Especially helpful is computer software that can help an educator manage all the repetitive administrative tasks involved in running a music program. There is a wide range of challenges that music educators face almost daily that can be improved by computer use, including: cataloging a music library, scheduling lessons, keeping track of instruments, managing a music classroom, handling client and customer contacts, writing out assignments, charting drills for marching bands, and even organizing and tracing the whereabouts of band uniforms and instruments.
Music educator software is available to help with each of these tasks. There are both computer-based and web-based applications from which a harried educator can choose, and some of software is built to tackle just about every administrative challenge an educator faces.
For instructors who give private lessons, Music Teacher's Helper (MTH) (musicteachershelper.com) on-line software takes a lot of the frustration out of managing a music instruction studio. The application handles everything from billing and lesson schedules to automatic appointment reminders, tax reports, income and expense reports, earnings reports, and student account summaries. This software
also automates and organizes time-consuming studio tasks such as payment tracking, scheduling, and keeping track of instruments, books, or music lent to students. It can track income and expenses, and MTH even gives you the ability to accept student payments online. If you buy sheet music, a new instrument, or make other purchases for your studio, MTH tracks your spending for potential tax deductions.
The similarly named Music Teacher's Office (musicteachersoffice.com) is a free web-based application for running administrative tasks at music schools and studios. Novice computer users should feel comfortable with Music Teacher's Office (MTO), yet it is powerful enough to fit most teachers' and schools' business needs. By letting MTO handle all the administration steps of your music program, teachers have more time to teach. Capabilities include: scheduling lessons and meetings; creating registration forms customized to your studio's payments and attendance policies; tracking student accounts and invoices; managing a database of parent and student information; keeping attendance logs; administering payroll; assigning and monitoring lessons; tracking student progress; and a lot more.
Pygraphics, Inc., (pyware.com) a company that has produced tools for music educators for nearly 30 years, offers Pyware 3D for band directors. This program has the ability to quickly design marching drills all the way down to important details like recommended stride length and avoiding collisions. 3D offers highly advanced features and includes interactive practice tools for performers. It is used by hundreds of marching bands as well as having been used at Super Bowl half-time shows, Olympics opening and closing ceremonies, major parades, and even Broadway shows. Over 90% of all band performances at college bowl games are designed with this software—so it should be robust enough for your music program. The software prints out charts and displays drill movements in 3D on your computer screen.
Another Pygraphics product, Pyware Interactive Assessment System (iPAS) automatically guides students through assigned exercises for unsupervised practice and then sends a graded result back to the school. Each exercise is presented to the student as part of a prearranged course, saving educators hours of lesson planning time.
Also from Pygraphics is Music Writer Touch (MWT). This software makes music notation fast, easy, and intuitive. Capable of working with touch screen devices, keyboards, mice, or interactive whiteboards, Music Writer Touch facilitates the writing of songs and scores that can be saved as working files or exported as MIDI files. MWT is a great way to quickly prepare and save exercises for your students, a task that occupies a lot of instructors' time.
A downright comprehensive set of tools for music instruction programs, Charms Office Assistant touts itself as the premiere management, communication, assessment, and financial system currently available. With the ability to handle functions as mundane (but useful) as printing garment bag labels with name and contents, and to take roll at marching band practice while on the field, Charms' usability is truly remarkable. Charms also syncs with smart phones and tablets and can be run from a single computer screen, which you can personalize to your needs. It permits creation of an extensive database of necessary information, and has built-in CPA-approved financial applications that can track trips, fundraisers, bank accounts, budgets, and more.
Parents can use Charms to view complete financial statements online. In fact, Charms includes a comprehensive communication system with phone calling, text messaging, interactive calendars, online handouts, and a parent portal—all to pare down the time demands of staying in touch with students and their families and leave more time for the creative aspects of being a music instructor.
Ideal for music instructors who travel to multiple schools or locations, Music Teacher's Secretary (MTS) (tibbs-vision.com/vismus) can organize and help run their businesses, especially if they use notebook or laptop computers. MTS captures all student details, progress reports, attendance, lesson and payment details, and stores them in a database. To make tax time a breeze, MTS can calculate income between any two dates. A press of a button reveals overdue accounts. MTS also creates and prints professional invoices for your clients. Music Teacher's Secretary was designed by music teachers for music teachers to help them spend more time teaching than doing paperwork.
Other software that may interest music instructors includes tutoring programs like Practica Musica (ars-nova.com/aboutpm5), which can help students drill at home between classroom or studio sessions. Practica Musica conveys music theory and contains ear-training drills that will enhance students' understanding and skill, bringing them to the band experience with greater confidence. Students can learn to read music with the application's organized course including an extensive library of musical phrases as well as computer-generated melodies to maintain novelty and interest. Practica Musica even has a web-based component to monitor student progress.
Another web-based resource for music instructors is MS Band Director, where music instructors and band directors can get a free membership offering lots of benefits: (msbanddirector.com). MS Band Director has useful discussion forums, instructive videos, a place to post resumes, blogs, a chat function, and PDFs of forms and charts for music educators.
Computers excel at doing repetitive tasks and sorting data quickly and accurately. Thankfully for music instructors, a lot of the non-creative work of running a music instruction or band program can now be handled with computer software and webbased applications. As a result, teachers have more time to develop valuable and instructive relationships with their students while helping them experience the joy of making music.