Some Thoughts from the NAfME Conference

Durinf weekend/start of last week, I had the opportunity to present two sessions at the NAfME conference in Nashville,Tennessee.

We stayed at a hotel outside of Nashville to save a bit on the cost of the trip (we drove down from our home near the Twin Cities) and between travel time and visiting the exhibits area (called NAfME Central) I didn't have a lot of time to visit many other sessions than my own.

I attended a session by Amy Burns ( and Jennifer Wager about a combined STEAM effort between science and music. It was fun to see how two teachers worked together to make a collaborative unit for their students. There was a timpani session going on next door during their session, and they handled that well. Ms. Burns has blogged about their session, so I will let her speak for herself (link).

I also attended a session by Scott Watson who showed how to use technology to unlock musical creativity via some projects that he had done with his students.

I also attended two sessions by John Mlynczak, who is now the Director of Educational Technilogy for Noteflight. While Mr. Mlynczak presented many sessions at NAfME, the two sessions I attended were on audio recording and another about iPads. I walked away with two ideas from the audio session: first, people in the audio recording industry do not like the results of Audacity. As such, Mr. Mlynczak recommended the use of PreSonus' Studio One Prime, which is a free product but does not offer technical support. He also discussed the way to track audio problems with a sound system–work from the source to the speakers, in a sequential method. Many people attempt to solve audio problems by randomly looking through the system–this approach doesn't solve many problems in a timely manner. In the iPad session, I learned something! Mr. Mlynczak discussed the difference between Made for iPad (MFi Apple Certification) and Works with iPad (not an Apple certification). He also strongly encouraged the use of an external audio recorder (The Blue Mikey) and also noted that PreSonus has an audio input boxes for iPad (The Audiobox iOne and the Audiobox iTwo). Another favorite item in his “kit” was the iLoud Bluetooth Boombox.

Mr. Mlynczak had some other surprises. Did you know you that can buy the PreSonus Music Creation Suite, which comes with a keyboard, Audiobox (not the “i”), Headphones, Notion, Studio One DAW, and a microphone for $210? This is to be used with a computer, but it is a STEAL.

As I mentioned earlier, Mr. Mlynczak used to work for PreSonus and now works for Hal Leonard, specifically with Noteflight. Noteflight introduced Noteflight Learn at NAfME, and it is a product that is going to do a number of things in the next months. Right now, it is priced at $69 for ten students, and $1 for each additional students (per year). Soon, the price will go to $2 per student. Right now, Noteflight Learn gives the full version of Noteflight to all your students for an incredibly low price. In the days to come, Noteflight Learn will be offering more tools, including the ability to record students. In the future, the program will be adding access to Hal Leonard literature (as an additional cost) and perhaps other features. While the service isn't there yet, this may be the first step forward into solving the issue of combining notation, playback, literature, and assessment for every teacher on every platform. The concept of providing a literature library through Noteflight is particularly exciting–imagine being able to program enough literature for a concert and to have have modern tool avaialble for instruction and assessment as a teacher! There is still a lot of development to come–but I am very interested in this product. I always preferred the use of a stand-alone notation product, but Noteflight paired–and as the core–of an entire ecosystem is very, very interesting!

Some other thoughts about the NAfME National Convention: The exhibit area was surprisingly small. While I am sure that it costs quite a bit to be an exibitor, the lack of competition probably makes the cost worthwhile–your product has less competition and can't get lost in the shuffle. I would urge companies to consider attending NAfME specifically for this reason. The Gaylord Opryland was incredible, but offered little for families with small children, so we won't be returning any time soon. I was shocked by the changes to Opryland. Back in high school I marched with the Pioneer Drum and Bugle Corps from Milwaukee, and our spring camp was held at a military base near Nashville, and I remember going to the Opryland theme park while on that trip. That theme park has been gone for more than 20 years!

Next year's NAfME will be held in Grapevine, Texas. I don't know if I will make the trip, as I plan on trying to present at TMEA again in San Antonio in February. While I would be happy to present and attend NAfME again (hopefully not losing my gear), TMEA is expontentially larger in size. I still remember the year NAfME came to Minnesota and basically replaced our own MMEA for a year. I liked that approach as I felt that I didn't have to make a choice between attending a state conference or a national conference (a lot of us don't get a lot of release time for conventions).

I will be adding the presentations from NAfME to my website within the next few days. Thank you again to everyone who attended my sessions, and to the presenters whose sessions I attended!


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