Skip To Main Content

Video: Wilson Middle School orchestra students share update on orchestra grant

Video: Wilson Middle School orchestra students share update on orchestra grant

Last December, Fine Arts teachers Michelle Bell and Shannon Stevenson were awarded a teaching grant to fund premium subscriptions to SmartMusic for each member of the Wilson Orchestra program. Using SmartMusic, which a cloud-based program, addresses individual learning styles, allows for instant feedback at home, helps to guide practice time outside the classroom, and gives students exposure to a variety of styles and types of music.

Ms. Bell and Ms. Stevenson wanted to harness their students desire to use technology to deepen their knowledge and push students to a higher level of mastery. With this approach, members of the orchestra would be working smarter, not harder! 

Click here to watch the Wilson Orchestra Grant Update (via YouTube)

About the Grant

Work SmartMusic, not HardMusic! was written by co-applicants Michelle Bell and Shannon Stevenson, who have been running the orchestra program at Wilson since the campus opened. They received $1,880 for the project. 

"While students work diligently inside the classroom, many students struggle to carry that success into their home practice," Ms. Bell said. "Introducing this program will help increase the consistency of their practice time, improve the quality of their home practice time, and help them become more efficient in identifying their errors and self correcting."

The instant feedback students receive allows them to see mistakes both visually and orally, and to understand which corrections to make in a piece of music.

SmartMusic also helps educators track practice time inside the program in many ways. Some of those measures include tracking practice time for a class or a specific student, tracking those classes or individuals over a span of time or determining the "most practiced" song for a designated time period. 

The subscription provides unlimited access to the entire SmartMusic library, which includes solos, ensembles, popular pieces, region music and orchestra music. Giving students more control over the content they choose to play is a great way to boost motivation and increase the amount of time spent playing their instruments outside of the classroom. 

Ms. Bell said she hoped students would be excited about playing different types of music, but she was surprised by how excited they were and how contagious that excitement was.

"Many times as they were unpacking, kids would be exchanging stories of what they found," Ms. Bell said. She shared some of those exchanges in her grant update, too. 

Student 1: Dude! I found Batman yesterday!
Student 2: Really? I was looking for it, but couldn't find it! What note does it start on?


Student 1: I played Eye of the Tiger for my dad yesterday. 
Student 2: I don't know what that is.
Student 1: It was a song written like 50 years ago... I don't know. My dad liked it though.

When they compared the data for practice time spent on assigned music that students had access to before the grant to practice time on content of their choice after the grant, orchestra students increased their practice time by 220% on average! Because the amount of time students spent practicing assigned content remained consistent, Ms. Bell believes this increase is additional practice time rather than students practicing what they want instead of what they were assigned. 

Special thanks to our supporters at FastSigns of Fort Worth-Alliance for sponsoring this grant.