Monday, December 31, 2012

Concert Attendance

Earl recently wrote about concert attendance for his jazz groups at the University of Connecticut.

Ever Up and Onward: Rethinking Concerts

What do you think?

I know that Earl works very hard on outreach.  When I was at Derby he brought his group down to our school to perform.  He reaches out to directors all the time.

But is this a UConn issue?  Shouldn't the concerts be filled with students and professors?

I know it was twenty years ago but I remember hundreds of people attending our Oberlin Jazz Concerts.  Orchestra concerts were usually sold out.  There were 5-6 concerts or recitals every day.  You just went to concerts all the time.

Has the paradigm shifted?  Do students not go to concerts any more?

Monday, December 17, 2012


Its been a rough weekend.

I grew up in Newtown.  I live a few miles a way in the neighboring town.  I used to mow the grass at Sandy Hook Elementary school.  I know many of the people involved.

But... its not about me.

I hope we can remember how hard it is to be a teacher or para next time there is a fight about unions and benefits.  We need to think long and hard about why teachers go through this training as do movie theaters personnel, hospitals, and malls.

Lets hope changes are made.  Above all, lets get the guns out of the homes.  The problem isn't that Sandy Hook needed a security guard.  The problem is there was an arsenal in Lanza's home.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Technology Assignments in Choir

We have 5 iPad2 and 14 iPad1 for students to use.  Two PCs and a macBook.  Today I need to have some structure, some exploratory time, and some drilling. Here are todays assignments:

Choir Assignments (do one half today, one half next week):

1.  Complete your reading assessments in Smartmusic.  You get one attempt on each exercise.  You can do the assessment in solfeg or on LA.

2. When all students have completed the reading assessments you will complete your Per La Gloria benchmark.  You can do this multiple times to get the best version.  

3. In both assessments please do your best.  Show evidence of posture, breathing, open vowels, closing consonants.

4.  While waiting to sing you should have your headphones on listening to Per La Gloria using the iPad or your phone.

Additional work (choose one):

1.  Complete the “Winter Concert Evaluation” form on the Seymour High Music Website.  This is a test grade.  Be sure to give complete, thoughtful answers.

2.  Watch any Broadway, opera or classical singing show on the PBS app.  Check out the “Great Performances”.  Have discussions with the teacher about what you see, how the performers use their mask, breathing techniques, and performance attributes.

3. Go to and practice note recognition for ten minutes.  Show teacher.

4. Play in a music app like voicejam, garageband, beatwave, etc... Show teacher.

Opposite assignment:  Create an iMovie trailer. We want to get used to this program. You can create a movie on any fun subject.

Rules: Be polite, do not disturb classes, follow school rules.  Make it fun(ny).  Complete in one period.


Chorale: Complete your video performance of Jingle Bells. Be sure to work on facial expression, vowel placement, and most of all PITCH.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Dr. Isaacs

The great Kevin Isaacs came to work with the choir this morning. I could listen to him all day. Brilliant.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Getting ready for our composition concert. Every student is composing on Madpad app. Composition must be in ABA form.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Things we are working on

1. CONCERT!! On December 11.  Due largely to the disruption of Hurricane Sandy I have pulled back a bit on the repertoire.  We will bump some songs to the Spring.
2. Open Mic Night.  We are working on establishing a once a month open mic night in the auditorium.
3. Dr. Isaacs will be visiting our choir on December 12.  Can't wait!
4. Hip-Hop.  I really, really, really have to start planning and fleshing out the Hip-Hop music class I am teaching next semester.
5. Even worse I am teaching a graduate class for the first time at University of Bridgeport.  So I have two classes to prepare from scratch.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Assessment Tools

What do you think of this assessment tool for BOJC?

Click here.

I stink at this.  Ideas welcome.

Note:  We worked on this during the twitter: musedchat.  Had 23 viewers in the document.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Daryl Hall and Great TV

We often see youTube clips and say "why don't they put great music on TV anymore?".  I agree that there aren't nearly as much classical and jazz on TV.  But there is great music on TV.

