Category Archives: General Musings

General Musings

The Importance of the Vendor Area

The vendor area at the Ohio Music Education Convention

The vendor area at most (all?) music education conventions is often one of the most important elements of a conference. This area, which differs in size subject to the size of the state music education association, is where:

  • Music instrument companies show off their inventories
  • Music publishers show off their latest available works
  • Fundraising companies show off (and often give free samples) of their items available for sale
  • Uniform vendors show off their latest marching band, formal apparel and robe designs
  • Free trade and jewlery companies come to sell items
  • Colleges come to promote their music programs
  • And music technology companies show off their software and hardware solutions

Music teachers, spouses, students (typically middle school through college), and parents all travel through these areas. This is an incredibly important place for finding things, and building connections (networking).

I have only had the opportunity to visit the vendor areas of six states, but I am willing to bet that Texas is the largest. Texas has an East and West vendor area, and I am sure you could play two to three football games comfortably in each wing. If you are a music technology company, it makes sense to display your product at the Texas MEA show, as you will have a large audience to work with. There are vendors at TMEA that do not come to any other music convention in the United States.

I view myself as a music educator with a passion for technology in music education. I know that we, as music educators, lead unbelievably busy lives–even more so if we also have families of our own. Tone Deaf Comics has created posters showing the many hats that we wear.

So here's my point of concern when it comes to technology in music education: if teachers are busy, where are they going to find technology that will improve teaching and learning? It isn't enough to take a company at its word, and every blogger (including myself) have their biases. You can talk to other teachers about what is working for them–but as you know, everyone has their own talents, skills, gifts, and needs. One of the best ways to find technology is to go to a convention and actually use that technology yourself. But what if your conference doesn't have that technology? Or what if someone is presenting on technology that you would like to know more about, but your school only let you go to the convention on a day other than that presentation? And what if your state's vendor area is shrinking each year?

Undoubtedly, some services such as MusicFirst, which bundles major online services at a decent cost for music education (e.g. NoteFlight, Groovy Music, etc.), are a good place to start. At the same time, every company is going to offer its services as a solution, even in situations where there might be something better for you on the market. Don't get me wrong…NoteFlight is a wonderful tool, and pretty much the only multi-platform solution on the market. But you might be in a teaching situation where some other tool such as Finale, Sibelius, MuseScore, Notion, Notion on the iPad, NotateMe, or Symphony Pro might be a better solution for you.

Unfortunately, I don't have a solution. The best possible way to learn about software and hardware is to be able to go somewhere and try multiple solutions at one time. I just don't know how we can provide that ability for everyone equally. Don't go to your state education technology conference expecting very much technology that can impact music education.

I have heard that the Pennsylvania TI:ME group is offering a technology room during their state music education conference. This is wonderful, but at the same time, unsponsored music educators shouldn't be using their personal time to sell products for companies, either. Perhaps there is some way to have vendors work together to avoid the costs of presenting at a clinic and instead “chipping in” to a set-up of several Macs, PCs, Chromebooks, and iPads where music educators can try out various software and hardware tools–but then how do you make sure they are represented fairly? And how do you build a level of cooperation between competitors?

Again, I don't know the answers…all I know is that a problem exists.


Notice: A Number of Blog Posts Coming Up!

I wanted to let regular readers know that I am going be writing a series of blog posts over the next days. Life has been busy this year, filled with teaching, being a parent, and being a husband. At the same time, there hasn't been a great deal of huge news in the industry. As a result, I haven't written very many blog posts.

Although I have one more convention coming up, my 2014-2015 convention schedule is basically over (I will have some sessions with the summer WSMA, and pehaps with the University of St. Thomas). At the moment, we are trying to get used to single digit temperatures after three days and four nights in San Antonio as part of the TI:ME/TMEA convention. If we didn't have personal committments here, I am not totally convinced that we wouldn't be packing up a U-Haul with all of our belongings and moving. It was REALLY hard to go outside to get to church this morning.

After attending sessions at ILMEA, OMEA, and TI:ME/TMEA, visiting vendor areas, and talking with a lot of people, I have some clear concepts about music education and technology, conferences, and trends that I want to put down “on paper” (or, at least, on the blog).

And with that, I will move on to writing those posts, but also wanted to explain why there will be a series of posts coming in the next days.

Presentations from the 2015 Ohio MEA/Central TI:ME Conference

This past weekend I had the pleasure to present three sessions at the 2015 Ohio Music Educators Association and Central TI:ME conference.  The conference has a unique focus on technology in music education, as the state conference turns several rooms over to the Ohio TI:ME organization, which then schedules technology sessions for those rooms.

