Chris Grifa, band director at Creekside Middle School (Carmel, IN), shares how he uses technology in rehearsals.
Technology is integrated into the classroom everyday and is an integral part of the students’ daily classroom experience. When planning a rehearsal, I think about what objectives I want to accomplish and how technology can be used to enhance those objectives.
There are available technological options to support all areas of music performance such as intonation, tone quality, rhythm or recording. Once you identify what area you would like to work on with your students, it can be as easy as doing a quick Google search or just using your imagination to figure out a way that technology can help! With the new teacher evaluation rubrics now being implemented in Indiana and across the country, there is a stronger emphasis to include technology in the classroom. Integrating technology into a music rehearsal can become seamless with a little planning and a little creativity.
Below is the podium with our technology set up which contains a computer, Yamaha Harmony Director, sound mixer and document camera.
We use SmartMusic daily in our classes and having a computer allows us to easily use SmartMusic and all of its features. SmartMusic has various practice tools including a digital recorder, as well as quick access to both a tuner and a metronome. Did you know that if you hit Command-M (Mac) or Control-M (PC), that a stand-alone metronome pops up no matter where you are in the program? Being able to project our repertoire and the method books we are using during class onto a screen helps to focus the students’ attention and engage the class. Playing along with and hearing the included accompaniments, especially with our beginners, adds another level of listening for our students as well as a unique way to start to train the students to listen. We also use the Sight Reading library in SmartMusic almost daily with our beginners as a way to reinforce note reading. We also recommend students use SmartMusic at home for their daily practice. Using the SmartMusic Gradebook feature also allows me to document student growth, which is also becoming prevalent in our teacher evaluations.
The computer also gives me access to websites such as YouTube and J.W. Pepper, which have some very good recordings and performances. However, make sure you listen to the examples first to make sure they meet your standards. One activity I do is to play a couple of different recordings of a piece that we are working on and have a student led discussion about what differences are being heard between the two performances. This is great for developing critical thinking skills.
The Harmony Director features a sustain option that allows any note or chord to be held indefinitely. Having the students play along with a drone that is perfectly in tune is a great way to help students work on intonation and the ability to adjust. We use a drone daily during our fundamentals time. The Harmony Director can also sustain chords in either just or equal temperament. TonalEnergy tuner is an iOS app that also has these same features. In addition, the app has a rewarding visual feature that displays a smiley face awhen a student plays in tune!
- Start simple. Ease your way into using technology.
- Do you have technology already available that you could start using with your students?
- Develop a setup that works for you.
- Don’t hesitate to ask other teachers how they are incorporating technology in their programs.
Remember, by starting easy and with a little planning, using technology in your rehearsal can be both a positive and seamless addition to your classroom!
Chris Grifa is currently the Co-Director of Bands at Creekside Middle School in Carmel, IN and is in his 11th year of teaching. The Creekside Wind Symphony was honored to perform at the 2013 Midwest Clinic in December and the 2013 Indiana Music Education Association Conference. His groups have consistently earned Gold and Superior ratings at the state level as well as Best in Class/Overall Grand Champion awards at various music festivals. Chris was a member of the Cadets Drum Corps and was a staff member for the Blue Coats and the Cadets. He is currently on the staff of the Carmel H.S. Marching Band and has served as a clinician/adjudicator for both concert and marching bands around the country.