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.


The One Thing Your Students Really Want

There’s an old adage in the band world: “Play music you can play perfectly at contest, play music you can play well for concerts, and play whatever you like in the band hall.”

Conant 2013 Homecoming Game

I think most of us abide by that adage in our teaching…except for the last statement. “…play whatever you like…” When was the last time you played/sang something just because you wanted to? Or your students wanted to?

Stop for just a moment and think back to why you wanted to study music. I’ll share my story. I grew up in a musical family and studied music from an early age. It was sort of a given that I would be musically inclined, but I clearly remember the moment I decided I wanted to be in the band in school.

I’m pretty sure my reason for joining is the same as the students in your program. All I really wanted out of band was one thing. And if we as music educators can keep this reason in mind, I think it will transform all of our programs, as well as our teaching. So, want to know what your students really want?

I was probably in the first or second grade when my grandparents took me to a high school football game to see my older cousin perform in the marching band. Like other kids, I played around during the football game with my friends, but my grandparents made me sit still and watch the halftime show where the band performed Ghost Riders In The Sky.

I have no idea why I remember this one moment from over 20 years ago, but I clearly remember thinking how much fun the band looked like they were having as they played that piece. At that moment I thought to myself “I want to do that when I grow up. I want to have fun playing music!”

That’s it. That’s the entire reason I started studying music as a child, then in middle school and high school band, then through college, and now as a career. I learned from seeing a group of high school musicians that music is fun! Yes it’s beautiful, yes it’s moving and meaningful to life in a deep and spiritual way…I understand that now. But the reason I got started in music was because I wanted to have fun.

Let’s come back to today. When first and second graders look at your program, do they see student musicians having fun? Does your program project that music is truly a joy! How about your students. If someone were to ask them if your music program is fun, how would they answer?

We are all aware of the “fun only” approach to music ed, and it’s horrible. Students learn very little and goof off the entire time. But every year I encounter music programs full of students who look like zombies when they perform. They have no joy in studying music. And it’s a shame. If we want the power of music to truly transform our students, they have to experience joy in music making! Tweet This!

Please don’t turn your ensemble into zombies who perform well but hate music. Make sure your students are learning, but make sure they’re having fun doing it! Tweet This! The students in your classroom will grow up to have kids of their own. They’ll become school board members, teachers, administrators, politicians…who knows. Will they have a smile on their face when they think about their experience in your program?

We have to reach kids where they are. And middle school and high school students want to be wherever they can have fun. So, have some fun this week in your class! Perform some music in your class just for fun. Let the kids choose a new piece of music “fun music” to play through! It will work their sight reading skills if nothing else. 

Music is fun…if we allow it to be. Let’s bring a smile to our students faces this week and surprise them by doing something fun in music class.

The Aviator March

ImageYou may have noticed that I haven’t posted nearly as much this week as I usually do.  That’s because I’ve been writing a concert march.

The Aviator March is designed specifically for young bands that want to play a great march, but still need to grow a bit in the process.  The march is in Bb and Eb concert and features just about everyone at some point, including the triangle player! The students will feel the excitement of a new flight with a full powerful sound, a woodwind feature symbolizing the peace found while soaring above the clouds, and a final celebration of a successful flight. Limited accidentals, conservative ranges, and 2/4 time make this the ideal march for your next festival or concert.

Music delivered in PDF so you can print unlimited copies for your program!

For a Sample Score and Streaming Audio, Click Here!

John Mackey: The World Premier of “Wine-Dark Sea : Symphony for Band”

What an amazing night of music! It’s about an hour after the world premier of Wine-Dark Sea : Symphony for Band by the gifted John Mackey and my mind is still reeling.  If you weren’t fortunate enough to attend this concert as part of the TMEA Convention then you missed a truly amazing musical experience that one doesn’t often experience.

