Summer Sessions: Meet Ray Benton, SmartMusic Clinician

Ray Benton leading a SmartMusic Workshop

In a previous blog, I talked about the benefits of attending a SmartMusic Summer Session. Today we’ll meet Ray Benton, one of the SmartMusic clinicians conducting summer session workshops, and learn what he covers in the workshops he conducts in Missouri.

Ray has twenty-nine years’ experience as a band director at the middle and high school levels. He currently serves as music technology and education consultant for Nottelmann Music Company, is the technology chair on the Missouri Music Educators’ Advisory Board, and has been a SmartMusic clinician since 2004.

Bob Grifa: How do you set up a typical training day?

Ray Benton: In our one-day, hands-on sessions, we present the material with this format:

  1. Exploring SmartMusic content and function. In this hands-on segment we demonstrate and guide participants through the functions of SmartMusic, the different types of SmartMusic content, and the ways to add to content using .MP3 files and accompaniments made with Finale.
  2. How to apply SmartMusic into your everyday teaching. These are “break-out sessions” where we divide the participants based on their subject area in music and present specific applications of SmartMusic and the gradebook feature. We also explore ideas using SmartMusic in the classroom by using a projector, SMART Board, etc.
  3. Implementing SmartMusic into your program, school, or district. Ideas, suggestions, and concepts are presented on how to successfully get up and running with SmartMusic.

BG: How knowledgeable of SmartMusic are the teachers who sign up for your workshops?

RB: It varies greatly. I like to tell people that my job as a SmartMusic clinician typically involves some “myth-busting.” In the state of Missouri, many of our teachers have seen at least one demonstration of SmartMusic at some time. However, since SmartMusic has evolved so much in recent years, many teachers THINK they know all about SmartMusic and are surprised to learn what it does today.

Other teachers might know something of the relationship of SmartMusic and Finale and have surmised that you need to know Finale to be successful with SmartMusic, which is not the case. I’ve even spoken to some teachers who mistakenly assumed they had to have Finale loaded on their computer to run SmartMusic.

Just as our participants start with varying levels of knowledge about SmartMusic, they also demonstrate a wide spectrum of familiarity and comfort level with technology in general, from those who regard themselves as non-technical to those are clearly very tech-savvy – and everyone in between.

A good example of a “non-tech” participant was Sister Gail Buckman, band director at St. Gabriel the Archangel School in St. Louis. She admittedly wasn’t tech-savvy coming into this, but is now extremely successful with her implementation of SmartMusic. In fact, she was the First Prize Winner in last year’s SmartMusic Share Your Story contest.

On the other end of the spectrum, Ron Sikes, band director, Jefferson R-7 Schools, and Don Long, band director in the Fort Osage School District, were very tech-savvy when they participated and both are now SmartMusic Clinicians as well.

BG: What comments do you get from teachers after the training? Do they feel it was worthwhile?

RB: The feedback we receive is very positive. Teachers leave our training excited about SmartMusic. Plus we hear that the materials they take with them reinforce their experience and ensure they retain that confidence and understanding when they return to the classroom.

BG: What benefits do you feel they get from the training?

RB: During our sessions, they get a good feel for content and function; what SmartMusic contains and what it does. We like to demonstrate first and then guide the participants to explore hands-on what they just viewed. We work very hard to make sure that everyone has all the tools, concepts, contact information, and handouts to continue with their learning when they leave and are very prepared for application and implementation.

Teachers leave ready to use SmartMusic with groups of students in the classroom, ready to send assignments to their students, and with a game plan on how to get SmartMusic up and running in their program, school, and in many cases, their school district.

Thanks, Ray, for all the great information. It sounds great, doesn’t it? Click here to see the list of upcoming SmartMusic Summer Sessions.

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