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SmartMusic Repertoire Released: 20 Ensemble Titles

SmartMusic Repertoire Released

We recently added another 20 new ensemble titles to the growing collection of SmartMusic repertoire. Among the pieces for Concert Band, Jazz Ensemble, String Orchestra and Full Orchestra included in this batch are:

Nautical Bits & Pieces (Based on Favorite Sea and River Songs)

Nautical Bits and Pieces

As the title suggests, “Nautical Bits & Pieces” contains short excerpts from eight well-known sea and river songs. Included are “Blow the Man Down,” “Spanish Ladies,” “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean,” “Song of the Volga Boatmen,” “Sloop John B,” “Blow Ye Winds,” “Haul Away Joe,” and “Anchors Aweigh.”


Take the "A" Train
Take the “A” Train

Billy Strayhorn (1915-1967), an American composer, pianist, and arranger, composed “Take the ‘A’ Train” in 1939. Duke Ellington had offered Strayhorn a job in his orchestra and gave him money to travel from Pittsburgh to New York City. Ellington wrote directions for Strayhorn to get to his house by subway. The note started, “Take the ‘A’ train…” and Strayhorn used it as the title for his composition which was to become the theme song of Duke Ellington and his orchestra, one of their biggest hits, and one of the masterpieces of jazz repertoire.

Here is the complete list:

Title Comp/Arr Publisher Music Type Pepper Level
Nautical Bits & Pieces (Based on Favorite Sea and River Songs) Story, Michael Alfred Concert Band VE
Rolling Thunder (March) Filmore, Henry arr. by Foster, Robert Carl Fischer Concert Band M
Daedalus’ Labyrinth O’Loughlin, Sean Carl Fischer Concert Band ME
Whitewater Run Kiefer, Ed Carl Fischer Concert Band E
Unleashed Terry, Petter Carl Fischer Concert Band E
Military Escort (March) Bennet, Harold arr. by Clark, Larry Carl Fischer Concert Band E
Blue Orchid, The Owens, William TRN Concert Band E
Groove Machine Navarre, Rand Northeastern Music Concert Band B
Sideways Walking Dog Smith, Zachary Belwin Jazz Ensemble E
There is No Greater Love Jones, Isham arr. by Richards, Eric Belwin Jazz Ensemble A
Star Eyes DePaul, Gene; Wolpe, Dave; Raye, Don Belwin Jazz Ensemble M
Rockin’ Merry Christmas, A Neeck, Larry C.L. Barnhouse Jazz Ensemble E
Rush Hour Niehaus, Lennie Kendor Jazz Ensemble M
Take the “A” Train Strayhorn, Billy arr. by Lopez, Victor Belwin Jazz Ensemble ME
Andante from Trio Sonata Op. 5, No. 1 Handel arr. by Sieving, Robert Highland/Etling String Orchestra M
Phantom’s Escape O’Loughlin, Sean Carl Fischer String Orchestra M
Slavic Celebration Calhoun, Bill Carl Fischer String Orchestra E
Country Song (Two Songs Without Words, Op. 22, No. 1) Holst, Gustav arr. by Sieving, Robert Highland/Etling String Orchestra MA
Grave and Allegro Telemann, Georg arr. by McCashin, Robert FJH String Orchestra M
Last Chorale, The (Vor deinen Thron tret ich hiermit) BMV 668 Bach, JS arr. by Lipton, Bob FJH String Orchestra M


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

Music for Music’s Sake

Music for Music's Sake video image

This television commercial aired a few years back touting the 21st century progressiveness of a communications company. In the background Gene Wilder is singing “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The announcer explains that when we were five years old, anything was possible. Visually, child-like crayon images illustrate the wonderment of a child’s mind and there’s an implied message that as we get older, we lose this ability to be expressive and see the world with amazement.

The commercial really made me think about the young students that join band. From the first day of instruction, they desperately want to experience the wonderment of music-making. They begin their musical journey with the same creativity and giddiness of a five-year-old. The question is whether or not somewhere along their musical journey, they lose the passion and energy that they brought to the table from the start. What we hope happens over time is that they will have an appreciation for music, continue playing their instruments, and will resonate with music for the rest of their lives. What happens in between should be a world of self-discovery through the act of making music.

In this day of budget cuts, where most arts agencies find themselves on the proverbial chopping block, it is really important that we be able to communicate to parents, administrators, business leaders and school board members why the study of music is so important. Many times when we think of advocacy, we begin to quote how the study of music increases SAT scores and improves problem solving, reading comprehension, motor proficiency, spatial awareness, and listening skills. Sometimes, we quote research studies about cognition, where scientists have proven that the study of music actually causes one to use more of the brain. All of these studies are valuable and we should freely use them to defend our cause. However, they don’t necessarily explain why music making is so important.

