borromeo quartet

When Classical Goes Digital

Digital has marked classical performances and we can see that many of the pioneers in the industry are from the classical world. For Jeffrey Kahane, conductor for many major American orchestras, it is “easy”; He has more than 100 scores on his iPad and he knows he has avoided many risks associated with using paper sheet music.

“Here I am trying to recreate the spirit of an 18th-century performance of a Mozart symphony, and I’m using an iPad.’ But why not?”

Actually, Mozart was a pioneer of his time because he didn’t conduct from the podium or use a baton. According to Kahane, he conducted from the keyboard when leading his operas or performing his piano concertos. This practice helped create “more of the atmosphere and style and sound and rhythmic character that is appropriate to the music.” So today, to achieve the same sound and style, Mozart would have used an iPad to conduct.

As much as the graphite pencil in the second half of the 19th century changed how a musician interacted with the musical text, the iPad improves their performance on stage and during rehearsals. The Royal Academy of Music had an exhibition organized by Peter Sheppard-Skaerved, a violinist and a scholar. The exhibit displayed a single page of a Bach violin sonata, and you could see markings all over it: bow strokes, fingerings etc. (see below in the sources). This page shows the importance of both breakthroughs (pencil and iPad) as, according to Mr. Sheppard-Skaerved, Bach hunted for even more information writing over other markings. This hunt still exists today but new tools like the iPad and the stylus help musicians perfect this hunt. Pioneers in the musical world, be it in the 19th century or today, are looking for the “perfection of execution”. We could understand, then, why the classical musicians are the greatest advocates of technology; they need this perfection to be as close as possible to their classical music masters.

Let’s look at the major positive changes technology has brought to classical musicians…

1) Classical musicians are closer to historical sources.

That is why, Wu Han, one of the artistic directors of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center says « Now everyone is a detective »; everyone looks for clues of the composer’s intentions. No need to wait for months to go to the library, the Beethoven-Haus in Bonn, Germany, for instance, has digitalized all of its library. Wu Han, an early-adopter of the iPad, carries around her entire library in her tablet and Nicolas Kitchen, founder of the Borromeo String quartet, adds that some details never made into print like crossed out or amended passages, so he prefers reading digitalized manuscripts from his iPad. It is a fact, thanks to advanced technology, that musicians are reading more and more from digital manuscripts. Another example: Matt Haimovitz, cello player reads from his iPad Schubert’s “Arpeggione” Sonata and also Anna Magdalena Bach’s manuscript copy of the suites for solo cello by her husband.

2) The technology is “changing the culture a little bit”

According to Dan Visconti, member of the Fifth House Ensemble, people no longer have to be that careful with the text. Also, the professional music editors’ role will change, more revised editions will probably be released.

3) Perfection is possible

According to most recent scholarship, you can update the score. Composer‘s creative process is updated every time there are new discoveries, so there are many different final versions today.

4) Education: democratization of music knowledge

There are master classes from world class professional soloists and artists online, new techniques to teach music and improved interactive music lessons.

For example, the University of Arizona has a Digital Conducting Lab in which they invented black lycra sleeves containing electrodes to teach the new leaders of the orchestra. This technique improves the excellence in sound as the latter depends on a graceful dance of the hands while leading. Also, students at the Manhattan School of Music perfect their art via the Internet. In other classes, music is performed collaboratively so that students can help one another. Now, self-teaching and experimentation from amateurs and professionals are much more accessible than before.

For all these benefits present mainly in the classical world, this world has been an early-adopter of technology and is still today.





Going Digital: The Pioneers Who Paved The Way

The music world is making its way into the digital revolution. In fact, you can do almost anything from an iPad; composing, producing, performing from digital sheet music, or even playing an instrument from this device.

Some pioneers have taken full advantage of the iPad or other technologies and what they provide, check out some major ones below:


Joshua Bell and Sam Haywood

haywood and bell & iPad

Let’s talk a little about these two famous artists.

