SmartMusic Finale Garritan MusicXML

SmartMusic Feature Friday: Tips from Successful SmartMusic Teachers

Tips from successful teachers

This week’s Feature Friday brings you short video clips with tips from successful SmartMusic teachers as they share their insights during a panel discussion at the 2013 Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic. Each of these teachers shares tips that can help you use SmartMusic effectively with your students.  Just click on their link to watch.

Mark Corey – Director of Bands, Addison Trail High School, ILMEA State President Elect

Some of the topics discussed in this video:


  • Additional levels of assessment needed for students receiving honors credit in band
  • Using recordings for self-assessment
  • SmartMusic benefits for students that do not take private lessons
  • Using Finale to notate exercises/etudes, and sending as assignments in SmartMusic
  • Students acquire fluency in all 12 major and minor keys with help from SmartMusic
  • SmartMusic is used in the classroom every day for both rehearsal and assessment capabilities

Picture 1 

Link to video: Mark Corey Video (3:34)


Rachel Maxwell – Traughber J. H. S.

In only her second year using SmartMusic, Rachel’s 360-student program is now fully implemented. She talks about the implementation process and how it is improving her student’s music literacy. She also manages to throw a few jokes in along the way.

Some of the topics discussed in this video:


  • Piloting SmartMusic program in year 1, fully implementing in year 2
  • Wanting to improve music literacy, and guide practice outside the classroom
  • Teaching 360 students that have a wide range of ability and learning style
  • How SmartMusic helps beginners track music across the screen
  • Incorporating the subscription into the “band fee”
  • Mostly used as an interactive practice tool in students homes
  • Using SmartMusic assessment when students miss a concert for make-up work
  • Using daily rhythm sets, tuner, practice assignments in class
  • Preparing for tests with SmartMusic
  • Pulling students out of ensemble rehearsal when they need help to practice with SmartMusic
  • Getting one concert cycle ahead in difficulty of music during the first year of full implementation
  • Streamlining in-class testing with the loop feature
  • Having a rocking 6th grade fall concert 

Picture 2

Link to video: Rachel Maxwell (8:19)


Mike Holden – Highcrest Middle School

Although Mike technically is the “youngster” of the group, his use of SmartMusic in the past four years allows him to offer sage SmartMusic tips. Mike uses SmartMusic to give his students more exposure to pieces before they play as an ensemble, allowing him to work on more advanced musical concepts in rehearsal.

In this video, Mike covers:


  • Starting students in sectionals in 5th grade
  • Accompaniments as listening examples
  • Recording and self assessment capabilities
  • Avoiding the assessment tool for the first few months
  • Projecting on screen and asking students to point out musical markings
  • A parent night to show the benefit of using SmartMusic
  • First assignments are just “practice reports”
  • As the teacher, be the SmartMusic expert – there will be questions
  • Giving students a couple weeks to complete assignments
  • Have a few loaner microphones
  • Do SmartMusic “tips of the week” and “pieces of the week” with your students

Picture 3

Link to video: Mike Holden (5:37)


Marty Magnini – Cary Grove Community H.S.

Marty has been using accompaniment technology since the Vivace days, and has many great SmartMusic tips for educators of all experience levels. In this video, Marty talks about how all 160 of his high school students have SmartMusic at home.

Because of this, he is able to:


  • Incorporate SmartMusic in the registration fee
  • Test all scales every semester using the SmartMusic assessment score
  • Listen to every student on all other assignments
  • Make students achieve an 85-90 % on a piece before rehearsing as an ensemble
  • Difference between pieces prepared with SmartMusic to those without is night and day
  • Export excel files and do a mail merge to include additional comments
  • Improve-sight reading and document the progress of every student

Picture 4

Link to video:  Marty Magnini (5:33)

Additional Resources:

We realize that schedules are packed and sometimes there aren’t enough hours in the day. Which is why we offer many great resources to help you get answers when you need them!

