Wind Ensemble Concert

Just a quick reminder from an earlier post that the Frost Wind Ensemble has a concert tonight at 8 pm in Gusman Concert Hall. Admission is free if you’re in the Miami area, and if you’re not, you can listen to the concert live via audio stream here (hopefully the equipment will be working this time-sorry to those of you who tried to listen in to the Symphonic Winds concert last week). The program will be conducted almost entirely by Thomas Sleeper (orchestra conductor, in lieu of Director of Bands Gary Green, who is on sabbatical) and will include:

Xi Wang – Music for Piano, Percussion, and Wind Ensemble
Simone Gomez, Cliff Sutton-Percussion; Marina Radiushina-Piano

Sweelinck-Variations on “Mein junges Leben hat ein End” arr. Rciker
Lauren Denney Wright-Conductor

Stinson-Cog (World Premiere)

Sleeper-Concerto for Trumpet
Craig Morris-Trumpet

While the Xi Wang is the only piece I will be performing on, this entire concert is going to be an incredible experience, so I would urge anyone who can to listen in and enjoy a night of fantastic music! As an added bonus, three of the four composers on this program (Xi Wang, Scott Stinson, Thom Sleeper) will be in attendance at the concert! Hope to see you there!

Frost Wind Ensemble

Greetings From a New Host!

As I mentioned a few days ago, I recently made the decision to switch web hosts. I had used hosting from since I bought the domain and space back in June of last year, and recently have been disappointed with some of the load speeds and the amount of times where the site was down all together. Another bothersome issue with MyIS (and this is a pet peeve of mine for all commercial companies) was the customer service, or lack thereof. Now don’t get me wrong-MyIS did their job effectively, and solved any problems I had, but I am interested in more than just a company who can fix my problems. I want someone who’s going to take a vested interest in my needs and in what I’m doing!

It was with this in mind that I sent a very simple update out over Twitter the other day: “I am looking for a good inexpensive web-host for my web page. Any Suggestions?”  Not 39 minutes later, I was first contacted by a representative from PinchHost over their Twitter account (@PinchHost) with a just-as simple response: “I have a suggestion…” This representative (who I came to learn later goes by Alex!) and I “tweeted” back and forth for a while, talking about general information about the company and the services they provide. I told Alex I wanted to sleep on the decision, and to please “tweet” me in the morning. Sure enough, at 5:45 am the next morning, I had a message waiting for me asking if I slept well!

That morning, Alex and I discussed some more specific details about PinchHost’s hosting plans on Twitter, and by lunch time I had made the decision to switch over. Alex suggested we speak via Skype to discuss final details, payment, and to get everything set up, and proceeded to spend the next 3 hours connected on Skype with me as we set up my new space! Not only did he help set up the webspace, but Alex also helped me set up email accounts for my site using GoogleApps, and took the time to re-download and upload all my information when the first file transfer created problems. All in all, Alex probably spent almost his entire day at work helping me get set up!

As the next few days went by, I waited for the namserver change to propagate across the world. For those of you non-techie folks, this basically means that I was waiting for to stop looking at the old host for my files, and start looking to PinchHost. I ran into a few problems when the UM campus took longer than expected for the change to occur, but Alex was there right beside me the whole time, doing what he could to solve the problems, and suggesting I do things that he wasn’t able to (such as contact UM’s IT people-thank heavens I didn’t have to do that!). After a few days, the problems sorted themselves out.

I thought everything was set up, and the transfer was over–in fact, I even started writing this post–when I received another email on Saturday from Alex:

Hi Andy,
I’d like to move you to a different server almost twice as powerful. The change requires very little action on your part. If you confirm, I’ll carry out the process and send you anything you need to know about the change.
Kind regards,

I had been a customer for all of 3 days, and he already wanted to move me to a more powerful server? My answer, of course, was a resounding “yes,” and by that evening, the move was completed and was at it’s (hopefully) final resting place! It is this new, more powerful server that you are viewing my site on at the current moment. Hopefully, you notice a difference–I know I have already!

I want to take this oppotrunity to thank Alex and the PinchHost team for all the time and effort that have been put into helping to get my information moved over to the new host. I love everything about PinchHost, from their personal approach to support to their pro-active approach to problem solving. The pricing is the best I’ve seen (I am paying significantly less than I was before), and the quality of the hosting has been fantastic. In my book: great people + great pricing + great products is a formula for success in life! Congratulations to the folks at PinchHost for having it figured out!

“Band of the Hour” 2009 Leadership Announced!

Over the past week or so, the student leadership team for the 2009 University of Miami “Band of the Hour” has been announced, and now that the entire team is set, I want to congratulate everyone on a job well done! Here are the 2009 student leaders:

Drum Majors: Jeff Lawson, Brad Newman, Stephanie Gust
Band Captain: Andy Zweibel
Piccolo Section Leaders: Alyssa Kassler, Nicholas Heilman
Clarinet Section Leader: Tim Plitnik
Alto Sax Section Leader: Dan Sprague
Trumpet Section Leaders: Andy Zweibel, Sam Guffey
Mellophone Section Leaders: Nina Knific, Sam Bapty
Trombone Section Leader: Marissa Wites
Baritone Section Leader: Luke Cramer
Sousaphone Section Leader: Mike O’Brien
Drumline Captain: Victor Gonzalez
Guard Captains: Liz Menne, Kayla Kasel
Dance Captains: Taylor Prandini, Destiny Guild

Contratulations to everyone! I’m looking forward to a great season!

