Technology to the rescue!! A SmartMusic tale…

It was 4:30am as we boarded the bus for State Jazz/Solo and Ensemble festival. Bleary-eyed, I asked my students for the last time if they had forgotten anything…little realizing the horror that awaited me…

As we entered “alligator alley” the east-west connection in south Florida between Naples and Ft. Lauderdale- it came to me. Remenicent of the scene in “Home Alone” I realized that I had forgotten to take the computer and speakers for SmartMusic, which was providing the piano accompaniment for my most advanced soloists. I panicked as I raced through my options- turn back? NO WAY! Have my administrators bring it down to me? (ha!). I had to think fast.

AHA!!! several of my students had brought their laptops with them (mostly to watch movies that they had ripped to mp4 format). After a quick consultation, the students suggested the machine that would best meet the need- decent processor speed and a good sound card. After we arrived in Miami, I located the front office of the school and asked if they had wireless. To my chagrin, the IT specialist said that the network was “locked down” and that they would have to approve the computer’s MAC address….snore….yada….yada…

He said that he simply did not know how to help me. So I asked if he had a problem with me using the internet, but not his network “No” was the answer- and before he could get the “o” finished, I was unplugging the ethernet cable from the nearest desktop machine and plugging it into my student’s laptop. From there, my bright and capable student had the “honor” of babysitting the 30-min. 1/2 gig file download that is smartmusic after I had logged into the makemusic site.

When the download was complete, I authorized the software with one of my subscriptions from school (linked to my school email) and voila! I had smartmusic! 15 minutes and the loan of the band director’s really nice klipch media speakers later, my students were earning superior ratings on their grade 5 solos (bassoon and flute). Granted, they had to follow the program rather than vice-versa because I didn’t have a foot pedal or microphone (I stood by and hit the spacebar when the music required the foot pedal), but they got to perform.

The moral of the story: This would NOT have been possible even three years ago…those students would have suffered because of my mistake and not received their educational experience at the highest level of FBA (florida bandmaster’s association). They would have been disqualified because of me…what a truly exciting time we are heading for in the near future!

As a side note, the executive director of FBA just stood by shaking his head wondering what I was doing. He is a retired band director who is an excellent executive director for our organization and keeps us here in Florida among the finest in the country as far as high standards, but he had no clue what I was doing. Perhaps when I am his age, I will look with wonder and astonishment at my students establishing a neural link with the internet (or whatever it will be called in 2025) receiving the program in a computer no bigger than a button on their shirt…

As always I welcome your comments- have you had an similar experience? (it was a first for me).


2 Responses to Technology to the rescue!! A SmartMusic tale…

  1. Almost all of the “solos” our kids perform are not solos. They are written with an accompaniment. I have always been a bit shocked at how All-State kids can spend months on a song and never play with an accompanist. How can that be a valid educational experience?

    I would be curious to see if states that never use a live accompanist are starting to use pianists. Because smartmusic allows students to actually realize there is a “2nd part” to the music. Is that a bridge back to a more accurate performance?

  2. Owen,

    What a great story! Congratulations on a well performed and executed “save”.

    J. Pisano

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