And here’s to new beginnings…

On Friday afternoon, I taught my last classes as a middle school music teacher. I have been teaching middle school choir (and general music) for the past six years. I have grown a lot as a teacher, expanded my own use of technology, tried to support the technology needs of other teachers in our building, learned how to help integrate technology into student’s work flows, worked through a classroom management system, and discovered the ukulele. I did my very best in a challenging environment, but that chapter is now closed in my life.

In April, I was informed that due to FTE realignment, my position would be reduced to .75 FTE, and that I was guaranteed a 1.0 FTE position elsewhere in the district. Only two positions opened–both elementary music education positions.

At some point in May, I was placed (primarily) at our Spanish Immersion Elementary School for the 2019-2020 school year (the position does have a small percentage of crossover)

Just over a year ago, I was interviewing for a college position, and when we reached the point of discussing salary, it became clear that–at this point in my life–I could not possibly afford the drop in salary to teach at the college level (you’re not getting a Power 5 full professorship for your first position). I went into this school year truly believing that I was where I was going to be for the next twenty years of my life. It’s funny how life throws you a curve ball when you think you have everything figured out.

About going to the elementary level–I never thought it would happen, but my experiences at the middle school level (particularly incorporating ukulele into choir) make me far more open to the idea than I would have expected. Families apply to attend our Spanish Immersion program, and parents are usually very involved with the school. I look forward to dealing with all students, helping them to foster a life long love of music…listening, singing, playing, practicing, and performing. I also have a Spanish minor from college–I would never claim to be fluent, but I would say that with some practice, I can soon be at a conversational level. “Specialists” do not have to teach in Spanish in our immersion program–but we are not prohibited against teaching in Spanish, either.

I have never looked down on elementary music teachers. I have actually looked at them with awe–and now I will try to become the best elementary music teacher I can be. It does feel funny to hit the “reset” button at age 46. And teaching at the elementary level will put me in a good position for college positions in the next phase of my life (college music education positions).

The other great twist is that our immersion program is now housed at the same building that my middle school just left (we opened a new middle school this fall), and I will be back in the same room I taught in for five years. I get my office back! ūüôā

As for my work with technology, the elementary school is not 1:1 (my middle school position has been 1:1 since I went there in 2013), but I certainly plan on utilizing technology in my own teaching, and I love the perspective that I will have as a former high school and middle school teacher as I use technology with with students and help other elementary teachers in their use of technology. I will also be reading A LOT of Amy Burns’ (mustech.net) posts this summer and I recently bought a copy of “You Want Me to Teach What? (Amazon Referral Link)”

I want to give a special thank you to my friends who I reached out about this situation, for all of their advice and feedback. I do want to say that I am grateful to have a job, to have a new schedule that will actually give me more time with my family, and I trust that God is good and has a plan for my life. I go into this change with some fear, a lot of hope, and a sense of relief. I think I am at peace about it.

In the next weeks, I plan on posting about some of my tech experiences this past year, including an honest appraisal of 1:1 iPad environments. I will also be updating all of the pages on this blog. If summer has started for you, I hope that you are enjoying it–if you are almost done–you’ll join us soon!

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The Demise of iTunes?

Back in 2000, Apple acquired SoundJam, and without tweaking it very much, named it iTunes and released it to Apple users. The technology press has had a love/hate relationship with the program ever since. The program has been accused of being bloated and archaic; but now that it appears that Apple will discontinue iTunes, many of the same people that complained about iTunes are complaining that it will be discontinued.

One take away is that you can never make the technology press happy.

Coming from the Windows platform, long before iTunes ever came to Windows (2003), dealing with digital media was a pain. Searching for just about anything was a pain (it is much improved with Windows 10). When I moved to Mac in 2008 (11 years ago!) the two programs that were the greatest relief for me as a teacher (and as a music teacher) were Spotlight (system searching built into every Mac with a shortcut of COMMAND and SPACE BAR) and iTunes.

