Music Technology at Work in the Classroom

Mike Lawson • • August 29, 2019

Share This:

At MusicFirst, we’re always excited to hear how our educators are using MusicFirst in their classrooms to enhance student learning, increase assessment efficiency, and build skills in performance proficiency and subject-matter knowledge.

We’re pleased to play a part in the incredible music programs of educators such as Anthony Beatrice, the executive director for the arts at Boston Public Schools, and Dr. Kelli Pence, associate director of bands for Broken Arrow Public Schools. The following shares a few insights on how they have incorporated technology into their music curricula to great effect.

Schools are adopting technology in droves, with 1:1 and BYOD programs becoming increasingly common in classrooms across the country, and Chromebooks accounting for more than 50% of the mobile devices being shipped directly to schools (Singer 2017). The idea of adopting new technology can be daunting, evoking nightmarish images of mountains of prep work, device incompatibility issues, and hours spent creating new content. At MusicFirst, we think that software should maximize instructional time and teaching easier, not harder. When considering new tech tools, Beatrice recommends that educators create a “pro/con list,” including a rubric on how to qualify curriculum materials. During the 2018-2019 school, year, Beatrice began using the Seven Forms of Bias tool, finding it a “game changer” in selecting curricular materials.

Challenges can arise, however, when students have access to different devices. While schools with 1:1 programs typically avoid this issue by providing students with a single type of device, BYOD programs often see students using a wide variety of devices, from laptops to phones. As a cloud-based software provider, the MusicFirst software offerings are available on any internet-enabled device, including smartphones. Dr. Pence leverages this feature in her program; her students not only have access to Chromebooks, but can submit assignments from their phones, and have tablet access in practice rooms.

Other times, educators find technology adoption to be a no-brainer. When Pence’s district began a 1:1 technology initiative, her thoughts immediately rested on how her students would be best served by their newfound Chromebook access. With only 57 minutes to devote to a 60-member ensemble, individualized assessment was a challenge she found could be tackled with MusicFirst. “It became convenient to have students record themselves and submit playing tests,” she states. “While there is no substitute for hearing a student perform live, the recording allows us to hear individual students on a regular basis.”

Both Beatrice and Pence have found their students to be quick to adapt to new technology. Since students in Broken Arrow Public Schools were already accustomed to receiving and submitting assignments online thanks to a conversion to paperless classrooms, the application in band classes was easy. Once adopting MusicFirst and Noteflight at the recommendation of a colleague, Beatrice found that his students began composing not only for their classes, but for their friends.

His students were, in his words “put into creation mode,” affirming his belief that music composition is “the driver for student engagement, keep[ing] students in their ensembles.” He has aspirations to maximize this student initiative by having the students themselves create arrangements for the band.

Not all students come into the classroom with the same skill set, and differentiated instruction can be a challenge, especially in ensembles with upwards of 50 students. At MusicFirst, we strive to create opportunities for music educators to provide students with individualized feedback, a feature which Broken Arrow educators use to guide student learning.

Through playing tests in PracticeFirst and sight-reading assignments in Sight Reading Factory, they’re able to provide individual feedback to each student. Pence finds this method allows them to “meet students where they are and provide supplemental instruction for their specific needs,” with the result that these students “show improved confidence when sight reading.”

MusicFirst was founded with one mission in mind: to offer music teachers and their students easy-to-use, affordable, cloud-based solutions to enable music learning, creation, assessment, sharing, and exploration on any device, anytime, anywhere. If you’ve been inspired by Kelli Pence and Anthony Beatrice’s successes, you can try MusicFirst free for 30 days at

Dr. Kelli Pence currently serves as associate director of band for Broken Arrow Public Schools. She has served as vice-president for the Northeast Oklahoma Band Directors Association and is a sought-after clinician and adjudicator. Anthony Beatrice is the executive director for the arts for Boston Public Schools, leading the strategic direction for arts education services and programmatic development for the district. He also serves as an adjunct professor at the University of Massachusetts where he teaches courses on technology in music education.

The Latest News and Gear in Your Inbox - Sign Up Today!