Archive for the 'Band' Category

Guide to Remote Music Education

A black man sits in the living room of his apartment and plays a synthesizer. He composes music.

So much of what makes music fun for us is sharing it with others: playing in ensembles, performing concerts, worshipping with our congregations, and teaching our craft. Unfortunately, many of us have found the usual ways we gather together to share music abruptly curtailed recently. With the help of technology, though, teachers and students alike can access a plethora of opportunities for distance learning through online lessons and rehearsals, practice aids, self-instruction and advancement, and sheer repertoire exploration.

Here’s our guide to navigating distance music learning and instruction. Let us know if you have any tips or pointers, and we’ll be happy to share them with our community!

Moving Lessons & Rehearsals Online

Online lessons work. Not only will they help all of us maintain a sense of normalcy, they allow teachers and ensemble directors an opportunity to see and hear their students differently, which can help point out new areas of weakness and opportunities for improvement.

LaptopHomeOffice

Unless you’re trying to make online instruction a new permanent part of your pedagogy, you don’t need fancy technical equipment. Just use your computer, tablet or smartphone with a good Internet connection and, if you prefer, maybe headphones or earbuds.

You will need to develop a vision for how these lessons will look, but your considerations can be limited to the following:

  • What platform are you going to use?

VideoCallIconOrangeA lot of teachers like Zoom because it’s free and stocked with features, but other options include Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and many more.

If you’re more interested in something like a masterclass, lecture or group rehearsal, it might instead be worth checking out Crowdcast to make the experience more user-friendly. Though this is a paid service, there are longer session limits, an integrated chat for students, Q&A features, and the ability to invite students or guests to join on screen.

To do a virtual choir recording, try GarageBand or SoundTrap EDU (by SoundCloud) to have singers record on top of each other and hear the previously recorded parts as they go.

  • How will your setup look on camera?

Make sure you have enough space and lighting, and make sure that the elements that students need to see are easily visible on screen. Do a practice run with a fellow music teacher to check.

  • What tools do students have, and what will they need?

If students need to install software or access equipment like music stands and metronomes, let them know how and where they can get these in advance of their lessons or rehearsals.

  • What should the student be paying attention to during the lesson?

Some teachers, for instance, advise students to watch the stream of themselves during a one-on-one lesson. The streams acts like a mirror, letting the student see their body alignment and make automatic adjustments.

Expect a couple kinks when you’re getting started, but you’ll be able to iron these out pretty quickly and easily.

Developing a Practice Plan

planner-2428871_640Many students, especially those who are younger or at earlier stages in their musical education, don’t know how to practice effectively. While this is a challenge for any environment, distance learning requires students to be more self-directed.

When helping students develop a practice plan, consider these ideas:

  • Set a specific time and day for practice
  • Set specific goals: For instance, play a difficult passage correctly 5 times, rather than playing it correctly only once and moving on, to reinforce getting it right.
  • Break down the practice session into timed segments between warm-up, literature/technique study and performance.

Bookending a practice session with comfortable, familiar playing helps students feel good about playing and balance challenges with success.

Online Music Education Resources & Support

Whether you teach individual lessons or lead instrumental or choral ensembles, there are a number of music methods and series that have online tools to support instruction and practice.

FPALevel1

BastienNewTraditionsPiano

ABRSMCelloExamPieces

  • SmartMusic: This web-based suite of music education tools includes play-along accompaniment tracks, melody examples and masterclass videos, as well as enrichment pages with theory, music history and exercises, and access to a vast library of repertoire. Not only is this a supplement to the Suzuki Method and to the Sound Innovations series for both band and orchestra, this is also a powerful versatile platform to aid one-on-one lessons, remote classrooms and rehearsals, and individual practice.

SuzukiViolinV1

 

EEBand

EEStrings

  • Essential Elements Music Class: A cloud-based service for elementary music classes, this tool offers recordings and classroom activity videos for hundreds of songs, as well as a comprehensive collection of teaching materials, including interactive activities, games, virtual Orff instruments, listening maps, recorder and ukulele units, custom lesson creation, and more.
  • Carus plus for choir: The carus music app contains recordings with amplified individual voice parts, tempo control and a marker feature for following the score to help choral singers learn new music from Carus quickly.

CarusBeethovenMissaSolemnis

  • Noteflight Learn: Free for music educators affected by closures through June 30, this web-based tool lets teachers create sheet music and composition assignments, and also lets students can also listen to, play or record any piece of music in the Noteflight library at any tempo in any key.
  • MusicFirst: A comprehensive Learning Management System for K-12 music education, this cloud-based suite of services offers an expansive library of lessons, assessments, content and complete courses to help teachers monitor students’ progress, make lesson plans and create assignments.
  • The Shed: This site is full of digestible lessons in theory, notation, rhythm, improvisation and more.
  • MetronomeOnline: This mobile app for iOS and Android helps organize and track practice time with time tracking, task lists, goal settings and a metronome.

