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Piece of the Week: O Cool is the Valley by Vincent Persichetti



O Cool is the Valley

Vincent Persichetti (1915-1987) was an important American composer and educator, remembered for his approachable modernist style as well as his famous students, who included both Philip Glass and Peter Schickele (aka P.D.Q. Bach). Persichetti was himself something of a prodigy: his first concert of original pieces came in his teens, and by his twenties he was already teaching music theory and composition classes while still a student at Philadelphia Conservatory.

“O Cool is the Valley” (Op. 118) exemplifies the warm blend of traditional tonal harmony and expanded compositional techniques for which the Persichetti was known. Inspired by James Joyce’s poem of the same name, this piece is calm and meditative and provides an excellent introduction to 20th century modernism to students and audiences alike. 2015 will mark the 100th anniversary of Persichetti’s birth, and no doubt many groups will be programming this wonderful American composer into their concerts during the upcoming academic year.

Audio Sample

Audio provided by Naxos Digital Services Ltd. from the album, “PERSICHETTI: Divertimento/Masquerade/Parable IX.”

Composition Notes

“O Cool is the Valley” parallels the mood of the James Joyce poem. It is a colorful but quiet piece requiring meaningful melodic playing and sensitive phrasing. The opening motive generates the pastoral musical textures of two contrasting themes.

This piece was commissioned by the Ohio Music Education Association and first performed by the Bowling Green State University Band, the composer conducting, in Columbus, Ohio on February 5, 1972.

O Cool is the Valley, by James Joyce

O cool is the valley now

And there, love, will we go

For many a choir is singing now

Where Love did sometimes go.

And hear you not the thrushes calling,

Calling us away?

O cool and pleasant is the valley

And there, love, will we stay.

-from the book Chamber Music, originally published in Dublin, Ireland by Elkin Mathews, 1907.

Composer Biography

American composer Vincent Persichetti was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on June 6, 1915 and died in the same city on August 13, 1987. This prolific composer was the son of immigrant parents, his father having emigrated from Abruzzi, Italy, and his mother from Bonn, Germany. Persichetti composed in a wide range of genres, both instrumental and vocal, and was respected for his compositional ability to integrate a variety of historical influences and musical styles into his works. Persichetti began his development as a musician at a young age by studying piano, organ, double bass, tuba, theory and composition. By the time he was sixteen years old, Persichetti had secured a position as the church organist of the Arch Street Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. His advanced education in theory, composition, and piano included degrees at Combs College and the Philadelphia Conservatory. In addition to being an active composer, Persichetti was a music educator, teaching at two of his alma maters (Combs College and Philadelphia Conservatory) before accepting a position in 1947 at the prestigious Juilliard School of Music. Persichetti composed nine symphonies, a series of serenades for various combinations of instruments, a large number of instrumental solos and chamber music. His compositions for piano, including 12 piano sonatas and 6 sonatinas, have become standard works in the piano repertoire. During his successful career, Persichetti was honored with two Guggenheim fellowships, grants from the National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities, and citations from the American Bandmasters Association. Persichetti also received commissions from performing groups such as the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Koussevitzky Foundation, and the Martha Graham Dance Company.

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 gwoodworth@makemusic.com. Please let me know the name of the piece, composer, publisher, and why this piece is special to you.

SmartMusic Feature Friday: Import MP3 Files



MP3In today’s SmartMusic Feature Friday, you will learn how to import MP3 files into SmartMusic. Once an MP3 is in your SmartMusic library, you can practice or assign the MP3. This feature tremendously expands the possibilities of using SmartMusic in your curriculum.

After an MP3 file is imported into SmartMusic, you can do the following:

  • Play it at various tempos without changing key
  • Transpose to other keys
  • Loop a selected region
  • Create assignments to students with your required settings

To import an MP3, click on the MP3 Audio Files menu on the left side of the SmartMusic screen.

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The MP3 Audio Files window opens.  Click on the IMPORT button.

 

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Locate your MP3 and select it by double clicking on the file name or clicking the Open button.

 

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A window appears to let you know that your file was successfully imported Click OK.  Next, double click on the imported MP3 to open.

