Mozart’s “Magic Flute”….as a video game?

I just thought this was too fun not to share with everyone.  Opera’s not my thing, but I’m going to be tuning into the live watch party for the Pacific Opera Project’s (POP) production of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s classic opera, “The Magic Flute,” on Wednesday, May 13th at 5:00 PM.  The stage and character costuming is modeled after classic video games like Super Mario Brothers and The Legend of Zelda!  They even translated the words from the original German to English!  If you’re interested in checking it out, here’s the link to POP’s page for the production and Wednesday’s livestream.  It will certainly make a great topic for the conversation at the next music chat on Tuesday!

Last Call for May 13th Instrument Pick-up!

If you or your student have an instrument at home with which they can complete distance learning assignments for band/orchestra, then you may ignore/delete this post/email.

If you or your student need to pick up an instrument from MMS, I am allowed to facilitate this on Wednesday, May 13th from 8:00 to 9:00 AM.  If so, please fill out this web form in order to register the information necessary to make the pick-up happen.  The deadline for completing this form is 12:00 noon on Tuesday, May 12th.  Something important to note is that, at the time I am writing this, no one has signed up for an instrument pick-up.  In my opinion, that’s good news because that (hopefully) means students have instruments at home and are using them to complete distance learning assignments for band/orchestra.  If we don’t have anyone registered through the web form by Tuesday at noon, then I will not be heading in to campus for my allotted classroom visit for the month as I feel that I have the materials I need to complete the school year via distance learning.

Thank you for your attention to this time-sensitive situation!

Update 5/10/20: Office hours reminder, deadline decision

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY: Happy Mother’s Day to all of the strong and supportive moms out there!  I hope you had a great day today!

NEW OFFICE HOURS: This is a reminder for everyone that my new office hours and music chat hour begin this week, and that I will no longer be holding regular office hours Mon/Wed/Fri during your distance learning class period with me.  Details to access office hours are already posted in Google Classroom.  Office hours are optional, and the primary focus is for students to get live, one-on-one support when needed.  Students are also welcome to check in with me and chat for a few minutes.  Speaking of chatting, if students want to have an informal chat with fellow music students, the new optional music chat hour is starting this week as well!  I know a dedicated group of students will be there, and I encourage everyone to join us for one of our great conversations!

ASSIGNMENT DEADLINE: Thank you to the students who took my two little surveys between Friday afternoon and this weekend!  Your input led me to the following decision: I’m going to keep all assignments due at 12:00 noon on Fridays each week.  This was your overwhelming choice by a count of 95 to 19 at the time I’m writing this post.  It’s sort of a win-win to do it this way, because the students that preferred spaced out due dates can certainly follow that framework if it works better for them.  It doesn’t matter if your assignment is turned it on Wednesday at 5:00 PM or Friday at 11:58 AM – they are both “on time.”  Speaking of the noon deadline, please note that, if something says that the deadline is 12:00 PM, that means NOON!  12:00 AM means midnight!

Have a great Week 3 of distance learning, everybody!

Update 5/8/20: Instrument pick-up this Wednesday, survey available

INSTRUMENT PICK-UP: If you have an instrument at school that you would like to pick up, you may do so between 8:00 and 9:00 AM this Wednesday, May 13th.  You may not enter the classroom to retrieve anything, and no other materials (binders, personal items, etc.) can be made available to you at this time.  I will bring any requested instruments outside to you.  Please fill out this form no later than 12:00 noon on Tuesday, May 12th if you wish to pick up an instrument from school.  Procedures for the pick-up will be emailed to you after you complete the form.

WEEK 2 SURVEY: Students, the survey for the second week of distance learning is up on your Google Classroom’s stream.  Your feedback is important and helps guide my planning and distance teaching!

It was refreshing to see everybody at this week’s mandatory meetings!  I miss making music with all of you and am crossing my fingers that we can resume normal instrumental music program operations in the fall!

Update 5/7/20: Week 2 improvements, orchestra class meetings, another survey

WEEK 2 IMPROVEMENTS: Despite a few lingering #6thGradeProblems, the second week of official distance learning has been much smoother than last week.  I’m just crossing my fingers that there isn’t an overwhelming need for help/support tomorrow (Fri. 5/8/20) as the 12:00 noon deadline approaches for all band/orchestra assignments.  As you have heard me say several times before the school closure, “Lack of planning or preparation on your part does NOT constitute on emergency on my part.”  What I’m basically saying is that, if you find yourself scrambling for help or support from me tomorrow morning, do not expect me to match your level of urgency, especially because….

MANDATORY ORCHESTRA MEETINGS: ….the last of our mandatory class meetings are tomorrow (Fri. 5/8/20) morning for the orchestra classes!  That means I’ll be busy running their class meetings from 8:30 AM to 10:45 AM.  Meeting IDs and passwords have already been posted on each class’s Google Classroom stream.  Again, in regards to requests for help and support, this will only allow me just over an hour to help students before the deadline for each assignment.