Alex Shapiro: Making Her Own Rules

AlexShapiro

Alex Shapiro

If a composer just so happens to also be a photographer, an essayist, and an activist both within the musical arena and outside of it, it seems fitting that she would describe her own work as “pan-genre and diverse – sometimes within the same piece!” Alex Shapiro’s extensive catalog encompasses film scores, chamber music and choral works, but it is in concert band music that Alex has been leaving her strongest mark as a composer.

Alex’s first foray into the concert band world came in 2007, when Major Tod A. Addison, Commander and conductor of the United States Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Band, contacted her via MySpace to commission a piece. At the time Alex had never composed for, participated in or even attended a performance of a wind band in her life, but was encouraged by Major Addison’s openness to her ideas and decided to jump right in.

HomecomingThe final piece, titled “Homecoming,” folds Alex’s sophisticated take on symphonic and jazz-pop music into traditional wind band sounds, while also taking a nuanced, multi-dimensional approach to the concept of a “military theme.” The result isn’t a collection of recognizable layers of elements, but rather something entirely new.

This impulse toward synthesis is, in fact, a defining characteristic of Alex’s work. She takes various components that excite and inspire her, and she fuses them together into new structures in which the building blocks are inseparable and at times even unrecognizable. Alex is not the puppet master who brings together characters to watch them interact, but rather the pastry chef baking a cake, where the raw materials combine at the molecular level with constructive precision to achieve the baker’s grand vision.

RockMusicWhatever Alex’s vision for a piece may be, her music always seems to follow a distinct narrative arc. Whether her work is advocating for a cause she cares about, like climate change, marine life, or gender equality, or her music is simply music, she is always telling a story and taking us on a journey. This is as true for her new choral work, “O Death Rock Me Asleep,” a setting of a text by Anne Boleyn that follows the queen from imprisonment through beheading, as for wind band pieces like “Rock Music,” which incorporates the sounds of a non-traditional musical material – literally rocks – to tangibly connect the music to the earth and to the climate that is changing before our very eyes.

It is not just “Rock Music” that veers from the tried and true wind band course, though. Much of Alex’s wind band oeuvre is what she has dubbed “electroacoustic,” meaning that it incorporates pre-recorded electronic tracks into performance. In many cases, such as with “Lights Out” and “Paper Cut,” it can be difficult to tell which sounds are coming from the electronic track and which are coming from the live instrumentalists. This is especially true when the pieces are performed in black light, which is part of the recommended presentation of “Lights Out,” and which has seemed to have caught on for about one-third of the performances of “Paper Cut.” With the electronic and the acoustic melding together and becoming indistinguishable, these pieces echo the increasing parity we’re seeing between human and artificial intelligence in other parts of our lives. It’s like the core theme of “Westworld” embodied in music (but, well, a lot less menacing).

LightsOut

PaperCut

Even when not done in black light, “Paper Cut,” perhaps Alex’s most widely known band piece, is a visual and aural spectacle as band members manipulate pieces of paper to make a range of percussive sounds and execute basic choreography with the paper to give the audience a full show. Commissioned by the American Composers Forum, “Paper Cut” was originally composed for middle school band, but it continues to be popular with bands of all ages and levels because it’s just so fun. Here are the Jackson Middle School Symphonic Winds of Grove City, OH performing the piece at Capital University in February 2018:

Whether it’s these sorts of novelty elements, accompanying videos or photograph reels, or basic choreographed moves or staging, Alex doesn’t simply compose music, but exploits an audience’s heavy reliance on visuals to construct entire performance pieces with music at their core. In the band world, she says, “there are no limits” – and she revels in the stream of endless possibilities.

At the same time, however, it’s worth noting that her music is remarkably direct and succinct. It makes sense, then, that she cites Beethoven as her “goalpost” for economy of motivic development and usage and speaks in amazement that he could build an entire symphonic movement from just four notes – three of which are identical. Perhaps it is that economy that has allowed those four notes that open Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony to connect with audiences so strongly that they have become one of the most recognizable themes in all of music history. This is precisely the sort of emotional chord that Alex aims to strike in her music, and like Beethoven, she also lets a strong voice shine through to confidently guide the audience on their emotional journey.

AlexShapiro2.jpg

Alex Shapiro

Human connection is central not only to Alex’s work, but also to her career as a composer. She uses Skype to get into rehearsal rooms with groups performing her pieces. In addition to her many works for professional ensembles, she writes music meant for the educational system so that she can make sure that more women are represented in the music that young learners are playing – and so that children of all genders, races and creeds can understand that there is a place for them in the music world. She is a mainstay at conferences and in the leadership of various professional organizations so that she can encourage her peers in developing their own sense of self-worth and help guide them as business operators. And these connections that she builds in turn make her a strong advocate, a happy and fulfilled human being, and a vital part of the music community.

“Everything is interconnected,” she says. And so she writes. And so she lives.


About Take Note:

Thought-provoking articles by musicians for musicians, music lovers or those that want to learn more about it!

Shop at:

Sheet Music Plus

FREE Newsletter:

Get exclusive discounts and coupons
Sign Up Today →

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 412 other followers

Twitter Updates


%d bloggers like this: