Let’s not insult the profession of music education…

We’re in the middle of a large snow storm in the metro Twin Cities area of Minnesota, and on a lazy Sunday afternoon, I’ve had the chance to go through some Twitter feeds, and found a message from the developer of iGigBook to see his most recent blog post.  I‘ll quote the pertinent parts of the blog:

Okay, now on to some musings…

There’s an article here where the blogger and beta tester for UnRealBook is making the point yet again about how being able to annotate a score is a must have feature for him and the work that he does in music education.

I think it’s perfectly valid for this fellow to feel that annotation is a must have feature for the line of work he does and for interacting with and teach music to children. It’s also valid for him to believe that an app like iGigBook is missing a vital component, i.e. annotation. When we shift our attention from the narrow confines of the world this author is working in and expand it to the realm of the working musician who may be playing piano at the hotel lobby bar and taking requests from the audience for tips or the person heading up the weekly jam session, we encounter a different set of needs from an application. This app isn’t called iGigBook(i Gig Book) for nothing. The feature set you see in iGigBook reflects what the working musician typically encounters on the gig, set lists, set list management, and the biggest one of all, having immediate access to as much sheet music resources that you can. Just having your books on the device and being able to open them, check the index and then go to the page is better than not having the resource at all but having the ability to search through multiple books in seconds to find a tune is using the iPad to it’s fullest potential.

iGigBook isn’t an app for children, it’s a tool for the working musician playing the bar gig, the restaurant gig, the hotel lobby gig, the community theater gig, the corporate party gig, the jam session and the open mic…it’s the Go-To Gig Tool!

I’m not looking to start a war–but I want the facts stated clearly–and I want to address the comments about music educators and student musicians.

1) I am a beta tester for UnrealBook, a fact I’ve never hidden.  However, it should be noted that I paid for UnrealBook, and my original review of the application was a bit unfavorable.  The developer of the app didn’t like the review, but was open to improving the app, and has continued to do so since that time.  The developer invited me to become part of the beta test team, and I certainly took advantage of that, as I would nearly any app.  UnrealBook isn’t perfect–but it does offer a wonderful set of tools for any musician.

2) During 2010, the developer of iGigBook contacted me and offered a promo code for review of his app.  I appreciated that gesture, but in researching the app, I saw that it was geared for “Fake Books,” and not for single sheets of music.  In addition, it lacked annotation.  I politely declined the offer, stating these reasons.  I believe the app developer contacted me back and let me know that annotation was not a component they were planning on implementing.  I’ve never told anyone not to buy iGigBook, actually, I’ve done quite the opposite: “What about the other readers?  If you choose to buy them, go for it.  GigBook offers great ways to organize music, and iGigBook offers some great features with indexes.”

3) I still maintain that musicians need to mark their music.  Clearly, in education, we have additional needs, such as writing in fingerings.  But I know that “professional” musicians need to write in bowings, cuts, notes, and correct errors.  To say that annotation is only a part of the “narrow confines of the world [a music educator] is working in” is patently false and insulting to the profession.  There’s an easy way to solve this problem: put annotation into the app, I can then compare it with UnrealBook and ForScore.  Please, explain to me why annotation is such a horrible thing to put into your app.

4) In the spicy “What Teachers Make” poem by Taylor Mali, Mr. Mali expresses a common opinion about teachers (to expose the fallacy of the opinion): “Those that can do, do; those that can’t, teach.”  This is how the “narrow confines” part of the iGigBook Blog strikes me.  I don’t doubt that a gigging musician has a different set of needs and skills than a teacher–but to assume that the “narrow confines of [education]” makes a teacher not a performer as well–or that they do not share some of the same needs–is ludicrous.  Additionally, don’t our students eventually become some of the gigging musicians?  Even as a high school choral teacher, I have a collection of vocal literature–in books–that require organization and indexes like a real book.  In fact, I may have more vocal literature books than some gigging musicians have fake books.  I’ve mentioned that UnrealBook and ForScore have work to do to match the wonderful indexing and organizational tools of iGigBook and Deep Dish Designs’ GigBook.  I stated in a Twitter reply that the “narrow confines” probably exist in the role of the gigging musician who has a very clear, defined role and responsibility.  In music education, you have to be a jack-of-all-trades.  But realistically, this whole “narrow confines” terminology and attitude should probably be left where it should remain–in the trash.

5)  Shouldn’t your app be for children, too? Or more specifically, for young adults (I teach students who are 14-18 years old)?  Isn’t 21st Century education about putting real tools into the hands of children so they are prepared for the world?  Doesn’t that apply to music as well?  Additionally, iPads are exploding on the educational front in 1-to-1 initiatives all across the world.  As an app developer, don’t you want to benefit from app sales to those iPads?  Or is iGigBook going to become an R-rated app?  (I’m being a little silly here, but so was the statement about the app not being for children.)

6) I’m fully aware that the core of this response is centered in the fact that I cannot recommend iGigBook without the added feature of annotation–something I’ve communicated all along.   It’s okay to not like that–or to not like the opinions of this blog–blogs are notorious for providing contrary and sometimes even offensive opinions.  But please…don’t insult music education nor the abilities of teachers and children alike to make great music–which they can do with or without iPad apps.


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