If you would like to share a SmartMusic tip or best practice with me, please send me a note at

Piece of the Week: Pippin by Stephen Schwartz


Pippin has been called “a hip, tongue-in-cheek, anachronistic fairy tale,” and this musical theater piece has captured the hearts of Broadway audiences since its debut in 1972. Loosely based around the life of King Charlemagne the Great, the show tells the rather convoluted story of the king’s son, Pippin, a young prince who longs to discover the secret of true happiness. After experiencing the glories of battle, the intrigues of political power, and all sorts of human temptations, Pippin ultimately finds contentment and fulfillment in the simple pleasures of home and family. The Tony award-winning musical features a host of energetic, pop-inspired songs, and dance numbers composed by Stephen Schwartz while he was still a young man in his 20s. Schwartz went on to write the music and lyrics for the hit musicals Godspell and Wicked and contribute lyrics to Disney movies such as Pocahontas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, among many other musical and movie projects.

Pippin began its current Broadway revival in 2013, and is an official touring company is  bringing the musical to cities across America starting in the Fall of 2014.  Click here for information about the Broadway show and U.S. tour.

SmartMusic offers two medleys of songs from Pippin, both from Alfred Publishing, which include the best-known pieces from this beloved musical.

In the Concert Band version, arranger Ralph Ford weaves together the songs “Corner of the Sky,” “Magic to Do,” “Extraordinary,” “Simple Joys,” “Pippin (Finale),” and the mega-hit, “Morning Glow” into one cohesive piece.

Audio Sample: Pippin, arranged for Concert Band

Audio provided by Alfred Music Publishing Co., Inc.

In the String Orchestra arrangement, Andrew Dabczynski begins with the driving rock rhythms and melodies of “Magic to Do” followed by the show-stopping “Corner of the Sky.” A heart-wrenching rock ballad, “With You,” is heard next, leading into “Love Song,” with its marvelously quirky but always-gentle rhythms. The piece concludes with a Broadway finale setting of “No Time at All.”

Audio Sample: Pippin, arranged for String Orchestra

Audio provided by Alfred Music Publishing Co., Inc.

Got an idea for a blog post? Contact us!

If you are an educator, musician, composer or student with a suggestion for a “piece of the week” blog post, you can email your suggestion to Griffin at Please let me know the name of the piece, composer, publisher, and why this piece is special to you.

Feature Friday: Develop More Confident Musicians

Develop Confident Musicians

As educators we know that some students eagerly embrace the idea of performing for a group while others would rather walk on fire. We all want our students to be comfortable and confident when performing individually within a group situation. Whether it is to play something in class or performing a solo, the more independent students can be, the more confident they are, which leads to stronger performances. SmartMusic can help.


  • When asking students to perform individually, use the accompaniments in SmartMusic, whether from a method book or large group ensemble title, during class. Although students are playing by themselves, there is added comfort performing with the accompaniment.
  • Play the accompaniment at a tempo that can help the student be successful. Remember that the pitch of the accompaniment does not change even though the tempo can be slowed down.
  • If the student has a some trouble along the way, turn on My Part long enough for the student to get back on track and then turn if off. This helps develop the feeling of continuity in performing instead of always stopping when there is trouble.


  • After students gain confidence, you might prefer for your students to only play with a click track and SmartMusic gives you that option as well. My experience is that once students have success in performing in front of the group, subsequent performances come more easily – regardless of whether there’s accompaniment or not. The key is to get them to the point of feeling comfortable to do it.

Keep in mind that students can get feedback from SmartMusic to help them know if they are performing something correctly or not. The more green seen, the higher the confidence level.

Voila_Capture 2014-09-18_12-31-08_PMMore Green=Higher confidence!

Many teachers have this question: Will students start to depend on using SmartMusic accompaniments to perform? In fact, I had this same question when I first started using SmartMusic!

The answer is quite simple: it depends on how SmartMusic is being used. Just as a metronome can be helpful in practicing, it is simply a means to an end. Use any technology in ways that are “in tune” with your goals.

Have you used SmartMusic in ways to help students become more confident? Leave a comment or question by clicking the “Comments” link below.

55 New Ensemble Titles Released in SmartMusic

55 new ensemble titles are now available in SmartMusic.

