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!

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!


33 Teaching Hacks: A Cheat Sheet for Improving Your Teaching Now!

I keep a list of ideas about teaching…really about life.  It consists of many one line comments I’ve heard, or decisions I’ve made that I want to remember. Some of them are lessons learned the hard way. Others are things I hope to try some day. Nevertheless, they are all ideas that can help us be better at our jobs. This is not a complete list (I have to save something for a future blog post), and the ideas are in no particular order, but I hope these may spark some new creativity in your teaching, or perhaps remind you of something you already know. Enjoy!

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Cheat Sheet

  1. Treat others as you would have them treat you.
  2. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
  3. Always speak well of others. Always.
  4. Treat all students with respect and kindness.
  5. Be patient in all circumstances.
  6. Respect the rules and guidelines of the district.
  7. Respect the opinions of others, especially when contrary to yours.
  8. Seek advice and wisdom from more experienced teachers.
  9. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone.
  10. Not all responsibilities are enjoyable.  That’s why they pay you.
  11. To teach well you must be willing to learn.
  12. Realize you can learn from your students.
  13. You don’t know everything…work on that.
  14. Teaching only one way will reach only one learning style.
  15. Don’t be afraid of hard work.
  16. Borrow ideas from the best.
  17. Share your ideas with colleagues.
  18. PCP – Positive statement, corrective statement, positive statement.
  19. It’s ok to show your students your human side once in a while.
  20. People like to hear their name.
  21. Welcome your students as they enter your classroom.
  22. Encourage others to be better.
  23. High-fives always seem to put a smile on students faces.
  24. Be generous with your praises.
  25. Teach your students to be creative.
  26. Flip the classroom! Let your students teach for a change.
  27. With kids more is caught than taught.  Let them learn from your example.
  28. Attitudes are contagious.  Is yours worth catching?
  29. Always say please and thank you. When did this stop being important?
  30. Never underestimate the stupidity of people in large groups.
  31. Don’t expect students to know everything.  They’re called students for a reason.
  32. Ask yourself: “Would I say/do this if my principal were in the room?”
  33. Think often about yourself as a student.  It will change how you treat your students.

Discussion Question: What teaching/life tips do you have to share?

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The ATSSB Amendment Debate: Important Details You May Not Know!

If you’re a regular reader of this blog and have no idea what I’m talking about in this article then chances are you are not a small school band director in Texas, and that’s ok.  I’ll be back to discussing broader topics next week as I write about the Texas Music Educators Convention!

This has certainly been a hot topic lately in the recent discussions on The Yellow Board, and an important one.  Many arguments and clarifications have been set forth by ATSSB leadership, well meaning individuals, and anonymous trolls, but basically the idea of some is to vote down the constitutional amendment in order to limit the size of schools participating. Now before we enter this discussion, I want to be sure that we have all the facts.  The numbers and figures I’m posting are either hyperlinked or footnoted so you can see where I’m getting my information. I’m also not wanting to throw gas on the fire.  I’m doing my best to state clearly what passing the constitutional amendment and defeating the constitutional amendment would mean to the organization that has faithfully served our students for the past 23 years, and the proper way to make changes to the organization. 

The difference on the top end enrollment from the 2012 realignment to the 2014 realignment is 55 students.  Currently we allow 3A schools with up to 1004 students into ATSSB, and the new amendment would extend that number to the new 4A enrollment of 1059.  The fact is that there would at most be a handful of schools that could possibly fall into that 55 student expansion, and my feeling is that most of those schools would continue with the current path they are on and not jump from TMEA to ATSSB.

Barring the new 4A programs from joining ATSSB would exclude schools smaller than the original scope of ATSSB in 1991.  In 1991, the year ATSSB was founded, UIL Class 3A schools had enrollment from 285-689. The new UIL Class 4A includes schools with enrollment from 465-1059.  Voting down the proposed constitutional amendment would eliminate schools that have over 200 fewer students than when ATSSB was founded!  That is not the answer to the perceived problem.  If you want to debate the upper end of the numbers, that’s fine.  But barring all 4A schools from participating would eliminate schools that would have been covered under the original scope of ATSSB.

Not passing this measure could eliminate up to 40% of ATSSB membership.  There are currently 1,100 members of ATSSB. 438 are associated with 3A, 406 with 2A and 239 with 1A (numbers via Kenneth Griffin). If the current amendment is voted down, 40% of our members could be excluded from membership and would have no voice and no rights of membership in this organization that they are currently a part of. Besides the reasons already given by Mr. Young and Mr. Griffin, it’s hard to imagine that ATSSB can continue to function as a viable organization with that drastic of a decrease in membership and student auditions.

Limiting the size of schools participating in ATSSB should be brought up as a separate constitutional amendment. Please understand that I am not taking a side as to whether the upper end of the new 4A group needs to be limited.  What I am saying is that if this is the way the membership feels, then it should be handled under a separate constitutional amendment.  If a cutoff number is decided upon by the general membership, then it would need to be done after the passage of the currently proposed amendment.

Please bring all voting members of your staff to the ATSSB meeting at TMEA.  Let your voice be heard, and please VOTE YES for the constitutional amendment.

“Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Three Easy Tech Tools for Teaching!

This post will share some of the ways I’m using technology in our music classes at school. In case you didn’t know, part of my job for the school district is working in IT and helping teachers integrate the use of technology in their teaching. If incorporating technology in music teaching is a new concept to you, don’t worry…these tips are simple, and very effective! Plus, all of these suggestions will work for other areas of education as well, so feel free to share this with non-music teachers too! Click here to tweet this!

Slide Show for Every Class We project a slide show all day on our video screen at the front of the room.  The slides include what is needed for the current class period, a brief description of what we are working on, and a timer that we start when the bell rings to give students a visual indication of how long they have to finish getting ready for class to start. (The timer is an embedded YouTube video for 5 minutes.  If you want a shorter time you can change the video, or set the video to start at a different time.) This eliminates the “What are we doing today?” question that usually gets asked 20 times a period.  Here’s an embedded view of the slide show in Google Docs, and a link to download it in PowerPoint.

PowerPoint Slides

QR Codes – If you’ll notice in the slide show above, we use QR codes on some of our slides. QR codes are a type of bar code that can direct your device to a particular URL (or can contain other information too!) Using a QR code instead of a web address makes it easier for students who have trouble typing to get to the correct website.  We like using The QR Code Generator to create the codes.  Simply save the QR image and post it where it will be helpful.  The students with iPads (we have a cart we can use when needed), smartphones, or a laptop with a webcam can scan the QR code and arrive at the correct website instantly.  We use these to link students to custom quizzes created on, important files we need them to access, our band calendar, or anything else you can imagine. Give it a try! – If you aren’t quite ready to take the QR challenge yet, but still want students to access web based information, you can use a URL shortener like Google’s Simply paste that long URL like…

and wind up with a nice short link to the same place like…

These links take you to the same place.  You can even simplify life by just giving your students the last six characters (maL0EM in this case) and instruct them to always place in front of it. Be careful though as the links are case-sensitive.

These three tips should get you started.  More tech tips coming soon!

Video Thursday – Andrew York Playing 1888 Torres!

Welcome to “Video Thursday” that features the great guitarist and composer Andrew York playing on a historic guitar built by Antonio de Torres in 1888, which York used on his latest album, Yamour.  The video was made and uploaded by Guitar Salon International who currently owns the guitar.  I hope you enjoy this awesome performance on an equally awesome instrument!