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Palen Music Center Quick Note

Monday, December 10, 2012


Palen Music Center is dedicated to helping children experience excellence, personal growth, and joy through involvement in music. We carry out this mission by supporting area band directors through weekly service, support, educational programs, and quality products. This weekly Quick Note newsletter strives to highlight topics that are immediately helpful in the classroom. Comments, suggestions, ideas, and articles are always welcome.


Looking for help on a particular topic? Be sure to check out our Quick Note Catalog of back issues!

The Flipped Music Lab
By Stephen McClard

Have you ever noticed a great idea and thought, “Why didn’t I think of that?” I must admit this flipped classroom idea is not original to me, although incorporating this concept into a music lab setting might just be a stroke of genius. Then again, it might just be an example of me having a stroke. Either way, what you are about to read might make you go, “Hmmm ” Anything that can make you go, “Hmmm ” is always worth investigating.

Like most music educators will testify, finding the right tools for motivating home rehearsal can be an uphill battle. With so many variables to consider, settling into the correct educational methods and routines is of utmost importance for achieving future goals. All school districts are different and present unique challenges to overcome. With so many variables to consider, finding the right balance between enthusiasm and opportunity for growth becomes a primary goal. With this in mind, I hope to present a fresh and unique approach for your consideration.

This project started with a simple idea for improving our band program at Bolivar Middle School by engaging home practice to a higher degree. Near the end of the 2012 school year, I decided that our jazz band room was being underutilized with only one class a day. With two music teachers and two rooms, it made sense to maximize our combined impact on the learning potential of our students. After careful consideration of our facilities and scheduling, we decided to adopt a flipped classroom concept centered on small group sectionals and social media technologies. For those who may be unfamiliar with the flipped classroom concept, let me give you a short overview.

Flipping a classroom is designed around passing the conceptual learning forward to the home. Lessons are assigned and taught using technologies like YouTube and other presentation technologies. In a traditional classroom setting such as a history class, the flipped classroom concept moves the lecture online. When the student returns to school, class time can then be focused toward discussion and cooperative learning activities. Since music is the ultimate cooperative learning environment, the flipped classroom concept is ideal for engaging and motivating new areas of activity and creativity at home. Not only can these technologies motivate from an entirely new perspective, but the added dimension of social media technologies allows the extended family to become virtual audience members.

For more information on the flipped classroom, see this video: Flipped Classroom Overview. For a complete understanding of how this process is working for us, visit our music lab page at the following address: Ultimately, I can see a day coming when these ideas could be shared across school districts. Is it possible to host a virtual solo and ensemble contest? Is it possible for one student to record a quartet with multi-track recording capabilities? Is it possible for the Nixa Director to give virtual floppadiddle rudiment lessons to the entire SCMMEA community? Would it be possible for the Lebanon Director to show us his patented secrets of brass tone production with a few simple videos on YouTube? The answer is already ‘yes’ to all of these possibilities with minimal effort and expense.


As you examine our website linked above, it should become obvious how we are using this opportunity on a daily basis in our middle school band classes. Although all students are not visiting the music lab each week, they are able to visit the classroom website at home to see what is going on from day to day. As well as visiting the page, students can take advantage of the many tools and materials that we include on the website. One of the most exciting tools we are using is called UJAM.

UJAM is a web 2.0 application that allows students to record lines of music with their home computer and instrument, then rejam the melody with chords, styles and various instruments. Once these unique creations are finished, the MP3 can then be uploaded to another web 2.0 application called SoundCloud or Facebook. From this point, student accompaniments can be used as demonstrations in class, accompaniments for rehearsal or as playing test submissions for grades. This gives us an added venue to spotlight student performance.

Smart Music Studio

Although there are a few functions that are not conducive to a large group experience, the music lab environment provides the perfect setting for this software platform to be used for a wide variety of needs. The following aspects of Smart Music can be used daily:

  • Solo and Ensemble Accompaniments
  • Printable Finale Exercises
  • Full Band Recordings with MP3 and Onscreen Capabilities
  • Jazz Exercises
  • Jazz Arrangements with Accompaniments
  • Countless Onscreen Method Books
  • Scales
  • Etudes
  • Accompaniment Recording Capabilities
  • Tuner
  • Metronome


Used as a companion with Smart Music Studio, Finale allows us to select exercises from Smart Music to create custom worksheets. (Web 2.0) has been around for many years. We have used this free web resource in previous years, but the new version has been updated to web 2.0. The new functions include apps for most devices. Included in this free website are exercises, lessons, trainers and many other useful games and outlines for learning.

Additional Tools

  • Audacity – Free recording software
  • – What do you get when you combine guitar hero, garage band and the Sims? Have a look for yourself.
  • – Provides a cloud-based environment for sharing music.
  • Sound Junction – Content-driven experience for inspiration, which provides many examples and tools for young musicians.
  • Jam Studio – Notation and accompaniment environment for multi-track recording and rehearsal.
  • Soundation Studio – Multi-track recording capability.
  • MixCraft 6 – Software for creating backing tracks for pep tunes or simple melodies. Reference our pep hits page under Music MP3 and Music PDF headings for examples.
  • See our TOOLS page for more.


The scheduling process we follow with our music lab is simple. Students are scheduled to leave the classroom for the music lab according to a set section rotation on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. While one director is in the lab running sectionals, the other director is rehearsing music with the large group. Each Thursday, we host a rhythm section class aimed toward our jazz program. Every Friday, we host a percussion class focused toward rudiments and basic rhythmic concepts. Part of the battle to get the horns home comes from having something worth playing. Choice is always better than no choice.


All grading and monitoring of student progress is done in the lab, while corporate rehearsal is taking place in the main band hall. Before a single downbeat is given in the band room for concert selections, students have thoroughly rehearsed parts with Smart Music Studio in the lab. This saves us time and effort with the larger group and allows students to engage in individualized instruction on advanced concepts before the main rehearsal begins. These changes have revealed a marked improvement in musicianship and overall excitement from our students in only a few short weeks of school. Above all, the instruments are going home regularly.


The instrumental music classroom is a dynamic and ever-changing aspect of public school education. Just like the vicissitudes of society, music education must adapt to remain relevant. Emerging technologies provide the impetus for intrinsic motivation if adopted and implemented in a meaningful and enthusiastic manner. Although we are just getting started with this idea, the early stage of our flipped classroom experiment is likely to become a permanent part of our growing program. If the horn goes home, it’s a wonderful world indeed.

We would like to thank Stephen T. McClard , Director of Bands at Bolivar High School for this article. If you have questions, you can reach Steve at or

Contact Your Local Palen Music Center Representative


Can we assist you with anything?  Please contact your local Palen Music Center school road representative for all of your music education needs.


Springfield Bob Hopkins, Wayne Blades, Jason Moore, Mike Steffen, AAron Bryan (417) 882-7000
Columbia Chuck Appleton and Rob Goade (573) 256-5555
Liberty Ken Crisp, John Bell, and Victoria Clymore (816) 792-8301
Joplin AAron Bryan (417) 781-3100
Broken Arrow Jeff Lawless and Mary Ann French (918) 286-1555


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