Title Comp/Arr/Lyr Publisher Music Type Pepper Level
Action Front Knoener, Ronald C. Daehn Publications Concert Band ME
Beware the Captive Yoop Barber, Clarence E. LudwigMasters Concert Band ME
Bright Gleams a Beacon Gillingham, David R. C. Alan Publications Concert Band M
Bright Sunny Days Boysen, Jr., Andrew Kjos Concert Band M
Bushido (The Way of the Warrior) Based on Traditional Japanese Songs arr. by Story, Michael Alfred Concert Band E
Eyes of the Dragon Weller, Travis J. FJH Music Company Concert Band E
Flag Patrol Knoener, Ronald C. Daehn Publications Concert Band E
Funky Donkey, The Sebesky, Gerald LudwigMasters Concert Band E
Hurrah Storm Galop Grafulla, Claudio S. & Keler-Bela arr. by Contorno, Nicholas J. Daehn Publications Concert Band M
Hymn of Remembrance, A Phillips, Todd Barnhouse Concert Band E
In the Realm of Kings Barrett, Roland Alfred Concert Band VE
Jingle Bellz Grice, Rob Composers’ Planet Concert Band E
Labyrinth, The Comer, Chandler LudwigMasters Concert Band ME
Make Sail! Jones, Clifton Jameson Daehn Publications Concert Band ME
March on, America! (A Medley of Patriotic March Themes)  arr. by Wagner, Douglas E. Alfred Concert Band E
Metamorphosis Boysen, Jr., Andrew Kjos Concert Band ME
Mozart Minuet (from Divertimento in Bb, K. 186) Mozart, W.A. arr. by Bobrowitz, David Grand Mesa Concert Band E
Nuttin’ for Christmas Tupper, Sid & Bennett, Roy C. arr. by Story, Michael Alfred Concert Band VE
Odyssey Fisher, Tim Grand Mesa Concert Band VE
Prairie Wedding Kristofferson, Kenley Daehn Publications Concert Band M
Ride of Percival, The Van Epps, Brendan Grand Mesa Concert Band E
Samba de Soleil Barrett, Roland Alfred Concert Band B
Spoon River Grainger, Percy Aldridge arr. by Story, Michael Alfred Concert Band E
Tantrum Conaway, Matt Barnhouse Concert Band E
Three Movements from  Water Music Handel, George Frideric arr. by Wagner, Douglas E. Alfred Concert Band VE
Two Variants on  Dives and Lazarus Wagner, Douglas E. Alfred Concert Band E
Eine Kleine Bell Musik Mozart, W.A. arr. by Wilcott, Ron Grand Mesa String Orchestra ME
Electric Sinfonia Bernofsky, Lauren FJH Music Company String Orchestra ME
Flying Trapeze, The Leybourne, George arr. by Lipton, Bob Grand Mesa String Orchestra E
Hungarian Folk Dance Traditional arr. by McAllister, Janice Kendor String Orchestra E
Jigtastic Frackenpohl, Steven Kendor String Orchestra M
Just Give Me a Reason Ruess, Nate & Moore, Alecia & Bhasker, Jeffrey arr. by Story, Michael Alfred String Orchestra ME
L’estro Armonico Vivaldi, Antonio & Bach, Johann Sebastian arr. by Lipton, Bob FJH Music Company String Orchestra MA
March from Second Suite Holst, Gustav arr. by Lipton, Bob Grand Mesa String Orchestra M
Moonlighting (based on Moonlight Sonata) Beethoven, Ludwig van arr. by Monday, Deborah Baker Kendor String Orchestra ME
Odessa Bobrowitz, David Grand Mesa String Orchestra M
Over the Sea to Skye Traditional Scottish Folk Tune arr. by Wagner, Douglas E. Alfred String Orchestra VE
Perpetual Fiddle Motion Balmages, Brian FJH Music Company String Orchestra ME
Procession of the Nobles (from  Mlada ) Rimsky-Korsakov, Nikolai arr. by Wang, Albert LudwigMasters String Orchestra ME
Shadows Across the Moon Caponegro, John Kendor String Orchestra M
Silent Night Gruber, Franz Xaver arr. by Morales, Erik FJH Music Company String Orchestra MA
Simple Hoedown Krug, Jason W. LudwigMasters String Orchestra VE
Speaking Alien (A Sci-Fi Caprice) Campbell, Chris LudwigMasters String Orchestra E
Spring Shower Bobrowitz, David Grand Mesa String Orchestra E
Suite from The Wizard of Oz Arlen, Harold & Harburg, E.Y. arr. by Ford, Ralph Alfred String Orchestra E
Tango Por Uno Svendsen, R. Anne LudwigMasters String Orchestra ME
Velocity Balmages, Brian FJH Music Company String Orchestra VE
Zombie Intruders Vogel, Kirk Grand Mesa String Orchestra M
Dance of Clowns, A Mendelssohn, Felix arr. by Brubaker, Jerry Alfred Full Orchestra M
Egyptian Legacy Newbold, Soon Hee arr. by Rydlund, Carl FJH Music Company Full Orchestra M
Firebird, The (Berceuse and Finale) Stravinsky, Igor arr. by Bullock, Jack Alfred Full Orchestra M
Led Zeppelin Reunion Page, Jimmy & Plant, Robert & Jones, John Paul & Bonham, John arr. by Roszell, Patrick Alfred Full Orchestra M
Pirate’s Legend, A Newbold, Soon Hee arr. by Rydlund, Carl FJH Music Company Full Orchestra M
Selections from Man of Steel Zimmer, Hans arr. by Ford, Ralph Alfred Full Orchestra M
Wizards in Winter O’Neill, Paul & Kinkel, Robert arr. by Phillips, Bob Alfred Full Orchestra M


