Music education

App of the Week: Sleep Cycle

From the moment I walk into school, chaos surrounds me. Tasks begin, busses arrive, students transition the halls, and classroom lessons never stop. It is important to take frequent steps back to monitor my physical and mental health as it relates to my stress and energy levels throughout the week.

In an ongoing effort to stay healthy, I have continued to explore health apps on the App Store that will help me collect data on my body. I one day plan to blog about this in detail. But for now, here is an app that I have used on and off for a while, but have recently been experimenting with again.

Sleep Cycle is an alarm clock app that is based on the following premise: that you will wake up the most refreshed if it is during your least deep sleep. Sleep Cycle allows you to set a time you need to be up by, and a wake up window. Using the microphone of the phone, Sleep Cycle uses advanced technology to listen to your movements during your sleep and wake you up within that window of time when you are in the least deep sleep. Sleep Cycle then records your movement (much like a Fitbit but without wearing anything) and presents it to you on a graph.

Sleep Cycle has many features. Amongst my favorites are: 

- Soothing alarm sounds

- Inegration with Philips Hue light bulbs. I can link it to the lightbulb in my bedside lamp so that it slowly turns on with a red tone as my alarm goes off. This way, my wife is not disturbed but I am gently woken up. 

- Integration with Apple’s Health app. Sleep Cycle records my hours in bed and hours asleep to the Health app so that I can see how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together. How do activity and water intake influence my sleep? How does my sleep influence my weight? Etc... 



Robert Sheldon conducts the Regional Repertory Wind Ensemble

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of working with Robert Sheldon as he conducted the Regional Repertory Wind Ensemble. The RRWE is a Maryland based honor band that I have assisted for the past seven years. Early each summer, the organization finds a composer/clinicain/educator to come in and direct the audition based group on a concert of their own compositions. Many conductors have worked with the group over the years, all of whom are master composers, educators, AND conductors. Sam Hazo, Frank Ticheli, Richard Saucedo, and Brian Balmages have all worked with the group.  


Working with Robert Sheldon is a real treat. His music finds a way of strongly connecting to the students. It is just so fun to play! I can hear and see how naturally they gravitate towards it in performance. One of the things I really admire about Sheldon is that he is a real instructor. His years of teaching experience have crafted him into someone who is really able to rehearse an ensemble, assess where the problems are, and immediately give just the right feedback to get the musical result he wants. And he gets these results without ever once raising his voice, putting a student on the spot, or diminishing their efforts. In every interaction he was complimentary, patient, and spoke deliberately. When he needed   students to step up, he would always find a way to make them feel great as a member of the ensemble before first offering a suggestion.  His manner of offering suggestions was much like  dangling a carrot just far enough in front of them that they would want to sit up a little straighter, put their instrument in playing position sooner, reach for the peak of the phrase, etc.

I witnessed expert music teaching this weekend. And for that I thank Mr. Sheldon for his involvement with the ensemble. 

Chris Russell's early thoughts on the iPad Pro

If you ask me, Chris Russell's Technology in Music Education blog is one of the places on the web to read about music technology in education. Chris is a big time proponent and writer on using iPads in music ed. He is also a great hold out when it comes to resisting new tech and pushing his current technology to its near death. As a reckless early adopter I admire him for this.

Chris just updated his iPad to the large 12.9 pro model. This device was updated recently alongside an all new 10.5 inch sized pro model. I hear that the 120Hz refresh rate on the screen of both these new models is out of this world. Needless to say, now that Chris is using an iPad Pro, I am curious to see what he will write about it in the coming months. 

His early thoughts are in keeping with this theme, basically stating that the iPad Pro is a monster piece of hardware desperately waiting for the productivity features of iOS 11 this fall.

A few days with the new 12.9″ iPad Pro | Technology in Music Education:

I have been putting off the purchase of a new iPad for some time–and it was time to upgrade.

That iPad arrived on Tuesday, and I have been using the iPad Pro in my daily life for the past three days.  I have been reading a lot about the iPad Pro models on all of the technology news outlets.  The general consensus is that the iPad Pro is wonderful, but it costs a lot.  This sounds like typical Apple to me.  That said, my 2008 MacBook (which I am still using) was pretty expensive ($1500 if memory serves), but it is still working for me nearly 9 years later. 

I have been integrating the iPad Pro into my life, and for the most part, what I have to say is this: it is a big iPad that does what iPads do.  I am able to do some more split screen activities as the size better allows for it, and it is wonderful for reading music.