My Office for the Evening!

Enjoying the beautiful weather here in McKinney, TX tonight as I’m running sound for Toney Walsh and his Jazz Combo at the fantastic Wales Manor Winery! Owner John Wales has created a beautiful and relaxing venue in rural Collin County that’s worth the drive DFW. If you are looking for a fantastic venue for weddings, parties, or just want to enjoy a night of great food, wine, and entertainment, look no further! I’ll definitely be coming back here as often as possible.  

Branson Trip: Day 1

Fantastic first day of our band trip! Today the students toured the Titanic museum, seeing artifacts from the ship and learning its history, and about the time period. 
The Titanic museum also had a special exhibit about the musicians aboard the Titanic. If you don’t know about these brave men, you should do a quick Google search. The students were able to view the most expensive artifact from the ship, which just so happens to be the violin of the band leader. It was recovered with his body a few days after the wreck. It was recently purchased at auction for $1.7 million. 

Tomorrow we are off to Silver Dollar City to again see a different way of life from a different time, to hear the Annual Bluegrass Festival, and have some fun!

The Easiest Social Media Setup For Your Program!

I had an awesome time at TMEA this past weekend!  I am honored to teach in the best state for music education in the country, and to have an awesome professional association/convention such as TMEA.  If you teach in Texas and didn’t attend, you are missing out on an excellent opportunity to recharge your batteries and grow as an educator.  If you live out of state, come join us! I’ve been to a couple of conventions in other states and they are miniscule compared to TMEA. YOU NEED TO GO NEXT YEAR!!!!

Ok, back to business.  There is one question I answered more than any other at TMEA this year. “How should I set up/manage social media for my program?” Great question! And one that can be answered easily.Social-media-for-public-relations1

There are tons of free, easy to use, and integratable platforms out there that make having a professional social media presence easy! Here’s how I manage my groups all from my cell phone!

  1. Social Media – The followers of your program (parents/students/community members) are everywhere. EVERYWHERE! Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google +. Create an account for each site for your program. IN a minute I’ll show you how to post to them all with ease!
  2. Google Calendar – This is an essential part of my day!  I have different calendars set up for each of my ensembles/classes, and can view any or all of these events on one screen.  I can share events with my coworkers, allow them to view my calendar so they can make scheduling decisions without me having to be present, I can set reminders to alert me of upcoming events, and I can embed any of these calendars (like my band calendar) into a website.  I can now update my public band calendar that’s visible to parents on our website from my smartphone by just opening my calendar app.
  3. Remind – Want a safe way to send messages to your student group and parents? Remind (formerly Remind 101) is a one-way text messaging system that students and parents can subscribe to.  You can send them SMS messages from any internet connected device (including your desktop computer), but they can’t text back.  I use this every Friday night to notify parents when we leave football games and when we’ll return.  You can also schedule reminder text messages so kids don’t forget to bring important items, or use it as a reminder for scheduled rehearsals.
  4. HootSuite – Now that you have created all those accounts mentioned above, manage them all from one easy to use service. Great functionality to post simultaneously to all your social media outlets, or to simply read all your feeds in one place. Best of all, there’s an app for that! I can post pictures of a concert or contest to all the social media outlets, and my website from my cell phone! Yes my website. That’s because I use…
  5. WordPress Blog For A Website  – It’s very fast and easy to create a basic website using WordPress for your school groups.  You can embed your Google Calendar, post to it via HootSuite, embed a Remind widget to post those text messages to your website, and basically give everyone a home base to get all the information they need for your groups.  Create multiple pages, or multiple blogs for each of your groups. It’s all free!

The entire process of setting all of this up and making it functional should take under an hour! Best of all, it’s easy to keep everyone up to date and keep the lines of communication open, freeing up time in the process.

What sort of tech/education questions do you have?  Leave a comment below and I’ll answer those questions in an upcoming post.

5 Ways To Save Your Music Program Money!

Man what a crazy year! I’m sure your year is just as crazy as mine, but after a job change, moving houses, and my wife and I having a baby, I’ve had my hands full! But I’m finally in a place where I can start blogging again about useful tips and ideas on how we can become more effective, and more efficient music educators!

BudgetOne of the challenges of my new job is a very tight budget! I’ve been working hard all year long to come up with cost effective ways to run a program with 6 different ensembles, and it hasn’t been easy. But I’ve found a number of ways to cost save, and thought I might share what I’ve found with you! Here’s 5 ways to save your music program money!

Mouthpiece Sanatizer – Mouthpiece sanitizer is an awesome product that allows players to stay healthy, and teachers to reuse equipment without spreading the flu across the whole class. But those commercial sanitizers can have a “mighty” high price tag. Because of this I just make my own!

Go to your local dollar store and purchase wintergreen-scented rubbing alcohol, and cheap mouthwash. I mix the two in a 1:1 ratio and put it in a spray bottle. When you’re ready to use it just spray it on, let it sit for a few seconds, then wipe it off with a clean paper towel. It’s that simple! I can make a year’s supply for less than $5!

Free Sheet Music – If you haven’t looked for free music on the interwebs recently, you’re really missing out! And no, I’m not talking about pirated copyright infringed works. I’m talking about public domain music that’s free for anyone to use! The International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP for short) is an awesome tool for finding older public domain works in a variety of contexts. Looking for a manuscript copy of  The Stars & Stripes Forever? It’s right here! It’s absolutely amazing what you can find for both large and small ensembles, as well as tons of solo works. Most of what you will find are scanned copies of very old published versions. With a little time spent in your favorite music notation program, you can have a beautiful new edition ready to perform! 

