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Thursday, January 28, 2016

I would love your support!

A few weeks ago, my 8th grade orchestra entered a video into the 'Music In Our Schools Tour' contest by the Give a Note Foundation.  I just found out that we have been selected as a semi-finalist in the West division.  This is so exciting for me and my students!  It would mean a lot for us to win...and now we have a 50/50 chance.

Let me tell you a little about my program at Spanish Fork Junior High School in Spanish Fork, Utah.  I started teaching at this school in 2012 after being a stay at home mom and having 5 children.  In 2012, the orchestra program had 3 orchestras with 63 total students.  Now in 2016, we have 215 students and I teach full time.  Due to the rapid growth of the program, we are constantly in need of instruments.  Currently, there are 2 students assigned to every school-owned cello.  It makes our concerts a little crazy - passing around cellos back stage.  If we win this contest, our school would receive a grant which would greatly help our growing orchestra program.

Your support and vote would really make a difference!  It's easy to vote...just a click of a button and you can vote every day until Feb. 10.  Please vote, share, post, etc!


Vote for Spanish Fork Junior High! Thanks!

Monday, January 18, 2016

What Music Apps are you using lately?

I'm curious - what apps do you use in your classroom?  It's always fun to discover new apps that help students 'get it.'  There are so many apps I could highlight for this post, but I decided to just tell you about the apps I have used most recently in my orchestras class:


This app combines note-reading with matching correct fingerings.  I like to show this app to my students as a way to practice their note-reading skills.  Thanks to AirServer, it is now easier than ever to use iPads in the classroom.  I mirror my iPad screen to my projector as students pass the iPad around the class and play the game.  I haven't tried it yet, but I believe you can mirror multiple screens at once - that means I can give each section an iPad and we can play this game while competing by section.  All students are included because everyone can see what is going on.  

**This week, Ningenius is ON SALE!  Check it out at the app store - it's half off until Friday!


This is the app I use the most for tuning.  I like that there are so many octaves to choose from.  My bass players get a kick out of hearing the lowest octave E on this tuner.  We don't tune to that low E, but it's fun to hear the different octaves.  This app takes up less space/memory than the other tuning app I use: Tonal Energy Tuner.   

3.  MusicPal

I just recently discovered this app and I've been quite impressed by the potential for students.  It's really easy to use - all you do is take a photo of sheet music.  The app then digitizes the music.  This could potentially help many students during practicing, because if they are unsure of a part in their music, they can take a picture and the app with play it back for you!  You even make some minor adjustments in tempo and play along.


Prezi's are very easy to create and free for educators.  I like to use Prezi because of this little app!  I can control the presentation from my phone...which frees me up to walk around the room as I teach my class.  I transferred my powerpoint rhythm cards into Prezi to free up my movement.

5.  iReal PRO

I'm still loving this app.  I really need to use it more often.  It's so nice to have back-up accompaniment tracks to make warm-ups more enjoyable.

6.  Explain Everything

I used this app last week when I taught students how to count dotted quarter notes.  This works much like any other presentation program, except you can draw on the screen while you are teaching.  I project rhythms from my iPad to my projector and am able to write counting as I am teaching using a stylus.  Very handy!

7.  Rode Recording

A few months ago, I bought an iXY microphone for my iPad and I downloaded this free app to record my group.  This last week, I recorded my class using a variety of microphones to find the best sound for an audition we were working on.  This little microphone/app did a great job - and it was way less expensive than some of the other mics that I tested.  I even ending up using one of these recordings for our audition.  

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Beginning String Orchestra New Years Practice Routine

I already shared the New Years practice assignment that I created for my high school orchestra.  I thought I would also share the assignment that my beginning orchestra is doing this week.  Once again, I customized the assignment to review and drill the skills we are working on in class.

  • Low 2's - F natural and C natural
  • Mixed finger pattern (F#, C natural)
  • Intonation - tuning with open strings
  • 4th fingers for violin/viola
  • G scale
  • Learning to read G string notes
  • Preparing for a playing test: Minuet   (Line 108 in the String Explorer book)
The part of the worksheet that has smiley/frowny faces is for practicing the D scale with different finger patterns.  A happy face means to play F# (or C#) because it sounds happy.  A sad face means to play F natural (or C natural) - which sounds sad.

I love how this is going and I think I will create this kind of practice assignment more often. My class has learned Minuet so much faster than in previous years and they have not seemed to struggle as much with the bowings.  I expect some marvelous scores for my playing test on Friday.  :)

Friday, January 1, 2016


I'll be heading back to class on Monday, just like many of you, and I will probably be greeting many students who have not done very much practicing over the break.  My first priority is to get students back in shape!  It's a perfect time to get down to basics and carefully drill technique such as finger patterns and bowing.

This video works great for introducing the week:  GET FIT FOR THE NEW YEAR.  We can talk about appropriate practice and how sloppy practice doesn't do any eating junk food while working out at a gym.

I will be passing out the following assignment to my high school orchestra.  They will be required to work on these exercises every day during the week as part of their practice routine.  I customized the assignment (F Major, excerpts) to coordinate with the next piece we are learning - Andante from Symphony No 4 by Mendelssohn, arranged by Robert Frost.