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Commentary

  • MAC Corner – Make this School Year Your Best Ever

    Mike Lawson | August 14, 2015

    By Dr. Charles T. Menghini
     
    This summer while teaching a graduate class in the summer master’s degree program at VanderCook College of Music, I was once again reminded of how much we as teachers really do know. The problem, for me at least, is that if I don’t stop to reflect on those things that are really important I end up occupying my time in areas that may not always do me the most good.  For me, it’s not a matter of not wanting to do something; it is a matter of not remembering to do something.

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  • Survival Tip One – Who Moved My Band Director? Suggestions for Accepting Change

    Mike Lawson | July 24, 2015

    (c) ShutterstockCongratulations! You’ve been a hot shot your whole life. Going to music school wasn’t the question, which instrument you were going to major on was. A perfectionist, you chose a prestigious school and worked hard through many semesters of instrument method classes, performed with many ensembles and were placed with the most desirable cooperating teacher available. Life was good — until you dipped your toe into the real world, as an assistant band director in the middle of nowhere, a thousand miles from home, with children who acted nothing like you expected students to behave. 

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  • Survival Tip Two – Setting Your Band’s Expectations Before the Levy Breaks…..

    Mike Lawson | July 24, 2015

    (c) ShutterstockLet’s put ourselves in that moment where we get the emergency call. Our community is in danger from the rising waters and help is needed to fill the sandbags. I bet most of us would go with few questions asked. Ok, add another factor: Your home might be in danger if it gets bad enough. That is even more reason to help, correct? Now, let’s throw in the final carrot: Your school and your classroom are in the direct path of the destruction. I’m pretty sure that at that point, you are out the door and texting everyone you know and pleading for help.

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  • Survival Tip Three – Dealing with Inequality in Your District

    Mike Lawson | July 24, 2015

    The combined bands of the North Monterey County High School Symphonic Band and the People’s Liberation Army Band of China, playing our national march Stars and Stripes Forever, followed by the playing of the Chinese national march Motherland, at the China National Performing Arts Center in Shijiazhuang, China. The conductor is D.L. Johnson.

    In America, Schools Are Not Equal: A View From Another Side

    Over my 40 years in public education, I have seen education in America go up and down. From the “new math” of the ‘60s, “restructuring” in the ‘80s and ‘90s, “No Child Left Behind” in the ‘90s and ‘00s, to the present day “Common Core.” However, no matter what strategy is used in the academic classroom California education still remains unequal. As a high school band director all these years, I have the opportunity to see education from a totally different perspective.

  • Survival Tip Four – Working with Beginners in Percussion!

    Mike Lawson | July 24, 2015

    Over the years, I have received several emails that are essentially asking for advice for the same problem: beginner percussionists often only want to drum and are uninterested in playing keyboard instruments.

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  • Survival Tip Five – Surviving The Warm Up: Technology to Enhance the Fun in Fundamentals! 

    Mike Lawson | July 24, 2015

    Figure 1: Sample Classroom Audio GearOur previous three-part recording series on recording band rehearsals provided a solid foundation for recording in class and in concert. As you become more familiar and comfortable with using digital audio workstation (DAW) software to record, there are many beneficial uses in daily rehearsal warm ups that help add fun to fundamentals. Numerous studies show that integrating technology increases student engagement, and the ability to prepare content in advance and recall previous lessons will save time in rehearsal. In this article we will explore five examples of using technology to help teach musical fundamentals. 

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  • Perspective: Often Overlooked Student Benefits of Band Travel

    Mike Lawson | June 11, 2015

    (c) Sterling OrtizThis past week I’ve spent a lot of time meeting with the top brass of the performing arts programs put on at Disney World and Universal Studios in Orlando, Fla. as well as spending time in the two respective parks, meeting cast members in all areas of their hospitality, entertainment, educational, and management operations. A common theme among them was how many ended up working in their current capacity because of a band trip taken to perform in the parks. At Disney, in particular, it was almost a running gag after a while for me to ask what year a park cast member (as their employees are called) visited the park with their high school marching band.

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  • In the Trenches: A Defining Moment

    Mike Lawson | June 11, 2015

    Music leaders gather for breakfast to celebrate the release of the National Standards for Arts Education and the adding the arts as a core subject held at the National Press Club March 11, 1994. Pictured from left to right are: Michael Greene, president and CEO – National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS); Secretary of Education Richard Riley; John Mahlmann – executive director, MENC; Bob Morrison – executive director, American Music Conference and director of Market Development, NAMM; Larry Linkin, president and CEO, NAMMOver the course of my time of more than 25 years as a music and arts education advocate, I have seen how our field has been shaped by a series of defining moments – those actions, whether isolated events or sustained efforts that – when looked back on through the lenses of history – have changed the trajectory of our field.

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  • We Must All Rise to Honor Schools for Their Exceptional Music Education Programs

    Mike Lawson | June 11, 2015

    Speech of Hon. Joaquin Castro of TX to the House of RepresentativesWith this article, I happily share one example of the results of advocacy efforts for our Best Communities for Music Education program. I hope it inspires all of us to do more to assure that the music education programs we are close to and care about get the recognition and support they deserve.

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  • School Band und Orchester in Europa auf der Musikmesse

    Mike Lawson | May 19, 2015

    Mike Lawson (c) Sterling OrtizI recently returned from another annual trip to Frankfurt, Germany where I again attend the Musikmesse/ProLight + Sound tradeshow. Some of our American readers will have never heard of this event. While attendended is similar in size at both the NAMM and Musikmesse/ProLight + Sound show, the amount of exhibit space used and the meeting facilities employed in Frankfurt are enormously different.

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  • In the Trenches: Saving Music Education in West Virginia

    Mike Lawson | April 7, 2015

    In 2007, when Eric Akers took over the music program at Barboursville Middle School in Barboursville, West Virginia, only 11 students participated in the school orchestra. Akers worked hard to expand the program, but he did not have enough instruments to accommodate the demand. Up to a half-dozen students shared one of the few violins and cellos that belonged to the school and no one could take them home to practice.

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  • Perspective: Until Politicians Value School Music, Many Students Will Struggle

    Mike Lawson | March 9, 2015

    Mike Lawson (c) Sterling OrtizI’ve made no secret of the fact that it was music classes that motivated me to get up in the morning and go to school. My own music education experience was in a fairly middle class school system. Participation in band meant your parents had to buy or rent an instrument for you. I saw a lot of lower income kids either not sign up for band or struggle with learning to play and later drop out because they were given substandard rental instruments that made learning more difficult.

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