but it was also a way for us to track positive trend data on our students. This is something tangible we can use on our annual teaching evaluations and something that we can share with our administrators.

What did you hope SmartMusic would offer your program?

We were hoping it would allow us to hear and provide more individual feedback for our students. Additionally, we were hoping more of them would practice their technical selections with a metronome and help to provide greater clarity to their playing.

How has the reality of what SmartMusic brought to your program compare with your expectations?

We were very pleased and it has helped us in many areas including sight-reading. It has been a great resource for us in the individual development of our students.

In our next post, we’ll get to the big questions, like: “What is the process of developing a show that will be performed at BOA Grand Nationals?”

Stay tuned!

A Guide to Successful Parent Meetings



Parent Meeting

Parent meetings represent a crucial opportunity for educators to interact with parents. For music educators, parent meetings early in the year become even more vital. While the back-to-school season is hectic for everyone, taking time to ensure a positive interaction at the start of the year will be well worth it.

There are a number of ways to guarantee that your first parent meeting of the year is successful, but perhaps the most effective way is to demonstrate a teaching tool or technique that students will be exposed to during the year. Parents learn exactly what happens in their child’s class, and teachers can preemptively answer questions about curriculum, supplies, and more. Engaging parents by demonstrating a technique and encouraging parents to practice it themselves helps focus parent support and provides a real connection between school and home.

For most people reading this blog, one obvious choice might be demonstrating SmartMusic at a parent meeting. When parents see students use the software – and even try it themselves – they are far more likely to engage with classroom activities, encourage their children to use SmartMusic at home, and understand what the software offers. Engaged parents, of course, often provide more emotional and financial support to their children’s’ music programs.

So you’ve decided to demonstrate SmartMusic at a parent meeting. How best to go about it? The first step is visiting the SmartMusic Demonstration page. Here we’ve compiled a series of helpful ideas, handouts, samples, and checklists to make sure that your demonstration goes smoothly. Some highlights include:

  • A schedule to make sure your planning is on track and that your demonstration will run smoothly
  • A list of features you may wish to emphasize – to show parents how their students are graded, how the software shows correct fingerings, and more
  • Teaching techniques – ways to demonstrate not only how you use SmartMusic, but how you teach and interact with students
  • Tips for parent meetings in alternative settings (concert, open house)
  • Sample letters to send to parents both before and after the demonstration

Parent meetings have a much greater chance of being successful when they include an engaging demonstration. Even better, demonstrating a powerful classroom tool like SmartMusic can show parents exactly what’s expected of their student at school – and how best to supplement it at home.

Asa Burk on Getting Started with SmartMusic



Asa Burk

I have been using SmartMusic in the classroom since the late 90’s. While SmartMusic has evolved and changed quite a bit over the past two decades one thing has remained constant – its ability to enhance and support what we do in the classroom. It has arguably become more and more capable over the years. SmartMusic’s options and possibilities are only limited by what your music education brain can dream up.

During this time I’ve had the opportunity to teach at six different campuses. While the implementation of SmartMusic at each stop along the way has been different and unique there are a few constants. So whether you have been at your current school for a while or you have just arrived, here are a few pointers to help you implement SmartMusic into your program.

Think like Nike – Just Do It

Once you decide to use SmartMusic, commit to it and follow through. This may require a little planning and foresight and it will mean that you will need to think about your curriculum design and begin to build infrastructure to support what you are doing. But one thing music educators are famous for is resourcefulness. We are a “get it done” breed.

Don’t worry if you stall out early on trying to come up with ideas to incorporate SmartMusic into your curriculum; you will be greatly surprised at how many applications will reveal themselves as you go through the year. I’m always thinking “how can we take what we did this year and refine and improve it for next year?”

Start slow and build

The easiest way to implement program-wide is to start from the bottom and work up. Using SmartMusic with beginners is easy, fun, and rewarding for them and you. Being new to the program they will simply think that this is the way we learn in this class and are pretty accepting of it.

As they move upward through the program there is no need to re-teach them how to use SmartMusic to learn – chances are, they will be teaching you and asking to play a really cool song that they found while practicing the other day. They are already digital-music-natives.

Introducing SmartMusic to older students is a bit different. They have probably already been learning music without a computer and may think; “Why do I need a computer to tell me what to do?” or “This thing is just going to get in my way!” As with any change, it always helps to show a certain amount of respect for the past. Start with one assignment per grading period or just use SmartMusic during one season of the year. Slowly but surely the benefits will reveal themselves and over time you will be able to incorporate it into your curriculum.

