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  • Perspective: What A Long, Strange Year It’s Been…

    Mike Lawson | December 11, 2015

    It’s hard to believe that I am already sending my thirteenth issue of SBO to the printer since taking over as editor a year ago. My first issue was December 2014, and here we are at December 2015. Like that first issue under my tutelage, this is also the annual “50 Directors Who Make A Difference” issue. Once again, we gathered a year’s worth of nominations for this honor from the submissions we received through, reading each of them for their words of praise heaped upon their particular nominee. As was the case my first year putting this feature together, getting the information from various band directors was a challenge about 50% of the time. Gathering this info from fifty people in every state is quite a process. To the very last minute, there were phone calls made, voicemails left, more emails sent, text messages, more phone calls, calls to administrators and sympathetic school office staff, there were Facebook messages; I was even tempted to try carrier pigeons. If you’re a band director and you get an email from me out of the blue in November 2016, all I can say is, “please open it and reply promptly.”

  • Perspective: Of Sticks, Stones, and Glass Houses

    Mike Lawson | November 12, 2015

    Mike Lawson (c) Sterling OrtizThis issue of SBO combines our College Search and Career Guide, along with our annual focus on percussion. I interviewed a lot of great musicians who went pro in a major way, including Narada Michael Walden (a former star drum major) and marching band madman Chad Smith, both featured herein.

  • Perspective: Where Have I Heard this Before?

    Mike Lawson | October 22, 2015

    Mike Lawson (c) Sterling OrtizI spent September 11th this year at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, listening to the Nashville Symphony performances of two very diverse types of classical music. The Nashville Symphony is, without a doubt, world-class in its performances, and it is blessed with a most amazing-sounding performance hall. This was my first time visiting the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, and it clearly won’t be my last. 

  • Music Education Curriculum in Schools: ‘It’ Is Something Worth Fighting For

    Mary Luehrsen | October 22, 2015

    You know it when you see “it,” and when you don’t. A school that has “it” is different than one that doesn’t. “It” enlivens an entire school because everyone is “making it” and “expressing it” in age appropriate ways.

  • Some Try to Tell Me Thoughts They Cannot Defend

    Mike Lawson | September 4, 2015

    As I was driving my high school senior to school today, he was telling me that his garage band was talking about what they wanted to perform at some of the upcoming high school open mic nights, put on by the school music department to help raise funds, and increase awareness of school music programs. One of his band mates suggested that they do “Nights in White Satin.” Cool song, right? I mean we all want to play cool old tunes when we perform, and probably have a nice bucket list of songs we all want to have in our repertoire. “That sounds fun, but who is going to sing it?” I asked. “I mean no offense son, but I don’t think anyone in your band can hit the notes on the chorus like Justin Hayward from Moody Blues. Are you planning to recruit another singer for that song?” 


  • When Mickey Mouse Teaches Band Academics

    Mike Lawson | September 4, 2015

    Now for all you “macho” band directors out there, you may not be too impressed with a lot of “Mickey Mouse” in your band room environment. Especially, when you’re playing “Gladiator”. But that is not what this article is about. Tying our band class to academic achievement is the topic of today’s school instruction. All to some day be centered around Common Core Standards the new big words of the day.
    For most high school and middle school band directors trying to find commonality with academic subjects is not what we are thinking about most of the time. Our minds are on “Will we finish that field show in time for the next football game?” or “Why can’t the trumpets get bar 27?” and “Why are the clarinets so flat?”, et cetera.

  • The Times They Are A-Changin’

    Mike Lawson | August 14, 2015

    It was a very busy month for me, starting out with a trip to Ft. Collins, CO to attend the Little Kids Rock “Rockfest” events, immediately followed by the Summer NAMM Show here in Nashville, TN. I learned a lot about a new movement in school music education, which David Wish, founder of Little Kids Rock, has called “Modern Band.” Simply put, Modern Band is a curriculum for school music band programs that go well outside the traditional marching, concert, and jazz band worlds, and focuses on what our NAMM-show-crowd would call the “combo” world of instrumentation. Guitars, bass, drums, keyboards, turntables, technology, and even vocals, to teach students how to play, work together, and perform modern, popular music. An upcoming feature on this movement is in the works, which will provide much more detail on what’s going on with what I genuinely believe I can call a “movement” in the evolution of school music programs. Attending this event immediately prior to attending the Summer NAMM show gave me a lot to consider.

  • 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.

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

    By Aaron Kennell, Chester W. Nimitz HS, Houston, TX | 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. 

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

    Bob Medworth | 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.

  • Survival Tip Three – Dealing with Inequality in Your District

    D.L. Johnson | 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!

    Eric Rath - Canyon Junior High School, Amarillo, TX | 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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