Beaver Lake Middle School


IMG 2917What happens when you combine an award-winning educator and experienced concert violinist with an innovative, cloud-based music education platform? You get a recipe for success! It’s exactly this formula that has further propelled an already active orchestral program at Beaver Lake Middle School.

Marianna J. Vail is the director of orchestras at the school, and a former 1st violinist in the Bellevue Philharmonic, among other professional positions. This 33-year teaching veteran has won numerous awards, and her previous high school student groups have performed multiple times at Carnegie Hall.

One of the ways she imparts her love of performance, music education and personal achievement to her students is by enabling them to succeed with a program centered around the MusicFirst Online Classroom.

One way that MusicFirst enhances Vail’s program is through the use of software tools Noteflight and Sightreading Factory––a favorite of hers. Learning sightreading has proved invaluable, as the 8th grade students in her program perform at Disney Performing Arts each year and need to be able to sightread for the Sound Recording Workshop.

“I’m also just starting to use PracticeFirst and Musition,” Vail notes. “Our district recently decided our scope/sequence and district assessments. We have used Musescore to notate our scale assessments and we are putting them in PracticeFirst this year.”

Overall, the students have embraced the MusicFirst tools. “I had a 6th grader last year who wrote his first solo piece for me,” Vail shares. “It was an assignment in ABA form with the theme of zoo animals. He liked composing so much that he started writing a string orchestra piece. Future Richard Meyer or Soon Hee Newbold coming our way!”

As for the ways in which Vail is taking advantage of the overall MusicFirst platform in her classroom, she says, “I love the choice of apps that allow you to create well-rounded lessons for your curriculum. My whole school district is using MusicFirst and each teacher gets their choice of apps. I have always integrated composition in my middle school and high school classes, and Noteflight makes it easy and much more readable than just hand-written notation. Plus, students like the fact that they can use technology for an orchestra class other that just watching YouTube videos.”

In the second trimester of each year, Vail has a chamber music unit that concludes with students having the option to participate in a Solo and Ensemble festival. All of the students work on a solo and are in an ensemble. Students can record their solo using MusicFirst as a task, which offers two advantages. “This saves me time in class and is especially helpful if students have performance anxiety playing it in front of the large group,” Vail explains.

We are thrilled to learn of Vail’s achievements using MusicFirst, and we wish her and her students nothing but success for the future!