Monday, August 8, 2016

MusicFirst impressions

I am a few weeks in to MusicFirst.  I purchased the online classroom and sightreading factory.  I spent a bit of time online with a very nice lady in support.

Some initial impressions:

  • You are not able to share announcements/tasks/pages between classes.  So if I write "Listening Assignment" in Choir and add it to "Favorites", it will not be available in Band.  I have to retype it.
  • If you make an assignment to save, and type in the Rubric, add to Favorites--the rubric won't save.
  • If you make a "rehearsal" on the class calendar--it won't show up for students.  For band/choir events this doesn't work.  If you typed "Concert" in band, you have to retype it in choir.  And it wont show up on the student calendar anyway.
  • There is no checkboxes for assigning work.  You have to make a group. (edit: I think I figured it out.  You can assign assessment to individual students)
  • Why do I have to click "Make Visible" for a student to see Assessment.  If I schedule it for a certain date--shouldn't it be visible then???
  • There is really no ability to make announcements (ala facebook or Edmodo).
  • There is a messages function but you can only message one person at a time.  You can't message the class or a group (!!).
  • When grading you can't click "next item".  You have to go back to the grading screen, scroll down, and click the item to move to the next thing to grade.
  • "automatic" quizzes (multiple choice, etc...) do not self grade.  A score is reported, but you still have to go in to change "score" to grade.
I am a bit frustrated.  I feel this might work for sightreading and theory assignments but it doesn't seem to work at all for everything else.  I feel I will have to retain Edmodo and other services.  I was really sold with a "everything in one box" sales pitch.

Obviously, I hope for smoother paths again and I am sure I will end up loving it.  One day at a time...

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Choral Repertoire

The 2016-17 school year will feature a choir that is slightly smaller, older, and more experienced than last years group.  I have little knowledge of the freshman except that there are some boys.  I have purchased Essential Elements (Book 1 and 2) and MusicFirst (no more Smartmusic) and will make a big effort this year to solidify our sequence of curriculum.  I expect a diverse group (age, experience, etc..) and hope the mix of the online classroom and the traditional book work will really help us.

I have chosen a few pieces but I am holding off until I know the strength of the freshman boys.  If we transition from SSA to SAB and eventually to SATB it will greatly alter the music we order.  I anticipate this will be a year where I will struggle to find the RIGHT pieces at the RIGHT time.  Thus, I hope to make rep learning a much smaller part of our day--and increase student responsibility for that learning.  Leadership will be everything as we push over our tipping point and move from good to great.

1. Run, Mary, Run by Brian Tate.  This song is fairly simple and allows us to start off the year strong.  The part for men is fairly easy and repetitive and will support them as they develop.  Harmonies are fairly simple and includes short solo opportunities.  I think this will be a great song to work on breath support in the beginning of the year.

2. Lineage by Andrea Ramsey.  Again, an easier to start the year--this time with Chorale.  I hope to perform this at WCSU Festival in October (after maybe 6 rehearsals).  Vowels, vowels, vowels.  It also has a bunch of opportunities to demonstrate our breath support.

3. Goodnight, Moon by Eric Whitacre.  I am making an effort this year to learn 5-6 "recital" songs.  We always sing four of the Italian songs, and many Broadway songs, but I want to go into "traditional" recital songs.  We are having more and more students audition for college and we need to prepare them.  This is a beautiful song, and will be a reach vocally, but I hope the kids respond to it.  This will be a song that probably 1-2 of the students should actually perform, but all can learn from.

4. Ave Maria by Guy Forbes.  This is a reach for Chorale.  If we could sing it at WCSU in October I would be very happy.  This is a piece that the girls will need to say "do the work".  Solid SSAA, traditional (with hint of Whitacre sound).  Gorgeous.

A few other notes:

  • I am going to bring the candle light processional back at the winter concert.  This takes a lot of work, but I think we really have the group for it again.
  • I have scheduled four (!) major concerts.  One per term.  We will move fast.