Archive for September, 2009

“Forte” Notation Software: A Review

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

By Ronnie Currey

Republished with permission from Music Teachers Helper

I recently began using Forte notation software to compose or write sheet music especially tailored for my students. Forte not only records tracks and allows you to play back your creation, you can also use the software to edit MIDI files.

Some of the many features of Forte is it’s ability to  Sequence and transpose by Instrument. The software also has a MIDI in & out, as as Punch Record, Loop Record & Playback. The list goes on and on.You can go to and check it out for yourself.

I was a little hesitant at first, as I thought software with these feature would take time to learn. I then learned that there was a program you could download called “Forte in Ten Minutes”. Without too much work or studying the manual I was up to speed writing out my music for the students. Forte provides a good music teacher resource for their students.

I have tried several programs, especially ones in the music departments of schools, and I found them a little expensive to purchase as well as a little time consuming to learn. Forte is downloaded from their site and has a freeware version as well as a standard version you can try for 30 days. After trying it I had to get it and use it in my studio. Forte Light is $60, and the Standard version is $180. You can also download a feature comparison chart so you can decide which version is right for you.

Has anyone else used Forte? What is your opinion as a music teacher?

Should I or Shouldn’t I? Things to Think About for Graduate School

Monday, September 14th, 2009

By Kelly Brinton Nelson

Republished with permission from

This summer I embarked on one of the most challenging– and nerve wracking– journeys of my life: graduate school to pursue a masters degree in music education.  This post outlines some of the questions that I had previous to starting this program.

Why go to graduate school?

Teachers are expected to be constantly learning and growing.  While professional development and workshops are wonderful ways to add to knowledge, graduate school is a concentrated path of study in one topic.  Also, in many states, obtaining a graduate degree will increase the salary of a teacher.  Lastly, if career goals include teaching college later on down the road, this may require some form of graduate degree.

What are the differences between graduate and undergraduate study?

What I have noticed as a graduate student is that my professors have higher expectations of us graduate students than they have of undergraduate students.  They obviously expect maturity.  I remember the first few days of graduate school I would just try to crack jokes and stuff, and everyone would just look at me strangely.  Professors expect us students to have a certain amount of knowledge coming in, since usually the graduate program is the next level of what we studied as an undergraduate. Instead of telling me to read something or to work certain problems, I am expected to do those things myself.  Also I am expected to be able to do research on my own.

What I have also noticed is that professors are more understanding of what is going on in graduate students’ lives.  Graduate students come from all backgrounds and walks of life.  They can bring unique experiences but also have different life situations to work around.

Should I go straight out of college, or should I wait awhile?

I have known colleagues that have done both.  There is no definite answer, but I think it really depends on your needs and your attitude toward education.  Personally, I decided to go teach for a while before even thinking about a graduate degree.  Graduating from college was a stressful time– I had just gotten married and I was broke!  No way could I afford graduate school!

Also, going to work really helps one realize what he/she wants to get out of graduate school.  Teaching for four years helped me realize my strengths and weaknesses as a musician and a teacher, so when I could finally start school I knew what to work toward. I also had experience that I could share with my classmates and professors that I may not have had straight out of college.

Some of you may be ready to begin graduate school right after earning your Bachelor’s degree.  There are some definite positives to this.  It can be harder to go back to school after having a job for awhile, and even harder if you have a family, bills and other obligations.  If you are still young without any of these obligations, and you are ready for it, it may be worth looking into graduate school.  Also, the knowledge you obtained in your undergraduate program is still fresh on your mind.

Should I look into an online program or on-site program?

Again, this is up to the needs and attitude of the student.  There has been a rising trend with entire degree programs being offered online.  Even some on-site programs offer online classes.  Online programs are great for people who are working and going to school at the same time.  For the most part one can do classwork at any time it is convenient.  Depending on the school, sometimes tuition is less with an online program.  Currently the only three schools I have found that offer a program online areBoston UniversityEast Carolina University, and University of Southern Mississippi.

There are many different on-site programs.  Your average program is full-time for two years.  There are some summer programs, especially for teachers, that are even more convenient.  I am in a program atAppalachian State University that takes four summers to complete.  The classes meet for six weeks every summer.

Making the decision to go to graduate school is not one to be made lightly.  Hopefully the above comments will be helpful in helping you decide.

What about you?

Are you a graduate student (or do you have a graduate degree)? What considerations did you take before getting a graduate degree? Are you an undergraduate student with additional questions about grad school? The conversation does not have to stop here! Please leave your thoughts in a comment and this topic can be discussed further!

Tapering for Performance

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

by Wendy Morgan Hunter

“Practice as if you are the worst, perform as if you are the best.”

When I was a young singer, I struggled with how to prepare for a performance. I had been taught technique, I knew how to practice for hours and hours to perfect a piece, but I had little guidance and knowledge of how to prepare the month of, week of, or day of a performance. I knew how to work hard, but not how to rest! It took years of experimenting to determine how I should prepare to perform.

Over the years I have been teaching I have been experimenting with how to best prepare my students for their performances.

As I prepare my students for their recital performance in the final month before the performance, I drop the breath support exercises, the “woodshedding” and work on building my students comfort with singing through their pieces completely.

I have discovered that as I teach a new piece, my system is roughly as follows:

1) I introduce the piece to the student. We discuss the poetry or text of the song or aria, using the translation if the piece is in another language. We discuss the opera, show or song cycle the piece is from and its relevant history, and the song/arias style.

2) We sing through the notes – learning the chorus and melodies, and emphasizing any patterns we may find in the song or aria – particularly with pieces with coloratura or melismatic phrases or sections.

3) We then begin to woodshed or work section by section. I usually begin the rehearsal by singing through the piece in its entirety and then move to the “woodshedding”, or focusing on trouble spots and phrases.

4) We then begin the final month performance prep tapering.

Performance prep tapering:

When the performance month occurs I usually drop the extra exercises – for example glottal exercises, enunciation exercises, and breath support exercises – are laid aside. All singers must be off of their music at this time. During this month we work on:

1) Dramatic interpretation.

2) Appearance when singing.

3) Completing the song/aria without “self-editing”.

4) A confident and believable performance.

I encourage my students to rest, hydrate, and care for themselves. At two weeks prior to the recital I stop critiquing and begin encouraging the positive aspects of the performance, nudging and coaxing out the performance. Confidence is such a large part of performance! At two weeks for most young singers– the die is cast- and you can rely on the best they can do at that time to be their optimal technical peak for the performance.

This fall I will add a new piece to my performance prep: an instruction sheet for parents of young singers! I had one young singer who did not do her best at this recital due to exhaustion. She swam in a swim meet the day of the performance, and vocally was not up to the piece she performed so well at the two week prior to the performance mark. This I will add to my checklist!