Thursday, September 11, 2008

The 911 on 9/11

Music Education Services

I just completed a really cool interview with Larry Marra of musicteachers911
coincidentally on 9/11. I am located in Carrollton,TX and Larry is in Dayton, OH. Not only was I able to hear Larry, I was able to see him on web-cam. We used a program called Skype which allows you to make calls to others on Skype - from your computer - and it's free!

I know Larry was interviewing me but it was fun to learn a bit about him in the process as well. He said he had heard about Skype from one of his 14 year old students (reason # 947 why packaging and delivering music education in a new tech-savvy way is a smart idea). He thought the kid was either kidding or a bit 'off' when he said he could make calls anywhere in the world with video capability for free online. It didn't take long for Larry to check out and embrace the technology and the rest as they say is history... a pod-caster was born.

Larry also told me that his podcasts rank #2 at i-tunes for Music Education. So if you're reading this - let's go bump him up to #1! Yesterday my colleague Mike Finkel and I listened to a few minutes of one of Larry's episodes to which Mike commented 'He gets a great sound on these!'... and coming from Mike (our resident composer and recording guru), that is high praise indeed.

Larry ran a great interview. He showed a genuine interest in hearing about DSM and After learning that our software includes built-in ear training samples he quipped, 'If I had this when I was a band director, I might have offered some kids the $10 myself!'.

Larry was also keen to mention that music teachers need to keep an open mind to new ways of thinking about teaching and in particular, adopting new approaches and technologies. He, like myself and many others I've encountered in the blogosphere, have spent some serious time thinking about music, teaching and the profession as a whole. (I have been working on a phrase that attempts to identify and explain 'us' as a group. After several failed attempts I decided to try a Latin translation site and came up with '
posterus magister ' which roughly means 'teacher of the future'.... but I digress).

Kudos to Larry for his work and thanks again for allowing us to participate. I will try to include the actual podcast on this blog after it has been edited and posted.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Best Buy = Students

We recently learned that Best Buy the
International retailer of consumer electronics and entertainment software is announcing a massive new initiative that sets aside store space for an array of musical instruments and gear in dozens of its stores nationwide. The Billboard Magazine story (dated June 2008) goes on to say that their selection will include 'everything from accessories — picks, sheet music and cases — to high-end basses, guitars, keyboards and DJ equipment. Instruments will be housed in separate rooms and the company also plans to offer group music lessons'.

I know this may come as a shock, but I say 'bring it on'! It's just one more testament to the fact that music and music retailing is a multi-billion dollar industry. It's no wonder why a major player who provides other forms of 'entertainment' like video game software, TV's and computers is willing to gamble on the appeal and power of music. The success of Guitar Hero has made this industry stand up and take notice of this potential (even though one may have little to do with the other). So this idea is not surprising to me at all, in fact, the trend had already begun at Costco and Wal-Mart some years ago.

What struck me most about this article was Best Buy's 'Oh, by the way... we're giving music lessons in stores too' attitude, added pretty much as an afterthought. This is where they will fall short or completely miss the boat. Not because it cannot be done well, but because it cannot be done well to any successful degree in a setting such as a Best Buy with decisions being made by people who have little if any experience in music or music education. They underestimate the talent and skill needed to teach (let alone teach music). It is not the same skill set as say, assembling a flat-screen tv or troubleshooting a cell phone.

And, likewise, this is where music educators and the profession as a whole all too often fall short. We have for far too long hung our hat on academia despite years if not decades of dwindling support. At the same time, large corporations have begun to notice the popularity and massive revenue potential that music holds. Why is there such a disconnect for music educators in this area? Why have we not tapped in to the same huge market that Best Buy sees?

I wish Best Buy great success in selling millions of instruments to young adults, mid-lifers and seniors the world over. I hope they plan to add band and orchestra instruments to the mix as well. Then they can turn all of those people loose to seek professional music education online or in their own communities. And if music educators are smart, they will work together to take advantage of this situation and begin the process of adding a major component to their profession. One that is financially robust, is in touch with the corporate world, and resides outside of academia in the private sector. Bring it on!