Be sure to allow plenty of time for older students to learn the program as they complete their assignment. Solo season is a great time to introduce SmartMusic to older students. It excels at encouraging students to bridge the gap between practicing a solo by themselves and playing with an accompanist. Just remember, students like making music and they like being successful at making music. Frustration comes when an unfamiliar process impedes their musical success.

Communicate, Educate, and Demonstrate

SmartMusic at your beginning-of-the-year parent meeting is a great way for parents to see and understand the program. Nothing is more effective in communicating that message. Most parents are unfamiliar with SmartMusic and don’t fully understand what it is much less how it can benefit their child’s music education. Administrators are the same way. A good principal will give their teachers every possible advantage to bring success in the classroom. Every year that I demonstrated (not just verbally explained) what SmartMusic was, and how we would be using it in our classroom, there was a significantly greater understanding on the part of parents and students. During those years it was much easier to reach the full potential of the program.

There are other blog entries that deal with setting up a good parent meeting demonstration as well as resources on the website that are quite useful. As you go through the year, take time in class to demonstrate how to use the program to complete an assignment. Explain and show the resources for feedback that can be used to improve a performance. As you are talking about how to practice at home, mention, show, and demonstrate using SmartMusic.

Better yet, have a student be your demonstration assistant. They get an opportunity for a mini private lesson from you and SmartMusic, the rest of the class gets to see a masterclass, and everyone learns how to use SmartMusic to improve their performance.

How will I be graded?

Everyone wants to know how the grades will be used. Keep in mind that when a student practices at home they rarely if ever convert their practice or performance to a number grade or percent. If you ask a student how they sounded you are likely to hear; “pretty good…not bad…I think I did ok…I don’t know…” or “I totally nailed it!”

In transitioning from generic kid-speak to a percentage grade it is really important to explain what they should be listening for and how important it is to be accurate with rhythm as well as pitch. Every kid knows if they get nine out of ten questions correct on their math test they will score 90%. I try to make the connection that if they play nine out of ten notes correct they will score 90%.

It is at this time you need to communicate and educate your students and parents on three very important concepts:

  1. Their initial grade is only a starting point – a point of reference to document and show how much they will improve,
  2. SmartMusic has many resources that can be used to improve to any level they want (slow the tempo down, turn on the solo line, take out the accompaniment, show the cursor, turn on the metronome, etc.), and
  3. It may take a little practice to sound better than “good enough” and with practice, you are certainly capable of sounding great. Each student’s final grade should be a healthy balance of computer work and director input. Too much of one or the other generally brings frustration.

Infrastructure – If you build it they will come

Decide early on how you want to use SmartMusic – as a presentation tool, as an assessment resource at school only, as a practice resource for home, or any combination that you can dream up. That idea will tell you what you need to plan for – rehearsal room computer, practice room computers, home subscriptions for students, etc. Finding computers, iPads, and projectors has become much easier over the years.

On more than one campus I’ve had to borrow a computer and projector from the library to get started. Talking to an administrator or the IT department can usually get you a computer or two but more importantly it will put you on their radar for the future. Once I was able to acquire eight older Macs when a computer lab was updated with a simple question to the IT guy – “so, what are you going to do with all of these old computers?”

Where there is a will there is a way and with a bit of creativity and resourcefulness, you can almost always find what you need through planning for next year’s budget, writing a grant, borrowing, or sharing. Each year, build on what you have and before too long you have what you need.

Parting thoughts

Remember that the joy is in the journey. You don’t need to be a SmartMusic expert immediately and you certainly don’t need an elaborate and expensive setup to get started. Rome wasn’t built in a day and having a humble beginning will allow you and your students to grow as you are ready.

Getting students, parents, and administrators used to learning with SmartMusic is just as important to having infrastructure in place. Having a state of the art setup won’t benefit your students if they are unfamiliar with how to use it or don’t see a benefit to using it.

At the end of the day, remember that you love music, you love teaching kids, and this is a great time to be a music educator. Happy music making!

Asa Burk 2Asa Burk is the Associate Director of Bands at Argyle High School in Argyle, Texas, and an active clinician and adjudicator. He has twice been named “Teacher of the Year,” at the Huffines Middle School in 2001, and at Cross Timbers Middle School in 2012. His bands have consistently received UIL Sweepstakes Awards and many Best in Class designations at local and national festivals, and were state finalists in the TMEA Honor Band selection process in 2004 and 2008. In 2011, his Cross Timbers MS Honors Band was a featured performer at the Midwest Clinic in Chicago. In 2014 the Argyle High School Band was the UIL 4A Marching Band State Champion.

