Sunday, March 27, 2011

Music Theory Textbooks on iPad

I just read this post about free music theory textbooks.  I have been mixing print resources with iPad resources this year.  Putting together a textbook that collects all of these resources, and provides activities using free apps could be a useful project.

Putting it on the web and updating it constantly to reflect how apps and the devices are changing could be a big job.  But it is a job that intrigues me.  Anyone want to help?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Being nervous

Currently Stephanie is in my room practicing for her presentation.  I have asked the principal to come to our room during period three.  Stephanie's senior project is to put on a talent show and she needs the permission of the principal.  I wanted her to pitch it in front of the class.

She is using Keynote for the slides and our TV for display.  She has four slides.  I would keep it simpler, but she is learning the program and how to present.  This is her first time pitching something.

She's nervous.  Nerves are not something we see too often around here.  We need to give more kids a chance to get nervous.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Passion, Emotion, Ignorance and Music

Take a moment to read this harrowing account of the New York Times journalists who were captured in Libya.  I read this story this morning and decided I wanted to use it in class.

My lessons for discussion:
1. Ignorance can rock your world.  Countless numbers of my former students couldn't answer where Iraq or Afghanistan was.  Now they know.  Twelve months in the desert will do that for you.  Ignorance is not something to be proud of.
2. These guys are living life.  They might make poor decisions, but what a life.  How do you get a job like that?  Start writing stories now.
3. Even good people make bad decisions.  The account of what happened to their driver is terrifying.  Do they regret decisions that they made?  Absolutely.
4. We owe these guys five minutes to read their stories.  People every where are putting their lives on the line.

Each class is working on a research project so I asked these questions:
1. Choir is researching Lift Thine Eyes from Elijah.  They have been researching how Mendellsohn's religious background influenced the piece.  I asked them how Lift Thine Eyes (the lyrics, the music) relates to the news article.
2. Theory is answering the question "what is music?".  Philosophical question it is.  I asked them to choose a piece of music that would fit the story.  A theme song, so to speak.  I asked them to defend it emotionally.  Music is at its heart about emotion.
3. Band is researching the song Summertime.  I asked them to answer why parents sing lullabies to their children (besides the obvious).  I asked them if their was a prayer service for the reporters would Summertime be an appropriate song to sing?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How Much Is It Worth?

I found the following in an art room closet and I need help on what they are worth. I’ve done internet search, but these are pretty rare:
1. King Sousaphone, brass. Serial 395050. I think this was built around 1965. It plays fine, but its beat up with dents.
2. Getzen Herald Trumpet (super deluxe). Serial 101322.
3. Pierret Baritone Saxophone. This looks great, but the neck joint needs to be put back on.
4. Rivoli Accordian. Red. This thing is beautiful
5. Dynasty Marching Horn (trombone??). In G.
Any help or info would be great.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Spring 2011 Repertoire

Here is what I am planning for Spring 2011. This is my second year at this program. View past programs here.

4th/5th Grade Band: When I combine two schools for the spring concert this is about 75 children.
This is WAY more music than last year. My fifth graders basically read through each piece the first time. Fourth graders will be able to tackle it once I combine the bands. We are way ahead of last year.

HS Choir. This is 13 girls and 1 boy. Only three of them are experienced choir members. We will add 10 kids from music theory for the Somebody to Love finale. We sing acapella because I cant really play piano and we can't afford an accompanist.
  • Mouse Madrigal by Steven Porter. Cute song. This is our "safe" song for festival.
  • Lift Thine Eyes by Mendellsohn. Definite festival song.
  • Somebody to Love arranged Roger Emerson. This will be our finale.
  • Sisters by Walker. Much harder. I'm not sure we have enough bodies for this.
  • Hey You (Jack's Valentine) by Libby Larson. This is really funky. I haven't heard any other groups do this.
  • assorted Frank Sinatra songs as solos
HS Band. I'm having a lot of trouble with this group so I'm not sure what we are going to do. The music theory class has the iPad ensemble and I will probably combine some of the band members with the iPad ensemble. I need to commit to some songs soon and cut some kids who aren't working loose. This will be very cool, I just have to figure out who in the band will work and join the successful group in the theory class. The theory class will perform as the SHS Band at the festival.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Coughing and Respect

Seth Godin just wrote a blog post about how Keith Jarrett stopped a concert because someone was coughing. He thought it was a sign of disrespect.

