Saturday, January 22, 2011

Band Clinic/Concerts

Today, I was at a District Band Clinic that ends with a concert later this afternoon. For those of you that are not sure what that means, I'll explain...

I blogged before about how music students audition for the prize of a place in a District or Region Band. Well, the prize includes a day of rehearsing with students from other schools under the direction of a guest conductor. This culminates in a Concert performance for parents and the community after only 12 hours of rehearsing. Picture an All-Star Game of the sport of your choice.

This is great for the students. But what good is it for the Band Directors who have taught these students?...

We as directors are given a tremendous opportunity to not only network with other directors, but to literally go to school for a day and learn from the guest conductor as well. The guest conductors are considered Master Teachers in the Music World and display some of the highest levels of teaching models. It is priceless to watch another director work with a group and pick up new tools of teaching to use with my students. I have begun to have a notebook with me when I come to take notes and reminders of the things I should take back to my classroom (I have a horrible memory). And it's free... with no registration or convention fees.

I, as a director, cannot wait until these days in the school year when I can sit down or stand in a hall with fellow directors in the area and brainstorm. After years of teaching, I am not afraid to bounce ideas off of others to test and see if they are really great ideas or just stupid ideas that I should change or forget all together. It is a pride issue when I risk the chance (and often it is the case) that my idea is truly off-base and I am embarrassed to have spoken. However, I have most often discovered that my colleagues are forgiving and willing to help me find a solution to my issue. Sometimes, I will even come to the conversation having a full knowledge and be able to help someone with an issue they are struggling with. Still further, is the chance to make connections and schedule with fellow directors from another school a time when they can come and work with my students during class time. These conversations are such an encouragement for me as I go back to my classroom the next Monday to work at improving my students. We cannot be the best teachers we can be by ourselves. We may be very intelligent. We may have loads of experience. We may even have 5 degrees to our name. But, the world of teaching music is changing almost daily and the only real way to keep up is collaboration and communication with others who may have different contacts with the music world than we have.

The Band Clinic/Concert experience is a microcosm of the best in Music Education. Students work hard like athletes for 12 hours. Teachers go to school to improve their teaching. Friends and colleagues are given an open opportunity to network and brainstorm for the betterment of the students who are not even at the event.

Because, after all, it really is all about improving student's lives in the end... Right!!

Saturday, January 1, 2011


Whenever I have taught a General Music Class I have always begun with the same question: "What is Music?" When I have asked this question, my students usually answer with nothing more than blank stares and the sound of crickets. Granted they are usually not music students and are simply in the class because nothing else was available, but I hope the wheels begin to turn for them with that question.  I also hope that it serves as a background for the discussions that we have over the course of the semester.'s first definition of MUSIC says it is "an art of sound in time that expresses ideas and emotions in significant forms through the elements of rhythm, melody, harmony and color."  I love this definition because it opens up so many discussion points and I think it boils down four years of university education in one succinct sentence.  I especially love that "color" is a part of this discussion about sound.

Beyond the dictionary definition, though, it must be noted that music is a very emotional and personal thing as well.  You may enjoy listening to Speed Metal Rock music while your close friend cannot tolerate the noise and prefers to listen to Mexican Tejano instead.  Personal preference is inherently emotional and many people have rather strong feelings about others' preferences concerning music choice.  At this point, I could easily begin my own rant about my personal likes and dislikes of the music that comes on my radio or in the various stores I walk into or the car that drives by my apartment or that pulls up next to me at the stop light, but that is not what this is really all about.  Maybe another day...

So, after an inspirational talk with my wife (my biggest fan), I am going to focus on my views of music (music education, music composition, and the music heard on the radio) as I see it.  After 13 years of teaching music and many more years of listening to and analyzing the music around me, these are my thoughts for all to read.  I plan to discuss music that I have discovered and music that I have written.

I hope that you gain some knowledge and inspiration from my musings on this subject.  I'd also like you to be entertained as well.  If there is something you would like me to discuss specifically or if there is something you would like to share yourself, feel free to share via comment.