Let me start by saying that Jerry Junkin and The University of Texas Wind Ensemble mesmerized an auditorium full of music educators this evening and left them inspired by the level of musical artistry achieved by these amazing university students.  The musicality and technical abilities of this ensemble are first-class. Network by Kevin Puts was fantastic and the amazing virtuoso of Marianne Gedigian performing Lowell Liebermann’s Concerto for Flute and Orchestra was a joy to witness. But the highlight of the evening was the new work by John Mackey.

Wine-Dark Sea : Symphony for Band is a programmatic work (commissioned by Jerry Junkin and The University of Texas Wind Ensemble in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Butler School of Music) based on the story of Odysseus as found in Homer’s The Odyssey.  For more on the background of the piece, click here.

I can only tell you that the compositional genius of Mackey in conveying this story through music is stunning.  Sometimes we encounter programmatic music that seems trite and unimaginative, but not this piece! The themes were beautiful, creative, and treated with the utmost thought and care as they are woven throughout.  The tonal pallet was inspiring and colorful. The percussion was truly impressive and robust. The work was powerful and thrilling while also providing beautiful moments of emotion and introspection.

I truly can’t wait to listen to this piece again (hopefully with a score) to further analyze all the wonderful little moments that make the music of John Mackey so magical. After the concert Mackey was so humble and more than willing to sign autographs, pose for pictures, and answer questions while discussing his music…he’s truly a class act!

If you have an opportunity to hear this work performed, don’t miss out. Mackey managed to capture lightning in a bottle with this one, and listeners will definitely not be disappointed!

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.

The Teaching Mistake You May Not Know You’re Making

In the early 1900’s an American shoe company decided to expand it’s reach globally. They sent two of their best salesmen to the remote countries of South America to take the shoe market by storm.  Both salesmen began making their sales pitch while traveling in different parts of the continent, and after a week both men telegraphed back to the home office. The first salesman telegraphed “No hope. These people don’t wear shoes.”  The second salesman telegraphed “Wonderful news! These people don’t wear shoes yet!”

Smile & Frown

It often amazes me how differently people can see the same situation.  It also amazes me at how differently I can see the same situation from day to day.  There are just days when nothing seems to go right, and everything I look at equals “No hope.”  Then a day or two later, the same situation equals “Wonderful news!”  Nothing changed, except my attitude and outlook on the situation.  If you’re anything like me this cycle happens far to often, and when it does everyone around me is affected…unfortunately it’s rarely in a positive way.

The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life by Rosamund Zander and her husband Benjamin Zander is a wonderful book that examines our view of the world.  You really must read the book in order to fully appreciate this all to brief and inadequate summary, but the idea of the book is that we have the power within us to look at any situation and choose to see it as a positive or negative, and to look at any human as good or bad.  If this is true, why would we ever intentionally choose to view a situation in the negative? Yet sometimes we do just that.  We unfortunately impose our negative feelings on our view of others.

My encouragement to you is to enjoy the weekend ahead.  I know it has been a very draining week for me. Make sure you spend time with those you love. Enjoy your break away from the classroom. But Monday morning, I encourage you to return to the podium with a different focus: to look for the best and brightest in every student.  Look at every situation as a positive, or at least an opportunity for a positive. Being intentional about this one aspect can completely transform your teaching, and the experience your students have in your classroom. Like a small pebble into the center of a pond, your intentionally positive attitude can cause a ripple effect among your students.

How can we assess if we’re having a positive impact on our students lives?

5 Things Your Students Need To Hear You Say

As music educators, we have a unique relationship with our students that most teachers never get. Click here to tweet this! We spend far more time with our students than their other classroom teachers through rehearsals, sectionals, concerts, contests, trips, and the like.  We also get to see the same students year after year…as one of my seniors reminded me, I’ve been teaching their class for six years now, longer than any other teacher they’ve had, and probably ever will.  We may not realize it, but because of music we have far more influence over the lives of our students than their other teachers, and that’s a huge responsibility! Do something positive with it! Click here to tweet this!

