Emily Stover is an elementary music educator in Princeton, Illinois. Katlyn Rumbold recently interviewed Emily about her use of SmartMusic for http://www.eightonefive.com and kindly agreed to let us share that interview here:
815: Out of all the music technology out there, why SmartMusic?
Emily Stover: SmartMusic is a cloud based program that provides recorded accompaniment and instant assessment for students, amateur, and professional musicians alike. Once the program is downloaded, the user has access to thousands of songs, from simple beginning band and recorder music, to well-known arias and concertos often performed by collegiate and professional musicians. Of all the music programs provided right now, it is the most comprehensive and user-friendly program available.
815: How do you use SmartMusic in the classroom?
ES: I have been using SmartMusic in my music classes for 4 years now. I project the program for the class using a SmartBoard and play the songs, while the class follows along. I have used the program for 4th grade recorders, beginning band, intermediate bands, and Jr. High choirs. The students play or sing along with the music, as a green bar clicks along the screen to help the students follow the beat. I use it in choir to help teach sight-reading skills, but I mainly use it with the beginning band students to aid them in learning their new instruments.
815: What is one major benefit from the teacher’s perspective?
ES: As mentioned previously, I have been using the program in my classrooms for about four years now, but last year I required all the beginning band students to purchase the program for at-home use. This is a benefit to me, as the students now have a teaching aid to work with at home, but it also allows me to send the students playing assignments. The program records the students playing their songs, and then they are submitted to me. I am then able to listen to each student’s recording and send him/her feedback on how he/she can improve. This provides me with recorded documentation on how the students play throughout the year, which is used to progress their improvement/decline, and can be played for parents to discuss the child’s progress in band.
815: What is one major benefit from the student’s perspective?
ES: The students love it! They get to practice their instruments with a computer, it is almost like a game for them. They play the songs over and over again, until they see that coveted 100% assessment score. It makes practicing more fun, and they are held accountable for their practicing…Am I playing the correct notes? Am I playing them at the right time? Am I in tune? Those questions are answered by the program, so students learn how to read music faster, and have more fun doing it.
815: Have you seen improvement since you started using the program?
ES: Yes, a lot. My first group of beginning band students who all had SmartMusic at home improved faster and sounded better at their first concert than any other group I have taught. I also have parents telling me that their child actually likes practicing! Students that consistently use the program at home progress faster and are able to fluently read music quicker than other students.
After taking a year off from teaching to receive her master’s degree at Goldsmiths, University of London in 2013, Emily Stover is on her fifth year of teaching music for Princeton Elementary in Princeton, Illinois. She currently teaches 5th grade beginning band, 6-8th grade choirs, 5th grade and kindergarten general music. Her husband, Brandon Stover, also teaches music for Princeton Elementary, directing the 6-8th grade bands and co-teaching beginning band and choir. Emily received her music education degree from Millikin University in Decatur, IL in 2009. Her primary instruments are oboe and piano.