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

Piece of the Week: New Halloween Music Part 2

New Halloween Music Part 2

Fall is here, and as the leaves begin to change and the days grow shorter thoughts will turn to that most magical of Autumn holidays. Halloween is time for kids and adults alike to celebrate all things scary and strange, to build epic costumes, eat all the candy they can gather, and play spooky pieces of music. Halloween concerts are a great chance for your ensemble to have some fun, and SmartMusic has the repertoire to help, with everything from gothic favorites like “Night on Bald Mountain” to novelty songs about zombies, vampires and space aliens.

Last week and this week, we’re turning the repertoire spotlight on a few of our recent Halloween-themed releases; you can find more by going to Find Music, clicking Advanced Search Options, and setting Genre to “Holiday and Patriotic.”

Dark Shadows, by Danny Elfman (arranged by Victor Lopez)

Audio provided by Alfred Music Publishing Co., Inc.

Director Tim Burton’s 2012 movie version of Dark Shadows brought the cult-classic series to the big screen, and featured an all-star cast led by Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Helena Bonham Carter.

Imagine a reluctant vampire with an irresistible allure. Next, intertwine this character with a mysterious ingenue who is inexorably drawn to him, a jealous vixen from his past who is both seductress and sorceress, and a strange family in a creepy old mansion with secrets around every corner. These were the hallmarks of the original “Dark Shadows” television series, which broke the mold of daytime television in the late 1960s, and these are the elements that Danny Elfman, that master of quirky horror-comedy, brought to the big screen in 2012.

Danny Elfman has been a longtime collaborator of Burton’s, scoring the soundtracks to many of the director’s best known movies, including Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Batman, Beetlejuice, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and The Corpse Bride.

This arrangement by Victor Lopez puts the main themes from Elfman’s “Dark Shadows” soundtrack into a convenient and entertaining medley form. Cleverly depicting the intensity of the original score, the repetitive mode of this medley makes it very easy to learn and rehearse. This piece provides a great opportunity to introduce cinematic soundtrack music to young ensembles. Such exposure will increase an awareness of the artistic, historical, and commercial value of film music.

