Back to School, Back to Basics!

By Chris M. Bernotas
Sound Innovations Authorbernotas

I am a firm believer of reinforcing the fundamentals of music every day, all year, not just at the beginning of the school year. However, let’s face it, many of our students have taken the meaning of SUMMER BREAK to heart and likely have not played as much as we all would have preferred in the past two months or so. As teachers, we have the wonderful benefit of hitting the ‘reset’ button with the beginning of each school year. We can truly start fresh while continuing with last school year’s successes. Our sights can be set on what we want to improve in our own teaching as well as setting goals for your band program. Sound Innovations Ensemble Development for Intermediate Band is a comprehensive resource that you might wish to consider as you set goals for your band this year.

The ensemble warm-up can be one of the most exciting parts of rehearsal. I know it is for me. During the warm-up I can truly allow my students to take ownership of their learning. Simple warm-up exercises help not only to train students to play as ensemble musicians but they serve to teach students to become self-sufficient decision makers. Let me explain. A teacher can discuss tuning with all the correct ideas and concepts and the band may still play out of tune. Students hear the teacher talking and often understand logically what he or she is saying, but until they experience playing in tune they really do not get it. To me, tuning is as much a feeling as it is measurable with a tuning device. I find it much more enlightening for a student to sense “in-tune-ness” than to be told that they are in tune. This requires experimenting on the part of the student. For a student to match pitch in an exercise like “Passing the Tonic,” he or she needs to truly listen to their note, evaluate or compare it to those of other students, and decide what to do if it is not the same as those around them. That is the exciting part to me; the STUDENT is the one directing their learning. When they experience playing in tune it is much more powerful and memorable because they are the ones that made it happen. Then when they turn to their performance music they can reflect upon that experience and implement the strategies they used in the warm-up as they work to achieve a meaningful musical performance. Almost all of the exercises in Sound Innovations Ensemble Development for Intermediate Concert Band are similarly dependent upon student growth and understanding.

Flexibility and variety are also quite important when working on the “FUNdamentals.” The exercises in Sound Innovations Ensemble Development for Intermediate Concert Band are simple and clear for you to work your magic with. That’s right, YOU will be working the magic. That is the beauty of this book – it is to be used however you see fit. You may decide that your band needs to focus on matching pitch, so you may want to choose a Layered Tuning exercise in the key of the piece you are planning to rehearse. Perhaps you will want students to sing their notes or hum them. Or maybe you will want half of the band to play and the other half to sing. Maybe you would like the woodwinds to play and the brass to buzz on their mouthpieces. It is all up to you and we provide you with many exercises and chorales (412 to be exact) to work with. The variety is also so exciting. These are not copied exercises, you know, written in one key then just transposed to all the others. They are all different, which allows you and your students enough material to choose from to keep the warm-up and focus on fundamentals fresh.

With Sound Innovations Ensemble Development for Intermediate Concert Band you will be able to plan a 10-minute warm-up that will be engaging, prepare students for their literature, and seamlessly prepare them to perform their repertoire with a wonderful, musical sound. As well, Sound Innovations for Intermediate Concert Band is now available on SmartMusic, adding the dimension of that wonderful teaching/learning tool. And guess what, I will let you in on a little secret… Sound Innovations Ensemble Development for Advanced Concert Band is right around the corner!

If you are already using Sound Innovations Ensemble Development for Intermediate Concert Band, let us know how it is working with your program and let us know some of the innovative ways you are using it! We hope you are enjoying the variety of exercises and wonderful chorales by some of your favorite composers. I wish you and your students all the best this school year.

Chris M. Bernotas

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3 responses to “Back to School, Back to Basics!

  1. Drummers too, need to learn how to tune their CSD and the school’s CBD, and how to use the areas of the drums in sounding the drums to blend-in with the consonant and disonant sounds made by the winds, and how to select the mallet/stick that best ellicits the desired matching sound. And, let’s not forget the need to reinforce the music literacy fundamentals.

    with the students

  2. Jim- you are 100% correct! This is also why every exercise in the book has meaningful percussion parts for Mallets, Snare, Bass Drum, Auxillary Percussion and Timpani. They aren’t after thoughts or fillers they are integral parts of the ensemble. Thank you for recognizing their importance and role.
    Chris

    • Thanks for your response Chris. The instructional books are great, and my concern is that many current instrumentak music educators who teach at the different levels and those wannabe band directors are mentored on the mechanics and musical use of percussion instruments, AND musical literacy. JS

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