Friday, January 30, 2009

Eight Net Generation Norms

Hi all -
I thought I would share the Eight Net Generation Norms that Don Tapscott discusses in Grown Up Digital.

They are:
1. Freedom
2. Customization
3. Scrutiny
4. Integrity
5. Collaboration
6. Entertainment
7. Speed
8. Innovation

I would like for us all to keep these in mind as we ponder the future of our schools and education in the United States. As I think about my students and, frankly, my children, I see all of these as being vital to their engagement in the learning process. Tapscott makes the argument that my generation is a TV generation. We did a lot of watching (and certainly learned a great deal in the process, but watching notheless). We were told what we would be watching, who we would be watching and listening to, and when it would happen. Now, we have choices. We don't have to just watch the news. We can choose which channel or website to use as our news source. We can comment on the news, read blogs, and change channels at will. I believe that we are moving into an era of decision-making in terms of when and how we get our information, when and how we are entertained, and what it will look like (customization). The lines between entertainment, learning, work, and communication will get blurrier as we go.

I highly recommend this book. It has already impacted my teaching and thought in conjunction with the book, Disrupting Class. I do believe that these concepts provide a great structure for framing our planning, content delivery, and work as educators in the coming months and years.

More to come.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

I just have to put a quick note up about the Steelers today. I grew up in the '70's in Indiana, PA, about 40 miles from Pittsburgh. Some of the best memories of my childhood revolve around the Steelers. I so vividly remember watching the Steelers with my Mom and Dad, cheering for Terry Bradshaw, Lynn Swann, Franco Harris, and others. I remember wearing Steeler tassel caps and yellow sleeved football coats to school all winter long. I remember meeting Rocky Blier, shaking his hand, and talking with him about how much impact his book, "Fighting Back" had on my life. I remember all of the various Steeler players that came to a local church's father/son banquets that I attended with Mr. Degaetano, a neighbor that had no kids of his own to take. I could go on and on: football cards, posters, playing backyard football and pretending to be the Black and Gold, trips to Pittsburgh to see preseason games at Three Rivers Stadium, and more. And now, my kids are developing similar memories of championships with favorite players like "Big" Ben, "Fast" Willie, Troy Polamalu, and others.

I love what the Steelers stand for, too: defense, running the ball, nothing flashy, consistency, steadfastness, not paying the big free agent contract, cold weather, hard hitting, smash-mouth football, team first, loyalty, and certainly - Pittsburgh. I am so proud to be a Steeler fan. I am so happy that my kids are part of that tradition. Next Sunday will be a blast. Go Steelers!!!

Friday, January 16, 2009

NCMEA Eastern Regional Orchestra

Many of my students will be auditioning for North Carolina Music Educators' Association's Eastern Regional Orchestra this weekend. All of the NCMEA students that are auditioning have prepared well and are ready for the audition. As I have been working with them leading up to the audition day, I have been reminded of several basic precepts that apply to an audition. There will be several hundred string players at the auditions that are vying for relatively few spots. Having judged these auditions for well over 20 years, it has become apparent to me that each player must separate themselves from the crowd by playing more than just correct notes and rhythms. The auditioner must point out to the judges that he or she has gone beyond correct notes and can truly demonstrate the music beyond notes and rhythms. So, here is a list of points to consider and prepare for when auditioning.

1. Play Dynamics. Simply put, in my years of experience, well over 50% of the auditions that I have witnessed have not included ANY dynamic contrast. So, the quickest way to separate yourself from more than half of the others is to simply point out the dynamics to the judges. Simple.

2. Make your dynamic swings significantly wider than you think you should. Play piano pianissimo. Play forte as a fortissimo. Make your crescendos really wide. Don't be shy. Judges will remember you if you do this.

3. Don't play like there is a metronome on. Feel the phrases. Be willing to communicate through your music. Take time at the end of a phrase. Drive to the end of a swell. Find the phrasing and demonstrate it.

4. Bow placement matters. Whether it is a blind audition or not, your bow placement impacts the style of the excerpt. Seek out advise on proper bow placement for the style of the excerpt. Again, more than 50% of violin students will play every passage in the upper middle half of the bow. By simply seeking out the prper bow placement and implementing it, you will me more memorable.

5. Never stop practicing slowly. There is a category on many judges scoring system called "accuracy." For me, this is impacted positively by slow practice. I recommend that my students practice audition pieces at 1/2 tempo or below every day leading up to and including the day of the audition. A player is never too prepared to practice at a slow tempo. and, the statement, "I can play it fast, just not slow" is simply rubbish. If you can't play it slowly with accuracy, then you certainly can't play it fast with accuracy.

