SHS Jazz Band jams-out on new music learning software amidst school closures

SmartMusic has offered free access to their software through June 30, 2020.


SmartMusic has offered free access to their software through June 30, 2020.

Gabe Israel, Staff Writer

For most classes at Stamford High School and for many schools across the nation, the new “distance learning” initiative in response to the outbreak of COVID-19 has proven successful and was expected to be as most assignments were both introduced and completed via online platforms, such as Google Classroom, long before our quarantine days. However, not all classes were accustomed to online learning platforms prior to the outbreak of the virus.  

Jazz Band, like a variety of unique electives SHS offers, relied on in-class time to practice, learn new material, and develop essential skills pertinent to Jazz music. Perhaps the most valuable and imperative skill acquired through this class is the ability to play alongside other musicians and do so in a positively contributing manner and amidst the heightened severity of the COVID-19 outbreak, this taken for granted opportunity and  privilege was swiftly stripped away from the members of Stamford High School’s Jazz band led by Co-Music director Brendan Michalko. 

With all of us working to figure out distance learning together it was important to find a way that our music ensembles could continue to create music together outside of a regular rehearsal setting,” Michalko said.

Despite the predicament “distance learning” presented to the SHS Jazz band and other music electives at Stamford High School, a solution was quickly researched and implemented with haste. A new music software surfaced on the Google Classroom feeds of the members of various ensembles within Stamford High’s music department. The software is called SmartMusic and it’s capacity is impressive.. 

With SmartMusic, music teachers can assign a piece of music to their students, the students can select the instrument they play, and the respective sheet music alongside with a backing track is provided to the student giving them the simulation of a full band as they play the music assigned to them. When they are comfortable with the track, students can record the arrangement as many times as they desire within the software and when they are satisfied with their recording they can then submit their work to their teacher. Michalko says this allows the teacher to provide additional tips and feedback.

“We are using this program with the Jazz Ensemble to work on improvisation skills and with the Concert Band to do a composer study on the film music of Danny Elfman,” Michalko said.

The implementation of SmartMusic is reflective of the creativity and initiative taken by the Music Education department at SHS. Better yet, SmartMusic has offered free access to their software through June 30, 2020, nullifying any potential financial obstacles that may have resulted from this initiative.