Band class turns to tech

Band class turns to technological platform Smart Music as a substitute for in-person instrumental music lessons

Grace Leonardi

Technology has become a huge part of students’ lives since the pandemic hit, and its affected all aspects of school differently. Some classes, such as music, theatre or art, are affected more than many think.

Instrumental music involves each member doing their part to create a group sound. While it would be fun to play together over Teams, it would not work.

“I miss the family aspect of band,” senior Avery Severance said, “and playing with everybody.”

Severance explained how she doesn’t mind virtual band.

“It works for what we need it for,” Severance said, “but shared the struggle of not being able to improve her playing from home.”

Senior Matthew Robertson has similar feelings about virtual band class.

“I miss being able to use the percussion equipment properly,” Robertson said, “and having more choices of instruments to play than just snare.”

Through these struggles, teacher Brett Bays has found a way to allow his students a way to play their instruments while at home. It’s nowhere near as great as class in person, but students are able to play along with a recording of a full band.

The way all of that is possible is through Smart Music, an online program for bands that provides students sheet music, recordings of their individual parts and a full band recording. Smart Music tests students on their playing by recording them playing alongside the recording and gives them a grade.

Some students like it and some despise it, but it’s a viable option during virtual learning.

“The fact that the program reflects my playing as 10-40% for a grade, when in reality it is in the 90’s is laughable in my opinion,” Robertson said. “It doesn’t give any feedback on what was done wrong and makes the teacher manually have to listen to each percussionist’s performances and grade them by hand.”

With all of that on top of the lack of focus on percussion, Robertson believes Smart Music could never be considered a true supplement to a band class.

On the other hand, some find Smart Music a handy tool that helps them improve.

“I like Smart Music,” junior Ryan O’Herron said, “because I can play at home and you can record as many times as you need to.”

Smart Music creates an individualized experience for students but is not the same as being in class.

“I like that it coaches you along as you play,” Severance said, “but it goes way too fast.”

Wind players with melodic instruments have a different experience with it than percussionists, as Smart Music doesn’t pick up the sounds of percussion well through the laptop microphones, causing lower scores on assignments.

The program has had a positive affect on many, and their individual success in the class.

“It is very helpful,” senior Madison Cesarz said, “when I am learning the music assigned to us.”