As I turn the corner towards the “Big 4-0” one week from now, it came across my mind how far technology has come over the last 40 years. I was born just as the Atari 2600 was getting popular. I can remember playing Pac-Man and Space Invaders and getting ever-so-frustrated at the near-impossible “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” game. Unfortunately, I never knew what the games actually were supposed to look like because I only had a black and white TV to play them on.
Then the NES system came out with its glorious 8-bit graphics that just knocked me off my feet as a 7/8 year old. I can remember sitting in front of my newly updated little color TV playing Mega Man for hours and wanting to throw the controller through the TV each time I fell to my doom off various platforms. And “THE CODE”! Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, Start… Changed the world of gaming forever.
Now, at 40 years old, I’m sitting in front of a computer program that can animate marching drill in 3D that I have written and can even program the field views to the measurements of the various home stadiums of the bands for which I write. You can change their outfits, make them lunge and do all sorts of body movements… heck, you can even get the guard to toss their equipment!
Think about it… My Fitbit Ionic has 2.5 GB of memory. The Atari 2600 ran 128 bytes of RAM. That essentially means that 20,971,520 Ataris are located on my wrist at this very moment. Glad I’ve been working out!
That all being said, technology is here to stay, and it’s our job as educators to use it effectively for the benefit of our students. I would like to share a few ideas beyond Pyware, Finale, and Garage Band to help you help your students become the best marching band they can be.
Rehearsal Tracks Made With Notation Software and Audacity
Rehearsal tracks are a great way to help your students learn music over the summer. High school choruses use them all the time, but many band directors never think about creating them for their band programs. This is usually because of the time commitment involved in putting in an entire score into Finale.
I did much of the arranging for my marching band over my tenure as director and found that the kids loved to download the MP3’s to their players and practice during their down times at band camp and at home. Since I already put in the time creating the arrangement, it was just another minimal time commitment to export the individual parts to WAV files in Finale or Sibelius and then convert them to MP3 files in Audacity (a freeware sound and music editing application). You can download Audacity at https://www.audacityteam.org
If you work with an arranger, see if they will let you have the Finale or Sibelius file to be able to do this process yourself. If not, see if they are willing to send you WAV files of the parts (with a met click in the background) and then you can convert them to MP3 yourself using Audacity.
If you purchase stock charts, there are always students willing to help use Finale or Sibelius to put in the music for you so that you can create the click tracks. Students love having ownership, and if you have an older student thinking about going into music education, or kids that took a music theory course with you, this would be a great experience and practice for them.
If you are unable to do this on your own but would love to have rehearsal tracks for the students, you can find friends or other professionals willing to make tracks for you for a small fee. Ten-Hut Productions offers these services. Feel free to contact me at email@example.com for more information.
Google Classroom and Google Drive
Google Classroom (https://classroom.google.com/) is a great way to keep your students and their parents in communication throughout the band season. Many schools are moving to using the Google Education suite and giving all their students Gmail accounts, and many parents have moved to Gmail addresses as well. Using Google Classroom can help you deliver flyers, music files, and announcements as needed.
In Google Classroom, you can set up multiple classes based on your needs. During the school year, you could have one for each of your performance ensembles, your general music classes, and any other music classes that you teach. You can also make them for any after school activities, such as marching band. Students and parents can then enroll in the class you created using a code that Google will create for you to distribute.
When you and your students or parents log in to Google Classroom, your main page will have a listing of all the classes you either created or are enrolled. You can post assignments that require students to submit something so that you can keep track of who has turned in fundraisers or paperwork, or whatever you need. You can also see who has seen your announcements and assignments. You can upload files and file folders to a Google Drive account specific to your Google Classroom and then share that file or folder in your posts. This would be a great way for students to be able to access the MP3 rehearsal tracks you created for them!
Remind (https://www.remind.com) is an extremely easy to use online application and smart phone app that allows you to send text messages to your band members and parents quickly, easily, and for free.
Once you sign up for a free account, you will be given a code and text number to give to your students and parents. They will need to send that code in a text message to the text number and that will sign them up to your Remind account. You can then send out texts using either the Remind app on your smart phone or using the online version on your computer.
You can send out text reminders about rehearsals, fundraiser turn-in and pick-up dates, and any emergency information (the bus got a flat tire on the way home from an event) that you need to distribute. You can send the messages immediately, or program them to occur on a certain day and time. This works very well for band trips where there are set check-in times. You can pre-program your entire trip to remind students about check-in times 5 minutes before they have to be at the location to check in.
Please don’t be afraid to comment to this post and if anyone would like help setting up Google Classroom or Google Drive, a Remind account, or if you need help doing rehearsal tracks please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m more than willing to help you with any technology needs you may have.
Blessings to you all!
Ten-Hut Productions LLC