Saturday, December 28, 2013

Concert Evaluations

Samples from student concert evaluations:

What did you learn?

Nothing is easy. You have to work hard for those few minutes.

The concert always comes realllly fast and when you're there, you know why you signed up for choir.

To not be afraid of letting your voice be heard and to just have fun with what you are doing.

I have learned that chorus goes a lot better when everyone stays focused and mature. I have also learned that choir gives you a lot of opportunities and you meet good people.

I have learned that you can't rely on your peers to pick up your slack. When it comes to it, you have to remember when to sing, when to use dynamics, and when to breathe. You can't count on other people to remember those aspects of each song for you.

I learned that I have stage fright and that I should refrain from smacking my head on lockers beforehand.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Winter Concert 2013

SHS Band
   1.   Gateway March………………………………………………………………….Eric Osterling
  2.   Stone Mountain Stomp…………………………………………………..Carl Strommen
  3.   The Christmas Song…………….……….….Mel Torme, arr. Michael Sweeney
  4.   Bohemian Rhapsody……………………....Freddie Mercury, arr. Paul Murtha

SHS Soloists
  1.   Alma Del Core......................................................Antonio Caldera        
  2.   Silent Night………………………………………………………………..……...Franz Gruber
  3.   Etude #6........................................................Giuseppe Garibaldi

SHS Choir:
  1.    Adoramus Te…………………………….…...Palestrina, arr. Russell Robinson
  2.    Ave Maria…………………………..………….....Arcadelt, arr. Russell Robinson
  3.    A New Day…………………………………………………..………………...Audrey Snyder
  4.    Tango to Evora………………………………………….……………..arr. Jon Washburn
  5.    Al Shlosha………………………………………………………..………...Allan E. Naplan
  6.    I Will Sing…………………………………………………………………………..John Rutter
  7.    Home…………………………………………………………………………....arr. Greg Gilpin

Friday, November 15, 2013

Self Assessments

We have been using Smartmusic.  Students were asked to review their recordings from the first marking period and make plans/goals for the second.  Here are some of the findings:

From the results of the first marking period, I see my sight reading improved by alot! Each time I took lesson 1- exercise 6 I got a better score each time. Like you said in one of the comments, I should be careful not to rush. I also tend to have trouble looking ahead with music which messes me up. Taking time to look at the notes helps me.

When it comes to confidence, I lack it when I walk into the smart music room; which you have addressed as a problem to our class as a whole. The music sounds sooo different and without anyone singing, I don't know what to do! When I first took Alma Del Core, the whole time I was so confused and the second time wasn't much better. Sebben Crudele went better as of knowing what I was doing but I still needed to know that I knew the songs.

I struggle with keeping pitch as I noticed in Sebben Crudele and need to take fuller breaths to pull me through the song.

For this marking period, I'm going to focus on putting in the effort to fully know the music and planning out when to breathe, plotting out the next notes, etc. Simple tasks you remind us of in class will help me succeed.

Over the course of the first marking period I saw my scores increase tremendously. I have done chorus for 3 years and now I feel like a real singer. I learned all of the notes on the treble clef and bass clef scale which is something I never knew how to do before. Now I am getting 100's on the notes quiz. I have sang songs that are not in English but I have always had people to help carry me along in the song. Now I am learning how to sing these songs in other languages very easily breaking them down part by part and using note flight to help me with these songs. During my tests on Alma Del Core the first one I came in on the wrong time so my beats weren't correct and the pitch wasn't quite there. The second test I learned where and when to come in, and how to stay on beat. My pitch still needs some more work which is my goal for the second quarter but day by day I feel like I am becoming a better singer. Taking the scale test on note flight is a little rough and is something I personally need to work on but there is no getting worse only getting better and I can't wait to see how I improve even more over the course of the year. :)

If you were to travel back in time to when I was only in kindergarten and told me that I would one day play the flute, I may not have believed you (or even known what a flute actually was). It's hard to believe how far I have come and improved. I have learned so much, especially this year. When I first started playing I only heard of quarter, half, and full notes and never was properly taught what we have gone over this year. In middle school I never pushed myself because I just didn't know what else to practice besides the pieces we were given. But, by having this technology, I can expand my knowledge on anything new I want to learn or need help on. I think that is one of the great things about Smartmusic so that every individual person can track their progress over the course of the shool year and eventually all of high school. I have never used a program such as Smartmusic before in my music career, and that can certainly be assumed by the way that I played the first site reading quiz. I didn't start on time, I missed many notes and worst of all, I didn't put myself fully into the song. I was nervous and tried to do my best with playing it but there was still a lot to improve on. When we re-did the song and was able to practice it, I played all of the notes correctly, stayed with the beat and most of all, I sounded confident when playing. You could hear the improvement and that I was starting to know and learn my instument. Site reading was never my stong point, but it is something that I am trying to work on by opening to a random page in a music book and just start playing. This semester I want to continue to do that and be somewhat prepared if we do have to do a site reading quiz.