6. Practice your scales slowly, too. Accuracy is REALLY apparent when playing scales. 3 octave scales are part of most MENC auditions. Even once you know your scales, keep practicing them slow as well as fast. and remember, your bow placement and tone quality matters in scales, too.

7. Practice sight-reading. I recommend that my students practice sight-reading from an old sight-singing book that I own. It is always available for them to use. I try to give them a routine to use every time they sight read. We practice it together. It goes something like this:
1. Look at and consider the basic stuff - key, time signature, tempo, feel
2. Find the first key-related notes. The first c natural, the first B flat, etc
3. Take note of accidentals.
4. Take note of shifts
5. Take note of time signature changes or syncopation
6. Take note of articulations and dynamics
7. Audiate the piece. Hear it in your head. The actual pitches may be off, but you will have read the work through one time. When you play it, it will feel a lot less like sight-reading. Finger it, too, if that is permitted.
8. Go for it and don't worry about a mistake or two. If you have gone through this routine, you will have done it better than most!

I hope that you find this useful. If you read this and get something you can use, drop me a comment. I would lvoe to hear from you.

For now, good luck to all of my students this weekend and be confident. You are well-prepared.


Thursday, January 15, 2009


A student shared this with me today. I thought you would enjoy it.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Letting go...

On Sunday, my son played the Mvt 1 of Vivaldi's A Minor Concerto in Church. We all know the piece - the forth song in Suzuki Bk IV. I have had probably hundreds of students play the piece over the years. But, this was different. This was my son. Now, I have performed a great deal in my life. I have conducted and played my violin in front of thousands of people and really don't have any great issues with nerves. But on Sunday... I was a nervous wreck. Matt was fine, mind you. The dude has nerves of steel. Ice water in his veins. No sweat. But as for me, it was all I could do to get through the service leading up to his offertory.

Matt was certainly prepared. He had practiced diligently. he had done the slow methodical work. it was time to perform this piece. But, I really wanted this to be a great experience for him. I am so used to being the one on stage and it was REALLY hard for me to just "let go" and let him experience the joy of performance. I am usually the one in control, the place the buck stops. But, on Sunday, the buck stopped with him - my son. He couldn't hide and I couldn't do it for him. It was his deal.

I sat through the first 45 minutes of the service waiting for the offertory. My heart pounded. My hands were clammy. Every time I looked over at Matt, he was sitting there as calm as could be. I tried not to let my anxiety show. I didn't want my reaction to the situation cloud his.

The time came and up he went to the front of the sanctuary. He waited for his cue and did his thing. It went better than I had ever heard him play it!! The piece as in tune. The dynamics were clear. His shifting was accurate. Everything worked. Following the piece, the congregation erupted in applause. He didn't react. He simply smiled and came back to his seat. I could not have been more proud of him.

When asked if he was nervous by a family friend afterward, he simply said, "no." If only I could have responded the same way.

I believe that I am approaching a time in my life when I will be really challenged to let go of this anxiety for my kids' success. It is time for them to shine. I know that many of you that are teachers or parents know exactly what I am taking about. I have certainly had anxiety for my students' success over the years, but this is something totally different. Matt is a part of me. We are so close. So similar. He really trusts me to send him in the right direction. Come to think about it, my students trust me in the same way. Their families do, too. I don't want to let any of them down.

And I really want his experiences to be as positive as mine were. Somehow, as parents, I think we forget some of the trials that we had as kids. We want to shelter our kids from the anxieties and failures that are a natural part of growing up. I certainly don't want to do that. But, in the meantime, I will have to learn to calm down a bit. I have to learn not to be the focal point. On Sunday, it was Matt's turn. He will have lots more opportunities as the years progress. I hope that I can learn to enjoy them from start to finish.

As for Sunday, it was a great day. After two church services and fine violin playing, Matt went on to a basketball game and knocked down a couple of jumpers in OT to solidify his team's win. Just another day in the life of a great 12 year old kid. But, as for Dad, I was worn out! But, in a good way - with much anticipation of the many good things to come. Time for me to work on letting go.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Friends and Facebook

This has really been an incredible week. Last weekend, I created a Facebook profile for the first time. I had been putting this off for quite some time and finally decided to do it as a result of these last few books that I have been reading, particularly "Grown Up Digital." The result has been an absolute wildfire of connections with students from various times in the last 21 years. I have reconnected with students from my years in Palmyra, PA (1987-1992), Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt, MD (1992-2001) and alums from NCSSM, my current institution.