Want newer music? Check out the various websites of our Armed Forces ensembles. The US Army Field Band Jazz Ambassadors have tons of educator resources for free, including posters, videos, as well as 14 full length jazz charts in various difficulty levels in PDF format that are free to print and use. This is all my jazz groups have been playing this year, and they love them!

Listening Library – Find recordings of pieces you like on YouTube, and simply create a playlist that you can share with your students. Not a fan of YouTube? Try Spotify! Spotify has paid and free versions of their product, but either option will allow you to create playlists. Once you create the playlist, use the embed code and embed the playlist and player into your website. Students can go to your website and listen to the music for free. Best of all, if you ever add or delete music from your playlist, your website will automatically reflect the changes!

Basic Repair – Repairs are expensive, and can often take a while. To save frustration and some money, try doing some basic repairs yourself.

For some reason brass players can’t help but damage their mouthpieces. The Deg Mouthpiece Trueing Tool works well for repairing those damaged mouthpiece shanks. Simply place the tool in the shank, a few taps of a rawhide mallet, and you have a mouthpiece as good as new. 

DEG Magnum Mouthpiece Puller is a must if your brass players are like mine. I don’t know how they always manage to get their mouthpiece stuck. There are cheaper mouthpiece pullers out there, but this one works the best in my opinion, and I always have it with me.

Valentino Deluxe Repair KitThese kits are the ideal emergency repair kits! I always travel with one to contests because instruments always seem to break down when you need them the most. The pads are self adhering and easy to pop in or out, and seal up nicely. They won’t last forever, but they are a great, inexpensive fix that can keep most of your woodwind repairs in house and in a hurry!

For resetting springs get a set of Spring Hook TweezersThese tools can reach into tight places and put a spring back in the correct place with ease.

Repurpose – Several years back I had a bunch of unusable instrument storage shelving that we needed to remove in order to expand our uniform room. The shelves were so huge that they wasted space no matter what you put in them. Way too big for a tuba, but not big enough for two, and about 8 feet off of the floor.

They were insane. We removed them and gave them to one of our band dads who took it back to his home, cut some scrap wood, and turned it into the most awesome percussion storage cabinet you could imagine. Everything was completely adjustable, could hold exactly what we needed, and didn’t cost us a dime!  Have those old music stands that won’t stay up? Have your shop class weld them flat to create a trap table for your percussionists. The sky is the limit here! Look around at your graveyard of junk and think about what you need, and what could fill that need with a little tweaking!

Have any ideas on how to save money? Leave a comment below, or continue the conversation on Facebook!

Back To Work!

Happy Summer Friends!

I hope you’ve enjoyed your summer as much as I have! Hopefully you got to spend some much needed time with friends and family instead of being chained to your classroom! As you know my blog has taken a little vacation too! It’s been a great break from school, but August is just around the corner which means it’s time to get back to work, and time for me to get back to writing about topics and issues that matter to you…hopefully making your job easier in the process.

Over the summer I presented a workshop that received such great feedback I decided to turn a part of my workshop into an ebook for you! My EdTech Ebook is great for music teachers, but applies to any teacher regardless of subject matter. The book shares simple tech tools I use daily that can make our jobs way easier while making our teaching more effective!

If you’d like to receive my free ebook, simply opt into my email list by clicking the email link below and you will get my EdTech Ebook in your inbox shortly.

Best wishes for the end of your summer and the beginning of another great school year!

CLICK HERE TO GET MY EDTECH EBOOK!

Creating An Easy Transition

You may have noticed a silence on my blog recently. This has been due to a number of things, but mostly due to the craziness of finishing a school year. I just checked my calendar for the rest of the school year and realized that we have 20 days of school left. Of those 20 days of school, I will be traveling on school related business 9 of those days! It’s definitely a crazy time of year.

The other thing that has been occupying my time lately is a new job! I will be teaching at a new school next year in the DFW area (I’m not saying which one in order to give the current teacher time to make the announcement to their students.) The new position will allow me to teach courses that I absolutely love and will allow me to spend much more time at home with my wife and 17 month-old daughter. While I’ll miss my current coworkers, students, and administrators, I am definitely looking forward to a new school, new challenges, new people, and new opportunities with my family.

Being neck deep in a transitioning job has made me largely aware of the types of things that I can do to help whoever follows me in my current position. Here are some ideas I’ve come up with that you can use to ease the transition when you move on to your next job!

  • Leave a detailed calendar of your previous school year – I remember the first year at my current school felt like a game of Let’s Make A Deal where we were always wondering what was behind the next door. Never knowing what was expected of the band, or what unknown event was coming up next was a nightmare. This little move should help a new director plan out the year with pretty good accuracy.
  • Create an “important contacts” list – Names, phone numbers, emails, and a short job description of important people in the district, and those that service the district such as road reps and vendors, will aide the new director
  • Leave a list of those “expected” responsibilities – We all know that we often get saddled with duties that are not described in our interview or official job description. Giving the new teacher a heads up on what was expected but not detailed might save them a lot of hassle.
  • Prepare your students – Leaving without preparing your students will do nothing but poison their relationship with a new director. I had a negative experience with this once, and the way the director left their school totally devastated the program. The program has been a revolving door ever since. Be honest with your students, give them and yourself opportunity to say goodbye, and encourage them to give the incoming teacher a chance.
  • Take a thorough inventory – My wife and I worked until 3:00am trying to do an inventory because the school didn’t have any idea what it owned. We were getting ready to start summer band and had no idea if anything worked, or if there were instruments to issue to students. Nobody knew anything. Please don’t let this happen by providing a recent inventory for the new director.

Bottom line: Go above and beyond to make the experience of a new teacher following you as easy and enjoyable as possible. It’s common courtesy to be professional, but going a little beyond that will allow you to leave your program in the best situation possible.

Question: What else can be done to ease a transition?