Ahhh…Spring Break

We have an early Spring Break this year, and this week is our break (my own kids, who go to a different district than the one I teach in, have break at the end of March). So far I have avoided doing anything school related, and even leave an auto-responder letting people know that if they e-mail, I will get back to them when school is back in session. I learned to turn off school e-mail on my personal devices at my last school, where parents would e-mail at 2:00 AM and expect an immediate response (yes, this behavior actually occured from several parents). So one of my personal rules is: if I am not at school (sick/staff development/leading development sessions/presenting/break), I do not check or respond to e-mail. In the summer I only check e-mail twice a month. If there is an emergency, the school knows how to contact me. But let's be honest…99.999% of what we receive cannot be labeled an emergency.

I also try to limit the amount of school work I do in the summer. Two years ago, I spent evenings (9pm-1am) in my “new” room, cataloging and scanning the choir library, and turning the room into a useable (for my standards) space. Last summer I didn't do much at all. I will typically try to come in for tech meetings (rare) and to help out with the iPad rollouts. But other than that…my job when I'm not at work is to be a husband and a dad.

My Spring Break has been spent (so far) putting the final touches on the basement we have been finishing since last year (we paused last April when the basement went over budget and we ran out of money). My goal has been for the basement to be ready for carpet by the end of this week…and I am going to make it–without even pulling an over-nighter to do so. It is strange to be on break when no one (other than our soon to be 3 year old) else is on break. I do have about 20 scores to get cleaned up for use at school (In digital format), and I may start on those soon (is the weekend before the end of a break still “break”.)

Chances are that if you are a music educator, you have a spring break ahead of you. Do yourself a favor…turn off your school e-mai, leave an auto-response message, and just get away from it all.

Another use for PDFtoMusicPro

After my session in Salt Lake City, a choir director came up to ask me if I knew about PDFtoMusic Pro.  I do know about PDFtoMusic Pro, and I will use it from time to time.

PDFtoMusic Pro can be purchased from MyriadOnline, and costs $199.  The program runs on Windows and Mac computers.  It reads PDFs generated by a computer, and then converts them into MusicXML files.  It also plays AND SINGS (emphasis intended) what is on the score.  If you scan your music (most music is not available in MusicXML files or computer-generated PDF scores), this program typically isn’t of much use to you.  However, if you use a lot of music from the Choral Public Domain Library or can get a computer-generated PDF from a publisher, PDFtoMusic Pro can save you hours of work.

The choir director that recommended the use of PDFtoMusic Pro had another suggestion, which I had not considered.  As PDFtoMusic Pro sings back a part, he scanned his music with another app (I believe Sharp Eye, which is a Windows-only software package), edited the scan in Finale, and then saved his song as a PDF specifically to open in PDFtoMusic Pro.  PDFtoMusic Pro then creates rehearsal files for his choir members with its synthesized voice.

I just tried this process with Rollo Dilworth’s “Everlasting Melody” which I am studying with my 6th Grade students in the next months.  I scanned the music with PhotoScore Ultimate, then edited the music with Notion for iPad.  I then exported a PDF and tried opening it with PDFtoMusic Pro.  The result was okay–but PDFtoMusic Pro didn’t like the Notion-created PDF.  For example, it didn’t play ties (over barlines) correctly.  Next I exported the Notion file as a MusicXML file to Finale, and then saved the Finale file as a PDF, opening it in PDFtoMusic Pro–and PDFtoMusic Pro worked just fine with the Finale-generated file.

So what I’ve learned so far is that if you want to follow this path to make rehearsal accompaniments, generate PDFs from Finale.

I have made rehearsal/accompaniment tracks for some time, and I usually prefer to do so from Notion (on the iPad) because it is so easy to use the “mixing board” to elevate one part and mute/lessen others and then to export audio.  Of course, this means that choir members have no actual “voice” to follow other than a piano sound.  As a result, this PDFtoMusic Pro solution for $199 might be worth its weight in gold for some people.

It also leads me to wonder why the notation programs haven’t included this technology in their software–if Myriad can do it, certainly others could (or the technology could be licensed).  Wouldn’t that be a great feature in the next Finale/Sibelius/Notion/MuseScore?

If you would like to hear what this sounds like, I have embedded a couple of SoundCloud clips below: one of “Everlasting Melody” generated soprano-strong from Notion, the other generated from PDFtoMusic Pro.

