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Thomas J. West Music

Live webcam private music lessons, music education articles, compositions, clinician services, reviews

Music Education

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  • A Glimpse Inside The Center For Performi...
    by ★ Owner on March 3, 2011 at 8:31 PM
    3710 Views - 0 Comments

    CPFA logo

    What a pleasant surprise tonight to pay a brief visit to my school's YouTube channel to find a short interview with my boss featured! Mark Allen is the founder and director of the Center for Performing and Fine Arts, a unique on-site offering of the Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School located in West Chester, PA.

    PALCS students in grades K-12 take their coursework from home over the internet. Students in southeast PA commute as far as 2 hours one way twice a week to attend a full day of immersion classes in music, art, drama, and dance beginning in grade 5. CPFA also has a small but growing Remote Access program, which makes CPFA content available to any PALCS student regardless of their location in Pennsylvania.

    If you look very closely around the 12 second mark, you'll see a familiar face (i.e. yours truly).

  • Giant Steps Transcription
    by ★ Owner on January 8, 2010 at 11:59 PM
    3504 Views - 0 Comments

    Here is the transcription of John Coltrane's legendary recording of "Giant Steps". I always tell my students that this tune has a different chord for every note of the melody - now I have this great video to demonstrate exactly that. It also demonstrates the virtuosity and creative genius that was John Coltrane.

  • A Demonstration of the new Vocal Remover...
    by ★ Owner on March 18, 2011 at 9:07 AM
    3133 Views - 0 Comments

    The folks at Sourceforge have been paying attention.

    As anyone who uses Audacity probably knows, there are several YouTube videos that teach you how to use the web's more popular freeware audio recorder/editor to remove vocal tracks from a recording. The new version of Audacity (1.3 Beta) now has this ability onboard as an item under the Effects menu. Simply select all, click on Vocal Remover, and you're done.

    The Vocal Remover feature doesn't perform flawlessly, because it depends on the way the original data was recorded. Vocal remover removes any center-panned sounds (voice or otherwise) from the selected region. Center-panned means that the data for those sounds appears identically on both the left and right channels of the recording. If your vocalist sounds like he's standing on stage left, Vocal Remover will not work. If the vocal is center-panned, but the reverb of the voice is not, you will still get an echo of the voice on the finished track. Also, any instruments that are center-panned will also disappear.

    Vocal Remover is a great tool for voice teachers to take a popular song that students want to work on and giving them a practice track that sounds a lot like the original. It is not flawless, but for educational purposes, it is very useful.

  • Dalton Sherman Keynote Speaker - Dallas...
    by ★ Owner on August 29, 2009 at 8:00 AM
    2873 Views - 0 Comments

    If you teach anything at all to anyone in a public school, you will be inspired by this video.

  • Why An "A" Is Not Enough - A Demonstrati...
    by ★ Owner on March 29, 2011 at 8:59 PM
    2743 Views - 0 Comments

    This video features a high school honors band performing a portion of Frank Ticheli's setting of the American folk song "Shenandoah". First, the conductor has the band play the excerpt as it is written on the page, then he has them play it with 90% of the sounds correct (an "A" as far as report cards and tests are concerned). Finally, they play the excerpt as it is written, but with emotional expressiveness that only a live performing ensemble can deliver. Enjoy.

  • Hybrid Lesson On Chord Inversions Using ...
    by ★ Owner on February 11, 2011 at 9:32 PM
    2683 Views - 0 Comments

    Here is an example of a music theory lesson from my Digital Music Composition class. Students in this class meet on-site with my at my school, but log into the class Moodle page to read the assignment, watch screencast walkthroughs, and complete the project using MixCraft5 - all working at their own pace.


    The project web page contains a written description of root position and chord inversions for the C major chord as well as showing how inversions make for a more fluid chord progression going through the primary chords in the key of C Major (C, F, and G major chords). I use Noteflight to write examples of these chords and embed them directly on to the project web page.


    After the description and samples of the music theory, the students read the assignment requirements and a basic set of directions, then watch several screencasts that I made using another great web 2.0 tool called Jing  - the screencasts walk them through the project as I create a sample song.


