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Spotlight on: Laura Natalie, RHS Music Teacher

Rhinebeck High School Music teacher Laura Natalie was born and raised in Poughkeepsie and graduated from Roy C. Ketcham High School. From there, she earned two degrees in music education: a Bachelors at the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam and a Masters at Ithaca College. After teaching in Putnam County for six years, I applied and was hired for the high school band position at Rhinebeck.

Laura Natalie

When did you first get interested in music, what sparked your interest, and what kinds of things did you do in pursuit of your interest?
From a very early age I loved to sing. My parents took note of that and signed me up for piano classes when I was four. I can remember thinking that I wanted to be just like my piano teacher, and teach other kids music when I grew up. I started the flute in elementary school, and was always involved in as many musical activities as possible under the guidance of some excellent teachers.

How has technology played a role in your career as a musician and as a teacher?
Music technology has come incredibly far in recent years. We have the ability to easily create sheet music with programs like Sibelius and Finale, original compositions with programs like Garageband, and to record the music we make on devices as commonplace as our smart phones. Music technology helps me encourage students to express their creativity in different ways.

Have you found any good ways to use technology as a means to teach music? What do you see as the advantages and drawbacks?
We are currently using our guitars, which were upgraded to iGuitars through a grant funded by the Rhinebeck Science Foundation, to compose original compositions on Garageband. In band and lessons, students often use their phones to access metronomes and tuners to help them in their practice. I have also found that certain apps, such as the inTune app, help student with specific skills. The inTune app trains students to hear minor differences in pitch, which will help them tune their instruments more accurately and quickly, and to make intonation adjustments while playing. As the pit orchestra prepares for the spring musical, we are using a program called RehearScore which allows students to play or sing along with the accompaniment without having the entire pit orchestra present. It is a great rehearsal tool.

What hopes or goals do you have for the use of technology to teach music education in the future?
I’m sure that music technology will continue to grow in ways that we can’t yet fathom. Perhaps one of our tech-savvy students will create an app that will help future music students!

How can the school community help support the band in general and the band’s use of technology in particular?
One program that we would like to use more extensively in the future is Smartmusic. Smartmusic can be used in the classroom, acting as an accompanist for groups of students, but if all students had access to Smartmusic at home, they would be able to use it to help them practice, complete assignments, and submit playing examples. We would also love to expand our iGuitar collection to include iMandolins, iBasses, and iUkeleles. The iGuitar and other “i” string instruments wonderful tools that allow students to directly record and manipulate their musical ideas.

Are you pursuing any projects now? Any that might use technology?
Students in the Music in Our Lives class are currently using the iGuitars to create original compositions in Garageband. They are using the iGuitar to record directly into the iPads in the library, and using Garageband to manipulate the music and compose additional tracks.

What do you do when you aren’t teaching?
I enjoy outdoor activities with my friends and family. We often have gatherings that include a great deal of casual music making. I enjoy traveling; my husband and I recently visited friends in Italy and also took a short trip to Paris, and we can’t wait to go back!

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