 

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The MP3 is now available for:

  • Start Take (record and playback)
  • My Takes
  • Tempo adjustment
  • Location and looping options
  • Assignments
  • Transposing the key of the recording

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If you need help to import your music from a CD, just click on the link on the right side of this window. This link takes you to the SmartMusic online help.

 

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Click on the following links for more step-by-step instructions from SmartMusic’s online help:

It’s that easy to add MP3’s to your SmartMusic library! You now have the ability to use the powerful practice features in SmartMusic for repertoire that is not currently in the library.

Also consider that you can also use MP3 files that you create. For example, create a practice file that focuses on a particular technique or concept (tone quality) that your students can use as a model. (Use SmartMusic’s built in digital recorder in the Practice Tools.) Leave space so students can record themselves performing the technique and then compare it to the model.

By the way, when you schedule an MP3 assignment to your students, the MP3 is automatically included as part of the SmartMusic assignment which is an easy way to distribute the file to students.

 

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

 

 

Piece of the Week: At the Movies with Hans Zimmer



At the Movies with Hans Zimmer

Hans Zimmer, the German-born and Los Angeles-based composer, has written the soundtracks to more movies than you have ever seen, or at least that’s how it seems when you look at his IMDb credits list. After starting his career as a keyboard player in new-wave bands, Zimmer got his big break composing the soundtrack to Barry Levinson’s film Rain Man and never looked back. Though he is known for his innovative use of synthesizers in film soundtracks, Zimmer is equally adept at composing heroic and beautiful themes for traditional orchestra and band instruments. This piece, from Alfred Publishing Co., brings together the main themes from three of Zimmer’s most recent action-movie soundtracks: The Man of Steel, The Dark Knight Rises, and Inception. Arranged for intermediate-level concert band, this piece is sure to grab audiences and students alike.

Audio Sample:

Audio provided by Alfred Music Publishing Co., Inc.

Composition Notes:

At the Movies With Hans Zimmer is not as much a medley of tunes as it is a “soundtrack collection” of Zimmer’s moods and familiar ambiance. Incorporating selections from Man of Steel, Inception, and The Dark Knight Rises, the piece is a tour de force of dramatic and emotional cinematic textures.

Composer Biography:

German-born composer Hans Zimmer is recognized as one of Hollywood’s most innovative musical talents, having first enjoyed success in the world of pop music as a member of The Buggles. For nearly three decades Zimmer has composed music for over 100 films, including many critically acclaimed film scores. Zimmer is best known for composing the scores to blockbuster action movies, including Batman: The Dark Knight, Inception, the Pirates of the Caribbean series, and most recently Divergent. His works are notable for integrating electronic music sounds with traditional orchestral arrangements. He has received four Grammy awards, two Golden Globes, a Classical BRIT award, and an Academy award.

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 gwoodworth@makemusic.com. Please let me know the name of the piece, composer, publisher, and why this piece is special to you.

SmartMusic Feature Friday: Hide on-screen music!



FeatureFriday_BlogHeader_EditableIn this week’s SmartMusic Feature Friday, I will show you how to hide on-screen music and still get an assessment! Why would you want to use this feature?

Perhaps to memorize:

  • Scales
  • Marching band music
  • Solos

This feature is unique because you can you hear the accompaniment as you memorize!

To hide on-screen notation in SmartMusic:

  • From the menu, select View.
  • Select Music on Screen and notice the checkmark shows that Music On Screen is enabled. 

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After selecting Music On Screen, the notation is now hidden.

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  • Press Start Take and play the music. (Make sure Count off is enabled if necessary.)
  • To see the assessment, choose View from the menu and select Music On Screen.

You will now see the red and green note assessment!

01 Select Mjusic on ScreenOh, right! It’s supposed to be a Db!

Imagine how much more productive memorizing music can be!

Since we are talking about memorizing, one method that musicians use to memorize music is to select a few measures (phrase) and keep adding to it as each “chunk” is successfully learned. SmartMusic can help here too.

To select only certain measures or phrases for memorization practice in SmartMusic:

  • Go to Location on the Control panel.
  • Type in the bar and the beat for the starting point or just click your mouse on the measure you want to start.
  • Move the cursor by End and fields to enter the information for the last measure-beat in the series will appear.
  • Do not press the Loop button if you wish to have assessment. Selecting Loop will repeat the phrase but assessment will not be available.
  • Hide the notation as described above.

