Meet SmartMusic Teacher Ron Sikes

We recently received a great email from band director Ron Sikes. Here’s an excerpt:

My high school band was selected to perform at the Missouri Music Educators Association Convention this year. We are pretty excited. It’s a crazy story. Last year was the first year of our high school, so we only had a freshman band of 20. We went to contest (I brought up five 8th graders to fill out parts) and got straight I’s [the top rating]. We got a good recording of our contest performance so I sent it in. I figured we’d get denied, but at least we would get a judge’s critique sheet that would help us improve.

Then we received the letter: Of the 132 total applications (bands, choirs, orchestras) we will be one of seven bands performing that weekend.

In addition to his role as Director of Music in the Jefferson R-7 School District in Festus, MO, Ron also maintains a busy performing schedule as a St. Louis-area drummer, so I’m doubly appreciative of the time he took to share his experiences with our blog:

Scott Yoho: When you submitted the recording, did the judges know it was a 9th grade band?

Ron Sikes: No. In the application process I gave the band a name (Jefferson High School), specified the class size, based on enrollment (1A Band), how many members were currently in the band (20), and how many members are projected for next year (40). That was all the judges knew.

SY: How did SmartMusic play a part in your preparations?

RS: We use SmartMusic every single day, and we use it at all levels. We use it for our assessments. I write exercises in Finale and send them out as assignments.

The two pieces we did at contest were not included in the SmartMusic literature, so I recorded the band playing the two pieces in SmartMusic, saved it as an MP3. Then I opened the MP3 in SmartMusic and made it an assignment for the middle school students who can’t practice with us every day.

Because they were able to perform their parts with the recording through SmartMusic and the gradebook, when we had a combined rehearsal everything came together pretty quickly. They already knew what the band sounded like, because they had already practiced with the band via SmartMusic.

SY: Have you used titles found in SmartMusic and those pre-authored assignments as well?

RS: One of the pieces we submitted for the MMEA was Distant Thunder of the Sacred Forest by Michael Sweeney. I used the premade assignments for that piece. I set up the dates – this section done by this date, this section done by then – and I had students submit a recording of the whole piece about a month before the concert.

SY: Can you describe how you might typically prepare a difficult piece using SmartMusic?

RS: One of the pieces we’ll do for the upcoming conference is going to be very challenging for us. So I’m going to go through that score, and look at every difficult passage. It might be the melody or counter-melody; something that might be really difficult for, let’s say, my third clarinets. I’ll take those little snippets and melodic motifs, and throw them into Finale, copy them through the whole score. This way everyone in the band gets to play those difficult parts in SmartMusic – before they get the actual piece of music.

We treat the literature we’re going to perform almost as a method book unto itself. We’re all playing the same unison lines, we can all talk about musicality and how we’re going to treat each phrase, and that sort of thing. Finally when we work through the “method” of the piece, we hand out the real piece of music. The kids not only develop a better a grasp of how all the pieces work together, but they start recognizing, for example, who has the melody, so they’re listening a little bit more deeply than they would have before.

I’d like to thank Ron for sharing some insight on his process with us, and want to wish the entire band the best in their upcoming MMEA conference performance this January!

Get the best from SmartMusic

Discover practical music education tips, delivered directly to you!

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. By viewing or browsing our site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. More Information