When we got our first piece to play, I wasn't sure what to expect. But I thought that Gateway March was good to start out with because it was somewhat challenging but not to difficult that we would get flustered with the first note. Taking that first assessment for Gateway March, I thought that I did decent but I knew I could improve. In the first one, I didn't stay with the tempo during some parts and the last measure was definatly not how it should sound. But, I went home and practiced until I was confident with how I sounded. I did improve a bit when re-taking it, I got the last measure better and I stayed in rhythm more. I know that I have improved, but I know I can do a lot better and try to do the best that I can.

I never knew how helpful that the red and blue books would be at this age (more of the blue book though). I thought that once you learn the basics of your instrument that you were done with them, but the blue book has helped me. All throughout middle school, we didn't even think of those books or even see them in the class, but sometimes going back to the basics will improve your playing. You may not need to focus so much on the notes but, you need to think about rhythm, key signatures, dynamics, and so on. Some of the assignments that you have given us, such as the Molly Malone, has gotten me to think more about what really makes a piece sound appealing. I did not do so good when playing this, I was off beat, my flute was squeking a bit, and most certaintly did not pay attention to the dynamics. As the school year has been going on, I am starting to pay attention to those dynamics and trying to improve on following that. I may see what they say but not play it. That is another thing that I am trying to work on and pay attention to. The other songs such as Shepherd's Hey and Manhattan Beach March, I was continuosly making the same mistakes; not paying attention to dynamics, slurring when I shouldn't, not listening to myself when I play. That is a big thing for me, I used to just play the songs to get them done and over with but I am really starting to enjoy myself and wanting to improve instead of being forced. 

I have also been working on the scales, mostly because of the auditions on Saturday, but to also expand my knowledge because I have never done anything like this before. I know that at the auditions that I will make mistakes and I am trying to still wrap my head around that idea but it just means that over the next few years, I will have to practice harder. The Eb assignment that you gave us from the blue book, I messed up a lot when playing on Smartmusic. I realize my mistakes now and am trying to improve on those by remembering how many flats (3 flats) and practicing them everyday. I know that I have come a long way so far this year, but I also know that I have a lot to improve on and expand on. For this marking period, I want to work on the dynamics and practicing with them in the pieces. Also, work on the scales so by this time next year I won't have to worry about them and I can focus on the two songs that they give me. I am enjoying this experience, but I think this year it was just a little bit of a shock to me. Playing the flute is very important to me and so are these auditions, I'll do the best that I can and I know that's what you are looking for: effort.

Thursday, November 14, 2013


I am enjoying having digital folders.  We share 20 iPads.  That works fine for band and senior choir which have less than 20 students and we have 30 in freshman choir.

I do not see our school going to 1-1.  I need to figure out how to get more iPads in their hands, either by adding iPads to our collection or by encouraging BYOD.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Student Learning Objective in Band and Choir

The State of Connecticut requires me to have two student learning objectives (SLOs).  Music does not have a standardized test so I must design the assessment.

Both band and choir have the SLOs:

  • Students will improve their musical sight-reading.
  • Students will improve their performance technique.
SLO's are fairly general.  I then must establish Indicators of Academic Growth and Development (IAGD).  These are fairly complicated but basically how many students will be moved to the proficient, goal, or advanced levels.

Our curriculum benchmark indicates students should be performing at a NYSSMA Level 4 and sight-reading at Level 3.  I score all assessments as an "All-State" judge.  A 10 on tone in my class is the same 10 in the All-State room.  It is the only way I can think of to stay consistent across grade levels and instruments.

In general I have focussed a lot on modeling sight-reading with the choirs, and a lot on scales with the band.  All groups have little to no experience with scales, reading, etc...  Most of my students are freshman.

We use Smartmusic for all of these assessments.  I have the green cursor on for sight-reading at this point.