Of course, it is nice to reconnect with old friends, but for me, it has been so much more. It has conjured up so many memories of great times with people that I really respect and love. The notes of appreciation that I have received this week have truly reminded me that there is a greater purpose in this life and career that I have chosen. Don't get me wrong - I know that and have known that my entire career. But, in this world of busyness and hustle, it is all still about personal connections and relationships. Yes, music and orchestra was the vehicle for all of these friendships, but ultimately it is the human connection that really matters in the long run.

I am so moved by the friendships that have been rekindled this week. While one may look at Facebook and other social networking sites as digital and cold, I have certainly found them to be warm and connective. I am moved and humbled by the friendships that have been reestablished this week and look forward to the future with so many of my old friends now part of my new life. These former students will see my kids grow up and I will see theirs, celebrate my personal and professional successes with m as I celebrate theirs, and support me in the ups and downs of life as I support them. Isn't that what life is all about - relationships and caring for each other. I am so glad that my social circle has found its way back to much of my past.


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Grown Up Digital

So, I'm about 55 pages into Grown Up Digital and I must say that it makes a ton of sense. I am seeing it all around me. Net Gen-ers - members of the "Net generation" (ages 10-30) - really expect to learn, communicate, socialize, and live in a different way than us old guys. For my part, I feel like I am really dedicated to making education fit into this paradigm.

Today, it was in my Recording Technology class. I needed to give a quiz on Effects and dynamics processing. So, I made a Moodle Quiz. It included several sort answer questions that could be answered and the student would receive immediate feedback on their answer. I decided that I would give the students until midnight tonight to correct their wrong answers for full credit. After all - I want them to learn the material. This way, they are motivated to go out and find the correct answers. I also posted, as part of the quiz, 6 audio samples that the students had to listen to, then identify the effect that was used in the sample. They included stereo chorus, flanging, phase shifting, reverb, delay, and compression. Again, any incorrect answers could be corrected by midnight tonight. Within a few hours, they will have the correct answers and know exactly what their grade was on the exam.

As Disrupting Class surmised, the assessment of the future may not include a percentage as a determiner of grading, but the time that it takes to master the material.

I asked the kids if the quiz today was a learning experience and all agreed that it worked. So, I think these ideas are working. I am excited about the future!


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Disrupting Class, Clayton Christiansen

I just finished reading "Disrupting Class" by Clayton Christian. I have to say that it has me thinking a great deal about how we are teaching and how I might be able to incorporate disruptive technology into my classroom. It is interesting, because as I read the book, I thought a great deal about broad "macro" ideas as they relate to my institution and also about the "micro" ideas and how the book relates to my classroom and daily teaching. Interestingly, it also provided a great deal of food for thought regarding my children and their education.

The most specific ideas that I can relate tonight are in relation to my classroom and the way information is gained by students today. Basically, I am thinking a great deal about how I, as a teacher, deliver content. How will content be delivered in the future? How do students actually learn today? Are they really learning from a teacher in a classroom? Or are they really picking up content in different ways through the use of disruptive technology? We live in a world where students learn at the touch of a button - really a click of a mouse. When they want content - information - they go an get it instantly. The other day, I was teaching a recording class and asked a student where he learned how to use compression. His reply: YouTube! We teachers and schools have to keep up. Kids aren't getting content from us exclusively any more. It is our job to assess, facilitate, encourage, relate, tutor, encourage, redirect, and a myriad of other tasks. but, I am not convinced that delivering content will be at the top of our list for much longer.

On the short term, here is my plan. My Classical Piano and Guitar Class is largely self paced and can really lend itself to the use of disruptive technology for distribution of content. Today, I spent several hours videotaping short lessons for each song that my beginner guitar students learn. They will be streamed and available to my students via our Moodle site. That way, students will not have to wait for me to demonstrate each song as they are ready to learn it. They can simply check out the video lesson and learn the song. My role will be to assess their work and to tutor them in getting the technique just right. I don't need to be a content deliverer in class. I can be more of a teacher!

My next move is to videotape my brief theory lectures and stream them as well. This will also facilitate more time with students working on music.

I have some ideas for my orchestra class as well. I will share them later.

I know that this may be a bit tough to sort out in this format. So, here is my recommendation: read Disrupting Class. It is a good read with solid research and it is really thought provoking. I believe that it will change the way that I approach my classes. Really, it already has.