Hound of the Baskervilles, by Mekel Rogers

Audio performed by The Washington Pops, The Washington Winds and/or The Studio A Big Band, Conducted by Edward S. Petersen (P) Studio Productions, Inc.  All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel Hound of the Baskervilles is one of the greatest mysteries ever written and is the most celebrated adventure in the Sherlock Holmes canon. In the story, Holmes and Watson try to solve the mystery surrounding the Baskerville family curse in which a fierce demonic hound hunts down and murders its victims. The climactic scene sees Sir Henry Baskerville being chased through the night fog by the hound as Holmes and Watson pursue in an attempt to prevent Sir Henry’s murder.

The composition “Hound of the Baskervilles” seeks to depict this climactic scene musically. Oscillating woodwind lines throughout the piece represent the swirling fog on the moor while driving percussion rhythms depict the chase through the dark. Pay special attention to the many dynamic changes throughout the piece to convey a sense of proximity and distance. The interplay between sections portrays the different characters searching in the fog, and should make full use of the variety of timbres. The slapstick conclusion of the piece recalls the shots fired from Holmes’ pistol that slay the hound as it attacks.

Got an idea for a blog post? Contact us!

If you are an educator, musician, composer or student with a suggestion for a “piece of the week” blog post, you can email your suggestion to Griffin at Please let me know the name of the piece, composer, publisher, and why this piece is special to you.


Feature Friday: Managing SmartMusic Gradebook


In today’s Feature Friday, you will learn how teachers are creatively managing SmartMusic Gradebook by creating classes that streamline assignment creation, grading and documentation options.

Imagine a music program where students know what they need to work on and how they are progressing. Now imagine that you are the director of this program and besides knowing how every student is doing, you can also share that information instantly. Directors using SmartMusic assignments don’t have to imagine this; this is their new way of teaching music.

Creating SmartMusic classes in Gradebook that fit your teaching situation make it easy to send specific assignments to large groups, sectionals or specialty classes. Let’s take a look at three of the most common SmartMusic class types and assignments for each.

Common SmartMusic Classes

Picture 1

Common assignments for Large Groups (Band & Orchestra)

  • Pre-defined assignments for all large group content
  • Create custom assignments to target specific music problems
  • Schedule technique assignments that help students learn concert material

 Common assignments for sectionals and small groups

  • Specific instrument lesson material
  • Custom assignments for full band literature
  • Auditions and chair placement materials
  • Solos, ensembles, etc.

Common assignments for specialty classes

  • Scales and etudes (automated assignments)
  • Required skills to audition for band, orchestra and choir
  • Makeup work
  • All State and Honor Group materials
  • Sight-reading and sight-singing materials

Are you setting up a SmartMusic class for the first time or would you like a quick step-by-step review?
Learn more here: Creating a SmartMusic Class.

SmartMusic Grading Scales

In addition to customizing your SmartMusic class format, you can choose or create a specific grading scale for each class. A-B-C grading, pass/fail or 4-3-2-1, etc. are common.

Picture 2 

Learn more here: Create, edit or delete a Grading Scale

Create a Grading Calendar

Another way to manage your Gradebook is to customize your grading calendar for your classes. Each class can have its own unique calendar.

SmartMusic Gradebook Calendar Types:

  • Quarter
  • Semester
  • Full Year
  • Trimester
  • 6 Weeks
  • 9 Weeks
  • Custom
  • Summer Session

Picture 3 

Learn more here: Create, edit or delete a Grading Calendar


By managing SmartMusic Gradebook and setting up your classes, grading scales and calendars to fit your music program, you will have an efficient way to help your students learn their music as you provide individualized instruction and feedback.  You can instantly document student progress for large groups, small groups or specialty classes because of the way you have set up your classes.

For more information on SmartMusic basics, setting up a pilot program, implementing SmartMusic into your program and using classroom activities with your students, just follow this link:

Need help getting ready for back to school? Check out SmartMusic’s Educator Resources.

Leave a question or comment by clicking the “Comments” link below.