At this point all choir students should have completed:
  • Benchmark.  Alma del Core solo.  They sang it once in September and again this week.
  • Level .5 (do-re) sight-reading.  They have done this three times.
  • Level 1 (do-do, no accidentals, some eighth, 4/4)).  They have done three exercises.
At this point all band students should have completed:
  • Band Music Benchmark.  Section of Gateway March (Level 1-1.5).  They have done this twice.
  • Level 1 sight-reading.  They have done this twice.
  • Choir results for Level .5 reading has improved dramatically.  I am seeing a number of perfect scores in the latest testing.  
  • Choir results have improved slightly for the Level 1 sight-reading.  They improved significantly when they read as a group in class.  I need to get Level 1 to a perfect score and move on to Level 2 with the senior class.
  • Students are understanding their benchmark solos much better.  Many more students have reached proficient range.  However, I have not seen as large an increase as I had hoped.  Many students have significant trouble singing by themselves to the accompaniment.
  • Band sight-reading has improved slightly.  
  • Practice is definitely increasing.
  • Student conferences have more meaning.  I have a lot more data to use.
  • It is driving most of my lessons. 
  • We perform significantly below grade level.  This is the only way I can think of to change that.
Areas of improvement:
  • None of my students take private lessons.  They need 1-1 help.  I have 61 students and I am having trouble getting to all of them.  Many need significant help.
  • I need to develop academic leaders who help younger students.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Grading Reflection: Band

This is the form I am asking my students to complete.  I am also providing them with their Smartmusic scores on this sheet.  I would love a good way to summarize their data better.  Choir has a similar sheet.



There are four items we have focussed on in Band for Marking Period One.

1. Sightreading.
  • Procedure: Starting pitch.  How many measures?  Where is Do?
  • Rhythm.  Count and clap.  Internalize pulse.
  • Pitch.  Find DO!!  Maintain tonality.  What key am I in?
  • Looking ahead.  Playing one measure while reading the next.
  • Basic treble/bass note identification

2. Tone.
  • Placement (reed, hand position, jaw relax, etc…)
  • Intonation
  • Double tonguing.
  • Blend with section.

3. Technique
  • Scales
  • Knowing fingerings, positions, notes, etc...
  • Application to songs.  Recognize accidentals.

4. Professional Behavior
  • Showing up on time.  
  • Being prepared for rehearsal and performances.
  • Proper rehearsal behavior
    • Marking parts
    • Posture
    • Attention and participation

Please briefly summarize your performance on each of the above standards.  Please provide specific examples of how you have improved and what your grade (A, B, C, etc…) should be.

Standard 1: Sightreading Student Grade:_____
Level 1 Score 1:     Score 2:
Notes highest score:

Standard 2: Tone Student Grade:_____
Benchmark Score 1:          Score 2:

Standard 3: Technique Student Grade:_____

Standard 4: Professional Behavior Student Grade:_____

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Composing with Garageband in Choir Class

This is a version of the band lesson I use.

I will do this slightly differently in my Senior choir class (which is 1-1) and my Freshman choir class (which is 1-2).  I will do this as a "station" in freshman class while the remainder complete SmartMusic sight-reading assessments.

Senior choir has some prior knowledge of key, chords, measures, etc... Freshman choir has little of that.  

I model opening Garageband and recording a drum track, bass track, and keyboard track.  I use Smart instrument settings and autoplay.  I show them how to check that the chords are available for a I-vi-IV-V sequence.  I stress we will use only these chords.  Garageband defaults to an 8 measure composition.  I spend maybe five minutes on this demonstration.

I ask them to compose a five track composition with a melody on top of them singing.  There must be two vocal tracks.  They can do it in monophonic style or polyphonic style (we are singing motets at the moment).  This opens the assignment up to lots of discussion about choices.  I give them 30 minutes.

One thing I will do with the choir is insist that they do the tracks in this order: bass, vocal1, keyboard, drum, vocal 2.

I think this hits Standard 1, 2, 3, 4, 9.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Going Paperless: an Update

I have been trying to go about 98% paperless.  Here is an update.

1. Using the iPads as a folder is going pretty well.  It is much easier in rehearsal.  It is easy for students to switch between parts and there is never "I forgot my music".  It is a little less successful in freshman choir where I am 20 iPads to 30 students.  One issue we may start coming up against is the page flips in band.  We have a few pieces that have awkward page turns.

