Where did the summer go?

I can’t believe that I haven’t posted anything since the end of the school year! Well, the school year ended up great, and I’m actually very excited for the school year to begin. Maybe even more excited than I have been in a while!

I just finished up attending a 2 day ed tech conference at a local school. It was the first one, and it was a great success. We had sessions on Wikis, podcasting, Web 2.0, and I even gave a presentation on blogging. It was a wonderful first year, and I am looking forward to attending future events.

We have some major changes coming to my music program this year, which is very exciting. First, my senior high band will be rehearsing all together in one period every day of the week. In the previous 5 years, they rehearsed in 2 separate periods, and only 2 days a week, since we shared the students with the choir program during the same period. I really think the group will now be able to play music at a level that is up to their potential. They are very talented, but we just didn’t ever have the time to prepare anything more challenging than a grade 3 level piece.

Another change to our band program is that we are going with only 5th and 6th grade participation in band, instead of 4th, 5th, and 6th. This will allow me to see the elementary band students 2 days a week…once in a small group with like instruments, and once in a large group “band” rehearsal. This is very exciting! We will actually be able to perform complete arrangements at our concerts, instead of silly 8-measure exercises out of the book!

Finally, we a receiving new marching band uniforms this year! After 3 years of asking, they were finally ordered last spring, and should be here in time for our first game, which is at home. I can’t wait to make our traditional march to the stadium in those brand new uniforms!!

So, things are shaping up to be a great year! Band camp begins on Monday! Just don’t ask me if I have finished writing my drill charts yet! 🙂

SMS (Text Message) Notifications for my band students!

UPDATE – After taking Joe PIsano’s great advice, I checked out TextMarks a little more closely.  I could not find any specific information on their site regarding the ads they send with their messages, but I have realized that the ramifications of these ads going to students may not be good.  So, at this point, I have put this project on hold, and am continuing to search for a service that will do this for free with no ads at all.  If anyone can point me in the right direction, please don’t hesitate to contact me.  I think this could be a really powerful communication tool!

After attending the PMEA Summer Conference this year, I starting thinking a lot more about how I could integrate technology into my band program.  More specifically even, I started thinking about how I could use technology on my students’ level.  It is clear to me that many students use text messaging as an important method of communication.  So, I started wondering if there was a way for students to subscribe to a band text message alert service for my program.

After many hours of searching the net, and failed attempts to use many different services, I finally found what I’m looking for in TextMarks.  This service allows the students to text the word “sharonband” to a specific number, and then they can receive any alerts that I post as the manager.  This service also gives me the ability to either allow or disallow the subscribers to send a message to all other members of the group.  I have disabled this feature, as I only want students to be able to receive messages.

As far as posting messages to the subscribers, I can either do this from my mobile device or from the web.  This service allows me to use 120 of the 160 text characters, as I believe the rest are reserved for short advertisements. (That’s how they keep it free.)

This is very exciting to me.  I notice how much students use text messaging, and I think it is just another great way that we can “meet students on their level” and keep them informed of the important information that we need to pass on to them.

I can foresee this being useful to any teacher that wants the ability to reach out to their students “outside of the school walls.”

Check it out, and let me know if you would consider using this with your students!  I can’t wait to get this going with my students and report back later on how it is working!

Band Camp Reflections – Day 1

Today was a good great day!  I am extremely excited for the marching band season this year.  Actually, I am always excited, because fall is my favorite time of year.  I must admit that I was going into this camp feeling anxious for the first time before a camp.  Let me explain:

Back in May, I had a meeting with my superintendent about an unrelated issue.  In passing, he mentioned that people in the community had been commenting about the lack of numbers in the marching band, and that it was “an embarrassment.”  I took great offense to this statement, because I happen to think our group is far from “an embarrassment.”  In fact, I challenge you to find another band in the area that plays as well as our group. Of course, I’m biased though!

I have always been very proud of my students. The group at Sharon has always been small since I have been here.  However, we have always had great quality, and that is something I pride myself on.  If you are not familiar with the program, I should point out that we only have about 25 musicians.  We had about 35 my first two years, but due to large graduating classes, that number has declined slightly.  I have always said that I don’t care if we have 10 musicians…I will take whoever wants to be there! What people need to understand is that this program had 3 different directors in 6 years before me.  This contributed to the decline in numbers before I arrived, and it takes several years to build the program back up through the elementary schools.

Anyway, I think what made me anxious about this years’ camp was the comment about the numbers.  I guess that I was shocked, because that concern had never been articulated to me in 4 years of working in the district.  And, for the first time, I found myself trying to come up with ways to increase the numbers….This was dumb.  I have invited some 7th graders into the marching band this year, and they are doing a nice job.  However, some of the students that originally were going to play have now backed out on me at the last minute.  You see, worrying about the numbers had shifted my focus and attention away from what it really should be on – teaching the music!

Anyway, the other thing that I realized today is that 100% of the students in the marching band this year have never had another director for marching band.  That is, they truly are “my students.”  I must say that I definitely noticed a difference right away today.  It is very exciting!  I do not get the rolling eyes and the poor attitudes that I have been getting the last 4 years.  Every student knows what I expect of them, and what to expect from my rehearsals.  I think we are on pace for a great year!

Finally, the last thing that I realized today is how much I missed my students over the summer, and just how much I really do enjoy working with them!  It was a lot of fun for me to catch up with them on breaks, and to work together toward a common goal.

So, in short, an outstanding first day, setting the stage for a great camp and a great marching season!  Here’s hoping that your school year goes well.  Have fun!

First Ever Podcast!

I have finally bought a new iMac and have discovered the joys of Garage Band.  Yes – I have been messing around with it, instead of writing my drill, like I should be!  Anyway, with some fairly modest audio equipment at home, I have finally produced my first podcast!  I am very excited to use this tool for personal and professional podcasts.  I have a lot of ideas for different shows, and am looking forward to it…it kind of takes me back to my radio days at WYSU! This first podcast is essentially me interviewing good friend Lee Caldwell, and it is a bit crude, but I wanted to get something “out there” just to make sure I had some idea of what I was doing.  We discuss his band and the upcoming marching season, as well as a recap of the Mercer Community Band season.  There are also a few random things in there!  This is an enhanced podcast, so you should be seeing some images along the way.  Please let me know if the podcast works okay for you!  Any comments are certainly welcome!

You can also find the RSS feed on the right sidebar!