March 26, 2020
Notre Dame's band director and his students adapt to the virtual music world.
Joe Martin, Notre Dame's longtime band director, conducts a quick lesson on trombone with students.
SmartMusic, a software program geared toward the virtual learning of music in schools, has been around since 2002. It's one of many applications available to music educators who have needed another way to connect with students over the years in an increasingly digital world.
Today, with teachers operating nearly exclusively from remote locations, those apps have become de rigeur in elementary and high school music departments. For NDPMA Band Director Joe Martin, he's glad that he and his students already had a working knowledge of this digital music environment, but he said this 100-percent digital world is not without some challenges.
"We are using Finale, a music notation program, to create music files to upload to the Cloud," he said. "And all my students in sixth through 12th grade also have a subscription to SmartMusic, which reads those files to play back and practice, or to record their assignments."
But Martin says it's still difficult to teach group band classes online because, for many reasons, playing together at the same time via computers, tablets, etc., doesn't always work well. But he's optimistic.
"We meet through Zoom even though the sound latency issue makes it a little difficult to practice together," he said. "We are looking into other programs as well to use so that we'll be able to more easily play as a larger group."
Martin's also wide open to suggestions from what he says is a very creative bunch of students.
"We even had a request for TikTok songs," he said. "My thought is we'll take a look at whatever will help the students practice more!"
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About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy
Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. Notre Dame Preparatory School enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower schools enroll students in pre-kindergarten through grade eight. All three school are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school’s home page at www.ndpma.org.