Is Music an Activity?

The most dangerous label that I see associated with the study of music is that it’s an “activity.” This is especially true in the public school climate where administrators see the arts in the same manner as extra-curricular activities or driver’s ed. We must be able to defend why we are part of the core curriculum and why we are necessary. Furthermore, we need to be able to clearly articulate the study of music for music’s sake.

What is it that music does for the soul that other pursuits can’t do? How does communicating through the language of music change a person? When you hear Irish Tune from County Derry, the second movement of the Persichetti Symphony for Band, Barber’s Adagio for Strings, or Eric Whitacre’s Water Night, why does the music itself stop you in your tracks and cause you to experience emotions and feelings that go to the very core of the soul. How does music intuitively cause you to move, dance, and interpret?

The first time I heard a live performance by the Chicago Symphony, they performed Mahler’s First Symphony. That experienced transformed me as a person, changed the way I heard music, and made me passionately pursue a career in music. Do we go out of our way to share with our students the experiences that changed us musically?

For Rehearsal

In a practical, real-world application, do the following at your ensemble’s next rehearsal:

  • Play to and away from arrival points and seek to discover what the music is intuitively asking you to express
  • Reduce the vertical “impulses” and create long lines for phrase shape; no audience has ever heard a barline
  • Discover suspensions, note weighting, and the concept of tension/release
  • Ask your students to expressively improvise slow, melodic, eight-measure songs
  • Sing or play slow, melodic phrases to your students for them to play back using “call and response”
  • Sit down at the piano and improvise for your students

I recently had a person tell me that the reason we don’t use the music for music’s sake argument in advocacy is because it’s not definable. Well…. I disagree. We better start figuring out ways to define it or we may be out the door with the “activities.”

Music is intrinsic and in every individual; it is connected to the human spirit and the imaginative mind. The study of music actively engages students in the creative process. Each rehearsal, students have the chance to explore and investigate new ways of artistically stating who they are and what they feel. Music can only be explained by music, but it is definable and it makes life richer and fuller for those that experience it and listen to it.

As you tenaciously pursue the perfection of the components of playing, never forget that it’s a means to an end … making music with your students so that the process is artistic and they are deemed artists.

George Szell once stated:

“When you start going into every phrase and search for the maximum content that can be conveyed without distortion or gratuitous underlining, you are probing further into the heart of the music and touching the composer himself.”

scott_rush 300Scott Rush is the Director of Fine and Performing Arts for Dorchester School District Two in South Carolina. Prior to that appointment, he was Director of Bands at Wando High School in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina for 15 years. He is a graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, where he received a Master of Music degree in French Horn Performance. Under his direction, the Wando Symphonic Band performed at the 2007 Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago, Illinois. In 2008, the Wando Band program received the prestigious Sudler Flag of Honor by the John Philip Sousa Foundation.

Mr. Rush is active as a clinician and adjudicator and has presented workshops for various universities, school districts, and conferences throughout the United States and Canada. He is the author or co-author of six highly touted books published by GIA Publications. They are: “Habits of a Successful Band Director,” “The Evolution of a Successful Band Director,” “Habits of a Successful Musician,” “Habits of a Successful Middle School Band Director,” “Habits of a Successful String Musician,” and “Quality of Life Habits of a Successful Band Director.” He has been the recipient of the National Band Association’s Citation of Excellence on five occasions and is a former board member of the NBA. In 2010, Mr. Rush was elected into the prestigious American Bandmasters Association and in 2015 was elected into the South Carolina Band Directors Association Hall of Fame.

SmartMusic in Music Education Tech Classes

SmartMusic in Tech Classes

I teach at a small liberal arts college in the Midwest. Our music education students, like most others I would assume, are required to take one course each in brass, woodwind, string and percussion tech. We meet one day of the week for 50 minutes, so time is a major factor in developing the appropriate syllabi for each course. For the past 6 years I have insisted that the students who enroll in these courses have a student subscription to SmartMusic and it has become an invaluable tool in the teaching of these courses.

Throughout the semester students are required to learn and perform exercises on each of the instruments in the particular family of instruments being studied. While there is no expectation that the students develop into more than middle school level-performers neither is it allowed that the students fail to produce characteristic tone qualities and gain some proficiencies. Having the students use SmartMusic allows me to listen to their progress on the individual instruments and give constructive feedback without having to use the limited class time that we have. Students often submit their recordings to me at very unusual times, like 1:30 a.m.! I am then free to listen to their submissions outside of class time. Using SmartMusic allows the students the flexibility they need in order to submit their assignments.

