Is Smart Music Too Smart?

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I have a fairly new student that is pretty frustrated with learning a musical instrument.  He is in the sixth grade and recently switched from trumpet to euphonium.  All of his assignments for band class are done using smartmusic.  You have to record it, and it grades you, and sends it in to the teacher.  This is where the discussion needs to happen.  Especially you music Ed types out there.  Sell me on this method of teaching 6th graders to play a musical instrument.

Junior(not his real name) brought his smartmusic to my crib for his lesson and we messed with it to get him a better score on an assignment.  He played it over a dozen times, each one relatively the same.  Scores where EVERYWHERE.  64, 78, 21, 44, 94, 81, 67…you get the point.  Not even the 94 was really all that good…let’s face it, he’s in 6th grade.  When you record it into an mp3, you can’t even hear the solo player, so there is no clear or accurate example of what was just played.  It sounds like my ringtone…duck noises.  Frustration level very high.

Well, let’s see if it is the kid.  I pull out my tuba and play it.  I scored a 44.  Oh, maybe it’s thinking I am a euphonium, so we switch to the tuba setting.  21.  Oh S#$!$%^@, are you kidding me?  Number 75, its four measures of half notes and quarter notes.  I was playing it just fine.  I even played it on the kids euphonium.  NUmbers all over, 64, 48, 71, and the highest score I got was a 78, when I played it as nasty as I could.

I know I stink, but dude, I am gonna fail 6th grade band if my grade were dependent on smartmusic.  Despite my inability to pass 6th grade band (and I was sure I was gonna make all district this year…my dreams are shattered), I want to know what makes smartmusic a good way to go?  I am worried that kids are thinking about passing smartmusic, and not thinking about how to play the instrument.  What do they know about their horn?  and how it works?

Help me understand, if you think you can.  Bear in mind, I am failing 6th grade band.