Joshua Bell is a world-renowned violinist. He started touring Europe at age 17, but what truly made him famous was his first performance in a Washington D.C. subway station in 2007, an experience initiated by the Washington Post columnist, Gene Weingarten. Joshua Bell has received many prizes and recognition among which his induction into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame in 2005. Before that, he played at the World Economic Forum where he earned recognition as a “Young Global Leader”. He has played many different roles: soloist, chamber musician, recording artist orchestra leader as well as Music Director of the Academy of Saint Martin in the Fields. He strongly believes in the benefits of music education, thus he has devoted himself to different projects such as Education Through Music that increased the number of children playing instruments within major American cities.

Sam Haywood is a famous British pianist. He also has worn different hats like soloist, chamber musician, composer and Artistic Director at the Solent Music Festival. He also works and plays a lot with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. He also was awarded the Isserlis Award by the Royal Philharmonic Society and gives great importance to music with young people, that is why he is an ambassador to the West Lakes Academy and has developed many music projects for children.


These two artists are used to working together and they performed in 2012 at the Kennedy Center. At that time, Bell had not switched to digital but Haywood had. During this performance, he used an iPad to read his music and even Bluetooth pedals to turn pages. No page turners were to be seen on stage, Haywood was delighted since he has “had page turners who’ve forgotten their glasses or fallen off the stage.”

Bell, however, stuck to his paper sheet music because he thought the iPad screen was too small to perform with. Though, He still uses his iPad to compose or “when he is in a pinch in some remote corner of the world”.

On his side, Haywood continues to believe that “The iPad removes so much of the risk”, and he “can even practice in the dark”!

When they see Haywood performing, the audience is intrigued, more young people are interested and the musician is relieved.


Even before this duo started, some famous conductor also played his part in this digital revolution and used his iPad in 2011.


Jeffrey Kahane

jeffrey kahane and iPad

He made his debut as a conductor in 1988 at the Oregon Bach Festival, he has given recitals in major American music centers such as Chicago, New York, Boston, Los Angeles or Atlanta, and has conducted the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonics, the Philadelphia and Cleveland Orchestras and many others. He is now in his last season as Music Director of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra during which he is organizing a three-week festival in January 2017 including among other things a major educational project. He has recorded for great labels such as SONY, EMI, and others. Starting from Fall 2016, he will also be a professor of Keyboard Studies at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music.

To make a long story short, he is a big shot in the classical world of music and guess what, in 2011, he conducted the New York Philharmonic from his iPad. “It’s been just a life-changing thing for me in many ways”, he said in an interview for the New York Times.


The Borromeo String Quartet

borromeo quartet

This string Quartet is in-residence at the New England Conservatory. It was formed in the 1980’s at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Nicolas Kitchen, a famous violinist founded it. He initiated the use of MacBooks to perform sheet music because he wanted his colleagues to see all four lines of the scores. He prefers laptops for their larger screens but still carefully keeps his iPad in his bag should he ever need it. For him, the easy access to original manuscripts enables him to “have probably 40 Beethoven manuscripts on [his] computer ” of which they are reading as they play. “That’s been stimulating in a way I could never have anticipated.”


Hugh Sung

Hugh Sung & iPad

He is a professional pianist and has performed and recorded with many famous violinists and composers such as Aaron Rosand or Robert Maggio. He has also worked with the Philadelphia and Baltimore Symphony Orchestras. He is part of ArtistWorks, the online music and art school that teaches through videos, enabling him to teach piano to students anywhere in the world. He also wrote a book called From Paper to Pixels, which helps musicians transitioning from paper to digital sheet music using sheet music reader apps and pedals. To ease this transition, he co-founded in 2008 AirTurn, a company making wireless page-turning pedals and other innovative tools to ease musicians’ lives. Sam Haywood actually uses an AirTurn page-turning pedal during his performances.

“I’d been thinking about a hands-free page-turning device since I first saw a tablet computer in 2001,” said Sung. “It wasn’t until the iPad hit the market that digital scores really caught on.” Using his pedals makes for a silent and easy page turning that only rests on a tap of a foot on a Bluetooth pedal. Since 2010, he has sold thousands to iPad users. He estimates that “the market for musicians using iPads is in the area of 2 million”.


As you can see, many musicians have already embraced the digital revolution because they understand all the benefits that come from this transition.

Using an iPad can be very practical for musicians, some could even imagine further technological advances in this field, for instance, glasses that would display screens across which digital sheet music would scroll.