After the Session…

Thank you to everyone who attended my session at the ACDA National Conference in Salt Lake City!

A special thank-you to those that stayed afterwards to introduce themselves, ask questions, or simply chat. Helping people and getting to meet people is the number one benefit of this non-job! There were a couple of comments that will lead to additional blog posts in the future.

You can find the presentation here:

Choral Music in the 21st Century presentation

And you can find the “handout” here:

Choral Music in the 21st Century handouts

Just a couple of final notes.

  1. I was trying to stay in the shallow end of the pool, which may feel “deep” to you. In that case, find one thing to work with.
  2. Pretty much everything in life follows the “eating the elephant” analogy. Do one thing at a time. If that is scanning music, start with the music you are using. I cannot possibly emphasize how important it is to take baby steps as you start off.
  3. I didn't get a chance to show off some of my favorite iPad toys. I purposely tried to lessen the content of this presentation, and still ran out of time. Feel free to check out the FAQs that I listed on the last few pages of the presentation (above) that I had avaialble just in case people in the audience didn't have any questions.
  4. Finally, don't hestiate to contact me! Many people are afraid to ask questions, fearing that they are bothering you. In truth, the questions help me (and similar technology presenters) to know that we are actually helping people and not just blogging into thin air.

Thanks again for coming–and please contact me if you have questions!

Made it to Salt Lake City

Believe it or not, I was one of two people without a seat on the plane from Minneapolis to Salt Lake Cith this morning. Someone didn’t show up, so I was able to make it here to Salt Lake City–I am currently on the light rail headed to the city center. 

Cities that have light rail from the airport to the city center are awesome–that is the only negative aspect of San Antonio (you have a take a cab or van to the city center).

At any rate…if you are in town for the convention, I will be presenting at 4pm…and my materials are available in the previous post or in the “past presentations” of the blog. 

National ACDA Convention – Salt Lake City

Tomorrow I am scheduled to present at 4pm on the topic of “Choral Music in the 21st Century: Integrating Technology into Choral Music” at the 2015 National ACDA Convention in Salt Lake City.  At the moment, I say, “scheduled” because I do not know if I will make it.

One of my professional goals is to support other teachers.  Most of my work is unpaid–this includes the blog and presenting.  Not only do you have to pay your own way to and from conventions–many conventions also require you to pay to attend the convention as well.  While my work does generate some income (less than $700 last year from book sales and app referrals, as well as under $3000 for individual district training/consulting sessions–and don’t forget to subtract income taxes for all of that income at filing time), my costs of traveling for this “non-job” usually absorb all that I earn and more.  I am not complaining about it–I am simply stating how it is.  Potentially, you could get connected with a sponsor who would pay your traveling costs–but I do not have any such arrangement.

The one saving grace is that i have a father-in-law who works for an airline, and I am able to fly standby (not free, but greatly reduced), which makes it possible for me to consider presenting in other states (I drove to Ohio, which I would not do again–I would fly next time).

This all works well…unless the plane fills up and you can’t get on.  The plane I was scheduled to take tomorrow morning filled up tonight–so I am not sure if I will make it on that plane or a later plane.  I get to hang out at an airport tomorrow morning and find out.  As a in-law that doesn’t work at the airline, my place on the priority list is last on the standby list (and I am grateful simply to be on the list!).

With the conventions I have attended this school year (IA, MN TIES, IL, OH, TX, and now ACDA in UT), I could not plan on attending ACDA for longer than my presentation, so the plan was to fly in and try to get out late Wednesday night or Thursday morning.  Originally, I thought getting back would be the issue…now it appears getting there will be the challenge.

As a result, I am going to do something I usually don’t do: I am going to post the presentation and the handouts (I made the handout this evening) in advance of my presentation, in the event that I am unable to get to UT and people still want the core information and materials.  The focus of this presentation is PRACTICAL applications of technology that fall in the areas of “substitution” and “modification” in the SAMR technology integration model.  As a rule, choral music has been less open to technology integration than other fields in music education (the highest from of technology in many choir rooms is a CD player), so therefore it is really important to stress the very practical ways technology can be used in a choral program.  You want people who attend your session to leave with a tool or set of tools they can actually apply in their rehearsal rooms.

I don’t take the honor of presenting at conferences lightly–I love doing it–so I am hoping everything will work out.

Choral Music in the 21st Century handouts (PDF)

Choral Music in the 21st Century presentation (PDF)

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