A Plan for Selecting Performance Repertoire



Bruce Pearson Conducting

When a student joins a band program, he or she expects to learn to play an instrument and perform in a large ensemble. The band curriculum should be comprehensive and address many intermediary outcomes, providing the framework to ensure meaningful musical experiences through instrumental performance.

Selecting performance repertoire is one of the band director’s greatest responsibilities and most critical tasks. To be most effective, repertoire should:

  1. Coordinate with components of the curriculum plan
  2. Account for the students’ technical and musical maturity
  3. Be high quality literature, worthy of study
  4. Meet concert programming needs

Each of these criteria influences students’ musical experience, attitude, and level of participation. Ultimately, it is the course of study combined with a congruous, correlated repertoire that will inspire a lifelong love of music (even if they no longer play their instrument) and enable them to describe what they hear in terms of melody, harmony, rhythm, intonation, dynamics, timbre, texture, form, historical period, and style.

When considering technical and musical maturity, note that a meaningful musical experience involves more than playing the right notes at the right time. Select music at a level of difficulty that will enable students to develop technique, as well as musical literacy and understanding. Find the balance between challenging students and providing an attainable goal. Everyone wants to be successful.

To optimize your students’ musical experience, select performance repertoire that is of highest quality and worthy of study. There are numerous sources for recommended musical repertoire including, among others, state contest and festival lists, “Teaching Music Through Performance in Band” (published by G.I.A.), and recommendations by master teachers and colleagues.

Finally, when selecting repertoire think of the concert programming. In addition to high quality literature, the most successful concerts provide variety and showcase the developing talents of the ensemble and individual players.

The following program format will enable students to make the most of their next performance:

Opener

Establish a positive atmosphere and aura of confidence with an energetic piece that is not too difficult, such as a march.

Major Work

Display music of the highest quality. The selection should hold technical demands for all sections and students.

Quiet Piece

Contrast the rhythmic activity, volume, dissonance, and texture of the major work. Display the development of students’ sensitivity and musicianship.

Feature or Pop Tune

Showcase an entire section, perhaps one whose other parts have been less challenging or one that is particularly strong. Avoid trivial arrangements. Look for an enjoyable piece that can be used to teach specific objectives.

Closer

Finish with a powerful up-beat selection – a piece that students can play confidently. Make sure both students and audience leave with a positive feeling about the concert, as well as the music program in general.

Everyone enjoys a band concert that shows the students’ accomplishments and provides a window into the band’s rehearsals. Remember that concerts afford music educators/ band directors a golden opportunity to share their classroom activities with parents and the community.

[Excerpts taken from: Pearson, Bruce and Nowlin, Ryan. Teaching Band With Excellence. San Diego: Neil A. Kjos Music Company, 2011.]

bruce-testimonials

Dr. Bruce Pearson is an internationally recognized music educator, author, composer, clinician and conductor. His newest band method, Tradition of Excellence, offers the most advanced interactive curriculum that is second-to-none. His best-selling band method, Standard of Excellence, has provided a solid foundation for scores of music education programs around the world. His extensive correlated repertoire has helped music educators expand their programs to reinforce learning through performance.

Additionally, Bruce Pearson personally imparts his 30+ years of experience to music educators through no-cost clinics designed to improve, invigorate and enhance music programs. View his website for a full bio and visit Neil A. Kjos Company to see a list of retailers offering Bruce’s books and sheet music.

SmartMusic in Texas: Approved and Proven



To correspond with our visit to San Antonio this week for the Southwest Summer Music Exhibition, we’ve created this interactive Piktochart that details the implementation of SmartMusic in Texas:

Have feedback or questions for us about SmartMusic in Texas? Please feel free to click on “Comments” below, or if you’re at the Southwest Expo, come and see us in person at booth 4055.

2015 Southwest Summer Music Exhibition



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The 2015 Southwest Summer Music Exhibition begins this Thursday on the beautiful River Walk in San Antonio, Texas.

We hope to see you there! Stop by booth #4055 and get more information on how we’re bringing SmartMusic to Chromebook, our brand new choir repertoire, and how Texas Proclamation 2015 could fund SmartMusic in your classroom.

We’ll also be hosting clinics for both SmartMusic and Finale, starting on Thursday. Details can be found on the Southwest section of our Events page.

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