My next book is "Grown Up Digital," by Don Tapscott
I am already gripped by it!


Monday, January 5, 2009

Fret Killer

For my Guitar Students:
A student in my D block Piano/Guitar Class just turned me onto a guy called "Fret Killer" on You Tube. He has a ton of good guitar picking videos on there. This student saw his ragtime take on Greensleaves and is outside my office working on it right now. Very cool stuff.
I encourage you to check out his work and implement some of his style points into your playing. Or, just enjoy it!!

(By the way - this is using technology for content delivery at its purest!!)

From Ned Steinberger:

Thought you might like to check out the posts “NS vs Yamaha” and “NS WAV first impression” on this fiddleforum link:

Great reviews.


Sunday, January 4, 2009

NS Design Wav Violin

The NS Design Wav Violin is a fantastic electric violin and is now available the public. I have been fortunate to have been playing a couple of the prototypes of this instrument for the past year or so and absolutely love it on a variety of levels. First, and foremost is the sound. As with any instrument, the sound is everything and I really love the sound of this electric violin. I have used it on a number of performances and it holds up to the best electric violins that I have ever played. It has a natural sound and will hold up to any style of music that one might be playing. Second, it feels right. Even though it has a super-cool look and the same unique shape as the NS Design CR series, it is comfortable to play in feels like a traditional violin. You would never know that you are playing an electric. The shoulder rest is completely adjustable and you can really customize it to your tastes. Thirdly, it looks fantastic. I have the black and the translucent red and they are simply stunning to look at. Finally, the price is right. This is, in my opinion, dollar for dollar, the best value in electric violins on the market today. It is $599.99 and the price simply can't be beat. I recommend it highly for students that are just getting into electric violins for the first time and for pros that don't want to drop a ton of cash.
I am proud to represent the brand and know that the folks at NS Design didn't want to release this fine instrument to the public until it was just right. Well, it is and I encourage you to check it out.

Here is a link to the Electric Violin Shop and their info on the Wav Violin.

I will be performing on the NS Deisgn Wav Violin on numerous occasions this winter and spring. I will be soling with the Duke String School Intermediate I Orchestra (the group that my son is in!) on March 7 in Durham, NC and with the Carolina Cool Jazz Orchestra in Spartanburg, SC on March 29. On both occasions, we will be doing my original music and it should be great fun!


Saturday, January 3, 2009

100 Music Education Blogs

100 Music Ed Bloggers

This morning, I stumbled upon a great list of Music Education Blogs. It is part of a campaign to connect music educators and was compiled by It is great to have a source to read up on the latest developments in our field and a place to get inspiration from other bloggers, teachers and advocates.