I remember in the early 90's the David Sanborn show on NBC.  That was awesome.  Also the Jools Holland show on BBC is really good.  Jools was actually in the Sanborn show band and had a legendary confrontation with Dizzy.

I love the Daryl Hall show.


This blog serves several purposes for me:

1. Reflection journal.  I try to reflect on what goes well and what doesn't.
2. Memory log.  What did I do?  Check the blog.
3. Collaboration and communication.

I have not been doing well with #3.  I need to find ways to get more comments and more conversations.  Suggestions welcome.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Professional Development

I had a great professional development day at Western CT State University.  I have known the professors there for some time.  They are definitely people I like to work with.

I sat in three reading sessions.  One for young band music, one for grades 3-5 band music and one for jazz band (level 4-5).  I haven't played this much in a long time.  I haven't played in a band like this for awhile either.  It was a lot of fun.

I also got to sing in Kevin Isaacs choral workshop.  It had about 60 teachers in the room.  It was nice to sightread 4 part music and with adult voices.

Professional development should be like this.  I'm wondering what other teaching discipline (K-12) does stuff like this?  I know university educators need to research/publish, but I'm not sure K-12 educators demonstrate/practice their subject enough.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

New iPad Apps

iMotionHD: This runs very smoothly to make either stop motion or time lapse movies. We started an informal chess club and we are running it through this website.  Also has iOS and android apps.  Syncs great.

The Wider Image: Reuters story app using images.  Good journalism.

DragonBox:  Super cool app to teach algebra, but without doing "algebra".  My 4 year old and 6 year old love app, as does my wife.

Haiku Deck: Presentation app that sets up your images really cool.  Uses CC images.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

iPad in the Music Classroom

Jim Frankel write this post about iPads.

Chris Russell wrote this response.

Amy Burns wrote this response.

All of the above are smarter than me.  I have a bit of trouble writing still, so bear with me...

In general I completely agree with Jim.  There is a lot of wasted technology going into iPad programs.  I waste a ton of time.  I haven't wasted a ton of money, but I spend a LOT of time making mistakes.

Why I hate the iPads:
1. They take forever to update, sync, maintain, count, lock-up, charge, clean.
2. In general, nobody cares.  If they didn't care about music before, they still won't care when you have iPads.
3. Most people don't get it.  I'm always explaining.  I wish people would visit.
4. Its really, really hard to stay "innovative" and think of new projects that will get funding.  Especially now that iPads are everywhere.
5. iPads/Apple do not fit in with the school or grant budget cycle.  Nobody had iPad mini on their horizon 12 months ago when they were writing this years budget.

Why I like the iPads:
1. I could never, never do most of the things I do in class.  I can't bring my band to the computer lab to record/compose 8 measure songs.  I can't tell the sopranos "watch the youTube video" of their part while I work with the altos.  I can't pass a desktop to a Downs Syndrome kid so he can create drawings of our sound while the band plays.
2. I never teach software.
3.  I get to do stuff like this:

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Choir Classroom Activity

Students will work on this research activity while I meet with them today to go over their benchmark assessments.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Likely Winter Concert Repertoire

I think we will be doing the following:


A Girls Garden (Thompson)
Evergreen (Pinkham)
Dirait-On (Lauredson)
Carol of the Bells
Little Drummer Boy


Cantaloupe Island (Hancock)
Cute (Hefti)
Christmas Concerto (Robert W. Smith)
Child is Born (Jones)


Sweet Dreams
Assorted 3 part carols

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Podcasts Project

I have started a podcast project in my Computer Applications class.  You can find the podcasts here.

I assigned a few students a team but I asked all students to choose something that they are passionate about.  If you are passionate you can build an audience.

Our workflow is as follows:

  1. Write script and take notes in Evernote.
  2. Record using Garageband on the iPad.
  3. Post on Soundcloud.
  4. Reflect in Blogmeister.
The objectives are:
  1. Have students write, listen, evaluate.  What do I want to say?  
  2. Use the technology to broadcast, collect surveys, publicize.
  3. Collaborate with staff and peers for technical help and interviews.
  4. Use podcasts as a device to teach audience.
If you have a soundcloud account please leave a comment on the podcast!!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


September 19 update:

Choir: I have 34 kids in class, 24 are new to the program.  They are singing well.  We have started using Smartmusic every day in class to work on our reading.  I have started all four Italian songs that are part of the CMEA auditions.  Italian songs are a big change for 9th graders who don't quite understand that we sing in foreign languages.