800px-College_graduate_studentsAfter nearly ten years of teaching, both private lessons and public school, I find myself saying the same things to students each year…and unfortunately sometimes wishing I had said certain things along the way.  Being a dad now only amplifies them. Here’s 5 things that we should all tell our students, and our children, on a regular basis that may make them better musicians, but will definitely make them better people.

  1. Actions have consequences. – If only Washington could grasp this one…but that’s a subject for another day. Luckily I haven’t had to deal with too many major issues over the years, but there have been several moments where I have learned that students today don’t understand this main principle of life.  Some are surprised to learn that if they don’t do their homework they won’t pass their classes. Most don’t realize that their words hurt others until it’s too late. And none of them realize how fragile life is until a classmate is gone forever because their actions and bad decisions had eternal consequences. Realizing this one truth can change the way our kids approach every day.
  2. Music is far more than notes on a page. –Most of us decided to make our careers in music because of how music affected our lives.  We can sit here and discuss the likelihood of music students scoring better in school, having a better chance of going to college, etc., but what we should also be explaining to our students is how music enriches our lives.  It allows us to express and wrestle with our emotions and feelings in a way words simply can not.  In a country and world that is so widely divided today, music connects us without the slightest care of our ethnicity or political ideology.  Music empowers us to live up to our full potential and to be the quality human beings we were created to be. Click here to tweet this!
    As Henry David Thoreau said,  “When I hear music, I fear no danger. I am invulnerable. I see no foe. I am related to the earliest times, and to the latest.”
  3. Don’t be in such a rush to grow up. – Yes, high school sucked for me too.  I’m not one of those people who thinks the high school years are the best years of your life…they aren’t!  But there is a certain innocence that disappears a little more each year because kids are being pressured from every imaginable outlet to hurry up and act like adults.  And deep down don’t we adults wish we had a few more days where we could just be kids again and not have the worries of the adult world to deal with? Teach your students that their best years are ahead of them, but don’t be in too big of a hurry to get there…enjoy every unique phase because there are no repeat performances of this show we call “life.”
  4. You are valuable. – I teach in a socioeconomically disadvantaged school district (which is the fancy way of saying most of my kids have never seen an Xbox One.)  We have a program at our school called “Backpacks for Life” where generous people in the community buy food to send home with students every Friday so they can eat during the weekend.  I have students that live in shacks that aren’t as nice as the house I built for my dog.  To make matters worse, their parents are often absent and show very little concern for them, their education, or their ambitions in life. With a student coming from that type of situation it’s easy to see how they could have a very low self-esteem.  Yet in the music classroom, what they do matters!  They’re part of a team of musicians working together to achieve a common goal.  They may slack off in math class and nobody notices, but in a music class they are a valued part of the group.  At least they should be.  Do each of your students realize that their education is valuable?  That their lives are valuable?  Is your classroom a safe place where everyone belongs and everyone is valued? If they don’t learn these things from you, they may never learn it at all.  If you want a truly eye opening experience look up your student’s addresses and drive by their house after school.  It may shock you what they have to deal with on a daily basis. Make it a point to teach your students how valuable they are.
  5. Thank you. –  Most of us don’t spend enough time thanking our students for truly being the best kids around.  I was having a conversation with one of our staff members just yesterday when she stated, “You’re so blessed to get to work with all of the best students.” YES I AM!  There are some student names that bring fear and trembling when mentioned in the company of teachers on my campus.  I can happily say that I have no idea who they’re even talking about.  We are very fortunate to have awesome kids who have an equally awesome outlook on life, who love music, and who are full of energy and the willingness to spend endless hours at school with no pay just to make music and keep us employed. THANK YOUR STUDENTS!  Whenever they do anything that’s above the bare minimum, thank them!  You’re really teaching them that hard work is rewarded, and isn’t that really what it’s all about?

What did I miss?  What else should we be telling our students? Leave me a comment with that important message you teach your students!