Another feature of SmartMusic that I have found extremely beneficial in teaching these classes is the number of method books that are available on the program. One of the assignments that students must complete is a method book assessment. Having the many methods available in one location not only saves the students time and money but allows them to browse the methods easily and quickly. They can compare and contrast the various methods from one location and easily navigate back and forth between the books. Often times the students will remember the method that they used in elementary, middle and high school but are completely unaware of the numerous methods that are available to them. The decision on which method they want to use when they find a teaching position is made much more effectively when they have had the opportunity to view and work out of many books before making that decision.

Finally, I like using SmartMusic in the methods class because it is motivational. It is not only beginners who enjoy the “game-like” features of the program. College students, too, enjoy the assessment and then can challenge each other to “beat” the high score. With this going on, I am free to talk about the many other aspects about playing and teaching the families of instruments without having to focus on right and wrong notes.

I encourage those of you who teach methods courses to explore the possibilities of using SmartMusic in your teaching. I would also enjoy hearing other comments about how you may use this tool and the results that you are seeing from your students.

PohlandGlennGlenn Pohland, D.M.A., is the director of instrumental music at Loras College and an assistant professor in the communication and fine arts division. He conducts the wind ensemble, jazz ensemble and chamber groups; serves as instructor of the low brass studio; and teaches courses in music education, orchestration, music history, instrumental techniques and conducting.

Previously, Dr. Pohland was an assistant professor of instrumental music education at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and served for 24 years as the director of bands and general music teacher in the Glencoe-Silver Lake, Minnesota, school district. He is also an active adjudicator, clinician and guest conductor.

The Band Director as an Effective Servant-Leader


Albert Schweitzer once said, “Of this I am certain: The only ones among you who will be truly happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.1 Schweitzer seemed to understand that true and long-lasting happiness comes when we serve others.

One of the greatest challenges we face in band programs today is ensuring that every band room has a competent, enthusiastic band director. We need people who see their desire to be a band director as a “calling” – where they demonstrate their love for kids and want to be a part of their students’ development. The effective band director must be a fine, well-trained musician who loves music and has the ability to explain the importance and the complexity of music, and the relationship of music to the human condition.

Richard Freed, the distinguished American music critic, annotator, and broadcaster, asked this rhetorical question while delivering a keynote address: “Why is it that our young people get involved with drugs?” He answered his own question by saying,

“While some of our severely disadvantaged kids are facing outright hopelessness, the reason our kids from all economic groups get involved with drugs is that their lives are appallingly empty. Without the stimulation of music and the other arts, they have nothing to fill the thirst all humans, and especially developing adolescents, feel for something to touch them spiritually, to stimulate their productive inquisitiveness and all-around intellectual energy. They may not be able to define or describe the emptiness they feel, but they have dramatic, and all too often very destructive, ways of making it known. For many of today’s kids, performing in a band is their last and only chance of participating in something of value.2

Not only must we encourage bright and gifted young people to enter this grand and noble profession of band directing, but we must also retain them. MENC reports that a disappointingly large number of new teachers leave the profession before completing five years of teaching. Many leave because they have become disillusioned, unsuccessful, under-appreciated, and unfulfilled.

Perhaps some of those that have become disillusioned, and feel unsuccessful, under-appreciated, and unfulfilled need to re-focus and re-examine their mission and goals. Effective servant-leadership is the discipline of deliberately exercising inspired influence within a group to move toward goals of beneficial permanence that fulfills the group’s real needs. This requires that band directors exercise wisdom. The band director must be able to discern those goals that are long lasting and fulfill the group’s real needs. In short, the band director becomes an effective servant-leader when he or she serves the students in meeting their needs – not wants.

Students, their parents/guardians, and administrators will respond favorably when band directors emphasize excellence over entertainment, and the process as well as the product. By doing so, the band director becomes an effective servant-leader and experiences the joy, satisfaction and happiness that come with serving others.

Work Cited
1 Tim Hansel, Holy Sweat (Waco, TX; Word Books, 1987), 159.
2 Freed, Richard, Keynote Address, Why Band? Why Music? Washington D.C., 1988.


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.

Bicycles and Music

Johnny Random screenshot

June is bike month in Colorado. While MakeMusic will participate in Bike to Work Day on June 24, bikes are a significant part of our world every other day, too. Moderate weather, ample bike paths, and encouragement from our upstairs neighbors at TrainingPeaks all contribute to making our office bike-friendly all year round.

That said, when bikes and musicians meet, magic can happen. Check out the video above to hear what composer Johnnyrandom can create using only the sounds of the bicycle. As he says:

“Through music, I want to change the way that people perceive their surroundings, and I hope this will inspire others to look at everyday objects with more curiosity and wonder.”

