Ahh Summer…vacation with the family, lazy days filled with recreational reading, movies, and the freedom to do whatever you want with your leisure time.  If you are like me, the 4th of July is the “high water mark” of the Summer break and while fireworks are dazzling the sky our brains begin to nag us about what needs to be done to prepare for the opening of school.

Music educators have so many “extra” things that need to be done in addition to the regular preparation of the classroom, lesson plans, etc.  Today I wanted to offer some helpful hints if you haven’t thought of them already- they can literally make or break your early rehearsals!

Here are 5 to get you thinking:

1. Batteries.  Yes, that sounds like a no-brainer, but if they are dead in your Dr. Beat and your Long Ranger (or whatever flavor of metronome and megaphone you use to run marching rehearsals) they can stop a rehearsal dead (just like the battery).  Test your equipment WELL BEFORE your kids show up to head off any potential problems with batteries or other electronic snafus…(I SWEAR it was working fine at the end of the year!)

2. Locate your “stuff”.  Technology can be a great aid to the rehearsal, but it also comes with some downfalls- one of the biggest is keeping track of all of your technology AND THE CONNECTOR CABLES, WIRELESS TRANSMITTERS, AND POWER CORDS.  We are all guilty of putting something down to take care of another crisis only to forget where we put it.  Even the best memories can fail and not being able to find that 1/4 inch phone jack or patch cord can be VERY frustrating.

3.  Log into your school email/portal.  If your district is like mine, they like to tweak things over the Summer so that links and pages you are used to seeing look totally different or are missing/moved.  Also, new technologies are coming on board (is your school on 365 yet?).  Your login credentials could have mysteriously stopped working for unexplained reasons (like mine did two years ago) leaving you cut off from all things education.

4.  Check all of your apps and online resources. School networks are notorious for blocking things randomly.  Just because your Gdrive or DropBox worked at the end of the year doesn’t mean it will work on the school network now. Best to check!

5.  Don’t forget your “old tech”.  Do you still have an Elmo or…gasp…an overhead projector? How about a long forgotten LCD projector that “found” its way to your room and you now rely on it to project your lesson onto your one blank wall in your room? How much ink/toner do you have in your printer?- those are still Tech-nically “Tech” and as such need maintenance and supplies- some of which may be surprisingly hard to find!

I hope this short list helped you prepare and I wish you all the very best in the coming year!  Post your comments if you would like to share your own “tips”!

Teacher:  “Do you practice with a metronome?”

Student:  “I don’t have one.”

Teacher: “Why not?”

Student: “I don’t know where to get one and we don’t have the money to buy one!”

How many times has this conversation happened in band rooms across the country?  Today I asked this very question and the students were surprised to hear my response:  “If you have a computer, cell phone, ipod, mp3 player or cd player you can have a metronome for FREE!”  Blank stares from students….one hand is raised “Mr. B, no one has cd players anymore….”

Here are some online resources that you can give your students- these are all FREE solutions.  While I realize that these may not be the best or latest apps out there, this post is merely meant to begin the journey for the perfect metronome (and dare I say….TUNER) apps/freeware.

So the next time your students say “I can’t afford a metronome!” hand them this list:

Windows Computer:




iphone/ipod touch/ipad




mp3’s that can be burned onto cd:


Please feel free to post your favorites as well!

Ever since Guitar Hero came out I have been thinking about how great it would be if we could have a controller that was set up like a real guitar- thus encouraging real chord and note learning skills.  It looks like we are there!  This new controller by Mad Catz is the closest thing yet to a “real” guitar!

Just think of the possibilities that this opens up for guitar instruction!

Check out this video from CNET:


From Band Director to Band Dad

This year my Daughter started high school, and I’m really excited that she has decided to join the marching band.  She is not attending the school where I teach (band), but that is a long story for another time.  I have been a band director for 22 years, and one of the biggest reasons that I chose to become a teacher is the fantastic experiences that I had when I was in school band- the work ethic, the family atmosphere, and of course all of my friends and the great times we had making music together.

As my daughter begins her high school band experience, I find myself remembering and sharing stories and it brings us closer together.  I am so proud to see her enjoy the experience so much! In anticipation of her beginning high school, knowing that she did not want to attend my school (again, looong story- don’t worry the reasons are really pragmatic), I could not bear the thought of not being able to share the moments that I know are sure to come for her.  I have been fortunate enough to be in a position this year- taking a leave of absence from my position to work on my doctoral dissertation- to be able to “be there” with her, taking her to band camp, band practice, football games, competitions, and all that comes with the experience.

