By Shane Cadman
Imagine about 24,000 Texans descending on the San Antonio Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas, for four days in February to see, hear, and play the latest offerings in the world of music education. Well, it actually happens every year, and it is called the Texas Music Educators Association Clinic/Convention, referred to by those “in the know” as TMEA.
Roland has been involved with TMEA for many years as part of our continuing commitment to music education. This year, TMEA 2010 was February 10-February 13 and featured workshops for band, orchestra, vocal, elementary and college educators; concerts by the finest musicians, and two exhibit halls filled with booths representing all facets of the music education industry. Approximately 24,000 people, including educators, students, and family members, attend TMEA each year. In fact, it is the largest one of its kind in the country. While the convention officially starts on a Wednesday, the exhibit hall doesn’t open until Thursday, when it quickly becomes a flurry of activity until the close of the show on Saturday— and Roland is right there all the way.
Roland usually has a large exhibit each year, and this year was no exception. The booth—if you can call it a booth, seeing as it occupies an area the size of a small house—is divided into sections featuring different product types, so there are different areas featuring pianos, keyboards, percussion, etc. This year even had areas for Roland V-Accordions and the Roland C-30 Harpsichord. There are so many products that it requires five product specialists, plus an education specialist to cover the booth. But, the booth isn’t just about displaying instruments—it’s set up to be very hands-on, which makes it a big hit with the people attending the convention.
Throughout the Roland exhibit, people could find instruments to try out. All of the digital pianos and keyboards were ready to play, and there were electric guitars and basses hooked up to BOSS pedals and Roland amplifiers waiting for the next aspiring rock star to make some music. In the percussion area, there were HandSonic percussion controllers, Rhythm Coaches, and even two Roland drum sets, an HD-1 and a TD4-SX, both hooked up to computers running the DT-HD1 Drum Tutor software.
Roland’s involvement at TMEA is more than just creating a hub of activity in the convention hall. TMEA has sessions going on throughout the week covering a broad range of subjects, as well as product showcases. These product showcases allow the manufacturers to demonstrate their products and how they can be used in the classroom. For Roland, this is an especially effective way of demonstrating new technology, as we can show the concepts of new instruments and how those new instruments might be used in the classroom in a typical teaching situation. For example, Roland product specialists Mike Snyder and David Garza conducted a product showcase highlighting the possibilities with Rhythm Coach products for both training and rehearsal, and they also showed how the Drum Tutor works. Along with Roland education guru Bill Erlandson, they talked about drum labs (using the Roland V-Drums) and that received a lot of attention as a result.
Back at the booth, the buzz of musical activity continued non-stop. While everything in the booth attracted attention, three products got people really excited. The first one was the DT-HD1 Drum Tutor Software. Roland created DT-HD1 as a fun, educational, interactive software application in order to enhance the electronic drum experience and help drummers learn the fundamentals. This application connects your Roland electronic drum set to a computer via USB, and once you launch the software, it’s time to play along and learn (while having fun the whole time). The second was the LX-10 Digital Upright Grand Piano. While the LX-10 appears to be just a beautiful studio piano—and takes up the same small amount of space as one—it is actually a digital piano that sounds and plays like a world-class grand piano. The fact that it has a six-speaker audio system, 337 different internal sounds, a built-in metronome, and it records and plays MIDI files, makes it a very powerful and effective classroom instrument. And last, but by no means least, was the new JS-8 eBand. The eBand is a portable all-in-one audio player for guitarists that is packed with big features. WAV and MP3 files can be loaded and played by eBand, and the tempo and pitch can be changed. A guitar player can plug in and jam along using the powerful onboard COSM preamp and BOSS effects. There’s even a library of backing tracks and rhythms onboard, plus a built-in tuner and metronome. The eBand was so popular that Roland product specialist Gary Lenaire went non-stop with it throughout the whole show!
As you can imagine, the booth was busy from the moment the show opened until it closed on Saturday afternoon—full of not only kids, but also parents and educators thrilled to have the opportunity of trying out the latest Roland products.