I very much liked the idea of a single program that housed all of my digital media–music, movies, and books. iTunes worked well (easy to search), and while there were some challenges along the way (figuring out how to move libraries, how to add artwork to my own ripped music, figuring out how to add metadata to my own collection filled with classical music, or experiencing a corrupted library index), I have been very happy with iTunes. And it was so great to have one place to get everything over to your iPhone or iPod Touch.

What has changed over the years is the influence of the cloud and streaming. Music Match (a service Apple provides for $25 per year) protected my entire music library in the cloud, and made those songs available anywhere on any device I owned. iBooks were eventually separated from iTunes. And Apple Music has made most of my music library–except personal recordings–pointless. And we’re at the point where very few people back up their iOS devices to their computers–most of us just back up to the cloud.

Ultimately, it makes sense that iTunes is going away–most of the architecture is already there, including Apple Music which already differentiates between your collection and Apple Music. It will be interesting to see how video is handled, and what happens with Music Match. And there will probably be a hiccup or two along the way. That said, most things that Apple changes either begin or become an improvement. iCloud was a complete mess–but has continually improved, and is now an essential part of my work flow.

In closing, if you hated iTunes, you have reason to rejoice. If you are sad that iTunes is being discontinued, don’t worry. This is a good change for everyone, and the end result will be better services for all of us.

Bluetooth Finder App

Hello! It has been quite a while since I have blogged. Most of my time (other than family and teaching) has been spent making ukulele videos (see youtube.com/ukuleletenor). And to be completely honest, my technology life has settled into a routine that hasn’t seen any significant changes for some time. What I’m using in the classroom is technology that I have already blogged about, and I don’t see any value in writing about what I have already written about.

That said, there are some major changes coming in my life, and I look forward to writing about those in just a few short weeks (That’s what they call a “teaser.”

What I did want to write about today was a new app that I bought to solve a specific problem. Last week, I had been editing videos on my iPad Pro, using Luma Fusion (great app) and my Apple Pencil. At some point, I misplaced my Apple Pencil and could not find it anywhere–tearing up the house to find it (much like when my son’s iPod Touch had been stolen, and we had torn up the house to try to find it). After looking for the Apple Pencil for two days in every conceivable place with no luck, I was ready to order an Apple Refurbished replacement.

As a last resort, I googled (when used as a verb, is “googled” capitalized?) “how to find a lost Apple Pencil” and was immediately referred to the “Bluetooth Finder” app. Unfortunately, Apple’s “Find iPhone” doesn’t track the Apple Pencil, but there are several iOS apps that track signal strength of local bluetooth connections. “Bluetooth Finder” was highly rated, and while it was $4.99, that’s far better than $85 for a refurbished Apple Pencil.

I bought the app, opened it, and saw my Apple Pencil, and followed the strength meter to find the pencil in our laundry room, in the middle of towels that I had folded while watching Star Trek Voyager on Netflix as I folded. The $4.99 app would have saved me several days of searching…and I had looked in the laundry room to no avail earlier.

Now, had the Apple Pencil been dead, the app wouldn’t have helped me. But that was not the case, and I have been very grateful to have my Apple Pencil back. Once you start using an Apple Pencil, you change a lot of the ways that you do things, and it is very difficult to go back to not using one.

As a result, if you have an Apple Pencil, I highly recommend the Bluetooth Finder app. You never know when you might need it. You might not think that you would ever misplace a white pencil shaped object…but it can happen to anyone!

App Store Link (no referral): https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/bluetooth-finder/id1259319285?mt=8


Handel’s Messiah…and Notion

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An image of the original manuscript of The Messiah

When I was directing high school choir, I eventually added an annual goal to sing one movement from Handel’s Messiah with my advanced choir at our Holiday Concert. ¬†I was fortunate in my last few years as a high school director that our district had added a string program, so the school’s orchestra provided accompaniment for that song in our concert (it was a great way to involve everyone).