Dr. Joseph M. Pisano-
Owen Bradley -The Digital Music Educator
Evan Tobias- Catalysts & Connections
Espie Estrella -About Music Education
Dr. James Frankel- Music Technology in Education
Dr. Miikka Salavuo- Music Education, Technology & Social Media
Pete Whitfield- e-Learning for Music
Chad Criswell- Music Ed. Magic
Dr. Jonathan Savage- Jonathan Savage
V. Keith Mason- Music Tech. for Me.
Travis J. Weller- Composing Like Mad
Ken Pendergrass- Music is Not for Insects
Joel- So You Want to Teach
Steve Engel- Music Ed. Lounge
Linda Granite- Bb, F#
Jason Heath- Double Bass Blog
Robert Brannan- The Music is Free
Deborah Valdivia-Zwolinski- DVZ’s Mix
Kyle Gardner- Choir Teachers
Paul Draper- Draper’s Blogspot
John Wilborn- John Wilborn’s Weblog
Leo Park- I Know…I Think
Stan Haskins- Glued to the String
Barbara Freedman- Music Ed. Tech.
Dr. Tom Rudolph- Make the Most of Notation Software
Dale Lewis- Teaching the “Wire Choir”
Dr. Kevin Andry-Dr. Andry’s Band Blog
Steffany Perham- Perham’s Prattlings
Alex Ruthmann- Alex Ruthmann’s Blog
Carol Broos- Be A Techie:)
Geejay Arrioloa and Jeffrey Langlois -Music Anthology
Michael Compton -Southern Iowa Music Education Network
Eric Wright- QACHS’s Band Blog
Alison Hulihan- Marching Music
Roger Whaley -The BandEd ToolShed
Martha Grondin-Artful, Tuneful, Beatful
Kevin Tuck -Percussion Education Online
Janice Tuck -The Music Teacher’s Blog
Steve Raybould, Kriston Feldpausch -Band and Chorus PMS/PJHS
Kyle Krstolic -Music Education Share
Dan Leeman -Music Education for All
Amy Burns -Elementary Music/Music Technology
Erinn Wrobel - Notes From The Mitten
Doug Butchy - Confessions of a Band Director
Rich Blenkinsopp - Studiobee Music
Susan Hurst - Music, Middle School and Web 2.0
Dr. Phil Kirkman -Music Education and Technology Blog
Ann Winze- WI Orchestra
David DeVoto - Third Division
Dr. Chris Foley - The Collaborative Piano Blog
Matthew Pelandina and Mike Lewis - The BandGuys’ blog
David French -The Music Education Blogspot
Larry Marra -Music Teachers 911
Rebecca Brown -Piano Teacher’s Retreat
Steve Mugglin -Creativity and Songwriting in Music Education
Greg Albing -Total Music Education
Ben Baker -Teaching Music
Susan Davis -Music Technology Musings
59. (yes it’s a “s”, it’s an English spelling)
Mike Saville - How To Practise
Valerie Kampmeier - Free 2 Create
Natalie Wickham - Music Matters Blog
Theresa White - Education In Music
William Zick - Africlassical
Eugene Cantera - Discover, Learn, Play (’s Blog)
Ms. Tris -
Julian Partridge - Learn Theory Music Blog
Tennyson Williams - Guitar Articles.Net
Dan Thompson -Creative Kid Music
Oscar - Educacion Musical - Music Education (Our first, in Spanish, ME Blog!)
Dr. Eric Rasmussen - Rizz’s Blog
Mr. ReBand
Brenda Muench - Tech. Tempo
Thomas J. West
Andrew Spang -MusicTech4Ed
75. Click this link. (A very log blog URL…)
Jon Ensminger -Pedaplus
Richard McCready - Tech Toys and Tunes
Derek -Downpressup
Rachel Rambach - Listen and Learn
Allan Perkins - Jazz Works
Alexandra Gallant - The Misadventures of a First Year Music Teacher
Cameron Grant - Acoustic Path
Scott Ashby - Music Teacher’s Cafe
Stever Carter - Frog Story Records/Player’s Journal
Cary Stewart - Third-Stream Music Education
Derek Polischuk - Michigan State Piano Pedagogy
Elizabeth McDonald -From the Voice of…
Sarah Johnston -Urban Music Education
Jason Crews - Music Education Resource Blog
Christopher - Classical Guitar Blog
Andrew- Split Three Ways
Marilyn Johnson - MJ’s Music Teaching Tips
Brandon Pearce - Music Teacher’s Helper Blog
Jeane Goforth - Scrollworks and Metropolitian Youth Orchestras
Dr. Robert Phillips - The Opinionated Arpgeggist
Cynthia Wunsch - The Unlikely Entrepreneur (Click the Blog Tab)
Joe Owens - MHS Theater
Andy Zweibel - Music Musings and Other Randoms…
Stephen Robb - Music Schools BC
Paul Bailey - Paul Bailey’s Blog
Alan Coady - Alan Coady’s Musical Blog


Friday, January 2, 2009

Technology and Arts Education

I have been thinking a great deal lately about technology and education.
How can an arts/orchestra teacher incorporate technology effectively into my curriculum? Can it be done with assessment? Can it be done with content and delivery? Of course the answer is yes to both of these. How are students today tuned into technology in ways that I can't even imagine as a 40-something guy - and how can I meet their expectations for their education? What can I do with Skype? What can I do with Wikis? What have I not thought of yet?
This is all on my mind right now. I am excited to be diving into several new books that will hopefully clarify some of my ideas. Look for these topics to be addressed in the near future here.

Some of the books include:
Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns by Clayton Christensen, Curtis W. Johnson, and Michael B. Horn
Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World, by Don Tapscott
Digital Game-Based Learning, by Marc Prensky
Outliers: The Story of Success, by Malcolm Gladwell
The World Is Flat 3.0: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century, by Thomas L. Friedman
Groundswell, by Charlene Li
Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams

So much to read - so little time!!
There will be much to come on this issue. It is looming large for me.

To my students: Look for digital assessment coming up in January and February. Also, look for web-video content delivery and something called a Google-Blast during class.

Oh yes - this is going to be fun!!


Happy New Year!

Hi all and Happy New year!
I hope you all had a great holiday season.
Today, I thought I would share a new article with you that I wrote for Teen Strings Magazine. It is on Strobe tuners.