2. Edmodo has been working very well.  We are doing all of our writing, announcement, polling, quiz through edmodo.  One thing I would like edmodo to do better is archive messages.  I would like to be able to pull back messages I send to a student at a conference, for example.

3. We have to get better at sharing.  I have not yet seen students sharing resources.  I need to find a way to encourage that.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Composing in Band Using Garageband

Today in band we did an assignment that all students enjoy.  I have a 14 member high school band.  Most of these kids play at Level 1-2.

We have spent the last few weeks starting our major scale cycle.  Each kid should be able to cycle do-sol in G, C, F, Bb major at this point.  We spend about 30-40 minutes of an 87 minute period on ear training and scales.  Their homework was to cycle Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star through those four keys.

After listening to the homework I model opening Garageband and recording a drum track, bass track, and keyboard track.  I use Smart instrument settings and autoplay.  I stress we will use Bb chords.  Garageband defaults to an 8 measure composition.  I spend maybe five minutes on this demonstration.

I ask them to compose a four track composition with an melody on top of them playing in Concert Bb.  I give them 30 minutes.

Most spend too much time on the drum track.  Almost all got four tracks in the correct key and something recorded.  I then played each track for the class to evaluate.

When done they realize that:

  1. It really doesn't matter what the drum track is.
  2. It really matters if you play with bad tone or rhythm.
  3. It really matters if you play a wrong note.
  4. Students who created a "melody" had a hit on their hands.
This lesson really works.

Friday, September 20, 2013


After much pushing and prodding I think we will have 13 auditions for CMEA.  I hope to get a few more forms in on Monday.

Still waiting for ACDA music.  Eight students will attend.

I have ordered Seussical Jr. to perform with the freshman choir.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


I'm enjoying Edmodo more and more.  It seems like a good way to get assignments out, and to get writing assignments back.

What I haven't quite figure out:

  • Submission of assignment like recordings, videos, papers, etc...
  • Search and archiving.  When I do the class next year how easy will it be to pull information?
  • I have to leverage SMS/email alerts for the students.
  • Convincing parents to enroll.
I had a discussion with my Smartmusic rep since I have pretty publicly stated that "Smartmusic is on the iPad" is a bunch of hooey.  He seemed a bit tired since he convinced A LOT of schools to get smartmusic for the new data push and A LOT of these school are 1-1 iPad now.  I got the impression they are "working on it" and its not nearly fast enough.

A main point I told him was that:
  • I paid for "Smartmusic on the iPad".  They have my money.  Get it shipped.  Full version.
  • If you can't then at least have the software display a warning when assignments do not appear "Student: your teacher HAS assigned this exercise, but it is not available on the iPad".  Currently it just does not show up.  The deployment of this in the classroom becomes enormously complicated.
I spent an hour today typing into a stupid pdf form that I then discovered would not save my typing.... I swore out loud, I admit.  

Friday, September 6, 2013

Smartmusic is making me angry

I'm really excited for the Smartmusic iPad app.  It allows me lots of flexibility to allow students to sign out iPads and take them home.  I have ordered three practice room subscriptions the last three years.  I have gone to many Smartmusic events over the last nine months about the iPad app and its launch this fall.

The app was released this past week.  Now I have four subscriptions (including mine) but only two laptops I can pin.


None of the choir literature and sight-reading works on the iPad.  Seriously?  I am so tired of this.  I have paid for a subscription I can't use.  Did I miss them announcing the app would be released....but not for choir?

This is by far the most expensive iPad app and we pay for it EVERY YEAR.

I know they are nice people.  I don't care.  I have assessments to do! Now!!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Music Teacher Evaluation

As part of the Connecticut SEED evaluation we must come up with two Student Learning Objectives (SLOs).  Here is my effort on one of them.  I have redacted items that aren't clear yet due to it being the beginning of the year.  Comments welcome! I'm working on SLO #2 right now.

Teacher:  Brandt Schneider
Grade: 9-12
School: Seymour High School
Content area: Music

SLO Focus Statement
What will you teach in the SLO? What is the expectation for student improvement related to school improvement goals?

SLO Statement: Students in music class will show improvement in their sight-reading skills.

Rationale: Reading fluency is an essential skill for music class performance.  The more fluent students are the faster paced we can be as a class.  We can introduce much more music if students are readers.

Previous data from benchmark exams indicates music reading is a low performing skill for students at SHS.

