Aesthetic Changes

If you have ever visited this site before, you’re probably thinking something along the lines of “what happened?!” right about now. The answer, in plain wording, is that I was looking for a change of scenery as well as to simplify your browsing experience. As such, I have made some cosmetic changes to the layout of my blog!

The most obvious, of course, is the wider body and the additional sidebar on the left side. I did this for two reasons. First of all, I had a lot of content on my right-hand sidebar, and was concerned that the significance of some of the content was being lost by it not being visible at first glance on the page. To combat this, I have gone to a wider body for the whole site (1024 pixels from the original 800, for those of you keeping score at home). This has allowed me to add a second sidebar on the left to balance out the page!

After moving some of my “widgets” around in the sidebars, though, I realized that if I were to keep only the “widgets” that I had initially, the two-sidebar idea would look very empty. This brings me to my second change; I have added some new widgets to the sidebar! On the left hand side, you will now see a “Categories” area that will allow you to browse any of my posts by the categories I use. The right hand sidebar is now also equipped with links to the three most recent comments on my posts, so you can see what people are saying to me! Finally, I separated my links (lower right) into two categories-Music Education Links and My Favorite Links, and added a few of my favorite bloggers to my list. Finally, I consolidated the archives widget in the left sidebar by turning it into a drop-down box.

The final major change is both practical and aesthetic. If you notice, I now have a random orange and white icon my right hand sidebar. This is a link to my impoved RSS feed, and is part of an effort to gain a more specific “reader base” for my blog. By clicking on this link, you can subscribe to the news feed of my posts (using your favorite feed reader) and get updated any time I make a new post here, instead of having to manually check the site yourself! For more information on this, check out the Wikipedia articles on RSS and on the different Aggregators (feed readers) available. For a list of aggregators, scroll to the bottom of the wiki article. My personal favorite is Google Reader. Anyway, this new feed (located at http://feeds2.feedburner.com/andyzweibel if you’re keeping track), will allow me to track the number of subscribers I have, and see how many click-throughs these subscribers make. Long story short-I’ll be able to see what you are all interested in reading, and hopefully tailor my posts more towards those trends!

What do you think of the new layout? Do you like the two sidebars? What about the new widgets? Have you had any good/bad experiences with RSS feeds? Let me know what you think about these changes by leaving a comment; I do this for you, so let me know what you think!

An Overview of the Music Education Curriculum at UMiami

As the more avid readers here may know, I have recently been announced as one of Joe Pisano’s 100 ME Bloggers in the field of music education. as such, I’m making an effort to include more posts here related to the field of music education and teaching in general. This shouldn’t be extremely difficult, as I have recently become much more involved in the music education department here at Miami, as the President-Elect of Miami’s chapter of FCMENC (Florida Music Educator’s National Conference). When thinking about what an interesting topic would be for discussion about music education on this blog, I realized that many readers-either music educators or family and friends-don’t necessarily know what I do here on a day-to-day basis as a music education student. That is my purpose in this post.

The music education curriculum here at Miami can be broken down into a few different categories: music education classes, general music classes, general education classes, and general classes. Below I outline each of these sections and the courses that are required in each section in order to attain a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from the University of Miami.

Music Education Classes

The music education courses in the curriculum can be broken down into four main sections: tehniques classes, conducting classes, methods classes, and internship. In the techniques classes, students are given the opportunity to not only play all the instruments, but to learn how to teach these instruments. These classes include brass, woodwinds, strings, percussion, and vocal. There is also a functional techniques class that includes instruction in recorder, guitar, and autoharp. The classes are usually taken in the first three or four semesters of the 4-year program. Conducting classes begin in the third semester, and consist of two general conducting classes, one error detection class, and one wind literature class. As the student enters his/her 5th semester (junior year) in the music education program, they begin the methods courses, which teach strategies that can be used in the classroom. These classes include elementary general music, secondary choral music, elementary/secondary instrumental music, and secondary general music. There is also a class on methods for teaching jazz. Most of the methods courses include a field experience component, where the student is expected to visit a local school and observe (and possibly teach, along the line) the methods that are being taught in the class. After these courses are over, in the final semester of the program, the student takes part in a two-part internship (sometimes called student-teaching). The internship semester consists of 4 weeks of internship in an elementary setting, and 4 weeks in a secondary setting (either middle or high school).