I know that many groups perform the Messiah this time of year, and would benefit from a digital accompaniment track.

This morning, a PreSonus presentation from ASME 2017 showed up in my feed, and I watched it. ¬†It featured Chris Swaffer, a developer from PreSonus, which makes Notion) and Dr. Ian Cook. ¬†Chris introduced Notion, integration with Studio One, and the live performance capabilities of Notion ; Dr. Cook discussed Persons’ conducting component (great for college programs). ¬†I have interacted with Chris for a long time (I get the opportunity to try Beta updates for Notion), and it was great to actually see him (he’s in the UK, so he doesn’t make many music education conferences here in the USA).

As I was watching the presentation, Chris mentioned that Notion includes a number of resources, including the FULL MESSIAH. ¬†Remember…Notion comes stock with sounds from the London Symphony Orchestra. ¬†You can buy the full expansion pack of sounds (currently $299–which is a bargain compared to other sound packs from other vendors). Otherwise, Notion (on Mac/Win) is $150. ¬†If you are a director needing a rehearsal or performance tool for the Messiah, Notion would instantly pay for itself.

I didn’t know about these included files, and you can find them in your account at my.presonus.com. ¬†Then follow the links to “Get All Content” and then add the “Notion Score Library” in the “Extra Downloads” area. ¬†This will send you a zipped file of Notion files (all in the Public Domain) that can be edited as necessary.

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In my.presonus.com, look at “Get All Content” with Notion 6.

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The Messiah is included in the “Notion Score Library”

About the Messiah…it doesn’t have text in the voice parts, so if you want those, you may have to add them…and it ships with all of Part 1 and Part 2 as separate files. ¬†That said, as it is a Notion document, you can certainly cut and paste a range of the song and paste it into a new document and add text to those voice parts.

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Here’s the full screen view, in “pages across view” of Part 1 of the Messiah, which is included as a extra download when you buy Notion.

Notion’s sounds are great, and are probably worth the initial cost ($150). ¬†Don’t forget that you can add the iOS version as well, with all add-ons, for around $50 total (bargain!), and anything you do on Notion for Mac/Win will show on the iOS version.

However, if you want to use Notion’s excellent stock sounds and run a humanized performance, you can do so with Notion’s live performance features. ¬†I haven’t done that, but I know that Paul Shimmons did so recently, making his own “pit orchestra.” ¬†Read about that here on his website, ipadmusiced.wordpress.com¬†(link).

And if you are a user of another program, as I am (e.g. Finale), Notion can read MusicXML and export MusicXML, so you could easily to and from Notion. ¬†In other words, you don’t have to leave your current program to add Notion as a tool. ¬†If you have an iOS device, and you are a music educator, Notion should already be one of your tools.


Note: This is NOT a sponsored post by Notion, I just love the program, and yes, I am a beta tester of the product.

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Some 2018 MacBook Pro with TouchBar Reflections

I have been working with this new MacBook Pro for a while, and I had some thoughts that I wanted to share as a ukulele video uploads from my iPad.

  1. I had become very used to an iPad centric use of technology. ¬†I am having to force myself to reintegrate the MacBook Pro into my workflow. ¬†That said, there is no doubt about it…the MacBook is a very expensive secondary device for me, but one that I needed to buy at this point. ¬†There are some thing that only a MacBook can do, and there are times when my family members need an actual computer.
  2. It took about two days to become accustomed to the butterfly keyboard…which is different than the relatively new MacBook Pro that our school district distributed a couple of years ago. ¬†I can now work on either keyboard without thinking about it, but there was an adjustment. ¬†You might wonder why I didn’t just use the school MacBook, but I have a strong belief in doing my own work on my own devices.
  3. USB-C is terrific. ¬†I can’t wait for it to be on my next iPhone and next iPad.
  4. I know I made the right choice with the MacBook Pro over the new MacBook Air.
  5. Many of the big Apple bloggers strongly dislike the TouchBar. ¬†Many of them are programmers, and I think the Function Keys are used in their work. ¬†I find the touch bar to be useful, and I don’t mind two presses to adjust brightness or volume. If I am anything like other users, I hope the TouchBar is here to stay.
  6. The Mac migration process was incredibly easy.  Everything works.  I expected issues.
  7. I’m just satisfied with this purchase. ¬†My last MacBook cost $1500 ten years ago, and over the years I probably put another $1000 into it with memory and hard drives (at least 3…two traditional HDDs and the SSD). ¬†This computer doesn’t have upgradeable memory, and even the SSD might be out of reach for upgrades…and was just under $1850 (I don’t count Apple Care in either purchase). ¬† ¬†At the same time, I only expect my iCloud storage to increase for the price point over the life of this computer, and it won’t be long before all of my files are in the cloud, and only the OS and program will be on the Mac. ¬†You can see it coming.