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There you have it. A way to use the powerful features of SmartMusic even with the notation not visible! Memorizing can now be more efficient, productive and…fun!

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

25 New Ensemble Titles Released in SmartMusic



25 new ensemble titles are now available in SmartMusic.

Title Comp/Arr/Lyr Publisher Music Type Pepper Level
Alchemy Boysen, Jr., Andrew Kjos Concert Band M
American Heritage, An Nowlin, Ryan Kjos Concert Band M
Arch of Triumph (French March) Vinson, Johnnie Hal Leonard Concert Band E
At the Movies with Hans Zimmer Zimmer, Hans arr. by Williams, Justin Alfred Concert Band ME
Dig Down Deep Mahr, Timothy Kjos Concert Band ME
Fanfare: A Vision and a Dream Nowlin, Ryan Kjos Concert Band M
Fighting Falcon March Stalter, Todd Alfred Concert Band VE
Funkytown Greenberg, Steve arr. by Ford, Ralph Alfred Concert Band E
Ivan the Terrible Grice, Rob Composers’ Planet Concert Band ME
Just Give Me a Reason Moore, Alecia & Ruess, Nate & Bhasker, Jeffrey arr. by Roszell, Patrick Alfred Concert Band E
Land of the Lost Zombies Grice, Rob Composers’ Planet Concert Band B
Melodious Thunk Biedenbender, David Bent Space Music Concert Band MA
Mozart: Symphony No. 29, First Movement Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus arr. by Bobrowitz, David Kjos Concert Band ME
Sleep Whitacre, Eric Eric Whitacre Concert Band M
Some Nights (As performed by fun.) Ruess, Nate & Bhasker, Jeffrey & Dost, Andrew & Antonoff, Jack arr. by Roszell, Patrick Alfred Concert Band VE
Spirits Ablaze Mahr, Timothy Kjos Concert Band VE
Taiko Windham, William Alfred Concert Band VE
What Lies Within… Martin, David Kjos Concert Band ME
Dudley Did It Woolworth, Rich Jalen Publishing Company Jazz Ensemble M
Tomorrow’s Memories Yasinitsky, Gregory Kendor Jazz Ensemble E
Beginner’s Luck Gordon, Adrian Leap Year Music String Orchestra VE
Dreams of Fireflies (On a Christmas Night) O’Neill, Paul arr. by Phillips, Bob Alfred String Orchestra M
G! I Like Echoes Gruneisen, Lorie Kendor String Orchestra VE
Li’l Liza Jane Halferty, Frank J. Kendor String Orchestra VE
Viking Newbold, Soon Hee FJH Music Company String Orchestra E

 

As always, you can request a piece for a future SmartMusic release here.

SmartMusic Desktop and iPad Updates



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We want to let you know about some exciting SmartMusic desktop and iPad updates just in time for the new school year! 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/. The iPad app will update the way you have chosen for updates to be applied on your iPad: either manually or automatically.

Both the desktop and iPad applications are now compatible with custom SmartMusic accompaniments created in Finale 2014!

Exercises, etudes, audition music and any other music notated in Finale can be exported as full featured SmartMusic files including assessment capability. Using Finale created files can expand the use of SmartMusic exponentially. Click here to get more information at the Finale blog.

Fingering charts are now available on iPad!

One of the greatest help features in SmartMusic is the fingering chart that opens after selecting a note. This includes all onscreen notation in the SmartMusic Library and imported Finale created files. Swipe the fingering chart to see any alternate fingerings.

The screenshot below is a Finale created SmartMusic file showing a fingering on the iPad.

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Note feedback for vocalists now on iPad!

For vocal repertoire, after a note is selected, you will see the name of the note as well as hear the pitch.

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New Enrollment link on the iPad.

You can now use the iPad to enroll into SmartMusic classes.

On the iPad log in screen, click on the Enroll in a Class link.

iPad enroll

After clicking the link, the Enrollment screen appears.

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Delete Takes on the iPad older than 30 days.

It is quite easy to fill up the storage space on your iPad. This feature allows you to delete Takes over 30 days old recorded by all users.

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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 Support team.