Piece of the Week: New Halloween Music Part 1

New Halloween Music Part 1

Fall is coming, and as the leaves begin to change and the days grow shorter thoughts will turn to that most magical of Autumn holidays. Halloween is time for kids and adults alike to celebrate all things scary and strange, to build epic costumes, eat all the candy they can gather, and play spooky pieces of music. Halloween concerts are a great chance for your ensemble to have some fun, and SmartMusic has the repertoire to help, with everything from gothic pieces like “Night on Bald Mountain” to novelty songs about zombies, vampires and space aliens.

This week and next week, we’ll be turning the repertoire spotlight on a few of our recent Halloween-themed pieces; you can find more by going to Find Music, clicking Advanced Search Options, and setting Genre to “Holiday and Patriotic.”

Transylvanian Tango, by Zachary Wallmark

Audio provided by Neil A. Kjos Music Company.

Vampires have long been the object of popular fascination. Today is no different – our undying love for the undead is reflected in hundreds of films, TV shows, and books. Now as much as in Victorian times, the legend of the vampire holds us captive. Wallmark wrote this piece, “Transylvanian Tango,” so that young string players can explore this alluring theme through music. The tango style represents the dark, mysterious and romantic element of popular vampire mythology. Have violinists play the melody with lyricism and plenty of vibrato. Don’t shy away from a little schmaltz – it wouldn’t be a vampire story without some camp.

The origins of the vampire legend are murky. Although the story is ancient, nobody knows exactly where and when it was developed. Our contemporary knowledge of vampires, however, comes from Eastern Europe, where the mythology was concentrated. During the 17th and 18th centuries, mass hysteria over the undead periodically swept the region, spilling over occasionally into Western Europe. At this time, vampires were very different creatures than they are today: with bloated, discolored faces, they were considered monsters. It wasn’t until much later that today’s version of the vampire came into being.

The modern concept of the suave, gentleman vampire was created by John Polidori in the early 1800s when a group of friends, including the famous poet Lord Byron, met one cold and rainy summer to write horror stories for fun. Polidori’s 1819 novel “The Vampyre: A Tale” was a huge success, and it launched a literary movement of vampire books. The greatest and most influential vampire story, however, came much later with the publication of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” (1897). Stoker’s novel thrilled and terrified Victorian audiences, assuring the vampire’s spot in the immortal pantheon of legend.

Now as much as ever, vampires continue to capture our imagination. The 21st century vampire is a complex character, devilish yet also sympathetic. The psychological depth of the legend, as well as its ageless ability to frighten, ensure that it will always be a familiar story in our culture.

Zombie Dreams, by Roland Barrett

Audio provided by Alfred Music Publishing Co., Inc.

Various sources define “zombie” as “a corpse which has been reanimated by various supernatural means, and whose mute body continues to move despite a lack of normal biological function,” as well as “a person held to resemble the so-called walking dead.”

Zombies have always held a certain fascination. Half living but half dead, one foot in the real world but one foot in the nether world, zombies are not only deeply creepy, but also fundamentally awkward and even a little comic. This piece, “Zombie Dreams,” attempts to capture and convey the strange juxtaposition of normal and abnormal that typifies a zombie’s existence. It consists of several smaller subsections, bearing the following subtitles: “Zombie Wakes,” “Zombie Walks,” “Zombie Waltzes,” “Zombie Crush,” and “Zombie Flees.” While the subtitles do suggest an underlying story, the composer encourages each ensemble to develop its own more detailed ideas supporting and illustrating the typical “day in the life of a zombie.” This piece also offers the opportunity for young ensembles to play with sound effects, including clanking chains and howling wind.

Got an idea for a blog post? Contact us!

If you are an educator, musician, composer or student with a suggestion for a “piece of the week” blog post, you can email your suggestion to Griffin at Please let me know the name of the piece, composer, publisher, and why this piece is special to you.

Best Back-to-School Resources

Best Back to School Resources

School is back in session and we know you are busy. To help you get answers quickly to the most frequently asked questions at this time of year, we’ve compiled our best back-to-school resources for you in one place. Please visit our Educator Resources page that provides in depth information on many topics including:

How to Setup a Class

A class provides the platform that enables you to communicate with and teach your students using SmartMusic. Through classes, you gain access to the tools in SmartMusic that help you guide, evaluate and document student growth.