General Music Classes

These courses are taken by all music majors, regardless of concentration. They include four semesters of music theory, four semesters of ear training, four semesters of class piano, and two semesters of music history. The theory classes span every aspect of music theory, from figured bass and part-writing to 12-tone rows and 20th-Century techniques. Ear training classes focus on improving the student’s aural skills, and each semester includes more difficult and complex examples. Piano classes are intended to give the student a basic foundation in playing piano, and-like ear training-operates on a gradual increase in difficulty by semesters. The two music history courses split the spectrum of music history in half, with the first course focusing on the Medieval, Rennaisance and Baroque periods, and the second course focusing on the Classical, Romantic, and Modern periods. In addition to these courses, the program includes a few other theory-based courses including a course based on formal analysis and an orchestration course. There also, of course, is a requirement to participate in a performing ensemble (two if the student is on a scholarship), and private lessons on the student’s principal instrument that are required for each semester the student is in the School of Music.

General Education Classes

There are some education-based courses that the student takes outside the school of music, through the University’s high-caliber School of Education. There are four of these courses in the program now. The first is a basic inroduction to Educational Psychology, intended to establish a background for the student to build upon as he/she learns more about the theory behind teaching. The second class focuses on teaching reading in the content areas, and is primarily intended to help future teachers be equipped to prepare their students for standardized testing and stimulate interest in a topic where initially there might not be interest. There is a course for teaching ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages), which helps students learn techniques for facilitating for the needs of English Language Learners that might be in the classroom. The fourth course discusses the theory and practice of classroom and behavior management. All of these classes except the first have a component of the curriculum centered around a 10 to 20-hour field experience requirement, where the student observes in local classrooms, and eventually employs some of the strategies that he/she has learned in these classes.

General Classes

These are the obligatory “Gen-Ed” classes, which establish a firm basis in many different areas for the student. Requirements for these courses include taking classes in the fields of English, Natural World/Sciences, and other elective credits from any field. Many music education students will use these “elective” credits to take courses in philosophy or psychology, to help their teaching. One of my other interests (which I’m hoping to be able to integrate with my teaching) is technology and, moreso for the past few months, social media, so I may try to take a course or two in the School of Communications to help improve my prowess in this regard.

While this isn’t by any means a perfect representation of the curriculum for a future music educator at the University of Miami, hopefully it gives some insight as to what my friends and I are up to during the day, before all the extra curricular activities you’ve heard so much about!

The Search for Inspiration

I never thought “writer’s block” existed. Those of you who know me know that I always have something to say, always have an opinion about everything. But lately, I have hit a brick wall with this blog–I haven’t been able to come up with anything to say, anything that I thought would be worthwhile enough to share with all of you. It’s lasted about 3 weeks, and has been starting to concern me, becuase I don’t want this blog to come stagnant.

I’m learning that maybe not every post needs to be really meaningful or inspirational, though. A check-in every so often, or a short blurb about what’s going on lately, would suffice. So consider this post under that category!

Classes are going pretty well so far–the semester is incredibly busy, but not as much because of actual classwork. Here are some highlights about what I’ve been occupied with:

  • I’ve began my duties as the President-Elect of Miami’s chapter of FCMENC (for an explanation of what that means, see this post), including preparation for the South Florida Honor Band Festival over Valentine’s Day weekend
  • I’ve started performing with the University of Miami Frost Wind Ensemble (!!) this semester, which includes more rehearsal time and some extra time in preparation and practice
  • The website for the band department at UM, which I’m responsible for overhauling, is very close to launching its new update, so I am working on that in all my spare time; stay tuned for updates here when the site goes live! I’d love all your input!

Other than that, and a new relationship which I’m very happy in ( 🙂 ), life has been fairly normal!

I would, however, like to extend a congratulations to Kenna Delmar, who has successfully stepped into the blogging world, and who, it would appear, is getting good readership of her blog by some universities she is interested in attending for a Music Education degree! Check out her blog here! I’ve also added the link to my “Favorite Links” section.

Starting late this week into early next week, I’ll be updating on Twitter about the Honor Band festival under the hashtag #sfhb09 (for South Florida Honor Band 2009, in case you didn’t catch it). The beginning of next week will be mostly updates about prep-work, while most of the “fun” will start Thursday the 12th of Feburary. Keep updated on the “tweets” about Honor Band here!

Here’s hoping I find more inspiration in my daily life and am able to keep this more updated for everyone! Until next time!