Miamiflute's Blog

Posts Tagged ‘technology

Laurie Berkner

In my quest to be the ultimate Rockstar-Supermom, last weekend i took my kids to see Laurie Berkner in concert. If you haven’t heard of Laurie Berkner, she is the undisputed queen of preschool rockers. This is a huge new genre of music that has blossomed over the last 10 years. And truth be told, even though we took the kids to the concert, it was mostly for me.  When I first found out I was pregnant I cringed at the thought of having to listen to icky-sweet Barney songs all day. Someone actually gave me a CD of Metallica songs played as lullabies – I almost puked. But I would listen to Laurie Berkner even if I didn’t have kids, it’s pretty good music.

I sent a photo to my best friend from the concert who immediately texted me back saying “I can SO see you doing that.” Coincidentally, my husband told me the same thing when we attended a profanity-laden singalong at Irish Kevin’s in Key West. [You can make your own assumptions about my ability to lead drunks and young children in song.]

Rockstar Supermom

And you know what, they are both right. I always wanted to be a Rockstar, and I still do. The problem was – when I grew up – your options for music in school were band, orchestra, or choir. Since my mother was a singer, and I had been singing in my church youth choir since I could talk, I chose to play the flute in school. And I was pretty good. But – truth be told – I did not join the band to be an awesome flautist, or to rock out to Bach, Sousa, or Grainger. No, what I really wanted to do was play the music I listened to, and I did. I owned every “Themes of the Movies,” “Today’s Pop Hits,” or other schlock I could get my hands on. I was super jealous of my neighbor who figured out how to play the flute part on “Down Under” by Men at Work. I couldn’t do it – it wasn’t in THE BOOK. I could play the snot out of anything you put in front of me, but playing by ear? That was for jazz musicians – and I was a flute player. After a few years I also gave up singing. That was for choir people – and I was in band. I was good at what I did, and loved playing in all things purely instrumental – marching band, symphonic band, orchestra, flute choir, etc. But there was no Rockstar option that I desperately wanted to study.

Recently, I attended my [cough] 20th year high school reunion. I was amazed at the number of people still involved with music all these years later. I spoke to about a dozen people who played in a band – ranging from a large scale Pink Floyd tribute band – to a local back porch bar kind of group. But the thing that struck me the most – is that NONE of these people participated in school music. No band, orchestra, or chorus people. These were part of that other 80% that do not participate in traditional performance based music classes. In a completely un-scientific poll of my Facebook high school music friends, only 1 of them still participates formally in music – and thats because he is a music teacher, like me. This is pretty typical of the national average that most students do not continue in music after high school (Williams, 2007).

FL Guitar Enrollment

I recently was asked to facilitate a Professional Development Workshop for music teachers in a local county on how to increase enrollment in music classes. I gave them all the relevant data – that nationally the median enrollment in band classes is only 7.5%, and that  on a national level, enrollment in music at the secondary level is declining (Kerstetter, in press). Meanwhile, schools such as Greenwich HS in Connecticut (Freedman, personal e-mail), that offer 4 levels of Electronic Music classes out enroll band, choir, and orchestra combined. That in the state of Florida enrollment in secondary music classes has declined from 14.2% to 11.6% at the secondary level, however enrollment in guitar classes has skyrocketed from 3,000 to nearly 10,000 from the first 10 years of the 21st century. I was given a polite “thank you” when I was finished and got the overarching feeling that this was not what they wanted to hear – they just wanted to push the EASY button to increase enrollment without fundamentally changing anything that they are currently doing. (Thanks to Ed Prasse for enrollment figures in FL).

