Dr. D. Gause Reviews Collabra6 min read
Collabra is the LBD (Little Black Dress) of the music teaching studio. It is one of the most versatile learning and teaching tools for private studios that I have ever had the pleasure of using, and I have been both an advocate and active user of technology and music education for many decades.
At first glance, this amazingly approachable program/app looks deceivingly like a mere measure of accountability for student practice. But even in PRACTICE mode, there are so many potential benefits.
But I’m getting ahead of myself with my enthusiasm.
The center of Collabra’s home page breaks into six primary functionalities:
- Student Management
These functionalities are flanked on the left by a list of students, and on the right by a list of activities taking place in your studio’s Collabra.
The student list on the left can be sub-grouped as it best suits your studio organization, a brilliant tool.
The constantly updated list of activities on the right of the home screen gives you a quick “heads up” as to who is doing what.
The center section, however, is the rocket fuel. Indeed, this is the program we’ve all been waiting for – we just didn’t know it! Collabra is as diverse and as powerful as our imaginations will allow. There is no real “thinking outside of the box” as program designer Nosko and her team have not encumbered us with boxes – only potential!
Student accountability for time practiced is a no-brainer, and students can no longer fudge on their practice time. It is there or it isn’t. Additionally, the age-old student adage of “I could play it better at home” now has a microscope attached to it, allowing the teacher to dissect what was played correctly vs what the student perceived she or he was playing correctly at home. We can replay segments of the practice to demonstrate these two worlds, and assist the practicer on the journey to mesh the two worlds into one: to spend time correctly practicing.
As a teacher, I now have access to each student’s daily practice, and can start assessing HOW each student practices, and begin the journey of “Practice smarter, not harder” with each student. Most public school instrumental systems send the kids out with “Practice your music” ringing in their ears….with no real process, and certainly very little individually crafted methodologies.
By sonically observing my students’ weekly and daily work, I am able to dissolve bad habits and encourage the planting and nurturing of new and efficient ways to spend practice time. It isn’t what we do – it is how and why we do it.
Each student comes to us with personal baggage – abilities and weaknesses, bad and good experiences, and a diverse range of personal predilections. Collabra gives the teacher the opportunity to get under the student’s practice-skin, and begin harnessing all the youthful energy to create positive practice results. It is the proving ground for “Don’t practice till you get it right; practice till you cannot get it wrong.”
I have also used Collabra to coach remedial collegiate ear training. I am able to upload a pdf of the worksheet I want the student to complete (note to self – need to upload pdf BEFORE recording audio track) and then record the audio track of intervals, triads, seventh chords for dictation…..or rhythmic, melodic, two part, four part dictation… .
The beauty of using Collabra for the ear training work is that I only need to upload each assignment (pdf and audio file) ONCE. After uploading the combination, it is stored in the Lesson Library, and can be reassigned, repurposed, recycled to any other student at any time…just with a few mouse clicks.
No sense in dragging folders of finger exercises, or gaggles of long tone exercises. Store them ONCE in your Lesson Library and assign as needed.
Collabra is also an excellent assessment tool at the collegiate level. A student’s practice progress can be tracked, recitals archived, and the forthcoming documentation can serve as a solid portfolio for regional or for organizational assessment.
Collabra can be used for chamber ensemble practice, as each student can record his or her part, and then pass that recording around. The students are able to organize and run their own eRehearsals (perhaps with a suggested list of rules of engagement provided by the teacher…), and listen to their work BEFORE the rehearsal with the teacher. The level of preparedness in the live ensemble rehearsals has skyrocketed since the implementation of this level of student autonomy via Collabra.
The improvement in the level of individual preparedness for private lessons is amazing as well. When Collabra is a part of the studio culture, the bar rises…and expectations are met. It is one thing for us as teachers to be excited about this technology, it is another thing entirely to watch the students as, during their lesson, I play back their most current practice…and then the recording of their first practice session. Their bright eyes shine as they realize they are playing noticeably better. They get excited and want to practice more as they understand and observe that it is their practicing that is making the big change!
As for its technological side – the tech support is OUTSTANDING, and the program is extremely intuitive. For Apple users: in order to function on a mobile device, you have to use Collabra’s free app. In order to function on a laptop or desktop, you have to use Chrome. For a student to initially create an account, that action must be initiated on a laptop or desktop using Chrome. For Anroid users, age of your device will determine platform preferences. Please check with Collabra’s amazing tech support to determine best practice for your device.