Technology is enhancing the music experience for students at Berner Middle School in the Massapequa School District as they are working with programs that help them develop their abilities.
Band and orchestra students are using SmartMusic, an Internet-based program that allows them to practice hundreds of songs and receive instant feedback on their performances. In addition to viewing the musical notes on the screen, each song includes a professional accompaniment so students understand how their part works within a full ensemble.
“This program is a nice addition,” Mr. Einhart said. “The students get to practice their music in the context of actually playing with an orchestra.”
Added band teacher Ronald Basirico, “They can hear what everyone else is supposed to sound like, so they can fit their part in.”
Although the music department has been using SmartMusic for several years, this year a web-based program was introduced that has a greatly expanded library of songs. It also allows students to access music on their Chromebooks so they can practice at home.
“I like that you can hear yourself play, so you know what to work on,” said seventh-grader Josh Holden about the feature that allows him to record and play back his own performance.
Mr. Basirico added that the program allows students to improve their music sight reading abilities, which helps them earn better NYSSMA scores, one of the determining factors for selection to All-County ensembles.
In general music classes with teacher Christina Guando, students use Soundtrap to make their own music. For a recent project, students worked in groups and remixed pop music by making new beats after the drum tracks were removed from well-known songs.
Ms. Guando explained that the project taught students about beat patterns and looping, and also provided an understanding of how modern music is made. They learned that their beats couldn’t added arbitrarily had to make sense with the rest of the music.
Students began the year by using Incredibox, a user-friendly, drag-and-drop program to add beats and create looping effects, before moving on to the more advanced software.
“The technology is a tool to help the students create,” she said. “They can keep it as simple or make it as complex as they want. It allows them to do a lot of creating, without needing the performing skills of an ensemble class.”
1: Berner Middle School band teacher Ronald Basirico looked on as Patrick Pellegrini and Jordan Langer, right, used SmartMusic to practice their instrumental music abilities.
2: During a small group music lesson, seventh-graders Josh Holden and Angelina Cristadoro recorded their performances to get instantaneous feedback on their skills.
Photos courtesy of the Massapequa School District