Band: I have 13 in class, 5 are beginners on their instrument.  We have started the F and Bb scales and have been improvising arrangements each day.  I tried to go paperless and have all the music on the iPads, but I cant get through our school filter.  Working on it.

Theory: We finished the Chapter 1 of AP Book.  Students have been doing real well as they learn new vocabulary.  Some of the students have to do some heavy lifting to learn bass and treble notes and some other basics.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Band Improvisation Lesson

I try to get right to three things:

1. Chords, scales, theory.
2. Improvisations.
3. Arranging on the fly.

So I taught students three riffs based on blues scale.  We also practiced the major scale do-sol-do.  I asked them to decide what riff they would play and when they would switch.

There are 13 musicians in the room.  Some are 2nd-3rd year players, 5 of the 13 are on their 3rd lesson on their instrument.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


I got selected to present "Creative Uses of the iPad in the Music Class" at the NAfME Eastern Division Conference.  Conference is next April.  I think this is my second time presenting, but I'm not sure.  You would think I wold keep better track of these things.

I did not get accepted for JEN conference which I was really hoping for.  I have presented at IAJE (I remember that) and would love to return.  Heavy sigh.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Beginning of the Year

Some notes:

1. Band has 12 members (one is in schedule limbo).  Nine of these are new to hs band, and four are new to BAND.  We will be doing jazz tunes for the first few months.  I hope to have everyone doing basic improv, head charts, etc... by winter concert.

2. Choir has 36 members, 10 returners, which is a new record.  First rehearsal went well.  I went through all my warm-ups and did simple reading tests.  Freshman are 2/3 of the group.  I only have 3 boys and that will be a challenge with repertoire.  I think this group will take a big step forward this year.  Two years ago we had 12 kids in choir.

3. I tried to get digital folders out on the iPad using forscore.  Didn't work.  Dropbox wouldn't get through the filter.  It did before when I tested it....

Friday, September 7, 2012


I've been really trying to use Evernote this year.  The photo feature blows my mind a bit:

Monday, September 3, 2012

Things I'm Hopeful For

1. I have 24 freshman joining choir.  I hope they can sing in tune, sightread, and act.  If not, I hope they smile a lot and have fun.
2. I have 10 new band members.  I hope they can play and are willing to work.
3. I hope my music theory class can create new adventures.  Will it be the AP test?
4. I hope we continue to grow.  Are we ready to take a trip?
5. I hope students continue to help.  The program can only grow with their support.
6. Is this the year I go paperless?
7. I hope evernote makes my life simpler.
8. I want to learn how to play the bass this year and really start practicing my trombone again.
9. I have yet to choose any repertoire for choir.  I refuse to do so until I hear them.  I'm hopeful this is an easy process and I pick the right tunes.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Paperless Band?

I'm going to try to go "paperless" in band.  As of today I have twelve members of band and enough iPads to be 1-1.  So, students will not get a paper folder of band music, they will get a digital folder.

Here is my work flow as of now:

1. Scan paper copies.  Upload to dropbox folder.
2. Using forscore app put files on iPads.
3. Use forscore to create versions, annotate, etc...
4. Students can email .pdf copies to themselves.
5. Each student will be assigned an iPad for that class.

At least thats my plan.

Possible hang-ups:

1. Will students prefer paper?  Paper is a bit bigger.
2. Will this encourage practice?
3. How to deal with situations like travel.  Do we bring the ipads to festival, or convert back to paper?

I am not sure how we will do this in choir.  I have more students than iPads in that class.  I might ask for volunteers, or maybe go two kids to an iPad.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

What's on My iPad?