Baseline – Trend Data
What data were reviewed for this SLO? How does the data support the SLO?

During the 2012-13 school year all band and choir students were tested in sight-reading as part of their semester exam.  In choir average and median scores from this assessment were below proficient with a median score of 28 on the CMEA assessment.  In band average and median scores were below proficient as well.

Data for the past six years of group repertoire is archived.  In general, Band has been performing at a Level 1-2 and Choir at Level 2-3.  

CMEA audition scores are also stored.  In 2010, two students were selected for All-State.  No students have been selected for All-State since then.  No students auditioned for All-State last year.

Student Population
Who are you going to include in this objective? Why is this target group/student selected?

This SLO will include all of my band and choir students. These students are fairly typical of students on our school.  Choir and band are 9-12th grade.  As of 9/1/2013 there are 13 members of the band and 47 members of the choir.  

Nearly all of these students perform below grade level standard of Level 4 on the NYSSMA scale.
Standards and Learning Content
What are the standards connected to the learning content?

1. Content Standard: Singing, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music

Students (Choir)

a. sing with expression and technical accuracy a large and varied repertoire of vocal literature with a level of difficulty of 4, on a scale of 1 to 6, including some songs performed from memory
b. sing music written in four parts, with and without accompaniment
c. demonstrate well-developed ensemble skills

2. Content Standard: Performing on instruments, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music

Students (Band)

a. perform with expression and technical accuracy a large and varied repertoire of instrumental literature with a level of difficulty of 4, on a scale of 1 to 6
b. perform an appropriate part in an ensemble, demonstrating well-developed ensemble skills
c. perform in small ensembles with one student on a part

5. Content Standard: Reading and notating music

Students who participate in a choral or instrumental ensemble or class

a. demonstrate the ability to read an instrumental or vocal score of up to four staves by describing how the elements of music are used

b. sightread, accurately and expressively, music with a level of difficulty of 3, on a scale of 1 to 6

Interval of Instruction
What is the time period that instruction for the learning content will occur?

The SLO will begin on September 30, 2013 and continue until May 30, 2014.
How will you measure the outcome of your SLO?

Our curriculum benchmark state standard is that high school students will be able to sightread one level below their performance level.  Our curriculum standard is that students will be able to perform at Level 4 and sightread at a Level 3.

An additional complication is that students are in band/choir for multiple years.  It is important to have a consistent, valid assessment to compare data.  We have invested in several sources of sight-reading materials and practice tools.

Even though most of the class tests below grade level we feel it is important to test them at grade level.

1. All students will be formally assessed in sight-reading with a 8-12 measure sight-reading assessment at Level 3.  This assessment will occur six times per year.  We will use the CMEA Audition Rubric for this assessment.

2.  Brief sight-reading assignments will be posted and tracked in Smartmusic.  These assessments are sequential and will be reinforced during class.  There will be 2-3 assessments per marking period.

3. Group Performance.  Band/choir is a performance based class where the end product is a group assessment.  Our concerts and rehearsals are assessments.  Compositions and the levels of performance will be tracked.

Indicators of Academic Growth and Development (IAGDs)/Growth Targets
What are the quantitative targets that will demonstrate achievement of the SLO?

1. Choir:
  • __ of students will be above the minimum standard of 28.
  • __ of students will be above the proficient standard of 38.

2. Band:
  • __ of students will be above the minimum standard of 15.
  • __ of students will be above the proficient standard of 24.

3. CMEA Auditions
  • 10 students will audition for CMEA regional festival.
  • Audition scores will form baseline for future years.  None of my current students auditioned for CMEA last year.

4. Repertoire
  • Average Level for repertoire will increase from Level 2 to Level 3.
  • Choir will complete 20 group and solo songs at or above Level 3 ready for performance.
  • Band will complete 10 group songs at or above Level 2 ready for performance.

Instructional Strategies
What methods will you use to accomplish this SLO? How will progress be monitored? What professional learning/supports do you need to achieve this SLO?

Sight-reading will be part of each rehearsal.  Teacher will model sight-reading and coach.  Sight-reading is part of the choir textbook (Essential Musicianship).  In addition, sight-reading will be part of regular Smartmusic homework and assessment.

SmartMusic tracks and records each assessment for easy comparison and tracking.  While it archives recordings it does not track data from year to year.

Finding a simple reporting mechanism for tracking this data is a professional learning support I could use.  In addition, the band is a small sample size so data may be unreliable.