SOURCE: FreeHand Systems, Inc.

March 22, 2005 15:10 ET

Indianapolis High School Band Makes History by Performing First Paperless Concert

LOS ALTOS, CA -- (MARKET WIRE) -- March 22, 2005 -- Members of the Ben Davis High School Band could be forgiven if they felt they'd forgotten something for a moment, when they walked on the stage of their school's auditorium for a February 24th concert. The student-musicians were, after all, breaking with over three centuries of tradition by performing without the printed sheet music folios that have been a staple of the concert stage since the time of Bach.

Instead of reading their music from printed sheets during their performance, the band members used a Linux-based notepad device from Freehand Systems called the MusicPad Pro Plus. This was the first time in history that a high school band gave a concert using digital music notation in place of sheet music.

According to band director, John Papandria, other high schools throughout the country will follow Ben Davis' lead and replace their printed folios with this new paperless option once they realize how much the MusicPad Pro can enhance a student's performance on stage, and contribute to his or her musical development. "There are so many benefits to using digital notation over sheet music," he said. "This is part of the natural progression of technology playing a bigger role in both music and education."

A little bigger than a music book, and weighing a tad under five pounds, the new digital device displays music notation on a low-glare LCD screen. Musicians can "turn" these on-screen pages by using a foot pedal, leaving both hands free to perform on the instrument. A special "look ahead" feature allows musicians to view a half-page of upcoming music.

The fact that the MusicPad Pro eliminates the need to turn sheet music pages might not seem like a big deal to most concertgoers, but to young musicians like those in the Ben Davis High School Band -- as well as to professionals like maestro Jung-Ho Pak and Jon Anderson from the legendary rock group Yes -- it's the equivalent of replacing the typewriter with the computer. Just think of the difficulty involved in flipping a page of music at exactly the right time, while performing on a violin or other instrument that requires both hands!

Not surprisingly, mistakes often occur when music sheets are turned too early or too late, or when a performer flips over two sheets of music instead of one. Musicians have attempted to address this issue in a variety of ways. Concert pianists often have an assistant, seated at their left, who discreetly reaches over and turns pages. In the violin section, two performers usually share the same music stand, and one takes on the responsibility of turning pages while the other plays.

However, there has never been a good way to avoid the distractive and disruptive task of page turning, until now. By doing away with the need to turn pages, the MusicPad Pro helps reduce the number of miscues during a performance. This not only improves the quality of a concert, it also helps boost the confidence of young musicians, encouraging them to develop their talents further.

"Professional musicians from all genres are embracing the MusicPad Pro because it enhances their concert performances by eliminating the need to turn pages," said Kim Lorz, CEO of Freehand Systems. "However, we're also very excited by what our product is accomplishing beyond the concert stage. We believe that the MusicPad Pro will help advance the cause of music education by helping students progress more rapidly on their instruments, and thereby encouraging them to continue learning."

Music can be downloaded from the company's digital website (, converted from other music or graphic formats or scanned into the MusicPad Pro. The computerized music notebook is Mac and PC compatible, and it allows music to be annotated for phrasings, bowings, accents and the like, using an on-screen stylus. The device stores thousands of pages of sheet music, enough even to account for the eclectic repertoire of the Ben Davis High School Band.

Developing the talents of young musicians is obviously something that the Ben Davis High School Band has been deeply committed to since its founding 65 years ago. The band, which is one of the largest in Indiana with 270 members, has performed before six US presidents, dating back to Dwight D. Eisenhower. It has also won multiple state championships in various band events, starred in the Indianapolis Colts' first post-season half time show, and marched in the nation's premier holiday parades, include Macy's Thanksgiving and the Tournament of Roses.

Now, the Ben Davis High School Band is leading the parade again, and adding another milestone to its storied history, by becoming the first high school band to perform a concert with digital music notation.

As far as the student musicians accepting the new technology, band director Papandria says it was easy. "The students caught on very quickly. After about a 15 minute demonstration, they were completely comfortable with the MusicPad Pro," he recalled. "They're kids; they grew up with digital technology -- it's not like us old guys."

Contact Information

  • For more information on the MusicPad Pro, contact:
    Clyde Beswick
    VP Marketing
    Freehand Systems