I remember Simon Carrington conducting my students in the All-State choir a few years back. There were 250 students in front of him and, of course, lots of coughing. He stopped rehearsal and said "you can control your cough. Please don't cough anymore. Its distracting." Suddenly, silence. He was right, the students did stop coughing.

Makes me think about expectations. Which expectations are reasonable? How powerful can we become if we raise those expectations together?

Nota iPad App

Yesterday I downloaded the Nota app for the iPad. Its free and its one of the best apps for the classroom I've seen.

The app has an on screen keyboard and a treble clef staff. If you press a note on the keyboard the corresponding note appears on the staff. Cool. But if you press chords or scales the app will highlight what keys to press. Very useful for beginning theory.

It also has a handy and easy to use reference section with common terms. You can take a simple note quiz which isn't very useful but might be good for elementary students.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Treat your band like a choir..

I teach EVERYTHING here in Seymour. I have been both a band and choir director since I was teaching in Derby in 1996. I think you should treat your band like a choir and treat your choir like a band.

What do I mean?

Bands should sing, be expressive, get goofy time, worry about their "vowel sound", know the lyrics. Great bands can change their tone color in an instant. Count Basie's band is a great example of this.

Choirs should read, read , read. Work on articulation, dynamics, and performance practice. Like a marching band they should move around! They should practice.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

iPad Syncing

iPad syncing is a drag. There has to be an easier way? Am I missing something? I've spent almost the entire day installing updates.

I try to do two at a time but it just gets crazy. I hear you can use a USB hub to do multiple ipads at once. I wish we could do this through wi-fi.

Monday, March 14, 2011

What is Music?

Two times per year I ask my music theory classes a simple question "What is music?". We find this nearly impossible to define. But I always find it interesting how the discussion is so different six months into the class. I was planning on assigning the question again today.

Then I came across this video from Mother Jones:

Now this might be just crazy random playing, but it certainly might change our perception of music. How do you define music?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

All-State Auditions

Been wondering about this. I think all of our states believe in high-stakes testing--the All-State audition.

In my state (CT) about 50% of the students selected for all-state come from the top 5% wealthy districts. The bottom classification (about 50% of the population) gets about 2% of the selections. Selection to all state, like standardized tests is almost all directly related to district/family income. Yes, of course there are exceptions.

All Eastern uses a formula for selection. Pennsylvania gets 15% of the students, Deleware 4%, etc... So this is a system that people believe in.

Do any states do something similar with their All-State, where the number of selections is directly related to your population? In Connecticut this would mean Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven would get about 1/2 the slots.

I just think we are excluding so many kids. I hope I explained this well enough. Would love to hear your thoughts.

Japanese School Bands

A lot has been written lately about these Japanese super bands. These are middle schoolers! Some say they practice too much. I admit, a problem I wouldn't mind having.

I know there are communities here in the USA where expectations are high as well. You will do band, you will practice, and you will achieve at the highest level. I grew up in one of those communities. Building that culture is hard.

I see great, great progress from my elementary groups. I am so hoping that they keep that energy going at the middle school. It is a long three years before I see them again at the high school. I am thinking about forming a district "all-star" band to help bridge that gap.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Grant Writing

I am currently working on the evaluation of the iPad grant. Collecting receipts, accounting, using data, etc... I hope to have an article written for CMEA Journal as well.

I have applied for a Valley Community Foundation grant for next year and will be writing another Matthies Foundation grant soon as well.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Garageband, iPads, and the Music Classroom

Garageband came out this afternoon. The downloading has been fast and furious. Any product that can get lots of twitter shouts has to have people excited.

