True Inspiration

I remember in one of my NYU classes, this video was shown to all the music majors about the youth orchestra in Venezuela.  The Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar was created for the youth of Venezuela of poor socio-economic backgrounds.  I remember watching children worshiping their instruments, sleeping with them at night, as they knew it was the greatest thing in their life.  Music can have such a strong impact on a child and can completely change their life.  Watch the video below and you can see how music has truly changed the lives of someone AMAZING and young musicians! (PS, the video we watched was a BBC special which I cannot locate)



“Our children need a well-rounded, quality education that enables them to make informed decisions that will impact the world and the way they live.”- Anne Jolly

It is important that as educators, we are preparing our students to be citizens of the 21st century. STEM has been implemented into school systems to challenge students with a more in-depth approach to math and science.


The purpose of STEM focuses on skills that develop critical thinkers through “problem solving, creativity and innovation, communication, collaboration and entrepreneurship…” With our ever-changing society, it is important that STEAM is the new approach as it emphasizes the importance of arts educations. While STEM lessons have already collaborated with language arts and social studies/history, why is it that the arts are left out? Many lessons and assignments already incorporate Art as it encourages students to be imaginative and innovative with their thinking. So as we prepare students for the 21st century, a well-rounded education that INCLUDE arts is essential for their success.


To Help or Not To Help… that is the Question….

I came across this article about parents helping out their students with homework. As children age, a parent was beginning to question how much involvement they should have with homework.

The author, who has children in 1st and 2nd grade, feels that it is her responsibility to have her children complete their homework every night.

She concluded that there are three methods of parenting and homework:

Method 1:

The parent is a supervisor and checks work when finished.

Method 2:

The parent sets the child up to study (routine place/time) and reviews material. However, the parent leaves the children to complete the assignment on their own.

Method 3:

They do everything to help them finish so that the child can do whatever they want after school.

While the author felt she has been guilty of all three methods, she was able to conclude that the role of a parent helping with homework is the following:

  1. It helps to establish a commitment and routine.
  2. It helps them to be more engaged in learning.
  3. It helps me to be more engaged in their education.

As a music educator, I think that the same guidelines are essential to help students be independent musicians. While my mom or dad can’t practice for me (just like how they didn’t do my homework for me), their involvement with my practicing helped me to succeed as a musician.

  1. It helps to establish a commitment and routine.

I always recommend to my parents to have their child play while they are cooking dinner. It provides entertainment for the parent while they are cooking and establishes a clear routine for the student.

  1. It helps them to be more engaged in learning.

They are able to self-regulate their practice sessions at their own pace. Students should be able to note which pieces/selections are more difficult and focus on them.

  1. It helps me to be more engaged in their education.

It is important to know what your child is practicing. Don’t just sit them down in front of a music stand and walk away, expecting that they are able to practice effectively. For younger child, it is important that parents are engaged and are interactive. As the children get older, then the parent is able to slowly step back. However, knowing the expectations or the goal for the child will allows them to succeed.


Growing up, my mom always sat with me while I practiced when I first began playing the piano and the flute. When I was in kindergarten and starting Suzuki piano, she sat next to me on the piano bench and guided me through my practice sessions. 30 minutes a day was part of my daily chore chart and in order for me to receive my allowance; I had to make sure they were checked off my chart every day. Eventually, I switched from the piano to the flute in the 4th grade. My mom, once again, sat in the living room as I practiced. She would play the piece that I was learning on the piano some times when I wasn’t quite sure if I was playing the right notes or rhythm. By the time I was in the 6th grade, my mom stopped sitting in the same room as she knew that I was able to facilitate my own practicing sessions (and also the fact that the music I was playing, was beyond her musical ability.)   My mom still established a routine of my practice sessions to make sure that I was always prepared for my private flute lessons, performance or recital.

So mom, despite the arguments of a tween not wanting to practice — THANK YOU!

Computer Feedback

Smart Music is a program that students use at home to facilitate their practice sessions. Often compared to video games like Guitar Hero, accompaniment and notes are on the computer screen for students. The interactive program assists students with practicing their instrument at home. Fingering charts, tuners, and metronomes are also available as resources for the students to utilize. Playing along with the accompaniment, students are given an immediate percentage score that determine which notes were played correctly or incorrectly. Teachers are able to track the students’ practice sessions by assigning practice records. Through the practice records function, teachers can see what selections students practiced and for how long they practiced it. Teachers listen to each submitted recording and can provide feedback to the student. Recently, a sight-reading portion was added as a feature that truly tests the musical capabilities of the student.

Check out how I use Smart Music in my classroom:

Here is an example of how to use Smart Music for individual practice:


One of the techniques that I use with my classes is “self-evaluation.”  Through this technique, I put the students in the judges seat.  As we prepare for upcoming competitions and concerts, it is important the know how to improve the ensemble’s performance.  So what do I do in my classroom?  I recorded each band and use the same exact scoring sheet from one of our competitions.  It is important to go over all the terms in the sheet, as they might not know some of them.

So… after we evaluate the ensemble, we are able to pin point areas of improvement.  It’s also a fun way to track the progression of the ensemble (record them at the begin and compare when you are finished).  When it comes to individual practice session, students should also record and listen to their pieces.  When I teach private lessons, I also record my students on my voice-memo app on my phone.  This allows them to instantly playback their session and identify what mistakes they are making- technically and musically.

Student Assessment

Not only are infographics an effective way to share information, but they can also be used for student assessment. After exploring Kathy Schorock’s Guide to Everything Blog, I came across another blog around blended learning and technology in the classroom. Catlin Tucker’s blog shares one of her assignments through student designed infographics. Tucker suggested using three different tools for creating their assignments:


Tucker highlights at the end: “I love that every infographic was unique. Students focused on topics they were interested in researching, used the tools that worked best for them and created finished products they could share with the world!”

I was curious about infographs that were posted on and came across this video that highlights the progression of music technology over the past 100 years. I showed the video to my 8th grade band class and during snack, I actually overheard a discussion amongst the students about the information in the video. The visual appeal of the presentation had a bigger impact on the students…

I explored a bit to create my own infographics. Similar to even creating this blog, templates through the application assist through the visual design. I think this is a great way for alternative or supplemental assessment…