What Will Happen To Music Scores?

May The Digital Era Arise!


Let’s immerse into the future, in a world where paper sheet music does not exist anymore…

 Sheet music along with publishers went digital and musicians now play their instrument in front of a screen that displays their music scores (at least… that is the most likely outcome of today’s digital revolution).

 We must take a closer look at the impacts of digitalized sheet music on musicians and music publishers.


I. The Musician & Co.

The musician (conductor included) is standing on stage. In front of him sits his tablet displaying his digital scores; they are lighter and easier to handle than paper scores and still keeps the same format he had before on his paper sheets. He is thinking: “gone are the days when I had to carry around heavy paper scores for a tour, when scores were forgotten or lost, or, even, when it took me hours to transpose a score”. Moreover, no more pencils or erasers are needed. In fact, the concertmaster inscribes bow stamps or other annotations and they are directly transmitted to every musician’s screen in the orchestra. Thus, the librarian’s role has been redefined. He still takes care of an orchestra’s library but it takes him much less time to get ready for a tour, rehearsal or representation and he works with the agent linking the publisher to the orchestra.

All of them, the librarian, the musician, and the concertmaster, save time, money, and the last two avoid losing concentration.


Oh…and also no more page turn issues in the future. Either the maestro turns pages for everyone at the exact measure, or every musician has their own page turning Bluetooth pedal for more comfort. It is quicker, more precise and a noise free movement within the silent concert hall. The digital reader can also recognize the music starting and launch itself, which enables an automatic page turn.

The concert can now start; the musicians can concentrate solely on their music and leave the distracting details behind.


II. The Publisher

The publisher is also quite satisfied. He does not have to print a thousand times every score he wants to publish anymore, he does not need to think about paper or unsold stocks. He does not have to worry about losing scores, or organizing his distribution to ship sheet music all over the world. Everything is on the internet, already ‘distributed’ to every household, sheet music has now gone digital and is available to everyone. It does not mean anyone can download scores from anywhere, however. All the publisher’s digital sheet music is locked, people cannot hack into it or print it and give it away to a friend, and no screenshots are possible.

So, to sum up: this new technology lowers manufacturing and logistics costs, eliminates stock and hacking issues and also eliminates the paper-related environmental impact.

At a time when paper score sales are decreasing compared to score sales online, the evolution towards digitalization seems unavoidable. Today, everyone impacted by the digitalization of the music world tries to adapt and develop good habits towards digital sheet music. As difficult as it may be for some, at some point musicians will have to abandon their old but dear paper scores and embrace this technological revolution.

music education conventions

The Major Music Education Conventions

As you may have heard, Newzik was granted the « Best 2016 tool for schools » award at the NAMM Show. Indeed, at Newzik, one of our top priorities is helping music educators and their students. That is why we have put together a list for you of the major music education conventions in which you can participate anywhere in the world.

The TMEA Convention and the ISTE Conference- TEXAS

The Texas Music Educators Association (TMEA) organizes an annual convention in February. « The TMEA Clinic/Convention is an incredibly affordable opportunity for professional development, inspiration, and motivation ». It is a key convention for Music Education because Texas is fully committed to this sector. Along the same lines exists the Florida Music Educators Association’s Convention.

The International Society for Technology in Education organizes an annual conference in June also happening in Texas. It is very famous and a reference in education since it is ”The premier education technology conference”.


The London Music & Drama education exposition- EUROPE

As for the London Music Education Exposition, it is a rising star in the sector and it is held every February. The “Music Education Expo is the UK’s largest conference and exhibition for anyone involved in music education”. In 2016, it attracted visitors from more than 40 different countries mostly from the music and drama education sector. Educational institutions, exam boards, music tech companies, suppliers and music publishers are all welcome to exhibit, speak or just attend. Why London? The city is a center for music education as it hosts many music venues, has many educational institutions and many music teachers. Furthermore, according to Alfred Jahn, Head of Marketing at Rhinegold Media &Events, “Music education has always played a focal role across Europe and especially the United Kingdom the Music & Drama Education Expo represents this”. In 2017, this exposition is expected to be the largest to date with more than 2,500 visitors and 150+ exhibitors.


