This partner project was to design an environmental interactive data visualization experience. Focus on the collection and organization of a complex data-set transformed into an interactive experience through a digital interface.
Our idea was to create an app that could be used as a teaching, skill analysis, and growth guidance tool for intermediate musicians and music educators. One of the main features is a feedback loop between the ensemble director and students’ at-home practice time.
Looking into potential competitors revealed that while there are useful apps for learning and some for helping with music practice, there wasn't really any in the niche we were aiming for.
Our survey was aimed at people who had learned to play an instrument, especially in middle or high school band. We received a total of 74 responses.
"Regular practice is simultaneously the worst part and the most important part of being a musician."
"I played Guitar Hero more than my actual instrument."
"Kids would be more willing if they understood that practicing helps and is not a failure on your part."
My parter and I met with Nick Strobel, an orchestra director at Bellingham High School, to ask him a few questions about his classes, his students, and being a music teacher. His insight was extremely helpful in forming the director's side of Maestro.
How often and for how long do you recommend your students practice at home?
"This is going to be embarrassing—I only asked them for 45 minutes a week. Setting the bar low. Because I know if everyone did that the group would be a lot better, right? But yet, very few do.
Even 15 minutes of good, good practice is valuable, and I try to teach some strategies to utilize their time for busy teens or kids that don’t like practicing."
How do you measure student success in your classes?
"I measure success based on personal growth, rather than a set bar. And every student is successful if they’ve achieved their potential, or they’re moving along their personal growth path, to contribute to the ensemble. That’s successful to me—getting them there is the tricky part."
Can you tell when students aren't practicing based on how they sound?
"Yeah, or how they don’t progress. If they were working on things, it would get better.
The reality is, some things do come into rehearsal. Go ahead and take six weeks on the basic stuff—but find those passages that rise to the top as the most challenging, those are the things that you do for 60 minutes a week, or spend five minutes on this one, five here and five there, and then it just should play itself."
Nick was kind enough to let us actually visit one of his Advanced Orchestra rehearsals to see how students were utilizing class time. We noticed a few pain points where rehearsal could be streamlined:
Didn’t take their instruments home to practice
Trouble staying focused or on topic
Weren’t listening to different parts of the band as a whole
Testing our peers navigating around the app, assigning passages to practice, and using different tools was extrememly helpful.
Directors can see ensemble progress at a glance.
Leave paper scores behind and assign practice time with ease.
At home, students can practice assigned sections with AI-powered feedback for skill refinement.
Metronome, tuner, and backing track tools help students to reach their fullest potential.
Custom exercises based on areas of improvement supplement in-class learning.