As part of my work as a SmartMusic Education Specialist, I attend music education conferences across the country, where I enjoy meeting all kinds of delightful people. Among them are many college students currently pursuing music education degrees. I’m always interested to learn about their familiarity with SmartMusic. Many have used SmartMusic to practice solos; they’re often very familiar with the benefits of SmartMusic’s Intelligent Accompaniment feature. However, it’s not unusual to meet music majors whose experience with SmartMusic ends there – they simply aren’t aware of the vast libraries and types of repertoire, the exercises, or the assessment and recording capabilities, let alone the Gradebook.
It only takes a brief demonstration to illustrate how helpful SmartMusic can be in their preparation to teach. It can help them learn secondary instruments in more meaningful ways, provide better awareness of literature requirements, and offer practical means to individualize and differentiate instruction to the students they will someday instruct. It’s also a great way to integrate technology into their curriculum. Today I’d like to share a few ideas of how colleges can integrate SmartMusic into their music teacher preparation curriculum (methods classes).
I always suggest that teachers try out SmartMusic on a secondary instrument (as well as their major instrument). This gives them the perspective of a student and it quickly becomes apparent how SmartMusic can help students develop basic performance skills including fingerings, technique, tuning, and tone. This same approach can be used with music education majors in methods classes.
Teachers of college methods classes can require education majors to perform method book lines, scales, exercises, solos, and sight-reading, all with accompaniment from SmartMusic. The assessment and recording features will help them evaluate themselves. Using the Gradebook, the instructor can provide appropriate feedback and keep track of each individual student.
With all the literature that is in SmartMusic, teacher preparation can be taken to a new level! Would-be teachers can easily study and play beginner- to advanced-level music. Learning fingerings for instruments becomes more meaningful when played in the context of the accompaniments in SmartMusic. Methods class teachers now have a way to better get across their ideas of teaching each instrument. They can easily point out and play any of the numerous parts by using SmartMusic. Imagine a clarinet instructor using a SMARTBoard or whiteboard, pointing out a “run” in the Holst Suite in Eb, circling and making notes of what is “tricky,” showing the class a solution (perhaps using alternate fingerings), and then playing it with SmartMusic!
SmartMusic offers great benefits to percussion education as well. Percussion methods teachers now have a wealth of material to demonstrate how percussion instruments need to be performed within an ensemble. Learning the proper techniques for triangle now takes on a whole new meaning when you can hear it in context. Understanding the proper length of a cymbal crash based on how the music is being played and not just what the notation says is a valuable lesson for a percussionist. Now the instructor can easily show and demonstrate this concept. Students can hear and evaluate themselves playing the instrument with the music using the recording feature.
As part of my teacher preparation, I remember having to evaluate method books to see how different concepts were approached. SmartMusic currently includes 26 different method books. This is a tremendous resource that can be used in methods classes. For example, the classes can easily compare how the various band methods approach the clarinet going over the break or how the string books introduce shifting, as the methods are just a click away.
By using SmartMusic in college teacher preparation classes, future teachers have practical experience and more knowledge to answer the following questions that often arise in job interviews:
- How do you plan to individualize and differentiate your instruction with all of your students?
- How are you going to document student progress?
- How are you going to communicate effectively with parents regarding the progress of their child?
- How do you plan to use technology in meaningful ways in your classes?
Those applicants familiar with SmartMusic and the Gradebook will be able to talk at length about practical solutions they can offer for each challenge and it can start with college methods classes.