If, like me, you’re intrigued, here’s another well-done video about the found objects aspect of Johnnyrandom’s music, created at the Belgium Brewery in nearby Fort Collins.

Of course, no blog post on bicycles and music would be complete without mentioning Frank Zappa’s 1963 appearance on the Steve Allen Show.

Enjoy and ride safe.

Talking to Parents about SmartMusic

Talking to Parents about SmartMusic

Thinking about implementing SmartMusic into your program? Ongoing communication with parents can ensure they will help make it happen. Many directors have found that the best way to start this dialog is to host a SmartMusic information and demonstration event.

Parent SmartMusic Demonstration

Whether you schedule a special parent night or include a demonstration at a concert, be sure parents see students performing with SmartMusic. To help you with your planning, we offer free on-line demonstration materials including timelines, outlines and best practices.

I’d also recommend showing your parents our SmartMusic Parent Video. In four minutes they’ll see students and parents describing their experiences using SmartMusic at home. It’s important to note that SmartMusic helps the students understand what to do to get better even if their parents don’t have a music background. That can be very reassuring for parents.

Sister Gail Buckman“After I demonstrate what SmartMusic can do at a parent meeting, they ask, “Why wouldn’t you want to use this?” They are surprised to find out that the cost of SmartMusic is very reasonable. Parents who have played an instrument say that they want to pick up their instrument again because it looks like so much fun! When their child practices with SmartMusic, it is easier to hear both the mistakes and the progress that is being made. Parents who don’t know music feel like they have a better “handle” on what their kids are doing.”

– Sister Gail Buckman, Band Director, St. Gabriel’s Catholic School, St. Louis, MO.

Tell Parents How SmartMusic Will Be Used

Clearly communication doesn’t end at demonstration night. SmartMusic assignments represent a great opportunity to include parents in their student’ home practice. As you begin your implementation, tell your parents exactly how you plan to use SmartMusic to help their children practice and improve their music skills:

  • What kind of assignments are required
  • How are assignments graded
  • What kind of feedback will you give to students and parents
  • How do students and parents know how they are doing?
  • What kind of home practice equipment and set up is required?

Don Long“Each parent-teacher or student-led conference, regardless of the student’s current level of performance, was a positive one. Why? Because SmartMusic provided the kind of data that teachers in other subjects only dream of having.

I accessed the student’s most recent playing assessment through SmartMusic’s Gradebook. I reviewed my written comments and help parents to interpret the familiar screen shot of red and green notes from that assessment. We listened to the audio recording, which seems to be the highlight of my conferences. Parents enjoy hearing their child play… This is far different from the years before SmartMusic when I could only discuss (without evidence) how a child was performing on their instrument.”

– Don Long, Director of Bands and Department Chair, Fire Prairie Middle School, Independence, MO

Even More Communication

Recently, as part of one school’s year-end activities, teachers and parents were given a survey about the school year. One of the questions was how well the teachers communicated with parents. Teachers rated themselves at 7 out of 10, but the parents rated the teachers 3 out of 10.

The SmartMusic Gradebook offers several ways to enhance communicate with parents, by:

  • Sharing SmartMusic scores and recordings.
  • Reassigning work to students with a mouse click.
  • Easily sending personal notes to students and parents.
  • Helping students learn music in a thoughtful and transparent process.

Martha Bonshaft“I provide a comment for every single exercise that a student submits. The parents appreciate this and it has helped in developing open communication with them. Parent/teacher conferences are relaxed. With the e-mail button, I can easily share the successes of students with their parents. The parents feel much more a part of their child’s music education. With the documentation that SmartMusic provides, parents are making their kids’ practicing a priority.

I have an entire folder of positive quotes from parents regarding SmartMusic. You can’t beat that. I also create a portfolio of each student’s work over three years. Imagine that!”

- Martha Boonshaft, Band Director, Garden City Middle School, Garden City, NY

Communicate by Sharing Music

It’s easy for busy music teachers to get so wrapped up in concerts, testing, grading and documenting student progress that sometimes we forget that our students (and parents) signed up for our music classes to enjoy making music.

We can encourage students to use SmartMusic to share their music with friends and family by picking out music they love making recordings:

  • Any music that is recorded in SmartMusic can be saved as an MP3 and shared with others.
  • In addition to recording fun music, SmartMusic can also be used in auditions and to create archive portfolios          

Jim Schulz“Using SmartMusic to create a Holiday CD for parents using is a project I have used for many years. I am currently doing this project with my 6th grade string players.  If you don’t wish to create a holiday CD, you could use this template for other projects such as a portfolio of your students’ progress. 