WEEK 2 SURVEY: I will continually seek your feedback throughout distance learning, so I will post another quick survey for students tomorrow (Fri. 5/8/20) afternoon.  This time, though, the survey will be posted in each class’s Google Classroom instead of here on the blog.  Let your voice be heard as I continue to tailor distance learning to meet your needs while also providing you an appropriate amount of challenge in your band/orchestra class!

Update 5/3/20: Syllabus addendum, mandatory meetings, updated deadlines

SYLLABUS ADDENDUM: Based on the first week of official instruction and grading during distance learning, I am now ready to release a distance learning syllabus addendum.  The syllabus addendum has been added under “Materials and Resources” in each class’s Google Classroom where it will remain for the duration of the school year.  For everybody’s convenience, here is a link to the new document.  The bulk of our mandatory class meeting content this week will be the policies in the syllabus addendum.  Speaking of mandatory meetings….

MANDATORY MEETINGS: ….don’t forget that all classes have a mandatory meeting on Zoom during their distance learning class period this week (May 4 – 8).  Details for each class’s meeting will be posted in the stream of each class’s respective Google Classrooms.  See the post below for more information.

UPDATED ASSIGNMENT DEADLINES: At the time I’m writing this, only 15 students have responded to the feedback survey I posted in Friday’s blog post.  If you haven’t taken the survey as of yet, I still welcome your response.  The more feedback I have, the better my distance teaching can be.  From those 15 responses, though, it seems that what I’ve planned for band/orchestra students on a week-to-week basis is a doable workload.  80% of the responses characterized the workload as “appropriate/not overwhelming” or “kind of light/easy.”  There have been zero responses thus far for “way too light/easy” or “way too much/complicated.”  Based on some conversations with students and parents throughout last week, the only change I’ll be making at this time is having a Friday at 12:00 noon deadline for ALL assignments to allow for greater flexibility as students tackle each assignment throughout the week.

Update 5/1/20: SRF tutorial, short feedback survey, and other thoughts

Oh, boy.  What a week.  We’ll be talking about how to make things better in our class meetings next week.  And while we’re doing everything digitally right now, I want to remind everybody of some miracle inventions that have gone by the wayside during distance learning: paper and pencils/pens.  If you haven’t done this yet, write down all of your usernames and passwords for all of your new accounts that you’ve created recently for distance learning on a single sheet of paper.  Keep this paper on your desk/workspace, or near your computer/device you typically use for your online classwork.  You are responsible for these accounts, and your teachers shouldn’t have to also be tech support experts for you on top of everything that we’re already doing to make the rest of this school year work for everybody.

NEW SRF TUTORIAL: Based on the questions I received and the issues you experienced with Sight Reading Factory this week, I have created a new tutorial so that you know how we will be using it for MMS Instrumental Music distance learning!  I’d post or embed it here on the blog for convenience, but it’s information just for our students, not the rest of the world.  It can be found by following this digital path: Log into your class’s Google Classroom > “Classwork” > “Materials and Resources” > “Sight Reading Factory Tutorials” > “Mr. Brown’s SRF Tutorial”

MANDATORY CLASS MEETINGS NEXT WEEK: Don’t forget that all classes have mandatory Zoom meetings next week (May 4 – 8, 2020).  We’re going to go over a lot of important stuff, so make sure you log onto Zoom during your class’s time according to the MMS Distance Learning Schedule.  See the post below for more information.

SHORT FEEDBACK SURVEY: I am interested to know how you’re feeling about your distance learning for band/orchestra this week!  Please take the survey below.  Other than your name, it’s only three quick questions!  Well, it’s three quick questions and a fourth sort of longer question if you choose to leave an optional question or comment at the end.  Your feedback will help me improve your classwork each week, so thank you in advance to those of you who take it!

Mandatory Class Meetings May 4 – 8

Dear MMS Instrumental Music students,

During the week of May 4 – 8, 2020, I will be holding mandatory meetings on Zoom for each class during their class’s distance learning period for the week.  Zoom meeting details for each class will be published on their respective Google Classrooms a day or two before each meeting.  Things that will be discussed during the meetings will include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • New office hours starting May 11th
  • Distance learning syllabus addendum
    • Still working on this document
    • Has not been published to students/parents at the time of this post
    • Will be published by the time meetings begin
  • The blog’s role during distance learning
    • …and how to use it to find information and answers
  • Troubleshooting on our online music platforms
    • …especially difficulties with percussion on SmartMusic
  • How your learning style could be making distance learning difficult
  • What you need to know about distance learning from your teachers’ perspective
    • …and how Mr. Brown will be responding to student questions/comments if it’s clear that the student hasn’t even read the instructions
  • Student questions/feedback time
  • Any other issue that needs to be addressed that comes up between now and your class’s meeting

It is important that all students “attend” their class’s Zoom meeting so that everyone can be updated on how things are going so far, changes that need to be made, and how things will work for the time being.  I’m looking forward to seeing everybody!