I have to say that it was a bit surreal chaperoning a high school football game as a band parent and not the head band director!  She is in a fine band program headed by one of my oldest and dearest friends, so I know that she will have a wonderful education and I have of course volunteered to be at every event.  It really is proving to be an eye-opening experience being on the “other end” of the band experience!  I look forward to a season of hauling water, taking students back and forth to the restroom during away games, cheering like a proud papa at competitions (that’s my girl!!!!), and being the taxi for her and her friends to the pizza party after the big game.

I know that she will have experiences (just like I did) that she will remember for the rest of her life- I am also glad that I have the opportunity to just be “dad” and shower praise and affection liberally and often rather than having to worry about the perception of favoritism that would always be in the background if she was in my program.  So, here’s to a wonderful year of being…dad.

By: Karen Schweitzer

There are many different sites that allow users to listen to and download free music online. Some sites even offer the ability to share music and playlists with friends through websites, blogs, and social media sites. Here are 15 great places to find free and legal music on the web.

Pandora – Based on the sophisticated taxonomy of the Music Genome Project, Pandora is an Internet Radio site that allows you to create personalized radio stations based on music you like. Simply type in the name of a singer, composer, band, or song you enjoy, and Pandora will create a free radio station that plays that music or music like it.

Playlist – Playlist is the world’s largest music community. Members can create their own personal playlists and share them through websites, blogs, and social media sites.

Qloud – Qloud is a free music library that can be used to play music online or share songs via Twitter. The site also shows songs that are being played by other Qloud users.

Songza – This site allows site visitors to browse for songs and artists or create a radio station that plays a mix of songs. Songza also offers featured mixes, such as pop hits, dance party, indie rap, and dinner party.

Live365.com – Live365.com is an Internet radio network that features more than 250 genres of music produced by over 6,000 radio stations in 150 different countries. You can search for radio stations by genre or artist.

MixPod – This social music playlist community lets users create free online playlists, browse playlists created by other people, and share playlists on social media sites.

Jango – Jango is a free social music service that allows users to play unlimited free music online. Simply type in what you want to hear, and Jango will create a personalized radio station for you. You can share your station with friends and tune into stations other people have created.

iLike – This MySpace site calls itself a “social music discovery service.”  After creating a profile, iLike users can share music, playlists, music recommendations, and personalized concert alerts.

Piano Society – Piano Society maintains the largest library of free classical piano recordings on the web. Site visitors can download free music and read about more than 200 different classical and contemporary artists and composers.

SkreemR – SkreemR is a free mp3 search engine that can be used to locate music, remixes, podcasts, recorded radio, and other audio files on the web. More than 12 million mp3 files from over 100,000 websites have been indexed by SkreemR so far.

FindSounds – Similar to SkreemR, FindSounds is an audio search engine that allows users to search the web for free music, sound effects, file formats, and more.

8notes – 8notes is a free sheet music database. The site also offers free riffs, lessons, and tools for musicians and music fans.

Mutopia – The goal of the Mutopia Project is to make sheet music and classical music freely available over the web. Mutopia visitors can download, print out, perform, and distribute nearly 1,700 pieces of music.

RoyaltyFreeMusic.com – This site offers a wide range of royalty free sounds and music. Many of these items on this site are free for everyone. Educators who sign up for RoyaltyFreeMusic.com’s classroom program can gain free access to additional tracks from the site’s stock music library.

BearShare – BearShare is free file sharing software. It can be used to legally download free music and share mp3 files with friends.

Guest post from education writer Karen Schweitzer. Karen is the About.com Guide to Business School. She also writes about pharmacy technician training for PharmacyTechnicianCertification.com.

A while back I was contacted by Kaitlyn Cole about an article on the Online Universities website.  I was really blown away by who was on the top 10 list including some of my favorites (R.E.M, Pink Floyd, Queen- guess I am dating myself here…)

What a great conversation starter for any general music class or as an answer to the ever present question- why do I need to study music when I have my own “band”?

Check out this great article!

The web is an excellent resource for music teachers who need free education materials for the elementary classroom. There are a number of sites that offers articles about music education and teaching strategies, lesson plans, classroom tools, children’s songs, fingerplays, and other helpful materials. Here are 15 sites to explore throughout the school year.

MusTech.net – Created by Dr. Prof. Joseph Pisano, this music technology site is a good place for elementary teachers to read about music education, music technology, and music advocacy. Other site features include links to music-related hardware, software, and freeware.