Since the students choose the songs, they work really hard on them and we make it a goal to record at least one song per week in their lesson.

– Jim Schulz, Instrumental Music – Strings, Lincoln Public Schools, Lincoln, NE

In Conclusion

When you’re doing everything you can do to keep your music program improving, it can sometimes be easy to forget that your students’ parents will not know anything about SmartMusic unless you show them. They won’t know about all of your great plans and intentions unless you tell them and you make sure that they know how this can benefit their children. Take the time to plan an event and inform your parents, and continue to communicate all of the good things that their children are experiencing in your music program, and they will become your greatest supporters.

SmartMusic Repertoire Released: 19 Ensemble Titles

197 v2

We recently added another 19 new ensemble titles to the growing collection of SmartMusic repertoire. This batch included pieces for Concert Band, Jazz Ensemble, String Orchestra and Full Orchestra.

Title Comp/Arr Publisher Music Type Pepper Level
Night on Fire (from “The Soul Has Many Motions”) Mackey, John Osti Music, Inc. Concert Band M
…In Endless Song (How Can I Keep from Singing) Lowry, Robert; Standridge, Randall D. Wingert-Jones Publications, a division of J.W. Pepper. Concert Band ME
Force of Destiny Neeck, Larry C.L. Barnhouse Co. Concert Band ME
Bringin’ Down the House Neeck, Larry C.L. Barnhouse Co. Jazz Ensemble ME
Darklands March Standridge, Randall D. Grand Mesa Music Publishers Concert Band E
Amor de mi Alma Stroope, Z. Randall; Umar, Frederick TRN Music Publisher Inc. Concert Band MA
Santa Monica Stroll Levy, Jeremy FJH Music Company Jazz Ensemble M
Angels We Have Rocked on High Traditional; Sharp, Chris FJH Music Company Jazz Ensemble MA
Klaxon, The (March) Fillmore, Henry; Foster, Robert E. Carl Fischer LLC. Concert Band MA
Grease Wheezer Norman, Vince Belwin Jazz Ensemble ME
Funky Stuff Schaefer, Joe Smart Chart Music Jazz Ensemble M
Allegretto from Symphony No. 3 Schubert, Franz; McCashin, Robert D. FJH Music Company String Orchestra M
Dance of the Trolls Forbes, Mike FJH Music Company String Orchestra MA
Medley from the Masters Beethoven, Ludwig van; Brahms, Johannes; Verdi, Giuseppe; McCashin, Robert D. Wingert-Jones Publications, a division of J.W. Pepper. String Orchestra E
Epic Clark, Larry Carl Fischer LLC. String Orchestra VE
Zombie Tango Meredith, James Carl Fischer LLC. String Orchestra E
Cloud Dance Sharp, Thom Highland/Etling Publishing String Orchestra ME
Aethelinda Bishop, Jeffrey S. Highland/Etling Publishing Full Orchestra MA
I Got Rhythm Gershwin, George; Story, Michael Belwin String Orchestra VE

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

From the Components of Playing to Communicating Musically

Scott Rush SM blog

Much of how we spend our rehearsal time involves perfecting the Components of Playing. After all, bad tone quality supersedes much, if not all, of the components … you can’t tune a bad sound. The hard work required to hone skills such as timing, tuning, balance and blend are noble undertakings and should be passionately pursued. The time slated for fundamentals at the beginning of each rehearsal should be devised to address the various components as part of the normal warm-up process. However, it is imperative that our teaching curriculum not stop there. So the question seems to be … once we’ve addressed the various components, then what?

For the sake of providing a systematic process to this musical journey, I would like to suggest the following exercise. Take a blank piece of paper and draw a line down the middle of the page. On the left side of the paper, write the following Components of Playing list, leaving several spaces between each word. This is essentially what you are responsible for teaching in terms of fundamentals. On the right side, start listing how you teach the various components. Fill as much of the right side as you can by listing teaching strategies, method books, worksheets, and any other means that you use to teach the component. When you’re done, you should have a blueprint for your daily, weekly, and quarterly fundamentals curriculum. You should be able to visibly see your teaching process in action. Here is a simple template for your work:

The Components of Playing

            What to Teach                                                                                      How to Teach It?