I recorded this using Display Recorder app.  A few audio blips.  Really just a test of the process.  Ask questions in comments.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A new year

Some summer thoughts:

1. I am going to try to give evernote a real try.  It is still semi-blocked in my district but I am going to make a real effort to set up folders and archive my notes in one place.
2. Thanks to Chris Russell I have been inspired to try to set up my music folders on the iPad.  The only class this is tough in is choir where I have to have 2 kids per iPad.  I will need a student to help organize and scan.
3. I have the fall semester to figure out how to teach Hip-Hop as it doesn't start until January.
4. We have new leadership in the district and school.  Big changes on the way.
5. If you were wondering, Shingles hurts.  A lot.

Friday, August 17, 2012


I have a pretty good idea how to evaluate a band program.  I have a pretty good idea how to evaluate a choir program:

  • Level of music being played and performance
  • Diversity of music
  • Composition, improvisation assessments, etc...
  • Anecdotal evidence (program switching directors, new curriculum, etc...)
However, I am pretty sure that many school communities evaluate simply by how many seats are filled.

As we add guitar and hip hop appreciation to our offerings how should we evaluate the program?  How can you tell if a non-traditional program is excellent, good, fair, or poor?

How do we escape the enrollment trap?

Friday, August 10, 2012


Here is my problem.  Its not really a problem (I can use pencil and paper) but I really want to solve this.

I have a class set of iPads.  In every class but choir students are 1-1.  However, the ipads are shared between classes.

I would like to:

1. Put music theory notebooks on the iPad.

2. Put audio recordings on the iPad and send to cloud.

3. Put my music library on iPad.  I'd like the music folder to be digital.


1. On forscore can a student log-in to their account?  That way annotations, music, etc...will be theirs.

2. Soundcloud works great, but has 120 minute limit.  What would be the best place to archive and aggregate and publish student recordings?  It must be simple for me and student to use.  I also would have to have easy log-out of apps since we are sharing.

3. What is the best way to take notes in music theory?  Staff paper is the issue.  They aren't typing, they are drawing.

Ideas needed.

Beck's new album

I have spent the morning trying to figure out Beck's new album.  Its not an "album" its a collection of songs published as sheet music.  Is it a book?  Will he perform these songs in concert?

Look for it to be published in December.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


I am starting a Hip-Hop class in the Spring. This is basically set up to be a music appreciation class with some dance/art/literature thrown in.  If anyone has syllabus, assignments, ideas, etc...please send them on.  I really don't want to reinvent the wheel.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

140edu Reflection

I have returned from the 140edu conference in New York City.  This conference is led by Jeff Pulver who is generous to make it happen for $1.40 per educator.

Some reflections:
1. Everyone is on twitter.  This is becoming the default position.  There was little talk about facebook or google+.
2. It was really nice to meet f2f some of my internet colleagues including Dean Shareski, Steve Dembo, and Chris Lehmann.
3. There is a sense of moving from talk to action.  Stop talking about sites being blocked and do something about it.  We need to tell our stories better.
4.  It is really nice and powerful to be in the room with these people.
5. Everyone has an iPad or laptop open during the talks.
6. Paradigms in different schools are VERY different.  Some schools are very closed off, some are very open and innovative.
7.  I like the one room, ten minute per talk concept.

Some questions:
1. Teach for America (Im an alum) works hard to support moving alumni to be board members, legislators, administrators, etc... Does the edutwitter space have an effective/similar way to get people in positions of power?
2. Is twitter effective for this change?
3. How can we do this in our schools?

Bear with me, having trouble writing lately (stroke issues...).

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

140edu notes

How to share with peop,e that aren't connected?

Eric sheninger. Being connected has saved me a substantial amount of time. Information is waiting for me, the network does the work.

Education can be a lonely place for innovators.
Makes the world a smaller place.

Tom Whitby. Collaboration is changing. helps to decide what's good and what real.

Jenn Swanson. I'm unconvinced that we are communicating any better. Majority of students have not considered how they communicate. How to answer the phone, how to take a message. Social smarts. People who succeed in life can play well with others.

Adam bellow. School, sucks the love out of learning.
Find video for this.

Brian Marnix. Must establish trust in the classroom. Give real input to students. Teacher must surrender all that makes you comfortable.