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

 

Piece of the Week: Blue Ridge Impressions by Brian Balmages



Blue Ridge Impressions

Composer Brian Balmages is well known by band and orchestra conductors for his ability to create engaging and beautiful music that fits the programming needs and skill levels of ensembles from middle school to collegiate. He is a busy conductor and prolific composer, fulfilling new commissions and conducting performances of his pieces with bands and orchestras across the country, all the while serving as the director of instrumental publications for the FJH Music Company. Here at SmartMusic we are fans and supporters of Balmages’ work, and we have a large and growing number of his pieces available in SmartMusic for your ensemble to use (seventy-five pieces as of this writing, with more in development). Balmages recently spoke with MakeMusic’s own Scott Yoho about his compositional philosophy and why he never feels limited by the task of composing for young bands; you can click here to read that interview. For a taste of Balmages’ uplifting musical style, give a listen to Blue Ridge Impressions, a piece that musically portrays the grandeur of the Appalachian mountains.

Audio Sample:

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.

Composition Notes:

Blue Ridge Impressions is named after the magnificent mountain range that passes through Virginia’s Albemarle County. The piece follows the path of a single drop of water as it begins at the top of a mountain and embarks on its long journey downward. After a powerful introduction, a simple melody is introduced and developed. The piece becomes more joyous as it mimics the drop of water dancing its way down the mountain. We eventually find ourselves in a calm stream, leisurely floating along. This slow section attempts to capture the mood of such a trip with its occasional bumps and dips. Energy begins to build as the water becomes rougher with the approach of a final waterfall that sends us cascading to the bottom of the mountain.

Composer Biography:

Brian Balmages (b. 1975) is an award-winning composer, conductor, producer, and performer. He received his bachelor’s degree in music from James Madison University and his master’s degree from the University of Miami in Florida. Mr. Balmages’ compositions have been performed worldwide at conferences including the College Band Directors National Conference, the Midwest Clinic, American String Teachers Association National Conference, and the international trumpet, horn, trombone and tuba/euphonium conferences. His active schedule of commissions and premieres has incorporated groups ranging from elementary schools to professional ensembles, including the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Miami Symphony Orchestra, the University of Miami Wind Ensemble, Boston Brass, members of the United States Marine Band, and the Dominion Brass Ensemble. His music has been performed by members of leading orchestras including the St. Louis Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Detroit Symphony, Chicago Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, National Symphony, and others. He has also enjoyed world premieres in prestigious venues including Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center, as well as performances at the Macy’s Day Thanksgiving Parade.

As a conductor, Mr. Balmages enjoys engagements with numerous all-state and regional honor bands and orchestras along with university and professional groups. Notable guest conducting appearances have included the Midwest Clinic, Western International Band Clinic, College Band Directors Eastern Regional Conference, and MENC. Additional conducting appearances have included the Kennedy Center and Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. He has also served as an adjunct professor of instrumental conducting and Acting Symphonic Band Director at Towson University in Maryland. Currently, Mr. Balmages is the Director of Instrumental Publications for The FJH Music Company Inc. in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

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 gwoodworth@makemusic.com. Please let me know the name of the piece, composer, publisher, and why this piece is special to you.

SmartMusic Feature Friday: Creating Units



FeatureFriday_BlogHeader_EditableIn today’s SmartMusic Feature Friday, you will learn about creating units. Units can be created from any kind of repertoire and are a great way to organize, save and share your SmartMusic assignments. 

  • Units are a “bundled” group of assignments and are scheduled with the same set of instructions, grading points and due dates.
  • Each assignment within a unit can be also scheduled independently.
  • Units are automatically saved in your personal library and are available to be scheduled again.
  • Units can be shared with your school district and state colleagues.

Some uses for units:

  • If you use certain method book lines each year for evaluations, create a unit that contains those exercises so you can easily assign them each year.
  • Create a unit that includes scales, technical exercises and play be ear exercises based on repertoire students are learning.
  • Many teachers create units that contain exercises on a concept (i.e. dotted quarter-eighth) from the different method books that are in the SmartMusic library.

Create a SmartMusic Unit

1.  Open any SmartMusic repertoire (Method Books for this example).

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2. Open the music and click on the Assignment button.