In her groundbreaking book, How Popular Musicians Learn, Lucy Green investigates what those non-classically trained musicians do. While you may have your prejudices about the pop-music business, few can argue the musical talents of people like Elton John, Dave Matthews, James Taylor, Carol King, and His purpleness: Prince. Here are some things we DO know:

  1. Pop musicians learn to play be ear FIRST. To use an Ed Gordon term, they audiate. (coincidentally, Gordon came about his Music Learning Theory by watching how jazz musicians learned their craft – many of whom never studied in a formal school-based large ensemble setting). Because they are learning by ear, they are listening many times – repeatedly – purposefully. They are listening at much deeper level than most any student concentrating on the notes.
  2. Many musicians are motivated because they get to select their own music to be be performed. In a garage band, there is no one demanding that the punk band learn Eleanor Rigby just because someone told them it was a “classic.”
  3. These musicians play several different instruments. Guitar, bass, percussion, whatever is needed for the music. In her follow up book Music, Informal Learning, and the School she illustrates how middle school students would readily pick up and play a recorder/penny whistle if the song needed that sound. This was the same instrument  that was earlier scorned in the same class as an instrument for babies.
  4. Everyone sings. Let me repeat: everyone.
  5. Groups are smaller, and even though natural leaders emerge in a cooperative learning setting, there is no one really “in charge.” No one stands in front of the group just to lead. They lead from inside the group, and a there is a large sense of shared responsibility.


So, what does this all mean for this Rockstar-Supermom.? Well, I now play in a band — even if is mostly a reason to play guitar with good friends, enjoy a few cold ones, and turn faculty meeting scribblings into songs about the ineptitudes of higher adminstration. [When I was in K-12 education, I had a whole book filled with Faculty Meeting Haiku – you should try it next time you want to gauge your eyes out with your “we love testing” pencil]. And as I watch this country struggle with budget woes, I think perhaps this might be the impetus needed to create a few less marching followers and a few more Rockstars of Tomorrow.

Matilda Xmas 2010


You can get your HELLAgoodTIME merchandise here. All proceeds go towards purchasing the aforementioned cold ones. The coffee mugs are awesome…. ;p


Most awesome mug ever.


As my 3 year old, Matilda, would say, “I have a secret to tell you.”  I have a serious crush on James Frankel.

Any of you who are reading this, probably already know Jim Frankel. If you don’t know Jim, he’s the Managing Director of Soundtree, author of several books and articles on music education and technology, adjunct professor at Columbia Teachers College, the President of the Association for Technology in Music Instruction (ATMI), the former VP of TI:ME, a past middle-school music teacher, and overall music technology bad-ass. He is everything I admire and respect in my field, rolled up into a very likable 6 foot ball. Because I’m in higher education and fairly entrenched in the conference circuit, I see Jim a few times a year. When I was teaching in Florida, I used to direct my music education undergraduates to all of his sessions. They would always come back beaming and telling me “Dr. K, OMG, he is so cool. Did you know…..”  Yes, actually – I DO know, that’s why I sent you there. So I guess I am also the founder of the Jim Frankel Fan Club, too.

So, why on earth am I telling you this??

Well, because before the days of Twitter Jim Frankel would probably have little to no clue who I am. He’s a nice guy, so I’m sure that he would smile and wave when I go by the Soundtree booth to play with all the new music tech toys. He’d probably also say to himself, “Who is that bizarre woman who comes to the booth at every conference?” But, thanks to Twitter and many other social media, the fields of music technology and music education have been democratized.

According to some information compiled by Kathy Schrock :

  • 26 million people in the US use Twitter.
  • Almost 70% of educators had a Twitter account
  • 87% of responding educators use it to network, keep up and share with the profession.
  • Sadly, 40% of the respondent who do NOT use Twitter reported that they didn’t know how to use it.

Thanks to the Twitterverse, I can now interact with many highly respected professionals in music education on Twitter – including Jim Frankel! Really? No longer was there a situation where one of us was on stage giving a presentation and the other was in the audience; no longer was one person the merchandiser and the other the consumer. We are now both Tweeter: I tweet – he retweets; he tweets – I respond. We both discuss #musiced, and #musictech.

The first time I realized the power of Twitter was September 2009. I was on the 50 yard line in LandShark Stadium dancing for a halftime show for the Miami Dolphins. We were all there because we thought Jimmy was going to play – he didn’t. I felt lame, and let him know.

Later that night, I did receive a tweet back from Jimmy’s camp. He heard me? I had an equal voice? Cool.