  1. Tone
  2. Timing
  3. Tuning
  4. Dynamics
  5. Phrasing
  6. Articulations (staccato, marcato, legato, slurred, various accents)
  7. Rhythm
  8. Balance
  9. Blend
  10. Attacks
  11. Releases
  12. Duration of notes
  13. Range
  14. Endurance
  15. Technique
  16. Tone Color (intensity, color spectrum, sonority)
  17. Consistency /Accuracy

Doing this exercise will make tremendous headway toward getting your students from point A to point B. It establishes a rehearsal dialogue, provides a blueprint for teaching fundamentals, and allows for transfer of concepts. If you’re having trouble establishing exercises to teach each of these components, I’ve written a method book titled Habits of a Successful Musician that will help aid in devising appropriate exercises for use during fundamentals time.

Where the teaching of the above-named components is critical, it shouldn’t stop here. We should extend this process under the umbrella of equipping the musical toolbox. It’s not, in and of itself, a way of communicating musically. However, these components must certainly be tenaciously perfected to have a chance at musical communication.

It’s All A Means to an End … Music Making

We must cross the threshold from the Components of Playing to communicating something musically.

Musicianship (beauty, shape, interpretation, emotion, style, mood, artistry)

These words represent the ability to express something through the artistry of the music-making process. The following is a different type of dialogue, which should be used when students are mature enough musically to accomplish the nuance or concept. This is not designed to be a comprehensive list, but to establish a more musically extensive vocabulary.

Musical Tips

  • Long notes should have direction—they should intensify or decrescendo.
  • Phrases should have peaks and valleys, arrival points, and weighted notes (agogic).
  • You should carry over (connect) phrases and make sure you don’t breathe at inappropriate places.
  • If a line is repeated, do something different with it the second time.
  • Find tension and release points.
  • Musical moments usually take longer to build than they do to pull away.
  • In many styles, short notes lead to long notes.

Extramusical Stimuli

  • It’s what’s NOT on the page that makes the music.
  • Use “mood” words to establish style and ambiance.
  • Assign words to entire musical phrases to help establish meaning and purpose.
  • Persichetti said, “Music is either dancing or singing.”
  • It’s what happens between the notes that makes the music come alive.
  • The music will tell you what to do; the intuitive response causes you to create more than what’s on the page.

Philosophical Prompts

  • Trust your soul to feel and express the music—be musical! Tell a musical story with passion and conviction.
  • The conductor’s blood must drip with musical conviction, both to the players and the audience.
  • Try to discover music in every phrase.
  • Unlike a painting or sculpture, music can be re-created again and again, with new meaning and understanding.
  • The paper and ink don’t make the music; instruments make no sounds on their own—the soul creates the music.
  • Music must be interpreted to the point that the performance is said to be artistic and the performers, artists.

These bullets are designed to establish a vocabulary and a culture for music making. These musical truths are different from the Components list in that they cause the performer to feel and interpret the notes and ink on the page. It’s a different mindset than being “in tune,” playing “in time” or executing the correct articulation. It’s a form of musical communication, a language in and of itself. This list can aid in the development of the conductor’s ability to communicate musical concepts from the podium. However, the students must be at the point in their musical development where you’re not talking over their heads. Our rehearsal halls should be filled with this type of dialogue. Try making a list of “musical truths” that you use within the rehearsal setting.

scott_rushScott Rush is the Director of Fine and Performing Arts for Dorchester School District Two in South Carolina. Prior to that appointment, he was Director of Bands at Wando High School in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina for 15 years. He is a graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, where he received a Master of Music degree in French Horn Performance. Under his direction, the Wando Symphonic Band performed at the 2007 Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago, Illinois. In 2008, the Wando Band program received the prestigious Sudler Flag of Honor by the John Philip Sousa Foundation.

Mr. Rush is active as a clinician and adjudicator and has presented workshops for various universities, school districts, and conferences throughout the United States and Canada. He is the author or co-author of six highly touted books published by GIA Publications. They are: “Habits of a Successful Band Director,” “The Evolution of a Successful Band Director,” “Habits of a Successful Musician,” “Habits of a Successful Middle School Band Director,” “Habits of a Successful String Musician,” and “Quality of Life Habits of a Successful Band Director.” He has been the recipient of the National Band Association’s Citation of Excellence on five occasions and is a former board member of the NBA. In 2010, Mr. Rush was elected into the prestigious American Bandmasters Association and in 2015 was elected into the South Carolina Band Directors Association Hall of Fame.

Getting Started With Sound Innovations for Guitar

SI for Guitar

[Bill Purse, co-author of "Sound Innovations for Guitar," is our guest blogger this week, sharing tips to help guitarists get started with both SmartMusic and this excellent guitar method.]


SmartMusic provides a solid guide for the beginning guitarist to personalize computer-assisted guitar instruction with practical materials they will use for a lifetime. All of the exercises, examples, and approaches in Alfred Music’s Sound Innovations for Guitar provide real world music skills for guitarists no matter their level. Let me share some thoughts on getting started as a guitarist with SmartMusic and tips for maximizing the educational impact it can provide. After this brief tutorial, you should be well on your way to enjoying and playing all of the music in Sound Innovations for Guitar.