My first presentation was on scanning music…the first time I have presented this as a session.  Ins and Outs of Scanning Presentation (PDF) Ins and Outs of Scanning (Handwritten PDF Notes)

My second session was on iPads in Secondary Music Education.  iPads and Secondary Music Education 2015 Presentation (PDF) iPads in Secondary Music Education 2015 (PDF Notes)

And my final session was on Chromebooks in Music Education.  Chromebooks and Music Education 2015 Presentation (PDF) Chromebooks and Music Education 2015 (PDF Notes)

**In the Chromebook session, someone asked if the Adobe Creative Suite could be used to edit video on Chromebooks; I replied that some parts of the Adobe suite worked, and others didn’t.  From my research this morning, it appears that (as of 2/2015), only PhotoShop is working as a web app on Chromebooks via the Adobe Creative Suite.

Thank you again to the Ohio TI:ME committee for approving my sessions, and to everyone that attended those sessions this past weekend!

Thank you, Illinois!

To those that attended my session at the 2015 Illinois Music Educator Conference, thank you!  As you can tell, we were only scratching the surface of what the iPad can do–and what it can do for you.  I apologize that I have not posted this message before today (February 1st, SuperBowl Sunday), but I had left my MacBook back home, and did not make it home until yesterday afternoon.  One of my goals is to travel without my MacBook…to prove that you really don’t need it.  Well, if you want to upload PDFs to WordPress (the company that hosts this blog), you can’t do that on an iPad.

If you would like the handout I created for the ILMEA: The Latest and Greatest with iPads.  Otherwise,  you can open the PDF: The Latest and Greatest with iPads 2015.  These will always appear in my “Past Presentations” page here on the blog.

If you look at my past presentations, I generally re-create presentations, with the exception of times where I present the same presentation within a few weeks of each other (as I will in Ohio and Texas in the next two weeks).  Some of my material does repeat–and this is to be expected.  As I mentioned in the presentation, the best things keep getting better, some dead things come back to life, and there is always something new, too.

If you get a chance, check out the handouts from ILMEA (link).  There were a number of technology sessions of interest that may peak your interest–including the use of technology for assessment, the many uses of TonalEnergyTuner, and more.

On a personal note, I had the pleasure of spending time with a number of wonderful people this weekend.  I had the chance to have lunch with Steve Hayes (@Hayes_EdTech on Twitter), an Illinois band director, who is retiring at the end of this year.  Steve is the host of BYOD Chat on Twitter, and we share a love of music education, technology (going back to the Dell Axim, where we were both active on AximSite), and motorcycling.  I also had the chance to (finally) meet Brenda Muench (@bmuench on Twitter), an Illinois elementary music educator and music education technology blogger (see and Casey Fuess (@scfuess on Twitter), an Illinois choir director who is using Chromebooks after my session.  Brenda led a session on tablets (device agnostic) on Saturday, which you can find linked on her blog.  During the opening gala of the display area, I had a chance to visit with my collegiate band director and famous music education author, Bruce Pearson.  And finally, I had the chance to have dinner with Nathan Edwards, an Illinois choir director, who has followed my blog in the past and has been a great encouragement to my work on the blog.  That made for a tremendous day–one of the best in a LONG time.  By the way…the Rhythm Kitchen and the Hofbrau in Peoria were wonderful places to eat.

I stay at my parent’s home when I come down to ILMEA, and they live just outside of Milwaukee.  I made it to their house after 2am, and I had already known that I would not make it home to the Twin Cities area on Friday before school–so I had already taken it off.  As a result, I had a calm day at home, visiting my high school choir director, Sherman Leatherberry, and then visiting my best friend (and his family) from college, David Hinz, who is now a discipleship pastor at a large Baptist Church in the Milwaukee Area.  That led to another wonderful day.

So…with all sincerity, thank you Illinois, and I hope to be back again for ILMEA in January 2016!


This advertisement came through my e-mail account yesterday:

I have had to use this app to buy a digital copy of parts for an existing choral arrangement so I could make a performance track (not available commercially) for one of our elementary teachers, using Notion for iPad.

While the app works, and does what it does well enough, it is far from “revolutionary.”

  1. Music costs as much–or more–than paper versions, even though no printing, storing, or shipping is involved. I know that server space isn't free, but it certainly doesn't cost that much to store and distribute digital music.
  2. The digital music, once purchased, is “stuck” in that particular app. You cannot export to another PDF reader, and even screenshots taken from that app still feature/include the SheetMusicDirect interface. Want to export to another music reader, or want to convert the music to a MusicXML file? Good luck with that.
  3. The is no annotation. This has long been my #1 requirement for a music reader, and surprisingly, there still isn't a good solution for music notation on Android.
  4. My biggest fear is that each publisher (or major distributor) will have their own proprietary app, resulting in 1:1 devices needing to have ten different applications installed on class devices–resulting in havoc and confusion in rehearsals. Yuck. Once I pay the full (or more) price for my digital music, let me use it as I wish to use it. I don't understand how Apple can still be in court for old versions of iTunes where you couldn't export audio files from iTunes to another application due to DRM, yet music publishers are allowed to only allow digital use of their music on their own app.

Again, the app works fine for what it does, but it is not revolutionary or useful in any way in a classroom. The major music publishers continued to adhere to the use of paper and antiquated processes of selling digitial music (you are not allowed to use that music digitally and it must be physically printed).


Again, I say: Yuck.




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