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MIDI lab

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Getting Started

My station in the lab

We started six years ago with ten “old” computers on tables and now have a 13-station Soundtree MIDI lab, with keyboards, internet connection and a GEC3 controller with headsets that I can communicate with students individually or in a small group. There are two teacher’s stations. One station is in the lab, and one in the band room. This has been an amazing development for the school. Music is the center, the glue that puts math, science, language arts, Spanish/French and social studies around it.

This is all about how the MIDI Lab at Sunset Ridge got started. It is an amazing story and it is not over yet, I believe the best is yet to come.

MIDI lab

GEC3 Controller

The GEC3 controller is located at the teacher station in the MIDI lab. All the thirteen stations are equipped with two headsets. Students can “call in” to the teacher for individual instruction. The students can also be connected to each other to work together on a project.

Teacher Stations

The MIDI classroom teacher station comprises of an eMac, weighted MIDI keyboard, a Mac Mini (off the server) and a personal laptop. All are connected to the screen and speakers. Also, has a Superscope CD recording device, that can record any sounds from the headsets, piano keyboard, and microphone. In the band room, is an identical teacher station with all the hardware and software that is in the lab.

The Beginning

We started with available computers the District was not using, they were outdated. They were not connected to the server or internet. Students saved on discs. The first software that was used for composition was Encore,  an extremely easy user-friendly software. In the beginning, students only composed for recorder. The teachers downloaded the files at their home or to the school’s server. The final step was to print out the compositions and individual projects. When projects needed the internet, the Learning Center was available on a limited basis. As the projects became more involved and louder, the technology department dropped thirty-two internet lines to the music room. In the band room, there was no internet connection. So, a laptop was purchased and a wireless system was installed. As the year progressed, the entire Fine Arts department received laptops for all the projects that the students were producing.

The Start of Something Big

Through the funding of the Professional Growth Committee in the District, a working Soundtree Lab was seen at the MENC convention in Minneapolis. The groundwork for obtaining a lab for Sunset Ridge progressed. A suggestion: THINK BIG. Surprise! Everything that was asked for was approved through the Technology department and the Sunset Ridge School Board.

The First Year of the Lab

The learning curve is amazing and every day brought new issues and successes. Carol had twelve students that were “techie,” come the week before school started. They completed “practice” lessons in order to have a smooth start of the year. Second suggestion: think small on the projects in the first year. Over fifteen programs were added to the MIDI lab including Sibelius 2, Music Ace, Sibelius Instruments, Sibelius compass, and Band-in-Box.

The Second Year of the Lab

This year was much more easier. Sunset Ridge became the one of five schools outside Vermont to take part in the Vermont MIDI Project. We upgraded to Sibelius 3 .Students compose music and professional composer mentors comment on a password protected website. The development of multi-media projects increased. Music and technology are now integrated into all facets of curriculum through the general music classes. You can view all compositions, but you need a free plug-in scorch to view and listen.

The Third Year of the Lab

The school year word of the year is multi-media. We upgraded to iLife ’06, thus added iWeb and Sibelius 4. Students now post music, videos, podcasts, pictures, blogs, and all involving music. Carol started a new website where students could post their GarageBand and Sibelius compositions. (carolbroos.com) In the middle of the year, she added a comment page for students to comment on compositions. Then, March 16,2007, carolbroos.com was selected “site of the week” by TechLearning.com. More students are involved in the Vermont MIDI Project and even more students are involved in performing groups and private lessons. Don added smartmusic, where students can play their instrument with a computer accompaniment and it also gives immediate feedback as to the performance. A mac-mini, off the server, was added in the MIDI lab for students working on movies and websites. Over the summer, Carol combines her six blogs into one, www.beatechie.com is created: a blog concerning all the activities within the lab and her professional comments concerning music and technology.

Chordsville.com and other Compositions

One student, part of the Vermont MIDI Project, composed a composition that involved a story, he asked twenty fellow students from four different grades to be a part of the video. We videotaped the story then he created a website www.chordsville.com for everyone to view the project. On another front, two other compostions were performed, Spring Storm, for oboe and piano and Flight of the Eagles, for the sixth grade band. The integration of band and music are intertwined seamlessly.

The Fourth Year of the Lab


Fine-tuning is the keyword. The projector was hung, and a freestanding recorder was purchased for podcasting. Surround-sound is added in the music room. Shouldn’t the music room have the best sound in the school? The development of pod29.com, a website for students by students, is created. Collaboration is the key word of the year. It is an in-house “school tube,” where students can post videos, podcasts, a flash games for school and fun. www.carolbroos.com wins a national award for the best student-centered site by Digital Education. A google elective was added and students with using Flash, Google Sketchup, and learning code. Two sixth graders start a new website, www.lazertron.net for students that want to learn flash, in less that three months it has over 1,000 hits. Teachers from various schools are observing the wonderful activities and projects within the MIDI lab. Carol is awarded the Leader of the Year 2007 – Finalist from TechLearning.com for all the projects the students have accomplished. Carol purchased a Playstation 2 for music gaming: Guitar Hero II, III, Rock Star, Rock the ’80’s and High School Musical” sing-along. It is used on a limited-basis, only upon the completion of projects. Collaborate with others in creating, performing, and interacting is coming directly into the classroom.

The Fifth Year of the Lab

Individualization and collaboration are themes of the year. New iMacs were added along with a separate server. Students were able to work fast and collaborate more. A Promethean board was also added, students create flipcharts for the music classsroom and an Elmo “document reader,” really helped in showing students individual iTouch games and other hard to see objects. With the “Best Buy” award seven iPods and speakers were for individual instruction. Carol installed a “green screen” in the classroom for use with videocue. Students produced a public service announcement, learn to read a ‘teleprompter” and post their video as part of the presidental campaign.

The big news was www.lazertron.net won a national website award and the two students flew to Hollywood to receive their award. Completely characteristic of the way music and technology move in the school, in the middle of the year, the students, now seventh graders that created the site, passed it down tosixth graders to create games and tutorials. The seventh graders had progressed to making iTouch games and other graphic designs.

Looking Ahead

Can you say iTouchBand. The start of the year, there will be a small amount of  iTouches for a iTouchBand. Students can bring in their own if they like.  Students love to interact and make music on the fly.

Keeping the lab operating effectively is a constant challenge. Ensuring all the headsets, programs and computers work along with trouble-shooting tech issues with students, are daily tasks within the lab.

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