Turning a Corner

It has been a spring/summer of ups, downs, lefts, rights, and just about everything in between. But here we are in the middle of summer, and I’m seeing myself having turned a corner.

The spring semester was, of course, busy. But thanks to my commitment to work smarter, I found myself finishing this year significantly less stressed than I was back in December! Now, I look forward to jumping into the new year with a renewed sense of excitement and energy.

A few updates on the past few months:

  • We started a competitive winter colorguard this year, and in their first season the guard finished the year by taking 2nd place in their class at their final competition!
  • Jazz Band received a “Superior” rating at District Jazz evaluation (first time ever!), and went on to the State level to receive an “Excellent.”
  • Wind Ensemble received an “Excellent” at District Concert Band evaluation, on a very difficult program (probably too difficult by most accounts)
  • Two great concerts and the graduation of a very strong senior class finished out the school year for us….
  • …. but not before we were informed that our principal was being transferred to Miami Coral Park Senior HS (of all places… Coral Park is where I did my student teaching!). Our new principal is already here and has been a joy to work with so far!
  • Marching Band for the next year is already underway. The group is smaller due to a significant number of incoming seniors deciding they didn’t want to return for their last year. We’ll miss them, but we are moving on with a great show theme: “Mission: Accepted”

As for me? I’m looking forward to not having to move this summer (first time in 3 summers I haven’t had to do a major move!). Enjoying a lot of books, TV Shows, videogames, food, and sleep, as well as coming up with some very exciting new ideas/plans for the coming year – more on that later.

As I sit around, I of course find myself looking for something else to do… it’s been a while since I have undertaken an online project, but I think it’s time to get back in the swing of things! So, in addition to becoming more active on Twitter (Follow me at @Zweibz7!), I am pleased to introduce:

BandHacker: Tips and Tricks for the Organized Band Director

This is a series of posts I will be writing here on this website (perhaps to expand to a dedicated domain later on…) that will be geared towards the little things I do day in and day out to help me work smarter. It will include digital software, web apps, mobile apps, and “low tech” solutions that help me be more productive and organized so I can spend more time teaching and less time on everything else! I already have a bunch of ideas for posts, and am excited to share them with you all.

I’ll be posting as often as time permits, so be on the lookout on any and all of my social presences (by connecting with me) for links to new posts when they’re up! You can also view all my BandHacker posts at any point right here.

Don’t worry, though, this blog won’t be overtaken completely by BandHacker posts! There’ll still be the usual (albeit infrequent) interjection of “this is what my life is like” posts 🙂

Until next time…

A Day of Discovery

There are some days where lightbulbs turn on in your head at an alarming rate. I love those days, don’t you? I also love music education and technology. So when I had three huge lightbulbs turn on in my head today, ALL related to music education and technology, I’m pretty sure it can be classified as an amazing day in Andy-land! Here were my three major lightbulbs, in order of appearance:

iPads for Choir

I have been tasked with teaching choir this year, and it would be an understatement to say that this puts me outside my comfort zone. While I can hold my own on piano, I fully admit that I am not at the level where I can accompany a choir, especially while at the same time listening and assessing the ensemble. So when I saw a post by Dr. Christopher Russell this morning titled “Using iPads for Choir Sectionals,” my interest was immediately piqued!

In the post, Russell discusses the methods through which he creates practice tracks for each voice part in his chorus using Finale and Notion for iPad, and allows them to practice (along with the score, using ForScore) in sections while he works with other groups. While I intend to use this in my classes, my biggest take-away from the article was actually the “Guided Access Mode” on the iPad, which allows me to lock the iPad into a certain app (and even disable certain parts of the screen in that app!) to prevent students from playing Angry Birds when they should be practicing their part. What an incredible feature! I didn’t even know it existed. If you’re curious, you can find it by tapping Settings -> General -> Accessibility -> Guided Access.

Between “Guided Access” mode and the musical potential that using Finale, Notion, and ForScore (in conjunction with Dropbox) create, I can’t wait to get back to choir this week!

Tonal Energy Tuning App

I have been hearing about the “Tonal Energy” app for iPad and iPhone for a long time, but thought I couldn’t find anything better than my (very expensive) iStrobosoft strobe tuner app. Little did I know… Tonal Energy is really as amazing as everyone says it is! In addition to a very easy to read interface, Tonal Energy is worth every penny of its $3.99 price tag (and then some!) just because of the “Tone Generator” feature. For anyone who has used a Harmony Director before to demonstrate Equal/Just Temperaments and help ensembles develop a sense of intonation on chords, this app can do the exact same thing. It allows for pitches to be played using any instrument sound, and you can sustain as many pitches as you want at once. This is PERFECT for sustaining an open 5th as reference while students tune their instruments at the beginning of class. This will be especially useful now that I know how to….

Wirelessly Mirror Video/Audio from iPad to Projector

I have been looking for a way to wirelessly mirror my iPad to my Promethean projector since I started teaching. I have an extra long VGA cable that works fine as a way to plug my iPad into the projector, but this creates a few problems:

  1. I can’t move around much, because the cable keeps coming loose from the bottom of the iPad
  2. I can’t play audio from my iPad through my classroom sound system without actually placing the iPad near the sound system and connecting it through an 1/8″ Aux cable

Enter Chris Burns (@clb1015 on Twitter) who suggested I look into AirServer as an option. Sure enough, this is exactly what I was looking for! For a nominal $11.99 educational license, AirServer lets me wirelessly mirror my iPad (video AND audio) to the iMac sitting near my Promethean board. From there, I can connect the iMac to my projector and sound system using the appropriate VGA/Aux cables, and with a tap of a screen, I can easily walk around the room with my iPad screen displayed on the projector and iPad audio running out of my classroom speakers. I can think of a few applications for this already:

  • Display TonalEnergy on the projector while I pump that open 5th through the speakers to help with tuning in band classes
  • Play audio accompaniments through the speakers while I use ForScore to follow along in Chorus (AKA never need a choral score again!)
  • Display Tenuto or other Music Theory/Ear Training app on the screen while playing ear training exercises in Music Theory classes
  • Quickly play listening examples in all classes without having to walk away from the class to plug in the iPad, causing the class to go nuts (happens EVERY time…)

The only downside to all these discoveries? I have to wait a whole day before I can start to implement them because we have Martin Luther King, Jr. Day off tomorrow! Not that I’m complaining about the long weekend, of course…

What other applications am I not thinking of for all these great new ideas I came across today? Leave your thoughts in the comments.