Some Things Every Music Teacher Shouldn’t Live Without

Five Things that Will Make a Music Teacher’s Life Less Complicated

By Audrey Carballo

Some folks say you can’t live without love. Others say friends is what makes life worthwhile. Many believe that faith shows its mighty powers throughout our everyday lives. But, I’m here to tell you without these essentials, a music teacher’s life is DOOMED! DOOMED, I SAY!

classroom technology
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Yes, that was a bit melodramatic, but without these little helpers, our lives would be far more complicated!

  1. Dropbox. My first ‘can’t live without’ is Dropbox. Actually, any cloud-based service will do. Microsoft has OneDrive; Amazon has its own cloud service. Your cell provider will usually offer its own cloud services as well. Most are free but if you want more storage than what they offer (usually 5-10GB), you can pony up and spend a few bucks for more.

    cloud based storage
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    I have a terabyte. I will never run out of storage. You can upload songs, music, photos—any documents, music, or other files you want to save or preserve. I cannot tell you how many times it has paid for itself over and over again when I’ve had to go back and recreate forms, look for documents and send letters home to parents, administrators, etc. It’s all there for me.

    E-print is fairly new, and most pieces still aren’t available in that format. I have wonderful, amazing pieces of music which are (sadly) out of print-never to be seen again! You have the copies now, but once they fall out of favor or the publisher decides the piece is not marketable anymore, the piece become extinct. Like musical dinosaurs—you will never be able to get your hands on them again. That’s why I’m so fanatical about cloud storage. Whatever cloud storage you use, the best ones allow automatic syncing of information across all of the devices the program is installed on.

  2. Amazon Music/Google Play/Spotify. My next go-to on this list is any one of these music services. Whether you sign up for the free services or you pay for more access by the month, this will be a boon to your program. As an elementary/middle school teacher, I can’t tell you how many times I used one of these services to find a musical example for my students.
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    These are available in both desktop, and tablet/mobile versions. If you are an Amazon Prime member, you have access to literally thousands and thousands of free songs, albums, and playlists of every instrument, voice, and genre. Pair them with a mini Bluetooth wireless speaker and Poof! You’re in business! If you’re a teacher who is on a cart and do not have access to a computer, put one of these song services on your phone and you’re good to go. With Amazon Music, you can port over your music from iTunes and keep everything in one place. It’s all there—right at your fingertips!

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  3. A mini/portable wireless Bluetooth speaker. I have a few of these. They’re cheap—usually less than $10-$15, and this little baby puts out a lot of volume. You can find one of these puppies anywhere. Just sync it to your device and BAM!—you’re gold! If you don’t have or want to pair it to your personal device, use the USB to hook it up to a laptop or desktop where you have your tunes.

  4. TeacherWeb/Edmodo, etc. Invest in a website/webspace for your students. As a techie at heart, I’ve loved the convenience of having a website: Visit my page here.The cost is minimal. TeacherWeb is $35 per year. Edmodo is free. There are many other sites that are either free or of little cost. Most of the paid sites are customizable. Don’t reinvent the wheel each year! Take a little extra time now, and do it once. You can always revise as the year goes on.


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    My middle school Exploratory Music class vocabulary tests are published with test dates, words, and definitions for each semester the day the child walks into my class. They have absolutely NO EXCUSE not to do well in my class. And if they’re absent, you don’t have to scramble to see what they missed. Point them to the website. I know there are those who will say, “My kids can’t afford a computer.” I know not all students are in the same socioeconomic category. But, I do know there is a computer in almost every classroom and Media Center. I do know there is a public library in every town and city. I do know (from experience) that if a child wants to get the information, they will.

  5. A little slice of heaven . . .

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    Be sure to create your own happy place somewhere in your immediate workspace. Even if it’s just a picture frame of an amazing moment frozen in time that makes you smile each time you see it, or a coffee mug with a snarky Monday saying, or a calendar of fluffy kittens, carve out a place in your busy day to remind yourself you are doing an amazing job bringing music into the lives of your students!

Read Audrey Carballo’s past articles:

Do You See Wha t I Hear?: Braille Music in the Classroom

Don’t Put Off Tomorrow What You Can Do Today: Developing a Successful Grading System

About the author:

music teacher

This past fall, Audrey Carballo, a 34-year NAfME member, began her 34th year as a music educator for the Miami-Dade County Public Schools system, the fourth largest school system in the country. Her teaching experiences include general music, exploratory music, and chorus to regular and exceptional students in elementary, middle school, high school, and exceptional student settings.

She has been an Assessor for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and currently serves on the National Education Association Member Advisory Board Panel and as the Union Steward and Chairperson of the Educational Excellence School Advisory Board Council at her school. Recently, Audrey was the Children’s Choir Director for the Miami Music Project, which is an El Sistema program spearheaded by the world renowned conductor, James Judd.

One of her most rewarding experiences has been with the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired. In addition to teaching Broadcast Journalism classes, and giving private lessons in voice, composition, theory and piano, her duties included being the Vocal and Advanced Theory instructor for their Better Chance Music Production Program. Audrey was one of the co-authors of an article published in the Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness titled, “A New Synthesis of Sound and Tactile Music Code Instruction: Implementation Issues of a Pilot Online Braille Music Curriculum.”

Audrey collaborated with Jin Ho Choi (another instructor at the Lighthouse) for nine months, creating their Braille Music Distance Learning course. Read her past blog post on teaching braille music.

Follow Audrey on Twitter @scarlettfeenix.

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The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) provides a number of forums for the sharing of information and opinion, including blogs and postings on our website, articles and columns in our magazines and journals, and postings to our Amplify member portal. Unless specifically noted, the views expressed in these media do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Association, its officers, or its employees.

Catherina Hurlburt, Communications Manager, March 5, 2016. © National Association for Music Education (