ISME- International Music Education

Check out the ISME (International Society for Music Education) World Conference. It is held every two years in July and gathers speakers, researchers, educators, and artists from across the world. It has been held in Brasil, Greece, it has an African version and also an Asian version. According to Sheila Woodward, the 2016 ISME President, the ISME wants “to promote access to quality music education for all”. This conference gives the opportunity to share music and ideas, to expand your network and think about the future of music education.

Why choose the Music & Drama education exposition over the ISME?

The first one extends over two days instead of six, which enables the best networking conditions. The location of the Exposition helps attract a truly international audience that comes from the entire music and


There are many other music education conventions but we only chose a few for you, the ones you shouldn’t miss. Whatever the conference, they all discuss the future of music education as we enter a new digital era. Education in every other subject has been turned upside down because of the digital revolution, so why not music education?


The MusicXML Format

Considering that one of Newzik’s many goals is to be the best MusicXML reader among the sheet music reader market, let’s take a closer look at this very promising file format. Here are many reasons why it completely outperforms any other file format when it comes to reading sheet music.

A brief history

This format was invented by Michael Good at Recordare in 2004 and was developed since by a community of musicians and software developers. Its first purpose was to become a reference exchange format for sheet music files to be read and edited from a software to another, such as Sibelius and Finale. As you probably know, each notation software uses its own native format to maximize the user retention. Sibelius uses the .sib extension while Finale uses the .mus extension and each software is specialized in his own file format only. The MusicXML was created to be the first “All-compatible” format for digital sheet music in order for the musician to send his composition written with Sibelius to his friend who uses Finale.

Why is it great?

MusicXML is an exchange format that includes interesting features. It can be edited and loaded with metadata, and it is readable. In opposition to the PDF format, which is only a final version of a document, the MusicXML format is not a final form of a sheet music.

Let’s assume you are rehearsing with your band/orchestra and you simply realize it would be better to play this piece in Bb instead of C. If you are a paper-based sheet music or a PDF sheet music user, you will have to find another sheet music for that piece in Bb instead of C (well…if it exists). What if you had written this piece yourself? Then you will never find a sheet music in Bb unless you write it yourself. So next thing to do: rewrite the whole piece. It could take hours, not to mention you are taking the risk of making mistakes. Now, assume that you are a MusicXML user and in the same situation: you wrote your piece with a notation software and exported your MusicXML sheet music in C. You simply use the transposition feature, each note and chord will automatically be changed to the one corresponding to the Bb scale. It takes you less than ten seconds to make this change, and you make no mistakes.

As a consequence, sheet music reader applications do understand the potential of using MusicXML sheet music instead of PDF. This is why, today, MusicXML is transitioning from an ‘’exchange format’’ to a global ‘’sheet music reader format’’. PDF is an image with no musical knowledge whereas MusicXML is an editable interactive optimized file that can be opened with a text editor, and even read by humans in its source code form.

What else could we hope for?

The MusicXML format is in a continuous development process. That is why you will see a peculiar craze for innovations concerning this format. But it is important to clearly differentiate inner innovation from outer innovation. MusicXML is a format based on a code that makes it editable. This is a specification of the product itself it is an inner innovation. Later on, developers were able to create platforms to display it, read it and edit it. This is an outer innovation, it does not come from the product itself but its inner technology is what made it possible in the first place. These are called incremental innovations.

This being said it is more than likely to witness a higher level of incremental innovations regarding MusicXML than of inner ones. Several reasons explain that the main one is that incremental innovations such as file synchronization or transposition are developed by companies competing against each other while the W3C Convention, in charge of the MusicXML format’s development, is a non-profit organization with different incentives. Over time the MusicXML format will present many disruptive features that nowadays are still among our ‘’Technological Challenges’’. Keeping this in mind, why not think about combining manual file synchronization with polyphonic sound recognition technologies so as to get a MusicXML file that automatically synchronizes itself with an audio or video file? It would also be possible to have a MusicXML file that writes itself automatically, as you are playing the piece, no matter the number of musicians playing simultaneously.