The Lesson Plans Page – HotChalk’s Lesson Plans Page provides hundreds of detailed lesson plans for music teachers. Lessons are available for elementary, middle school, and high schools students.

Teachers.net – More than 100 music-related lesson plans are available for elementary school students at Teachers.net. Lessons are also available for middle school students.

We the Teachers – This social networking site was not created specifically for music teachers, but it is still a good resource for lesson plans and other classroom tools. Teachers can share lesson plans, ideas, and philosophies in the forum and meet other teachers from around the world.

The Children’s Music Network – Created by teachers, musical performers, and parents in the U.S. and Canada, The Children’s Music Network (CMN) is a non-profit organization that shares songs and ideas about children’s music. Teachers can use the CMN site to find classroom resources, view upcoming events, and learn more about organizations that promote children’s music.

NNCC Fingerplays Plus – The NNCC (National Network for Child Care) offers a large selection of fingerplays and rhymes for elementary school children. Suggestions for related activities are also provided.

Judy and David’s Online Songbook – This no-frills website is a good place to find songs for children to sing in the classroom. Hundreds of songs are available on almost every topic imaginable.

Soundpiper – Soundpiper provides free children’s song lyrics and activity suggestions for the classroom. Teachers can also learn more about methods of music instruction and get tips on making homemade instruments.

Music from Across America – Created for grades K-5, this EDSITEment music learning unit introduces students to different instruments and sounds from various cultures and geographic regions. The unit includes multiple lessons, suggested activities, and other materials for the classroom.

Essentials of Music – Essentials of Music is a classical music site with a large glossary, biographies of famous composers, and information about various eras of music. The site also provides audio excerpts of some of the most famous classical music pieces.

Naxos – Naxos, one of the world’s leading classical music labels, offers an enormous glossary of music terminology as well as a basic introduction to classical music and instruments.

Free Kids Music – This site provides free music downloads from independent children’s music artists. There are songs for learning and education and songs for fun and play.

Free Songs for Kids – Sponsored by Songs for Teaching, this music site provides free kids’ music (lyrics and audio), children’s song videos, printable sheet music, and other useful elementary classroom materials.

Music Teachers Blog – The Fun Music Company offers a Music Teachers Blog with free lesson plans, teaching strategies, and other useful resources for elementary music teachers.

Music Teacher’s Helper – This web-based computer program for music teachers tracks lesson schedules, invoices, payments, and more. It is free to use for teachers who have three students or less.

Guest post from education writer Karen Schweitzer. Karen is the About.com Guide to Business School. She also writes about online degree programs for OnlineDegreePrograms.org.

Before the Christmas break, my alternative music class was working on their projects- “covering” their favorite song, learning the tabs (or notation) and preparing a performance for recording. In the past I have always used itunes to download the songs they were working on so that I had a “frame of reference” but even at $.99 it can get a bit pricey ($30 or so for the class). Since I need to have an idea of what the songs they are working on sound like AND I don’t particularly want to add their music to my itunes library (although some of it is pretty good!) I needed to find a site that I could listen without actually downloading (and do it legally!)

Playlist and Lala are social music sites that allow anyone to upload and share music. It’s a great way for you to “get hip” to what your kids are listening to. Not that we get out of touch as we get older 🙂 Try it out by asking your kids to do a journal of what they listen to in a week (journal exercise).  Type the titles into Playlist or Lala and you will get a window into their world- and realize why they swing like a rusty gate in jazz band…

Now- direct them to the “Jazz” category in Lala and do some listening assignments!

I just finished teaching my Music Theory 1/Ap Music Theory class (that’s right I have both levels in the same class- talk about differentiating instruction!) there are 30 students, and since I had to “convince” my school to offer the class (they won’t open a section with less than 25 students) I had to “take all comers” meaning that there were about 10 students interested in AP, but that is not enough to make a class…

Anyway, on to the compliment…

As you can imagine, I have a WIDE variety of students in this class, but I am basically teaching EVERYONE AP (not “dumbing it down”) there are some VERY CHALLENGING STUDENTS in the class- ones that really couldn’t care less about the finer points of theory…

After class today- one of these “challenging” students came up to me and said:  “You know, you are like that teacher in the movie Dangerous Minds- you are not happy until everyone learns even us dumb kids” I looked him straight in the eye (tearing up a bit) and thanked him.  I told him that that is one of the biggest compliments I could EVER get as a teacher.  He just looked at me like I had two heads.

What a great day!!!!!!!!!