Sep 16, 2013

Step Inside The Rehearsal of the Future

Remember The Jetsons, that cartoon about a futuristic, space-age family flying around in ships and being waited on by robots? 

What about Back to the Future II, wherein Marty McFly time travels all the way to the year ::gasp:: 2015, with automatic tying shoelaces and hoverboards?

What about the rehearsal of the future?  How do you imagine it? Here's how I would:

To start, my students would enter the room and grab a tablet (or, more likely, have their own personal one).  They quickly scan a personal attendance card or, if they do not have it with them, they enter their 4 digit personal PIN to sign-in.  My section leaders and I would be free from the hassle of taking attendance and can actually interact with each other.  At the end of the week, I would be able to see a report of who was absent from each class.

As soon as they sign-in, they start bell work on the tablets with music theory.  If the concept is new to them, say minor key signatures, a short lesson walks them through how to figure it out. I would, of course, supplement the lessons as needed with my own.  After being introduced to the concept, they would begin to play a game, and real-time statistics are displayed.   Once every week or so, I could give a test "game".  Upon completion, scores would be sent to me, so I could instantly track growth and progress for each individual.  And of course, the scores would be verifiable via web link if I was uncertain that score belonged to that person.  I'm just that OCD!

As we began our warm up process, my students would be pulling up their sightreading exercise for the day in a sheet music application that arranged music by the ensemble.  They should be able to go right back to the place where they left off the previous rehearsal to save time.  A built in pitch pipe or tuner would give starting notes, and they could sight read without a piano at all.  

After sightreading, we would begin our rehearsal.  Let's say we had introduced a piece of music last week and would be performing it in a concert in a month or two.  I'd do a pre-test evaluation so I could track their musical growth during the term.   Using the tablets, I would want to be able to record each student so that I pretty much just hear them while everyone plays or sings simultaneously.  The recordings should then be labeled with the students name and automatically be sent to a cloud, where I could listen and analyze them later, entering them into a rubric.  The musician would also be able to review their old recordings and scores at a later date to track their own progress.

Indidual Assessment has been a major topic in arts education over the past few years as school districts attempt to find ways to measure student growth in ensembles.  Many various systems have been tested or suggested for this.  Imagine if they could actually track the improvement in playing or singing?

Those of you who regularly read my blog know I'm a fan of sectionals, but let's say I don't have time or space to do full-on sectionals in multiple areas.  I would want to tell the students to plug their headphones into their tablets and sing or play along with practice tracks made by professional musicians (real singing or playing, not MIDI, of course).  It would be like an instant sectional without anyone moving.  After a few minutes of individual or small group practice, we'd face the front and sing or play through the excerpt with ease.

Pretty cool, huh?

What if I told you that this was the rehearsal that I had today...and yesterday...and the day before that?

Well it is.  Our choir has piloted a tablet program in music ensembles for the past two years.  I know what you're saying-- "That's great, but we don't have tablets"!  You can do all of it with the technology you already have- the smartphones in your musicians' pockets.  I'd love to share the products we've used to find incredible success, student growth, and amazing music making.  

And please let your music friends and colleagues know about these tools using the links below.  As a good colleague of mine said recently, "I believe if you know something, share it".

Moving forward,
J.D. Frizzell, a composer, conductor, and educator, is the Director of Fine Arts and Director of Vocal Music at Briarcrest Christian School in Memphis, TN. He earned the double Master's in Music Theory/Composition and Conducting from The University of Southern Mississippi, where he also earned the bachelor's degree in Music History and Literature. He is currently a candidate for the Doctorate of Musical Arts in Choral Conducting at the University of Kentucky. He has many published compositions available from and other sheet music retailers.

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