Dean shareski. The opportunity for deep learning wasn't there. Isolation. Blogging allowed deep reflection with trusted colleagues. Lesson planning and blogging should become tangled up-Dan Meyer. As educators we get caught up in finished product. We aren't magicians. We need to do a better job of explaining our craft. I've yet to hear anyone frame the word accountability in positive terms, distrust is an expensive vice.

If we create cultures of trust accountability is built in. Sometimes we forget about teacher inquiry. Only obligation should be sharing. We have an obligation to extend that beyond local. Where do you make time for deep reflection? How do leaders honors teacher sense of responsibility?

Eric sheninger. Anywhere anytime learning. We've all been a part of bad professional developement. Like herding cattle. Everyone in same direction learning same thing. Or herding cats, we don't really know what we are doing. Being forced to learn what other haven determined is important. What about what I feel has value?

Money drives professional development. Time is one of the biggest excuses for not getting better. Summer provides one of the best times for learning. Why do some instructions rely on one size fits all that puts us to sleep?

Have to have passion for professional development. I have wthe ability to learn what I want when I want. Professional development powered by you. The way we do that is through social media. What about differentiated learning for educators?

We should be modeling life long learning through our social networks. Information flow becomes two way.


I'm 1/4 of the way through the 140edu conference. A few observations:

1. There is a lot of mental firepower in the room.
2. The emphasis seems to be moving towards personalization of professional development. Something we do not have in many schools.
3. I would love to have the chance to work some of these people. No question that they take chances.


I'm at 140edu conference which seems to have every one who is in my twitter feed in one room. I'm pretty excited to see how well these folks present.

I'm also excited to have some food and try the pod51 hotel.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

My favorite apps

Another list....

I am filling some time during some exam downtime (last day!) and I thought I would write a little about my favorite apps.  I admit I am not really looking for new apps these days.  So some of these are old.

Morris Lessmore:  Transformative app.  Mixes reading, animation, adventure.  Magical experience.
iMovie: So easy.  Film, edit, upload movies in minutes.
Garageband: I think I have used the Mac version maybe twice.  Use this constantly.
Color Uncovered: A great read.  Fun.
ShowYou: Great app that collects videos from all your sources.

On another note, do you think Microsoft can afford to wait until Christmas to unveil the Surface?  And if its a $1000 for a full Windows8 version what market are they going for?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Using Smartmusic for Final Exams

My final exam in band and choir is a solo piece (usually the regional audition piece), scales, and sightreading.  In the winter I always have the students perform for me live.  This spring I have tried to put the entire exam on smartmusic.
Some thoughts:
1.  I need to create my own exercises in Smartmusic.  The set ones do not always match my purposes. 
2. Perhaps I need to employ a checklist.  Too often students leave without clicking submit, or the microphone levels are too low.
3. Students get more nervous singing for me.  I think that might be a good thing. 
4. I like having the recordings if there is a grade dispute.  It is also nice to see the growth.

One of my missions for next year is to embed smartmusic assessments more fully in class.  AND to take the time for assessments out of class.  Students will need to schedule times for assessments.  It was fairly easy in my small classes to schedule time, but in classess of 30 it became quite difficult.

I see how smartmusic on the iPad would be a challenge (huge files) but I wish we could get the exercises on it.  Just the sightreading or the scales would be really cool.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Lesson Plan: Arranging/Composing on the iPad with Garageband

We are finishing up music theory class and I am taking "great songs" and breaking them down a bit.

I wrote out the theme/ostinato for Bach's Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor for the class. We practiced playing the theme.  We listened to the entire piece, using the iPad to play the ostinato along with the recording.

Today we took the theme and I asked them to recompose the melody over an 8 bar blues structure.  First I played them an example that I put together.

The students then took garageband and made 8 bar versions.  We had some students plug their guitars in the iPad, some do multi-track recording on the piano, and some use the set patterns embedded in the program.  We had some really good versions.

I like this assignment because they have to connect listening with performing and with composing.  I am seeing big progress in their work.  I think they are starting to get it.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Using the iPad in the music class

I have been a little slow lately.  I feel I am underutilizing the equipment.  Here are some of the ways we have used the iPads lately:

1. Used Garageband to play the ostinato from Bach's Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor along with recording in music theory class.
2. Created iMovie trailers using our new iPad2s.
3. Choir used iPads to listen to different versions from youTube of the 24 Italian Songs.
4. Played Dustbuster in Choir.
5. Played chords from "I'm Yours" using Six Strings.