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3. Do not enter student instructions, assessment points or dates at this time. Instead, click on +Add to unit.

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4. In the Add Assignment to Unit window, type the name of your new unit and click on the CREATE button.  Then, click the ADD button.

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5.  In the Assignment Added to Unit screen, either click the CLOSE  button and add more assignments to your unit, or click the VIEW ASSIGNMENT LIBRARY button to schedule or share units.

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6. To schedule a unit, click on the SCHEDULE button to the right of the unit.

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 Look at the Assignment window below.  The “Unit for Bb Studies” includes these three assignments.  The entire unit is scheduled with the same instructions, assessment points and due dates.

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Units in your SmartMusic Personal Library can be shared with other teachers with SmartMusic Educator subscriptions in your school district and your state by clicking on the Share icon.  For instance, you could share common assessments between schools in your district to coordinate curriculum goals.

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SmartMusic units are easy to create, can have many uses for you personally in your day to day teaching responsibilities and can be easily shared.

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

SmartMusic Update July 2014



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SmartMusic received an update on the evening of 7/8/2014 that provides greater flexibility in both enrolling students and creating rubrics. An additional update is planned for later this summer that will add compatibility with SmartMusic accompaniments created in Finale 2014. A communication will be sent as the date approaches.

DIRECT CLASS ENROLLMENT

Enrolling students can now be easier than ever by providing class enrollment links for each of your classes. With the class enrollment link, the school and class are already selected for your students. You don’t have to worry about whether students have set up their account with the correct address or if they’ve found their SmartMusic school. Students simply open the link and log in (or create an account) to enroll directly into your class.

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This allows you to enroll multiple students, one after the other. For example, you could open the class enrollment link on your laptop, iPad or other mobile device, and then pass it around the classroom to quickly and easily enroll your entire class.

Note: The current method for enrolling students is unchanged and still available to you and your students.

RUBRICS

Rubrics can now have up to 25 rows and the column values can be from lowest to highest, or highest to lowest. Rubrics are a wonderful way for you to communicate your expectations for performance to your students.

To stay posted on this and other SmartMusic updates, subscribe to this Knowledge Base article

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

New Band Method Released in SmartMusic



A new band method, Habits of a Successful Musician, has been released in SmartMusic.

New Method

Instrument Comp/Arr/Lyr Publisher Music Type Pepper Level
Flute Rush, Scott & Moon, Rich arr. by Wilder, Marguerite GIA Publications Inc Method NR
Oboe Rush, Scott & Moon, Rich arr. by Wilder, Marguerite GIA Publications Inc Method NR
Bassoon Rush, Scott & Moon, Rich arr. by Wilder, Marguerite GIA Publications Inc Method NR
Clarinet Rush, Scott & Moon, Rich arr. by Wilder, Marguerite GIA Publications Inc Method NR
Bass Clarinet Rush, Scott & Moon, Rich arr. by Wilder, Marguerite GIA Publications Inc Method NR
Alto Saxophone Rush, Scott & Moon, Rich arr. by Wilder, Marguerite GIA Publications Inc Method NR
Tenor Saxophone Rush, Scott & Moon, Rich arr. by Wilder, Marguerite GIA Publications Inc Method NR
Baritone Saxophone Rush, Scott & Moon, Rich arr. by Wilder, Marguerite GIA Publications Inc Method NR
Trumpet Rush, Scott & Moon, Rich arr. by Wilder, Marguerite GIA Publications Inc Method NR
French Horn Rush, Scott & Moon, Rich arr. by Wilder, Marguerite GIA Publications Inc Method NR
Trombone Rush, Scott & Moon, Rich arr. by Wilder, Marguerite GIA Publications Inc Method NR
Euphonium Rush, Scott & Moon, Rich arr. by Wilder, Marguerite GIA Publications Inc Method NR
TC Baritone Rush, Scott & Moon, Rich arr. by Wilder, Marguerite GIA Publications Inc Method NR
Tuba Rush, Scott & Moon, Rich arr. by Wilder, Marguerite GIA Publications Inc Method NR
Mallet Percussion Rush, Scott & Moon, Rich arr. by Wilder, Marguerite GIA Publications Inc Method NR

 

As always, you can request a piece for a future SmartMusic release here.