Enrolling Your Students

Each of your SmartMusic classes now includes a unique class enrollment link that makes it easy for students to enroll directly into a class. With the class enrollment link, the school and class are already chosen for your students, so you don’t have to worry about whether the student has set up their account correctly.


Watch this video to see how the class enrollment link helps make enrolling easier.

Implementing SmartMusic

This resource is designed so that you first learn about SmartMusic’s content and practice tools. Next, you experience how to use SmartMusic during sectionals and rehearsals as you set up a pilot program for creating and monitoring student assignments for practice at home or school. Included are best practices for fully implementing SmartMusic into your program.

Implement page 

Communicating with Parents

As a teacher, you already know the importance of communicating with the parents of your students. Sharing with them your class goals, grading policies, and expectations helps everyone feel more comfortable and can alleviate possible misunderstandings throughout the year. SmartMusic makes the communication easier. Click here to get ideas on how to present SmartMusic to parents.

We hope this helps you with some of the most common SmartMusic questions. Click on the “Comments” link below if you have questions or comments.

Piece of the Week: Academic Festival Overture by Brahms

Academic Festival Overture

In 1879, the University of Breslau (in Wroclaw, Poland) awarded an honorary doctorate to composer Johannes Brahms, who was then at the height of his career. Brahms accepted the honor and agreed, after some cajoling, to write a new piece to mark the occasion (which he did during the summer of 1880) and conduct the premiere (which he did in January of 1881). Brahms himself had not finished college, and perhaps this irony explains why the composer decided to play a light musical joke on the university: instead of a solemn and stately march, the piece that Brahms wrote for the school was a medley of well-known college party songs orchestrated in a contrapuntal style. In other words, Academic Festival Overture is a collection of lowbrow tunes presented in a highbrow academic style. Though the specific tunes are no longer familiar, students and audiences of today will still recognize the insouciant humor of this piece.

In recognition of the back-to-school season, we at SmartMusic invite you to give Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture a listen. We have three different arrangements of the piece to suit the needs of your ensemble: an easy level concert band arrangement by Alfred, a medium level concert band arrangement from Curnow, and a medium-advanced level string orchestra arrangement from FJH.

Audio Sample: Academic Festival Overture, Alfred Publishing Co.

Audio provided by Alfred Music Publishing Co., Inc

Arrangement Notes by Michael Story

This easy-level arrangement of Academic Festival Overture contains most of the important themes of the original work in a setting lasting approximately 3 1/2 minutes.

Audio Sample: Academic Festival Overture, Curnow Music Press

Audio provided by Curnow Music Press, Inc.

Arrangement Notes by James Curnow

The entire overture is based on musical themes and ideas taken from a collection of German student songs. These songs represent many styles and moods and capture the spirit of the student body of the university. The best known of these songs is presented in a grand finale that draws the overture to an exciting conclusion.

This arrangement is designed as a telescopic view of the entire overture. All of the original thematic material is presented in its original order, with some limitations placed upon the developmental sections.

Audio Sample: Academic Festival Overture, FJH Music Company

Audio performed by The Washington Pops, The Washington Winds and/or The Studio A Big Band. Conducted by Edward S. Petersen. (P) Studio Productions, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Arrangement Notes by Dr. Robert McCashin

This work is probably the best known of the overtures written by Johannes Brahms. It is a compendium of familiar college songs from his day, woven together with short bridge sections and eventually ushered forth in a full orchestral voice. The four songs are “We Have Built a Stately House,” which was majestically stated by the brass section in the original; “The Landfather,” put forth by the strings; “What Comes from Afar,” sung by the woodwinds; and finally the triumphant “Wherefore Let Us Rejoice,” powerfully rendered by full orchestra amidst active string lines. Careful attention has been given to both dynamic and stylistic indications, which should be the central focus for all members of the ensemble.

As a string arrangement, the work offers exciting opportunities for mature high school players. All of the primary lines are intact, just as written by Brahms.