Download the program from the SmartMusic site.

Once you download the program, you will be guided through the installation process for your computer or for the recently released iPad version.

One of the great features of SmartMusic is its interactivity and assessment of your Sound Innovations for Guitar lesson performances. You will attach a clip-on microphone to your collar to input a take, in which the computer records and accesses your performance. Keep in mind that you can practice and review multiple lesson takes and keep your best take.


My guitar input recommendation is to use either an acoustic guitar with a built-in pickup or an electric guitar and USB to instrument cable. Note: these will require a USB port on your PC or Mac. Know that they are not expensive and work quite well. Examples: Ion IUB3 USB guitar cable for $29.92 | ClearClick guitar to USB cable $9.95. Or one of the new electric guitars that have USB output. Examples: USB Fender Squire Strat | Behringer iAXE393 USB guitar | Epiphone Ultra-339 guitar with USB output.

If you only have an acoustic guitar, a mic is required. SmartMusic offers an instrumental mic with a 10-foot cable for $29.95.

Once you select the proper input for SmartMusic as prompted by the application, select the appropriate input, such as the mic or USB Audio Device. Then close this window with the Close button at the bottom of the screen.


Launching SmartMusic   

When you launch SmartMusic, after registering as a student, you can go to My Library > Method Books > Sound Innovations for Guitar. When you select this option, you will see all of the available lessons and tutorials available to guide you through your guitar journey.

Each part for the Sound Innovations for Guitar studies/songs has an individual selection. You will need to play the selected Guitar part (Gtr. 1, Gtr. 2 or Gtr. 3). SmartMusic will perform any the other parts. Be careful that you play the appropriate selected Guitar Part or you will not get an accurate assessment.



Once you are getting a good signal on the Adjust Input Level meter, you will be ready to tune your instrument. Select the Tuner button  in the upper right hand corner of the screen, make sure it is set to Guitar in the upper left hand corner, and tune away with SmartMusic’s sophisticated tuner. Click the Done button when finished to launch into the SI Guitar Method.


Use the View menu at the top of the screen to go into full screen, or press command f. If the music is smaller than you wish, you can simply use the power keys command + or command – to modify the size of the music to one you can easily read.

SmartMusic Controls


  • The Start Take button gives you a count off and then allows you to play the example or song. The green bar will travel across the music to show you where you should play the notes or chords.
  • The Tempo numerical field and blue tempo slider directly below it allow you to set the speed of the playback. Highlight the tempo field; then simply type in the desired tempo or use the slider to change the playback’s tempo. Tempo alterations will change the speed of the playback but not the pitch. You can select a tempo at which you can play the music accurately and then slowly increase the tempo as your guitar playing improves.
  • The Pause button stops SmartMusic’s playback when you press it, freezing the music until you hit the space bar. This resumes playback from where the music was paused.
  • All of the square boxes in SmartMusic’s main menu have a yellow light to the left of the button illustrating that its option is on. These boxes are black when the option is turned off.
  • The location fields allow you to select where the music will start after a count off. The house icon can be set to move the cursor to the beginning or end of the example. The following numericals select the start and stop points in bars and beats within the score. The loop button keeps the score playing over and over until the stop take button is selected.


SmartMusic lets you listen to your performance and even save it as an MP3 file to share with your teacher or friends. You can select the takes button to see all of the takes you have created for each exercise or song. In addition, the keep button inside and to the right of this pull-down menu gives you the option of keeping the takes you want to preserve.


I am an enthBill Imageusiastic witness to SmartMusic’s brilliant realization of Alfred Music’s Sound Innovations for Guitar method. It is a wonderful educational tool where you will experience an interactive guitar course that uses our music, recordings, and concepts. Aaron Stang and I want to encourage you to enjoy working with this innovative software, whether at home or in the classroom.

SmartMusic is a wonderful way to grow at your own pace as a guitarist, and it provides many options for you to develop solid musicianship skills. Good luck with SmartMusic, and have fun exploring many of the other works and improvisational opportunities SmartMusic provides.

Bill Purse is the co-author of Sound Innovations for Guitar (with Aaron Stang) and the Chair of Guitar and Music Technology at Duquesne University.

Talking to Administrators about SmartMusic

Talking to Administrators about SmartMusic

If you’re excited to implement SmartMusic in your program, but first need to gain administrative support, you may be called upon to articulate what SmartMusic offers.

