Behind the music

Kids at Franklin School learn their instruments via new technique

At the Franklin School in North Bergen, music and chorus teacher Dr. Armine Irving and band teacher Vanessa Carr have begun using a program that is widely offered in Massachusetts called SmartMusic. Kids practice their instruments along with a computer program that tells them when they hit the right and wrong notes.
Many parents have paid for the program to help their children hone their musical talents.

Vocal mentor

Dr. Irving attended a Massachusetts Music Education Conference on March 1 through 3, 2012 in Boston where she was introduced to SmartMusic. She attends this conference yearly because she is a graduate of Boston University.
“I was amazed by the program,” said Irving.
SmartMusic allows teachers to create assignments online. Students practice along with their computer. The program displays the incorrect notes played or sung in red, while the correct ones are displayed in green.
The program assesses their work, and teachers track the progress made.
“I think it’s extremely beneficial to the little musicians in North Bergen,” said Irving.

“It’s extremely beneficial to the little musicians in North Bergen.” – Dr. Armine Irving
The parents of the chorus members were invited via email to learn about SmartMusic and see if they wanted their child to utilize it. Sixty-five students from the chorus purchased the software. The program costs each student $36 for the software and $24 for a microphone.
Some students in the band paid for the program as well.
“I think it’s a great program,” said 11-year-old student Cathryn Pace.
The chorus only practices once a week at school, so kids can get in more practice with SmartMusic at home.
“It encourages students to practice,” said Irving. “I’d like to see our students musicianship grow.”
One of Dr. Irving’s supporters is Principal Peter Clark.
“Children do better academically if they are interested and like what they’re doing,” said Clark. “The way she [Dr. Irving] approaches it, they want to do well, they want to learn, and that’s why this program is so important.”
Clark says that not only are the students excited about using SmartMusic, but so are their parents.
“It looks like an excellent move for both the band and chorus,” said Linda Koetter, the parent of Gianna Corbiscello.
“It would be nice if other schools adopt this,” said Irving.
Irving urged anyone who needs help with SmartMusic questions to contact her at Franklin School at (201) 974-7007.
Irving thanked Krista Welz from the North Bergen Public Library for teaching her to upload MP3 songs onto SmartMusic.

More technology

In addition, 22 Kindle Fire tablets have been ordered for Dr. Irving’s general music class. The money for the tablets was roughly $3,000 and came from The Board of Education.
“I am…bringing technology to my music program,” said Irving. “It’s not mandatory, but I want to make my music program better. It becomes interactive and takes the lecture away.”

Vanessa Cruz can be reached at

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