SBO Presents the Class of 2018 Best Tools for Schools Award Recipients

Mike Lawson • • March 3, 2018

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The annual SBO Best Tools for Schools awards were presented at the 2018 Winter NAMM.

Show this past January in Anaheim, California. The panel of expert music educator jurists was led by Dr. Mariana Astorga-Almanza, Ed.D, Visual and Performing Arts Coordinator of Lynwood Unified School District in southern California, directing the team that took to the floor secretly reviewing products. The companies and their products were selected during an energetic evaluation process to decide what would be “best in show” to make your job teaching music easier, innovative and fun. On the panel this year were Dr. George Hess, associate professor of music at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory in Singapore, Christopher Blackmon and Sam Kallaos, music educators from Metro Nashville Public Schools, Mark Nicholson, music specialist at San Diego Unified School District, and Daniel A. Almanza, director of instrumental music in Rosemead, California. From their hard work, SBO is delighted to present these class of 2018 Best Tools for Schools Award recipients!


Best Teaching Tool for Elementary Students – Deluxe Classroom Cajon by Nino Percussion

Using the NINO Deluxe Classroom Cajon, eight individual cajons can be placed together into one circular piece for the ultimate drum circle experience. Each cajon has a different color for children to choose their favorite to play on. This version of the Classroom Cajon features 8 separate cajons and a wooden baseplate to hold them tightly in a circular shape. The birch construction and forward-facing sound ports allow the Classroom Cajons to resonate fully. The birch wood baseplate is designed to allow the cajons to resonate freely while holding them together. Each cajon has a 36” diameter and is made of Baltic Birch (Betula).


Most Innovative Teaching Tool – Morph by Sensel

With The Morph, users can swap between using the device as a wireless keyboard, making a melody, or cutting up a video, in one mobile, versatile package. Equipped with 17 synthesizers and 500 presets, as well as a free copy of Arturia Analog Lite, The Morph is a tool that helps users make and edit music all with one device. Keys and macros with a slick jog wheel cut your edit time down and make students’ videos shine. The Morph is also adaptable for audio and photo edits.


Best Teaching Tool for Beginning Students – ToneAlly

ToneAlly is the world’s first percussion teaching tool that focuses on the vertical movement of the drum stick. ToneAlly trains your drum stroke to follow the correct trajectory, something that would normally take many years of practice to develop, making it ideal for all who wish to maximize their learning of stick control. The ToneAlly Design 5, when placed on a drum (or other surface), has a removable strike pad area to allow the tip of the stick to strike the drumhead (or other surface below).


Best Teaching Tool for Classroom Technology – BandLab for Education by BandLab Technologies

BandLab for Education is a cloud-based platform for on Mac, Windows, Linux and Chromebooks. With award-winning music creation features for classrooms that order to empower teachers and their students, BandLab for Education offers everything they need for collaborative and fun learning. The platform is easy-to-use, yet secure and safe for even youngest of learners, and provides all necessary tools to let teachers easily keep track of your class progress and provide feedback on students’ activity. Via BandLab for Education, instructors can send assignments, grade work and give valuable feedback to students.



Best Music Education Book – Practicing with Purpose by David Kish from Hal Leonard/ Meredith Music

Practicing with Purpose from Meredith Music contains 50 easy-to-use techniques scientifically proven and fieldtested to improve musical skills. It includes practice plans for every level with examples from the world’s greatest performers, making it an indispensable resource for immediately increasing musical proficiency.







Best Teaching Tool for Advanced Students – Session Files by ASSR

Session Files gives users personal access to the raw multitrack from a variety of recording sessions produced by Alan Parsons. Also provided are a track sheet with session notes written by Alan himself.

Featured recordings were made in some of the world’s greatest studios including Abbey Road, The Village in Los Angeles and Ocean Way in Nashville.


Best New Peformance Tool – Mallet Station by Pearl

The MalletSTATION Adjustable Range Electronic Mallet Controller is a full sized 3.0 octave adjustable range electronic mallet controller designed for all players in any genre, from the beginning student through the gigging professional.

The adjustable low note range function allows you to set the fundamental diatonic note of the instrument to what you need. The malletSTATION is powered exclusively by Mac, PC, iPad, iPhone, and Android devices through USB Bus Power, allowing performance almost anywhere with minimal set-up and equipment.

MalletSTATION’s tech-forward design features KMI’s Smart Fabric Sensor technology allowing the silicone bar material to have an extremely sensitive, natural response, including mallet dampening and aftertouch control, and all can be easily tailored to your individual playing style.


Best Teaching Tool for Pre-School Students – Blipblox by Playtime Engineering

The Blipblox is a synthesizer and beatbox designed to promote creativity and audio exploration. Its unique physical design is easy-to-use and safe for children as young as three years old. Instead of generic keyboard sounds, the Blipblox uses a proprietary algorithm that synthesizes completely unique waveforms. Other features include

MIDI input for an external keyboard or sequencer controller, eight unique oscillator modulation schemes, one low pass filter, two envelope generators, two LFOs, three-in/three-out modulation matrix, and an audio output jack.

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