The information below highlights some of what SmartMusic can provide to students, parents, and teachers; answers some frequently asked questions; and shares tips that have helped other educators when talking to administrators about SmartMusic.

SmartMusic for Students and Parents

How does SmartMusic benefit students? With SmartMusic, all students can:

  • Receive immediate feedback, in terms of pitches and rhythms, even when practicing at home
  • Practice with accompaniment, understanding how their part fits with the whole group
  • Hear recordings of their performances for self-analysis
  • Receive and submit assignments, and receive educator feedback on them

As a result, students practice more and progress faster.

Jonathan 2One way to substantiate this is to share success stories from other teachers in your area. You may know teachers with stories like Jonathan Grimsby:

“During parent teacher conferences, when parents come in, we can pull up Susie’s profile. Boom – it’s all there. We can listen to how she was playing at the beginning of the year and all the way through the rest of the year.”

 – Jonathan Grimsby, Band Director, Fridley High School, MN

Administrators may also be more willing to consider SmartMusic if they know that other area districts are having success with it.

Parents, too, benefit from SmartMusic. Even those with no musical background can have a better understanding of how their students are preparing and progressing by listing to student recordings, viewing the assessment feedback students receive, and seeing student scores and teacher comments.

SmartMusic for Educators

SmartMusic assists teachers by allowing them to:

  • Create and send differentiated assignments that students can complete at home or in a practice room
  • Track, collect audio recordings, grade and learn more about each student’s progress
  • Create a portfolio of each student’s work, tracking student achievement and growth
  • Assign practice reports: SmartMusic tracks the time students spend practicing
  • Encourage parents to log in to view their child’s grades

How can educators measure if SmartMusic is successful? SmartMusic helps make it possible to objectively document student progress. Kevin Crawford analyzed the student scores and shared SmartMusic objective data with his administration:

Kevin“Students that were using SmartMusic at home generally knew at least three to four scales more than the students that were either not using SmartMusic at all, or were only using it at school and were generally 10 to 20 beats a minute faster on those scales. All of my beginners that have used it through the years and are using it at home are always far ahead of the students that are only playing lines in class.”

– Kevin Crawford, Band Director, Hopewell Middle School, Round Rock, TX

SmartMusic for Administrators

Many administrators are now asking their teachers to provide data on student growth in their schools. This is a challenge for music teachers because they teach large numbers of music students with limited instruction time.

This means that some school administrators are:

  • Leaving music students out of the school reporting plan
  • Using test scores from other departments to represent music students
  • Requiring music teachers to give written “standardized” tests that don’t reflect their local music department curriculum
  • Rating teacher performance reviews on flawed process and data

Many teachers have been able to work with their administration to use SmartMusic to provide meaningful student data, including:

  • Pre-test and post-test scores
  • Formative and summative progress reports
  • SmartMusic scores for notes and rhythms
  • Recordings (and teacher scores) of submitted assignments
  • Comments given by teachers on every assignment
  • State standards documented for each assignment

If your administrator is required by law or policy to give you and your students a “score,” SmartMusic can be an incredible tool, allowing you to help your students learn as you document student progress.

Answering IT Questions

Having answers to technical questions – ahead of time – can also help ease any concerns administrators may have. When asked what kind of support your IT staff will need to provide, you can confirm that SmartMusic:

  • Was designed to function safely in a school network environment: it is a direct and secure pipeline to computers
  • Is currently being used in hundreds of schools with thousands of students in school settings
  • Provides the following settings to IT staff, so they can set up their networks to be safe and secure.
  • Lists all computer system requirements on their website.

SmartMusic Costs

Here are some of the expenses associated with a SmartMusic implementation. Typically the school or district provides:

  • Internet access for music department computers
  • A SmartMusic Educator Subscription ($140/year)
  • A few practice room computers (Mac, PC or iPad) with subscriptions ($44/year each)

Either the school or parents provide students with home subscriptions ($40/year/each). SmartMusic account managers can help put together district-pricing options. Contact SmartMusic Sales for more information.


The ultimate benefit SmartMusic offers is better student achievement. Again, sharing stories of other educators’ successes may be most compelling.

Peter“I certainly would recommend SmartMusic as a school principal and as a parent. [SmartMusic] provides teachers with an opportunity to differentiate music instruction. It provides parents with real time feedback and assessment of how well their children are doing. There are no surprises with grades.The students are performing better than they have before, and ultimately I’d say they are enjoying using the software and they are enjoying performing better.”

Peter Osroff, Ed. D., Principal at Garden City Middle School, NY

Administrators, teachers, students and parents – across the country – are seeing the value of using SmartMusic. Sharing these successes with your administration may help you enjoy these benefits as well.