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SmartMusic accompanies South students

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Learning to play a musical instrument is full of high notes and low notes, literally. But thanks to the new SmartMusic software purchased through a Smart Connections Grant from ATMC, students in the music program at South Brunswick High School are refining their technique and making beautiful music.
Charles Patton, band director, wanted to hear the musicians in his band come together to play as one. Every instrument has its challenges, and with a concert band that includes more than 30 members, it can be difficult to give individual feedback and provide one-on-one instruction. Since the mastery of these instruments relies on practice and feedback, the concept of “homework” for these students posed a challenge. SmartMusic has changed all of that.
This interactive, computer-based learning tool enables SBHS band students to receive detailed feedback on how well they are practicing. SmartMusic analyzes pitch and rhythmic accuracy to help students develop their sense of musicianship.
The program allows musicians of varying experience levels to utilize metronomes, tuners and most importantly, digital accompaniment in school and at home. Students can record themselves using the software and listen to their performances afterward.
The SmartMusic program gives the students the ability to hear their part in the complete context of the ensemble and allows Patton to follow each student’s progress as they practice at home.
This past school year, members of the concert band utilized the SmartMusic program. During the summer months, students in all grade levels take turns using the laptops as a take-home tool.
“The awareness created by the SmartMusic program has translated into a much more sensitive approach to timing in the entire ensemble,” Patton said.
“When playing solo repertoire, students are beginning to play ‘happy’ or ‘sad’ or ‘angry,’ something they did not do before we had this software. This heart/head connection is what must be developed for players to use their instrument as a true voice.”
Ironically, parents are talking about how loud it is in their homes nowadays, but it’s a welcome noise, as it signifies a commitment to a greater cause.
Since the introduction of the SmartMusic program, Patton says that he’s seen great improvement in his students’ individual abilities. The sum of all the parts has been even greater.
“This software is taking our entire program up an octave,” continued Patton. “At a time when many school funding initiatives are being scrutinized, we thank ATMC for their assistance and promotion of the arts in our school. Without this grant, we couldn’t have engineered so much fine tuning.”
This is music to the ears of the teachers at SBHS and parents of these students who savor their sounds. To date, ATMC has awarded $295,000 in community and education grants.