At A Cappella Rehearsal, iPads Have Become Essential Teaching Tool

JHS A Cappella members use their iPads during a rehearsal. Submitted photo

If students in the Jamestown High School A Cappella Choir need to make notations to their sheet music, they can — electronically.

The A Cappella is using iPads to help with rehearsals. According to Director Norm Lydell, beginning in January, the A Cappella Choir started using second-generation iPads that no longer meet today’s classroom requirements but can still load music notation software. “We use second-generation iPads, which are not large and don’t have a lot of memory. The district has been using these iPads in the elementary schools for years. These iPads can no longer run the software required at the elementary level, but will run our software and store our sheet music here at the high school.”

Both A Cappella and Mixed Chorus are using iPads this year. The advantage is that students can annotate their music on the iPad, which means they can use their finger or a stylus to highlight and/or add musical elements as they prepare a piece of music.

“We still maintain a library of hard copies for all of our chorus repertoire, but with iPads we don’t need to sharpen pencils, distribute highlighters, use music folders or recover lost music,” said Norm Lydell, A Cappella director. “The greatest advantage is that students can access their music on their own devices through Google Drive allowing them to practice anywhere.”

Lydell said traditionally choruses purchase sheet music, one copy for each person. “This allows singers to annotate the music in pencil by writing breath marks, highlighting musical dynamics, and many other notes which help them to achieve a better performance. Using iPads eliminates the need for sheet music,” he said.

Once loaded on the iPad, students can write on the music with a stylus or even their finger.

The students read a PDF version of the music on the iPads. “A music software program called forScore reads PDFs and provides many tools for annotating music,” Lydell said. The iPads are charged as needed, and hold their charges for several days.

In a live setting, Lydell added, the students don’t use iPads because “All of our music here at JHS is memorized for performance in front of an audience.”

And if students need to turn a page, Lydell said, it’s a simple tap on the left or right of the screen, depending on whether the singer wants to move ahead or go back.

And for rehearsals, Lydell said, there are several advantages.

¯ There is no noise when students turn pages.

¯ Students move very quickly from song to song.

¯ There are no more pencils to sharpen, or lose.

¯ The distribution of new music is a matter of downloading from Google Drive; no more passing out sheet music.

“Some of our arrangements are very old and crumbly, yet still precious to us. I can scan one good copy and distribute to kids without having to deal with the crumbling paper,” he said.

Lydell added that JHS maintains an extensive music library. “While we scan music to the iPads, it is important to note that we purchase a hard copy of each musical selection and store it in our library.”

The A Cappella is the high school’s premiere vocal ensemble and has performed nationally and internationally, as well as entertaining throughout the local area at its annual Vespers Concert in December. The choir was founded in 1924 by Ebba Goranson and is celebrating its 94th anniversary this year. Along with the A Cappella Choir, Jamestown High School has a Mixed Chorus, Madrigal Singers, Men of Tomorrow and Women of Today vocal ensembles.