Composer Biography:

Johannes Brahms was born on May 7, 1833 in Hamburg, Germany, and died on April 3, 1897 in Vienna, Austria. He is recognized as one of the great composers of the Romantic era (1820-1900), and as a keeper of musical tradition. He had a reverence for the form and construction used by the old masters from Bach to Beethoven, and upheld this sense of order in his own music. Because of this, he was recognized in his own time as a composer in the true central German mold. Brahms knew that his artistic direction was different from that being taken by members of what was called the “New German School.” Richard Wagner and others openly attacked him for his aesthetic beliefs, but Brahms found support from artists like Joseph Joachim, J. O. Grimm, and Robert and Clara Schumann. This support was crucial because it led to his eventual popularity and success. He composed a large quantity of choral and chamber music, and a number of orchestral works. Among his larger pieces are four symphonies, the German Requiem, two concertos for piano, one for violin; and a double concerto for violin and violoncello. Brahms was a very reserved man who needed solitude to truly express his feelings through music; he disliked sentimentality and admired chivalry and patriotism. Some saw him as self-righteous and egotistical, but evidence also points to the contrary. Although he commanded attention from his circle of friends, and was intolerant of disagreement, he was not afraid to ask others for advice in composition, and displayed loyalty and selflessness. Even after a lifelong friendship, Clara Schumann admitted, “To me he is as much a riddle – I might almost say as much a stranger – as he was 25 years ago.”

Got an idea for a blog post? Contact us!

If you are an educator, musician, composer or student with a suggestion for a “piece of the week” blog post, you can email your suggestion to Griffin at Please let me know the name of the piece, composer, publisher, and why this piece is special to you.


SmartMusic Feature Friday: Creating MP3 Assignments


In today’s Feature Friday, you will learn the quickest way to add content to SmartMusic – creating MP3s! Once an MP3 is in your SmartMusic library, you can assign it to students for practice or evaluation purposes.

Here are some ways that teachers are using MP3s:

  • Take all or a portion of a large group recording and make an assignment. Students will get the recording, be able to practice with it and submit a recording like any SmartMusic assignment, including on an iPad. Just like other SmartMusic repertoire, the tempo can be slowed down without changing the pitch.
  • Have students listen to recordings that other groups are performing.
  • “Call and response” assignments – using the SmartMusic digital recorder in the Practice Tools, play or sing a short phrase and leave time for the student to respond with the same phrase. Then import the file to create the assignment.
    • Rhythms drills
    • Jazz licks
    • Language drills-diction
    • Technique (i.e., double tonguing, vibrato)
    • Tone quality
    • Ear training
    • Solfege

If you have never imported an MP3 into SmartMusic, just click on this link for step-by-step directions.

Creating MP3 Assignments (After importing a file)

Step 1 

  • Drag or type to set your tempo (100% is the tempo of the imported MP3).
  • Drag or type to set the beginning and ending of your assignment (by time). Be sure to give enough lead-time for students to catch the tempo.
  • Transpose the recording if needed.
  • Click the Assignment button.

Picture 3

Step 2

  • Name the assignment.
  • Enter Instructions to your students.
  • Choose the Grading style (only notation files have green and red note assessment).
  • Choose the Tempo settings: At Least or Exactly.
  • Associate State Standards to the assignment (optional).
  • Set the Assign and Due dates.
  • Click Schedule.

Picture 4

Step 3

Any assignment can be tailored for a specific group of students or instruments.

  • Select the Class or Classes.
  • Sort by Name, Instrument or Class by clicking on the category name.
  • Click Done.

Picture 5

That is it! You have created an assignment using an MP3 recording!

When the student opens the assignment in SmartMusic, it will open with the settings you selected. Like all assignments, students can change settings to practice and do multiple Takes, but only can submit an assignment that has been recorded with the required settings. 

Being able to import any MP3 file into SmartMusic gives you and your students many options for practice and evaluation purposes.

Click on the following links to learn more about Creating Assignments and Implementing SmartMusic in your program.

Have a question or comment? Click on the “Comments” link below.