Ultimately, I could have saved a lot of money and gone with a Windows machine, but I am pretty firmly entrenched in the Apple ecosystem, and I could have gone with a cheaper MacBook (I could have also opted for a more expensive MacBook with the i7 processor or even the 15″ models). ¬†I know that I hit the sweet spot on this purchase. ¬†I can’t promise that the 2018 MacBook Pro is the computer for you, but it certainly was the right one for me!

Thoughts on the new iPad Pro and Apple Pencil

For the record, I’m not buying a new iPad Pro, nor am I buying a new Apple Pencil. ¬†My current iPad Pro is still (as of today) the most recent version, and it is fine for the work that I do. ¬†As I mentioned in my last post, I just bought a new (refurbished) MacBook Pro, and I won’t even think of updating my iPad Pro until this device is paid for.

The new iPad Pro is incredibly fast–it runs at speeds faster than my new MacBook Pro! ¬†It also loses the home button, the lightning port, and gains Face ID. ¬†I have no problems with any of these improvements–and they only align for an amazing upgrade in a year an a half (or sooner) when I buy my next iPad Pro. ¬†It’s hard to know when Apple is going to update hardware, so I can’t really guarantee that Apple will come out with the next iPad Pro in November 2019. ¬†It will be a “wait and see” situation. ¬†All I know is that I will eventually move to a new iPad model at a natural time in my own upgrade cycle that matches Apple’s upgrade cycle.

The item that surprised me the most was the new Apple Pencil and its incompatibility with the old iPads–including the current 9.7″ iPad. ¬†Our school bought a bunch of the new iPads last summer as our new building houses about 300 additional students (this year). ¬†The old Apple Pencil and the Logitech Crayon work with that iPad (I just ordered two Logitech Crayons for my boys own 9.7″ iPads as a Christmas gift), but the new Apple Pencil will only work with the iPad Pro.

I would have expected some kind of backwards compatibility with the new Pencil, considering the 9.7″ iPad. ¬†But things will go back to normal where the Pencil will only work with the new iPad Pro (that’s how it used to be). ¬†I’d actually like to see an owner be able to use a Pencil with all their devices, particularly their iPad and iPhone, as I have attempted to write on my iPhone many times.

The issue, I believe, comes in charging. ¬†The iPad has a built-in inductive charger that charges the new Apple Pencil (no more lost end caps!), and the iPad has added USB-C in place of the lightning port. ¬†This means the old way of charging wouldn’t work any more. So I think it’s the right move for Apple–USB-C, inductive charging, etc. ¬†I just hope Apple keeps the old Pencil around for schools for a little while, and that they update all of the devices to use and charge the Apple Pencil, too.

If you’re in the market for a new iPad, I can’t recommend the new Apple iPad Pro and the new Apple Pencil enough. ¬† While I think I will always default to the 12.9″ iPad from this time out, the new 11″ iPad should be the equal to a sheet of paper. ¬†This would be a great time to buy an incredibly powerful machine, and it will be fun to see what developers do to take advantage of the new speed of these devices.