SIRI, A.I., and My Impending Obsolescence! 



Whether you're a techie or not, you can’t help but be amazed by the wave of innovation that is transforming our lives. Artificial intelligence, advanced analytics, and the inter-webs (that's a super technical term) are changing the way we think and live. 

Computers, with no help from humans, can now schedule appointments, order groceries, make movie recommendations, monitor your home and unlock your front door. If you get hurt and no one is home to help, a computer driven car can now take you to the hospital where a machine will operate on you! 

Our classrooms and music education are not immune from this technological metamorphosis. As we speak in America's rehearsal rooms computers now taking attendance, tuning our instruments, charting our drill, managing our inventory, fixing wrong notes, and even grading our students. Yes, computers, and their 1’s and 0’s, can do all of this and more instantaneously, automatically, and BETTER than you and I! Don’t believe me?

  • Which charts drill better and faster, you or the computer?
  • Which has a better ear, you or your tuner?
  • Which keeps better time, you or Dr. Beat (well, he is a doctor)?
  • Which does a better job of managing your music library, you or a computer?
  • Which grades with more accuracy, you or a computer?

To add insult to injury, students are now doing online lessons, electronic masterclasses/courses, and are participating in ensembles via the world wide web. Put Dr. Beat on the podium and I am convinced that I am becoming more and more useless with each and every day. Something my kids are all too quick to attest to. 

Seriously? What possible value can a teacher add to the mix? What can a human do faster or better than a computer?

  • Teachers can elicit a smile and scowl. 
  • Teachers know when to push and when to back off. 
  • Teachers know whether a student needs a kick in the back side or a high five. 
  • Teachers can convey disappointment or pride. 
  • Teachers have intuition and insight. 
  • Teachers can hug and high five.
  • Teachers listen with empathy. 
  • Teachers can inspire. 

Teachers can teach. 

Yes, I will HAPPILY and confidently let a computer drive me to work, make my coffee, take my attendance, and record grades in my grade book. And yes, I will gladly ask SIRI what the weather is for my next rehearsal, to remind me to requisition a bus for our next competition, and what the best route is to get there. I will let her/it do all of this and more… 

So I can teach. 

Yes, we are experiencing a revolution. Yes, computers are replacing humans in ways we never imagined. But through it all, I will smile, because I know something I can do better than SIRI.

Have a great week and remember to pick up a couple of bags of deeply discounted candy today. Nothing does more harm AND good than free candy!

p.s. So a friend sent me an email asking for my favorite holiday tune and I thought I would share my response below:

Hey Brandon: My favorite holiday composition is “The First Noel” arranged by Jeff Simmons. It combines the First Noel with Pachebel’s Canon in a way that is as accessible as it is moving. It is a great piece for any ensemble and features soloists and sections in a meaningful way.

For my personal little twist, at measure 65 (2:15 in the recording), I would place my best trumpet player in the back of the concert hall and have him play those eight measures antiphonally. I get chills just thinking about it.

After a holiday concert one evening, my principal came to me with tears in her eyes and said, “That was the most beautiful thing I have ever heard.” From then on it became our little holiday tradition.