Saturday, June 4, 2016

Music First Software

The past few years I knew that I was suffering from burn out (this past school year being the worst of it) and I have been trying to find ways to combat it from many different angles. One angle that I was presented with came from one of my mentors. He suggested that I "hold my students more accountable." In this context he meant musically but he was right about this in many areas of my program. This fit right into a personal project of mine to make my gradebook more rigorous while still maintaining my own ideals about music education while being honest and realistic about how to do all of this while being far too busy with way way too many students for one person.

I came across an ad in one of our music education publications about Music First software. I had been interested in Smart Music because I really love the idea of managing student playing tests online but the cost was prohibitive. Music First was intriguing to me because not only the lower cost but all of different content in the product.

I will say that I have in NO way maxed out all the potential that my classroom and Music First can have together but what I will say is that I implemented something new this year and it worked and it made us better and it was easier for me! All I used Music First for this year was a little bit of Noteflight (which my students had before and now all of our software is in one place), recording playing test (either sections of music or the Rhythm & Scale Chunks by Richard Canter), or writing prompts (like post concert evals). Note: I highly recommend you check out Richard's book. Its really great to give you the 'what to test' for your ensembles. 

And just using it for that made a world of difference. Grading the playing tests was so easy because everything was right in one place on the website in one format. It was easy for the students to access on their smart phone or tablet or a tablet that I provide (and it works on chrome books and ipads).

I felt like my students received the grade that they should but more importantly I saw so many students really and truly improve this year. With 60-80 students in a class this has been a great way for me to reach students one on one just listening to them play and then be able to provide feedback through comments with everything easily set up on the website.

The online webinars are great and I was able to figure out everything and I don't think I'm that tech savy. I'm looking forward to adding in more elements of the website into my classroom next year.

I'm going to take an online course this summer from Music First Academy and I'm looking forward to adding 1-2 more things that we can do next year.

To read an interview that I did for Music First's website check it out here and you can look around their website for more info. I have found their staff and tech support to be amazing. The site is new and continuing to improve. We have a great facebook community and the online content that is being constantly shared and uploaded for teachers to use (built in lessons etc) is fabulous.

Music First Interview with Julie Bounds from Santa Teresa HS (aka the Thrifty Band Director)

Friday, June 3, 2016

Percussion Room Remodel

This past year I have been doing a lot of overhaul when it comes to my percussion section and program. We have hired many new staff members, changed how we have set up the program, added summer workshops and a percussion only class next year for students grades 10-12 and purchased new equipment.

But storage is ALWAYS a problem when it comes to percussion. Not just having enough room for everything but finding ways to store all of the stuff so it doesn't get damaged and so you can find it when you need it. My percussion program director, Greg Messa, not only is a great teacher but also has a studio space to do equipment repairs and even builds things as needed.

So Greg and I went "fixer upper" home remodel show style on our percussion room at the end of the school year. I didn't take any pictures of the before but let's just say it was a disaster. In fact with our staff turn over the big problem has been that we keep loosing items or thinking we don't own stuff because we simply can't keep it all organized and accessible.

Greg built this shelf out of wood he already had. The bottom area we have our stands sorted by all the different kinds. We decided more slots were better with tom stands, cymbal stands, snare stands, etc. all sorted. The top section is cymbal and practice pad storage. We like also having the ability to store misc. drums above this cabinet. To the right of this shelf is where we are going to try to hang additional shelving to store mallets and sticks (like in hanging baskets) to things can easily be seen and sorted by kind. 

This is on the adjacent wall to the stand cabinet. It was shelving we already had from a hardware store. The idea for us (and we plan on continuing to improve this) is that everything is visible and accessible. 

I am just excited to see this much floor space in the room. We have misc items over here but we have room to store our drum set as necessary. Maybe add some additional storage. Its just amazing to us that all of this stuff was in this room before but you could hardly walk in it at all.

We also have a newer Wenger percussion cabinet that is in the band room that we have all of our auxiliary percussion equipment. Moving the cymbals out of the cabinet has really helped and now its not so heavy to so we can move it around the band room a little more easily. Its still a work in progress. 

If you have pictures of percussion spaces you have organized please share with us!