Features

Cultivating Grit and Stoutheartedness

Significant achievements rarely happen without significant investment. While this may be particularly obvious within the music education community, where it’s a given that quality performance doesn’t happen without an investment in time, energy, focus, and commitment, a team of educators in Springdale, Arkansas has taken the concept of investment to a whole new level.

Michael Echols and Christopher Moore are the band directors at George Junior High School, a school with some 620 eighth and ninth graders, about 500 of whom participate in the school’s music offerings. Over the past decade or so, the vibrant population in Springdale that feeds George Junior High and nearby Kelly Middle School has been struggling economically. Some parents have been put out of work, and with the many newcomers to this country in the area, – GJHS hosts a program for students arriving in the U.S. for the first time –  others did not have the standard credit cards, bank accounts, or social security numbers needed to carry on normal business practices.

Eventually, it became evident that students and their families were largely unable to purchase instruments. Faced with watching their program slip through their fingers, Mike and Chris realized that in order to keep the program going, they would have to buy used musical instruments themselves so they could then put them in the hands of their students. Daniel Hodge, the band director at Springdale High School, described their efforts as “literally putting the band program on their backs to allow the students the opportunity to succeed.”

Read more: UpClose: Michael Echols and Chris Moore

Performance

Musical instruments or weapons of mass destruction?

A common mistake made by non-percussionist music educators is the relegation of weaker percussion students to the bass drum and cymbal chairs. While it may seem reasonable to assign the “harder” parts to stronger percussion students, in actuality it is the accessory instruments that are often more challenging to play and which provide the important rhythmic backbone of a musical composition. John Phillip Sousa knew this all too well. It was reported that his bass drummer, Gus Helmecke, was the highest paid member of the band! In Sousa’s own words:

“The average layman does not realize the importance of the bass drummer to a band… I sometimes think that no band can be greater than its bass drummer because it is given to him, more than to any person except the director, to reflect the rhythm and spirit of the composition.”

The “March King” knew that nothing could sink a performance quicker and more completely than a bass drummer whose sense of rhythm is poor and to whom time is only a spice.

Read more: Performance: Percussion Accessories

Technology

Practice software roundup #2: The Jazz Edition

 

In my last article, we looked at three software packages used for performance training. These practice aids have advanced assessment options that “listen” to the performer and evaluate for correct pitch and rhythm. While each has its strengths and weaknesses, they all could find a place in the student’s toolkit of practice aids.

SmartMusic, the most full-featured of the three, provides an ever-growing library of titles of both solo and ensemble music as well as a cloud-based grade book solution for the teacher. The cost, while not outrageous, is a subscription model that the student would need to pay every year in order to gain access to the SmartMusic library.

Read more: Technology: Rehearsal Software II

Performance

Insights on Dealing with Braces

 

When I was in the second grade, I had an accident that knocked out a top front tooth and chipped the corner of the tooth beside it. Over the years, the gap closed up somewhat, shifting inward, but it was still quite noticeable. I also had a tooth on the lower set that protruded out in front of the other teeth. This may have been my biggest obstacle to playing trombone.

Read more: Performance: Embouchure

Commentary

Organizing an Honor Band

Honor bands are a rewarding experience for students, clinicians, teachers, and families. They represent an opportunity for motivated students to come together and create something special in a short amount of time. During the honor band experience, learning occurs in several ways: students learn from each other, students learn from a section coach, students experience a new director, and students perform new music.

When getting a brand new honor band off the ground, there are a lot of details to consider. Each situation is unique, but let’s consider the three main phases in the organizational process: preparation, the day of, and wrap-up.

Read more: Guest Editorial: Honor Bands

Commentary

World-class musicians and technology converge to support music education

What if it were possible to bring together the greatest classical musicians to perform and record the masterpieces of classical music? What if these world-class musicians could exploit new technologies to bring these great works to new audiences? What if these same musicians were to become musical guides, mentors, and teachers for a new generation of musicians, enthusiasts, and advocates? And what if one of the great conductors of our time were to lead the way?

Well that is exactly what has happened as a result of the vision and passion of the legendary Maestro Gerard Schwarz with the creation of the All-Star Orchestra, a modern variation of Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts on CBS. This time, they are not just for the young, and new technologies unleash the power to benefit from these first-rate musicians in your own music room.

Read more: From the Trenches: All-Star Orchestra

Commentary

So, how’s that national conversation about the impact of music education going?

If Internet search results are any indication, there may be sunny days ahead for music advocates, teachers, and directors, even those whose school programs are under siege by budget-focused administrators looking to wield the proverbial axe.

A recent search for “music education” in Google’s “News” search bar yielded the following headlines:

Study: Music Education Could Help Close The Achievement Gap ... (Huffington Post-Sep 2, 2014)

Read more: Perspective: Advocacy Ammo Incoming

Repertoire

 

This installment of concert band repertoire reviews features music in a range of difficulty levels by John Kinyon, Larry Daehn, Steve Rouse, Aaron Copland, and Dana Wilson. “Frank Ticheli’s List” is a compilation of core repertoire for concert band selected by composer Frank Ticheli of USC. These pieces have been reviewed by Gregory Rudgers and John Darling.

Read more: Repertoire Review: August, 2014

Fundraising

Directors nationwide share fundraising strategies that work

Fundraising is one of those peripheral activities that can add a tremendous amount of strain to a director’s already full workload. On the other hand, it also serves to enable fantastic opportunities and resources for individual students and the ensemble as a whole. In an ideal world, the fundraising activity is one that students enjoy participating in, doesn’t take too heavy a toll on either the director or the students in terms of planning and execution, and, of course, brings in enough profit to make it worthwhile. As an added bonus, the right campaign can also be a great bonding experience, as well as a chance to build community awareness about your band.

SBO recently reached out to music educators around the country, asking directors to describe the campaigns that work best for their programs, how to keep students engaged, and any tips they might have for maximizing the profit-to-effort ratio.

Read more: Peer to Peer: Fundraising

Commentary

Once again, a high-profile marching band is in the headlines for the wrong reasons.

Last fall, millions of people across the country were transfixed by The Ohio State University’s Marching Band. The Best Damn Band in the Land, as they call themselves, had a fantastic season, assembling outstanding show after outstanding show. YouTube videos of the group’s performances received tens of millions of hits, and the university band earned countless kudos and accolades for their creative, precise, and wildly entertaining halftime routines. On the heels of this eye-catching season, it came as quite a surprise to many when incoming president of the university, Dr. Michael Drake, announced on July 24 that he was firing Jonathan Waters, director of The Ohio State University Marching Band.

Read more: Perspective: A Haven for All


On the Road

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