While the idea of incorporating Web-based tools into your band, orchestra, or private studio may sound entirely overwhelming to you, I am here to say that it’s both rewarding and enjoyable. My students have become more engaged and excited about performing sine I have integrated the internet into my teaching. Here are four simple tools that will excite your students: incorporating social media, starting a YouTube account, writing a bog, and hosting a virtual masterclass.
Let’s start with the least intimidating tool first: incorporating social media into your ensemble or private studio. Simply set up a Facebook page and encourage your students to “like” your group. Parents, alumni, and community members can get involved too. This is a great space to “toot your own horn”. Make updates about upcoming concerts, recitals, parades, fundraisers, etc… and people will be instantly reminded! Use Facebook to brag about awards and achievements of your groups. Maybe your band just got a first place in a marching competition – write a status update! Did some performers make the All-State Orchestra? – Write a status update! Did a practice go particularly well? Congratulate your group via Facebook. Students will thrive with the positive feedback and will find they can relate to you. A student who may feel shy at school might have more courage to reach out to you through Facebook as well. You can also use a Twitter account to keep students, parents, and alumni up to date with upcoming events, achievements, and even inspirational quotes to motivate students to practice. One cautionary note, be sure to moderate the comments in case a potentially hurtful comment is posted.
A second web-based tool to reinvigorate your program is to start a YouTube account. YouTube is a very user-friendly service that allows people to upload videos and post them for people to view. This is a great way for students to view performances and enjoy watching the fruits of their labor. You can adjust privacy settings if that is a concern so that only students and family members can view it. Viewing performances is a valuable resource because it allows students to really hear what their group sounds like. Sometimes things can sound very different from the 3rd clarinet section than they do out in the middle of an auditorium. In addition to recording concerts, directors can even record rehearsals and have students evaluate them that very evening! When students view rehearsals, they are able to see what they really look like when they perform. Does the ensemble look engaged? Is horn position correct? Furthermore, students themselves can discern what needs to be improved. Hearing a practice first hand is sometimes more effective than hearing a teacher say “more dynamics” over and over again.
A third web-based tool available for directors is to start a blog. Now, I know you are probably thinking, “You want me to what???” What exactly is a blog? Blogs are internet spaces where you can write an online journal of sorts for people to read. Writing a blog may sound like an intimidating adventure, but it has been very rewarding to me. My blog focuses on practice tips, inspirational quotes, links to great performances, and repertoire reviews. Free blog hosting sites like WordPress.com and Blogger.com are easy to navigate and very user friendly. All you really need is an email account and a name for the blog and you are ready to go. Blogs can be updated daily, weekly, sporadically – it’s really up to you. The general rule is: the more you update, the more people will want to read. You can even have links to your program’s Facebook page and YouTube account on your blog page so that visitors can become fans of your program. Get students involved as well. Directors can choose students that wish to write a guest post on the blog. Perhaps a student wants to share what marching camp is like, his/her experience with music contests, or how to juggle practicing with homework. This is a “win-win” situation because it allows a student to be part of the writing process and it creates a blog post that is fun, relevant, and from a unique perspective.
A fourth tool to get students excited is to host a “virtual masterclass”. Masterclasses always seem to inspire my students. It’s fun to hear musical suggestions from someone else that has different ways of stating things. But where is a director going to find the time and the money to bring in a special conductor and/or performer to motivate students? It’s not easy with the time and financial constraints that most directors face today. Why not hold a masterclass using Skype technology? Skype is a free program that is easily downloaded onto a computer. It is often used for video-chatting or conference calls. Directors can use the classroom computer and place the video image on a large screen so that the entire ensemble can view the guest artist. This eliminates the complications of travel, room, and boarding. Many university professors would be willing to perform a “virtual masterclass” free of charge because it is a public service that looks really good on résumés. Students can individually perform solos or excerpts for the artists to critique or the whole ensemble could perform for the artist. The options are endless!
Using these four tools can get your students excited about music. Directors that embrace current technology are connecting with students in a meaningful way because technology is a huge part of students’ lives today. Impress your students with your technological savvy and showcase your music program on the internet.