    Hybrid learning (using web-based lessons and resources to allow students to work at their own pace) is an effective and versatile way to differentiate instruction between students of varying ability levels, allow students more freedom to be creative and self-directed, and so much more.


    Learning a music theory concept in this manner takes the theory immediately into the realm of application and creates a short piece of authentic music out of it. Students show their understanding of the theory concepts by playing the primary chords into the sequencer while reviewing previously covered material such as the elements of melody writing, using loops, virtual instruments, and effects.

  • Student Project: Virtual Instruments and...
    by ★ Owner on October 26, 2010 at 11:11 AM
    2549 Views - 0 Comments

    As we approach the end of the first marking period, the high school students in my Digital Music Composition class are trying their hands at their first true creative composition assignment using MixCraft5. They had to create their own drum loops using virtual instruments, then select loops to create a song with a two measure intro, A-B-A form, and a two measure outro. The only other requirement was to apply at least one effect to either the entire project (global) or to an individual track. This student's work is a great example of what happens when you give someone with some music performing experience, intelligence, and a sense of musicality a tool like MixCraft. The student told me that the part he had the most trouble with was transitioning from the A section to the B section in a musical way, since loops end ubruptly and are designed to be repeated. I can't wait to get them to the point where they are writing all original material!

  • Optimize Your PC For Use With Mixcraft
    by ★ Owner on February 21, 2011 at 9:40 AM
    2486 Views - 0 Comments

    Upon updating my copy of Mixcraft today to 5.2, the installer opened up a thank-you page on the MixCraft website containing two YouTube videos. The first was a walkthrough with MixCraft's lead developer on the features added in release 5.2. The second is this video, entitled "Optimizing Your PC for Use with MixCraft". It is an excellent 12 minute walkthrough of adjusting settings within MixCraft and also on your PC to adjust system resources for the best playback and recording possible. If you use MixCraft for anything besides playing with loops, I highly recommend watching this video.

  • Mike Huckabee On Art And Music Education...
    by ★ Owner on February 14, 2011 at 1:50 PM
    2462 Views - 0 Comments

    This video, via the good folks at SoundTree, passed through the Music PLN today. Whatever your political leanings may be, and whatever you may thing of Mike Huckabee, his message in this video, as far as I'm concerned, touches on the root of not only the benefits of an education in the performing and fine arts, but the essential need for our young people to be nurtured into more creativity.

    I really like the analogy he makes between students and computers. In his analogy, traditional education methods input raw data (memorized facts) into the student computer and expect the computer to reproduce that data. Without the arts to foster original thinking and creative processing, the students' computer has no operating system. Brilliant.

  • Managing the Information Stream on the M...
    by ★ Owner on July 30, 2010 at 2:46 PM
    2324 Views - 0 Comments

    Managing the information stream on the Music Professional Learning Network website. VIEW THE VIDEO IN FULL SCREEN for best viewing. View part 2 of this walkthrough here:

  • Part 2 - Managing the Information Stream...
    by ★ Owner on July 30, 2010 at 2:47 PM
    2160 Views - 0 Comments

    Part 2 of Managing the Information Stream on the Music Professional Learning Network. Please note: this video is best viewed in fullscreen mode. See part 1 here:

  • An Open Letter to Educators
    by ★ Owner on April 29, 2010 at 6:48 AM
    2140 Views - 0 Comments

    Dan Brown is a former college student who, disgusted with the waste of time of the "cattle call" lecture classes he was sitting through, dropped out of school and pursued his own education online. His message is timely and very necessary. I agree with most of what he has to say, except for two things: 1. Higher Education is not the "end all be all" of informational power, even in the traditional institutional education system. 2. Public Education IS reinventing itself to match the rest of the world - painfully slowly. The question really becomes: will public education change in time? As more and more informational offerings become available through internet sources and civic groups that specialize in one particular kind of information (magnet schools, sport centers, etc.), public education is going to be stripped down to core the core curricula of math and language arts only, without the enriching subjects like the arts and physical sciences. Students will spend part of their week in core classes online and spend the rest delving into focus areas they are passionate about. Share this video with a teacher you know.

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