SmartMusic: The Great Equalizer?

This week I’d like to share a story from my teaching experience. As a middle school band director, one of my responsibilities was to start beginners on their instruments, and like you, I wanted them my students to succeed.

It was a few weeks into a beginning class. I was getting to know the students’ personalities, work habits, and performance skills. Some students could stand up and play in front of everybody at a moment’s notice, while others would rather not. Carl (not his real name) was a nice student, if a little shy, and was doing okay on his trumpet — but not stellar. It was taking him a little bit longer to pick up playing skills. I am not one to jump to conclusions, but based on previous experience with similar students, I was concerned whether Carl was going to “make it.” Of course I wanted him to succeed and was willing to do anything I could to help.

I was using SmartMusic as a regular part of my class and was giving my students assignments that needed to be completed with SmartMusic. Carl always completed his assignments and submitted them to me on time. At first, I would get assignments from Carl with many red notes and recordings that would reveal that his skills still needed a lot of work. In class, I was able to give specific helpful information to Carl because of his submitted work.

As time went on, I noticed his assignments had a lot more green notes and that he was sounding much better. In relative terms, he wasn’t at the same level of performance as the majority of students in the class but he was surely making progress. I also noted that he really enjoyed working with SmartMusic; even though he had SmartMusic at home, he would frequently come in and use one of the SmartMusic computers in a practice room as well.

Now let’s fast-forward to the end of the school year: Carl had become a confident player and sat fairly high in his trumpet section. When we had our Solo Friday activity, he was always volunteering to play a solo in front of the entire class. In one year he had caught up to his peers.

How was this possible? I believe there were two main contributors: Carl’s desire to learn, and his ability to practice in a meaningful way through the use of SmartMusic. The green and red note assessment gave him some necessary feedback, the recordings gave him more feedback, and the progress he saw in these two areas helped his confidence to grow in time. Would he have gotten there without SmartMusic? Perhaps. But he also could have become so frustrated that he simply stopped playing. I feel that in Carl’s case SmartMusic was a very real “equalizer,” and as such I found it to be a great enhancement to my teaching.

To be honest, at first I was concerned that students might become too dependent on practicing with SmartMusic. However, as my students got instant feedback and reinforcement from my SmartMusic assignments, they understood what they were doing correctly and incorrectly. In time, what I saw as a result was that my students were much more confident in their playing.

Thanks for letting me reminisce about one of those great, rewarding teaching experiences. Seeing any student improve is a great feeling. Seeing students exceed your expectations is even better.

Do you have any similar SmartMusic stories? Please share them with us by clicking on “Comments” below.

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