See you next week,

Mr. Brown

Update 4/27/20: Troubleshooting advice after Day 1 of official distance learning

GENERAL PROBLEMS: Overall, today’s launch went pretty darn well.  I expected there to be issues, but there were less than I was anticipating.  When you do encounter problems, though, please follow this chain of events:

  1. Read the instructions for the assignment again, and don’t overthink them
  2. Look through all resources available to you
  3. Ask a friend or seven in your class, or in any MMS Instrumental Music class
  4. Contact Mr. Brown via email or via public or private comment on the Google Classroom assignment in which you’re having the problem

Notice how far down the list Mr. Brown is!  It’s not that I don’t want to be available to help you, but I have communicated a lot of instructions and solutions that are there should you actually look for them and read the words, watch the tutorial, etc.  Additionally, it takes so much more time to fix problems through a series of comments/emails than just in person.  Please do your best to seek out your answer or solution, and when you’ve exhausted those possibilities, or you know right away that I am the only one who can solve your issue, then feel free to contact me.

SIGHT READING FACTORY: Most of you are doing just fine with Sight Reading Factory, but ever since Spring Break ended, and those of you who signed up for your free account early on but forgot about it and used up another student code (or four), it’s been the bane of my distance learning existence.  If we can’t get going with this, I’m going to scratch it.  First, I need students to stop registering duplicate (or triplicate, quadruplicate, quintuplicate, and so on) accounts.  The only person who can check on this for you is me, so if you don’t remember whether or not you established your Sight Reading Factory account, skip straight to Step 4 from above.  Second, “submissions” and “attempts” are two different things.  In the future, I will ask that nobody submit any of their recordings to avoid this issue.  I have edited this instruction on both Google Classroom and SRF to ask everybody to NOT submit any recordings and just do the sight-reading attempts.  I just want Sight Reading Factory to be a completion-based weekly activity, much like practice record.

The heart of the issues with SRF is that I spend at least 25% of my week working out SRF problems, so if it doesn’t get better in the next week or two, I’ll just eliminate it from our distance learning for band/orchestra.  It’s not worth the confusion on your part or the frustration on my part.

SMARTMUSIC: Having trouble with SmartMusic?  Follow these steps:

  1. Open up your MMS Instrumental Music Google Classroom
  2. Click/tap on the “Classwork” tab
  3. Scroll down to the section labeled “Materials and Resources”
  4. Open the “SmartMusic Tutorials” resource
  5. View the tutorials

I have yet to have a SmartMusic question not be solved with those tutorials.  I’m sure some will come up that won’t be solved with tutorials, but I expect them to be rare.

NOTEFLIGHT: The main problem I’m having is students skipping the actual instructions for the assignment, going to http://www.noteflight.com, and registering for their own free account.  Well, it’s not as straightforward as that.  The sign-up process itself is simple, but those of you who assumed that you should just go to their main page and open an account are incorrect.  Everyone needs to actually read each assignment’s instructions because assumptions can lead you down the wrong path.  The only other problem with NoteFlight was the magically vanishing “Get started with NoteFlight” assignment for Advanced Band.  I have no idea how it disappeared as I certainly did not delete it myself.  Once the problem was brought to my attention, it was restored to Advanced Band’s Google Classroom, so we’re good to go there.

Also, I know we’re not using NoteFlight for music theory this week.  We will definitely be using it next week, though.  The quiz function of Google Forms was more useful to me for this week’s lesson, although I did use NoteFlight to create the graphics for the questions.

Update 4/22/20: For 8th graders only!

If you are not an 8th grader or the parents of an 8th grader in the MMS Instrumental Music program, you may delete/ignore this email/post.

8th graders, there are two things I need to communicate to you from the SRHS Music program.  One will require immediate action, and the other only affects you if you are considering or have registered for the SRHS Music trip to Europe planned for the summer of 2021.

IMMEDIATE ACTION NEEDED: Mr. Shedd is working with SRHS counselors during the school closure to get you set up for next year.  In order to do that, you need to complete a short and simple, six-question web form.  Here’s what you need to know before you complete it:

  • Under “Program,” check all of the applicable boxes.  For example, if you’re doing concert band/orchestra and marching band, select both of those boxes.
  • Under “Course Placement,” you may also check all of the applicable boxes.  If you’re doing marching band, that box is simple and straightforward.  However, when selecting your band/orchestra/choir class, freshmen must be placed in a 1-2 course.  So, for any course placement that features numbers, choose the 1-2 option.

Now that you know those two things, please fill out the SRHS Music course placement web form.

EUROPE TRIP UPDATE: As you all know, the coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc disaster in so many different ways, and the travel industry is one area that has been hit especially hard.  As of right now, SRHS Music’s optional Europe trip planned for June of 2021 is “on hold.”  It hasn’t been postponed or cancelled, but all payments, planning, and further development of the trip have been suspended indefinitely.  Depending on a number of circumstances, the trip could potentially be postponed or cancelled.  At this time, though, SRHS Music’s educational travel company, EDT, has asked that anyone currently registered for the optional Europe trip temporarily stop making payments for the trip.  If you are still considering whether or not to participate in the optional trip, please do not register until further notice.  The only good news is that, with the trip being over a year away, it is possible that it can still proceed as planned.  Like pretty much everything else these days, we just have to wait and see.