Monday, May 14, 2012

iAlchemy reflections

Our iAlchemy performance took kids who weren't performing in our band or choir (in general) and had them perform on iPads as full members of the orchestra.

From their reflections.

Write about the experience.  What did you learn?  Give specifics and details.
This experience really opened my eyes to the real professionals that are out there. Until that night I never realized how much work and time these people put in. I wasn't sure of how I would feel about the symphony orchestra because it was something that I had never experienced before, but now I would love to go again. I learned that even all of the preparation in the world still can't fully prepare you for things that go wrong, but I also learned that when things do go wrong, you can't stop. You have to push through and make the show enjoyable for the crowd regardless of what happens, and I think we accomplished that. I also learned that pushing yourself pays off. In the beginning this seemed like an impossible task to reach and achieve, but we did it, and I am so proud of that. We put in countless hours of practice for this to try and maximize perfection, which gave us a little taste of what the WSO musicians do every day. I am so thankful for this opportunity because it allowed us to have a professional experience in a real world event, one that marked the start of something new, we werent doing a mock performance in a high school setting, we were in the action, making the difference by showing that students such as ourselves were capable of succeeding in a professional setting.

I thought this was an amazing experience. I was never into classical music, but after seeing the symphony play I was amazed. It was a life changing experience. I had no idea it was possible to make such ear soothing music with all of those instruments. When I first found out about this project I thought it was really stupid and I wasn't looking forward to it at all. After this experience I am so glad we did this. It honestly made me appreciate this genre of music so much more. Everyone of the musicians at this event were extremely talented. This event made me understand the dedication these musicians have. I am honored I was able to participate in this event

Sunday, May 13, 2012

iAlchemy Performance

The iAlchemy performance was last night and it went really well.

I wasn't sure the performance space would work -- we were on a 2nd stage in the lobby-- but it really did. The whole crowd surrounded us (and peered down from the balcony) and it really created a great effect.

My kids did great and looked great.  We had an interesting moment where 1/2 way through the piece piano music began to play.  Initially we though an iPad was cycling, but now we think the pianist for the 2nd half was warming up for the Tchaikovsky piano concerto and it was getting picked up by the house mic and fed into the speakers.

Good time all around.

Monday, May 7, 2012


We made an album and it just went live.  We used Legacy Productions and they were very helpful through the whole process.

This is a growing and developing group and I would appreciate any support in selling the album.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Creating eBooks in Choir Class

I have three rehearsals before our concert.  Yesterday I took a day to finish some smartmusic tests and to create ebooks.

We are performing Homeward Bound by Marta Keen.  I asked students to partner up and use the iPad to create an ebook based on the song.  I asked them to do the following:

  • Choose the app (Book Creator, Scribble Press, My Story) that would work best for them.  Each app has slightly different capabilities.
  • Either take write the lyrics verbatim or "tell a story" with the same meaning.
  • Write it for 1st graders.
  • Be able to share it and turn it in on time.
I spoke for a moment about music standards; that we connect with art and literature.  I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the books.  These sessions are sometimes challenging as I have a group of students who just. can't. work. independently.

You can create on the iPad.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Earl MacDonald writes a lot

Check out Earl's page.  This is an awesome project where he wrote a tune a day for the month of February.  Each tune was accompanied by a blog post, .pdf file, and lots of angst.

He's now published each with a recording.  Great job!

Friday, April 13, 2012

CMEA Conference 2012

My impressions of the CMEA conference so far is that there seems to be a lot less people here.  I'm worried about my slots tomorrow that I might be talking to myself.

I am presenting two workshops.  First at 8am is talk with Doug O'Grady outlining our iAlchemy project.

Second is an iPad workshop.

Here are the apps I will go over (very quickly...) in the session.  This list is by no means exhaustive or complete.  This is a music teachers conference.

Now that I've typed it that seems like a lot...