“Computers, Keyboards, and Music” – A Curriculum Restructure

As part of the Music Education curriculum here at UMiami, I take a course entitled “Computers, Keyboards and Music.” The course is the only music technology class that is in the curriculum, and the course description is as follows:

An introduction to basic computing skills for the musician that explores computers, keyboards, and other MIDI- (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) related instruments as tools for the musician. Topics include electronic keyboards, computer hardware and software, MIDI sequencing, computer-assisted musical notation, and teaching strategies using new technologies. Students gain hands-on experience while completing projects in each of the above areas.

While this seems to be a fairly comprehensive course description, it’s an extremely glorified way to explain the fact that the course includes three units:

  1. Instruction in the use of the Yamaha Clavinova keyboards that the keyboard lab uses
  2. Instruction in the use of Sibelius musical notation software
  3. Instruction in the use of music sequencing programs including Garage Band and Logic

As a great supporter of the use of technology in music education and of new opportunities to use technology in music, I find that this curriculum leaves a lot to be desired in this area. There are many more areas that could be explored, and I feel it would benefit future students in this course to explore these new areas of music technology. In this proposal for a new curriculum, I outline a few different sections: my specific gripes with the current curriculum, some changes I would make to the current units, and a few new units I would add to the new curriculum. Please forgive me if I get long-winded!

Gripes About the Current Curriculum

The curriculum for this course has been the same for at least 5 or 6 years, as far as I know (I will confirm this over the next few days). The textbook (which is recommended but not required) includes screenshots of some MIDI programs on a Mac OS prior to OS9… back when screens were black and white. The entire course is severely outdated. I attended a session by Dr. James Frankel at the 2009 FMEA convention, in which he made an interesting point. The presentation was about “New Trends in Music Technology,” and Dr. Frankel made the point that he loves making this presentation because each time he does, the contents change because new trends are developing on an almost daily basis. Based on this thought process, it’s my opinion that not only should the curriculum of this course not have remained static for so long, but that in fact it should change each semester, as new trends develop.

My other major gripe is with the first unit of study in the current curriculum. The first unit is instruction in the use of the Clavinova keyboards. This includes how to navigate the keyboard and select voices and styles, and how to record songs. While I believe this is a good skill to have, I think there are so many more skills that are more relevant to this day and age than learning how to navigate one specific brand of keyboard. I think if this were to stay in the curriculum, it should be a one (or maybe two) class unit, and no more. We spent at least a month on the Clavinova.

Changes to the Current Curriculum

As I said, the first major change I would make is cutting down the length of the Clavinova unit significantly. I feel that we spent way too much time on this unit, and that this time could be spent exploring other, more relevant areas. Secondly, I would shorten and diversify the Sibelius unit. Currently, this unit includes learning how to input notes using the Clavinova and the computer keyboard, and replicating 5 different pieces of sheet music on the program. I think this is a good way to teach Sibelius, but there are many other features of the program now (the “idea” notepad, for example) that could be taught as well. These features have been added in recent editions of Sibelius, and they are definitely worth discussing. Finally, I would suggest also doing more with the Garage Band unit. I explain this further in my next section.

Additions to the Curriculum

There are so many pieces of software and hardware for music technology nowadays, and so many resources for combining them all. I think it would be extremely beneficial to this curriculum to explore a more diverse set of topics. Here are just a few of my suggestions:

  1. Podcasting and iPods-GarageBand is a great program for creating podcasts, and this is something that’s worth discussing in the course. Topics could include adding sound effects, publishing podcasts to a feed, and publishing to iTunes. Other iPod topics could include the multitude of iPhone/iPod Touch applications for music
  2. Live Recording-Add a live recording unit to Garage Band, talking (on a very basic level) about microphones and audio interfaces. A project could be to create a 30-second commercial in Garage Band using loops and synthesized sounds from Garage Band along with your recorded voice.
  3. Integration of Multiple Products-The semester should end with a culmination project, that includes the use of many of the different areas discussed. For example, create a 5-minute radio show in Garage Band, which includes spoken word (recorded via microphone), a musical excerpt (with sheet music notated in Sibelius), background sound effects and loops (from within Garage Band). The final products would all be posted as single episodes of a class-wide podcast, and not only would the students have a compilation of their work, but the teacher could easily grade each of the projects using a feed reader.

There are so many new pieces of technology that have become available over the past weeks, months, and years, and they are all extremely important to explore! There is only one course in the curriculum that teaches music technology, so it should be one of the most up to date courses. With the direction that the world is taking, music and technology will need to become even more tightly woven than they are already. The future musicians of the world need to be prepared to do that, and I feel that these modifications to the curriculum of this course will benefit the future of the music majors to graduate from the University of Miami.