Now there are many ways to use Twitter for professional reasons, it is part of my everyday lifestyle. I can control give me most relevant, up-to-date information on a topic of my choosing. My mother was in Hawai’i in February 2010 when – according to NBC – a giant tsunami was coming to decimate the island. According to the Twitterverse – unfiltered and on the ground – it was a beautiful day and the locals enjoyed watching the networks make something out of nothing. It made me feel much better about not being able to get a hold of my mom personally. So, how can you use it effectively? Here are some tips:

  1. Sign-up and start following some great people. You can check out Dr. Joe Pisano’s music education Twitter list.
  2. Spend about 2 minutes to learn the lingo.
  3. Follow hashtags about stuff that is important to you. For example, you can find information regarding #tsunami10 without having to follow individuals. #musiced #musedchat #mpln #edchat are all tags that I follow daily, just in case there is something that my didn’t get tweeted by my peeps.
  4. Engage – or not. You can just read tweets in your field, or you can participate as much as you like. There have been many Tweetups of people who know each other primarily through Twitter when they are together at conferences. It is really nice to finally get to talk face to face with people that you feel you have known for some time.
  5. There are about a zillion ways to engage in twitter with your colleagues. See the resource from Kathy Schrock (and thanks to Bill Bauer’s article in December 2010 Music Educator’s Journal for this)
  6. And finally — have some fun. You will get to know your tweeps and will be able to engage in meaningful dialog with them. Sometimes, it’s fun to banter and communicate with your colleagues from across the state, country, and world. Most of them will have a sense of humor, too….as I hope does Jim Frankel.

Coda: Here are some other blog topics I’m currently considering:

  • Joe Pisano and I are distant, long-lost cousins (hey, I have family in PA, it could happen).
  • My plan to officially adopt Andy Zweibel.
  • My new venture: The Functional Business of Music Babes (The F-BOMBs) with Barbara Freedman.

My husband and my children, Matilda and Lane, are endless sources of inspiration to me – and in the most unusual ways. While this blog is not about them, per se, their actions inspire me to investigate, think, and sometimes change the way I look at or do something.

So, this morning when Matilda got out of bed she was in, what us Mom’s like to call, a ‘snit’. No potty, no breakfast, no changing clothes – you get it. My idea to sit down and watch the Wiggles while I got her brother dressed was immediately, and adamantly dismissed. I offered up Mickey Mouse – which was also shot down. For those of you who are still sleeping at 6:30 a.m. – these are pretty much your only choices for toddler TV.  Out of desperation I finally just asked her, “What DO you want to watch???!!!?”.

Calmly, she replied, “Sprout”. And then proceeded to walk over to my husband’s desk, open his laptop, and grab the mouse.

Did I mention she’s two?

We had shown her videos from the Sprout Channel on the laptop before, so she knows they are out there. Always on, always out there. So, then it dawned on me – the absolute power of instant media access. Does this power diminish the value music? Movies?  A live performance experience? If it is broadcast live to world, or available forever on You Tube is it worth less than it used to be? Matilda has had no choice other than to live in a world of immediacy, so she will never know what it was like to wait for a TV show to be available. Just as you and I will never know what it is like to live in a world without cars – they have always been there, and are part of our language. We can think about what it was like when there were no cars, but we will really never know.

As music educators, how do we communicate the value of music if it is always available? Or the value of attending a concert live, in person? I often have visions of people pushing wheelbarrows full of Confederacy Dollars or German Deutschmarks to buy a loaf of bread after they became worthless to the government. Will our students feel the same way about their musical education? Will they be pushing wheelbarrows full of CDs to trade for computer gadgets? Will live performances continue to become fewer while live-streamed or archived events become the norm?

I encourage your thoughts on how – or if – we can continue to keep these experiences valuable in music education.

Well, here it is, my first blog. Funny, for someone who talks about technology all day, this is the one thing I have resisted.

Truth be told, its not my first blog. I started one many moons ago (well, 2003, that is many moons by Internet standards) when I first read about them. I thought it was great, and I wanted one. The only problem: I really had nothing to talk about. Since then, things have changed. I have a family, and kids, and see my students going off to change the world, one song at a time. I have a lot to talk about.

So you can expect semi-occasional posts about all things music, motherhood, technology, and eduction. Because I don’t believe that any one of these things lives in a vacuum, and I bet neither do you. Until next time ~ stay happy.

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