I got these iPads and macBook in September. I havent really used garageband on the mac. I started to play around with it and just didn't have the patience. I know that people love it. But I couldn't figure out how to use it in class because I couldn't pass my macBook around.

This is exactly the point of mobile computing. Put the software in the hands of many kids and allow them to use it anywhere. I downloaded garageband this afternoon. First impression is that this is awesome. A killer app. First, the instruments are far superior to the other instrument apps. And they have added recording and scale capabilities. I was easily able to create loops and record my own voice/instrument. I walked around composing, listening, editing. You can pick up and compose anywhere (on bus, train, at breakfast...) which is huge.

Is this the pivot point for the iPad consumption vs. creation debate? I think iMovie and iPad2 will blow that wide open.

Now, remember, I haven't used the desktop version. So I have nothing to compare it too. But I see limitless possibilities in class.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Top Thirteen (15?) Free iPad apps for the Music Class

These are the top 13 music apps on our iPads right now. These are the apps used by the students and by me in class. By far the most used part of the iPad is internet access and youtube. I have not included productivity apps, google translate, etc...

All of these are free. If you have better versions or more ideas please let me know! I dont include any apps that cost $$.

In no particular order:

Classical Guitar: Free part of the Six Strings app. Easy to use, great sound. Best of the many free guitar apps we have seen by far.

Mandala HangDrum: Cool steel drum type of instrument. Can create many different octaves. Cool for more visual type of kids. We use this for pentatonic scale work. I ask them to invent something here then play it on piano.

PraiseHymns: Super, super cool (as a choir director!). Hundreds of hymns loaded in 4 part harmony. See sheet music right on ipad and it plays the tune! Great for sightreading, analysis, and tune research. Must have.

GrooveMaker: Simple loop machine. Comes with one package and they want you to buy more loops. It works really easy and anyone can create some nice loops. Kids love playing with this.

Beatwave: Simple visualizer. So cool. Create loops using your finger and pressing dots. I have students create loops on Twinkle Twinkle. Love this.

Aweditorium: Awesome "browser" for music. Has thousands of pictures on screen. Click a picture and goes to band. Great way to explore new music.

Ear Trainer Lite: Theory ear trainer. Does intervals in game/quiz format. Simple and good.

JamPad: Simple piano. Can create drum backgrounds and chordal backgrounds. Kids use this alot.

NLog Synthesizer Free: Simple synthesizer. Students use to create horn sounds they cant find on other apps.

BarrelTones: Best drum app we have found. Great response. AND you cna play along with recordings.

SoundHound: Jaw dropping if you havent seen this yet. Play any song and it will tell you its name. No more drop the needle tests. Amazing. I love having my fourth graders sing into it and having the song come up. Thousands of real radio stations. Want to know whats playing in Istanbul? Or miss your college radio station? Great tool for music classroom.

NPR Music: The coolest and hippest. Greatly improved interface. They spend a lot of money recording and searching for the great music.

LoopJ: Loop dance machine. Use fingers to move between loops and beats. Surpisingly effective.

Maybe adding:
Progression: I dont understand tabs, but this is very intuitive and easy to use notation software.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

iPad Wars

This is the 2nd movie I made. We got about walked around for 10 minutes and I got stock footage. Then spent about 10 minutes with iMovie trailer templates. Fun for kids!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

iPad2 in the Music Classroom

I won't be able to get one for awhile but here are my initial thoughts:

1. Huge shift forward. While there were several programs that were garageband-style by putting the mac standard program on the iPad I really see the death of the music computer lab. Same with iMovie.
2. The biggest changes I am seeing in my class are how access to information changes. A class of students creating, researching, viewing, recording while the rehearsal is continuing. The iPad2 will only improve that.
3. Camera. I see iPads on music stand and students playing for people across the globe (or across the band room!) using skype.

I really feel in my classroom a huge paradigm shift. We havent even finished the school year with the iPads and I feel like we cant keep up. There is no question that technology and its pace needs to change budget cycles. We simply cant plan in October of the previous year for what we need next year.