The MusicXML format is the disruptive invention that will bring life to dozens of innovations. Not only does it create a link between notation software and sheet music reader applications, by allowing people to import their own content, but it is also the basis for new products to appear such as MusicXML reader software like Newzik.


What next?

Want to try it out in real-time? Download Newzik for free and open the MusicXML gift titles. You will be able to transpose them, select the tracks you want to display, reorganize your bars, and even synchronize it with an audio or video file.

Teacher teaching music lesson to children

How important is music education?

Music makes you feel good; it’s as simple as that. In fact, there is even data to back this up. In a 2013 issue of Science, Valorie Salimpoor, a neuroscientist at McGill University in Montreal, reported along with several colleagues, that music triggers activity in the same brain structure that releases the “pleasure chemical” dopamine during eating. Now, you understand why we all crave music the same way we crave food. Not only does music provide pleasure but it also provides many benefits to your mind, intelligence, and behavior.

That is why, many promote music education in schools, and Newzik agrees! Music education helps you develop new skills and many studies have proven that over the past years.

If you want to understand ALL the benefits of music education, read this article.


Let’s draw the long list of the positive impacts of music education…

1. Music education develops critical and creative skills, analytical thinking and spatial intelligence. A musician has more imagination and intellectual curiosity, solves problems faster and can conceive more easily abstract objects as he is used to all that in his daily musical life. He has the tools to grasp advanced mathematics.

2. Test scores are improved with music education. Some studies have proven this, for instance, E. Glenn Schellenberg’s study at the University of Toronto at Mississauga was published in 2004. It found a small increase in the IQs of six-year-olds who were given weekly voice and piano lessons.

3. Music education helps you memorize better and have better auditory attention.

4. It teaches perfection to students, the music-educated people do not like to give in low-quality work as they don’t like playing their instruments badly.

5. Music education improves your hand-eye coordination and your teamwork skills just like sports do.

6. Music education is challenging but once you’ve succeeded it is very rewarding especially since it teaches you to take risks to achieve your goals.

7. Music increases children’s interest in school and provides a source of relaxation.

8. Music education contributes to intellectual development and discipline, similar to ballet dancers.

9. Check out the scheme below for other valuable benefits

other music education benefits Finally, music education helps you make the most of your brain’s faculties by utilizing the most advanced areas of your brain. Dr. Eric Rasmussen, chair of the Early Childhood Music Department at Peabody Preparatory of The Johns Hopkins University, teaches a specialized music curriculum for children aged two months to nine years. He says “There’s some good neuroscience research which shows that children involved in music have larger growth of neural activity than people not in music training.When you’re a musician and you’re playing an instrument, you have to be using more of your brain”.

Anyone can understand, then, how music education provides so many benefits; it can make you smarter, faster, nicer, wiser…


Despite all you gain from music education, its budget is cut in many countries and institutions. That is why many programs are developed to promote music education. I will only focus on three main projects and institutions:

The Berklee Pulse

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The mission of the Berklee PULSE Music Method is to support guided teaching and learning of popular music through the innovative use of interactive online technologies”. This program aims especially to reach underserved 4th to 12th graders across the United States, it is offered to students and teachers as part of the Berklee City Music Network and Amp Up NYC initiative.


The Namm Foundation

12_NAMMFoundation_2965« The NAMM Foundation advances active participation in  music making across the lifespan by supporting scientific  research, philanthropic giving and public service programs  ». The Foundation advocates for music education  including through its SupportMusic Coalition. The latter is a program which provides tools and resources to communities so that they progress in music education. Organizations,schools, and businesses have united to make sure music education is supported and accessible to children everywhere. It is also a partnership with the NAfMe (National Association for Music Education).


The NAfME 

nafme_logoThe NAfME advocates at the federal, state, and local levels to  educate elected officials and other key decision-makers about  the impact and importance of music education programs.
For example, the NAfME sponsors the Music in Our Schools Month program. It aims to highlight the many benefits of quality music education programs for children in America’s schools.


Many other resources are available trough the Music for all Foundation, for example, you can also learn more about José Abreu’s El Sistema Orchestra.


Confucius once said, « Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without ». Today, people are increasingly realizing that and actions to promote music education are flourishing in every community especially as music education enters the digital revolution.



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