Tag Archives: music teaching tips

A Few Tips on Selecting Your Halftime Show Music

 

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By Michael Story
Composer, Arranger, & Editor

Times sure have changed since I was in high school band. We used to perform a different halftime show for each home game. Nowadays, most bands perform just one show a year, which makes it even more important to select a show that truly fits your band. Although marching band students are not exposed to as much music as we were, the advantage to doing just one show a year allows for a much higher level of achievement in performance quality. Here are few tips to help you in your halftime music selection:

  • Type of Music: Although many bands have had success with original compositions for their show, there are many good reasons to consider a show based on pop music. Sure, there is good and bad pop music (just as there are good and bad original compositions), but many popular songs offer great teaching opportunities. The added benefit is that you will generally have a better opportunity to connect with your audience.
  • Difficulty Level: You want to choose music that is neither too easy nor too hard. Students will become bored with music that is too easy, and discouraged with music that is too difficult. Choosing music that is right at your band’s ability level (or slightly easier) allows you to focus on increased musicality and polishing the drill.
  • Quality: Are ALL the parts (not just the melody) interesting, musical, idiomatic, and written in a comfortable range for your students? Has the composer or arranger chosen an appropriate instrument or section to play the melody? Do the interior parts, countermelodies, and bass lines make musical sense?
  • Form: Does the show achieve a balance of REPETITION and CONTRAST? Examples of repetition include recurring themes or ideas, or an ending reprise of the opening melody to tie the show together. Contrast is achieved not only from varying the musical content, but also through textural and instrumental changes, including solos or ensembles within the show, musical highs and lows, and percussion or other section features.

Good halftime show music can come in all shapes and sizes–there can be great educational opportunities in all genres. Whatever music you choose, have fun with it, and have a great year!

What’s a Jazz Play-Along?

What’s a Jazz Play-Along?
A question and answer approach.

Peter BarenBreggeAn example of a modern jazz play-along is Freddie Hubbard & More (book and DVD-ROM). This jazz play-along features jazz standards composed by jazz trumpeter Freddie Hubbard plus jazz standards by other jazz composers. Each tune features a written-out melody, written-out sample jazz solo, and written chord changes for soloing. The innovative, easy-to-use TNT2 Custom Mix software on the accompanying DVD-ROM allows you to customize a demo or play-along track, loop a section for specific practice, slow down or speed up the tempo, and more. The pro rhythm section and horn player demo tracks provide examples of jazz interpretation, articulation, and improvisation. By removing your instrument part from the track mix, you can play along to practice with the rhythm section. Tips and suggestions for improvisation are included for each jazz standard.

Q: What is a jazz play-along?
A: A jazz play-along is a practice tool to help you improve your jazz improvisation skills. The music is typically based on jazz standards, i.e., jazz tunes that are frequently played by jazz musicians.

Q: How does a jazz play-along help me learn to improvise?
A: Essential concepts to learning/improving jazz improvisation are: 1. listening and, 2. “hear it—sing it—play it.” For example: if you play a C, B-flat, E-flat, or bass clef instrument, here is a simple plan for each jazz standard in the play-along using the Freddie Hubbard & More Jazz Play-Along. Sample pages are provided here.

  1. Listen to the demonstration performance (by trumpet or saxophone) of the melody and sample solo on the play-along DVD disk. Repeat as needed.
  2. Sing along with the melody and sample solo using simple “dah” or “doo” jazz syllables. Repeat as needed.
  3. Play along with the demo track of the melody and sample solo and imitate the style and concept played by the pro jazz player.
  4. Play the melody and sample solo with the rhythm section only—mix out the demonstration trumpet or sax. Repeat as needed.

What have you accomplished?

  • You will have listened to the melody and sample solo played in a jazz style.
  • You will have sung along with the melody and sample solo. This has opened your ears to some musical nuances and allowed you to delve deeper into imitating the demo performance.
  • You have played-along with the rhythm section to imitate what you have heard and sung.

Q: What about improvising on the chord progression? I’m used to playing only written notes, I don’t know what to play when I see chord symbols.
A: Essential concepts to begin to improvise. 1. learn the form, and 2. learn the chords and melody, and 3. learn to play using your ear—not the written page.

  1. You have learned the form from listening/singing/playing.
  2. You have heard and recognize when the chords change and learned the melody by listening/singing/playing.
  3. With the melody and sample solo mixed out, play the root of each chord in the chord progression with whole/half/quarter notes depending on the duration of the chord. Then play the third of the chord, then the fifth, and so on. Repeat as needed.
  4. In the solo section with chord changes, play the sample solo numerous times with the rhythm section. This written-out sample jazz solo provides you with motifs, ideas, snippets, and devices that you can use in your solos to get you started.
  5. As you begin to improvise, start slowly and simply by playing the root, third, fifth and seventh tone of the chords. Embellish the melody rhythmically and melodically, use snippets and ideas from the sample solo and the melody. Slow the tempo down as needed.
  6. As you become more familiar with the melody and harmony, close the book and play by using your ear. Trust your ears!

Final comments:

  • Jazz improvisation is not an overnight learned skill, it is a lifetime quest!
  • To become a jazz improviser, you will need to spend time listening, learning, transcribing solos, and imitating. Immerse yourself.
  • Books and jazz instructional media are valuable tools, but in conjunction with listening and imitating.
  • Play songs by ear.
  • Depending on your experience level, using this play along and following these steps will get you going with jazz improvisation.
  • The written-out, sample jazz solos are not necessarily a definitive solo but merely examples of how to improvise on the given chord progressions.
  • For a rhythm section player (piano/bass/drums), there is a corresponding book/DVD for rhythm section instruments.
  • Check out the Freddie Hubbard & More Jazz Play-Along published by Alfred Music.

Have fun playing jazz!

Pete BarenBregge

Favorite Resources for Middle School Chorus

Anna WentlentBy Anna Wentlent, Managing Editor of School Choral Publications

Middle school. Those two words convey so much: energy, attitude, emotion, potential, change, diversity, development, acceptance, sensitivity, drama, peer approval, curiosity, creativity . . . the list could go on and on. Today, let’s focus on just one of those words: potential. While this age group can be difficult to work with, middle school is where future choral musicians are born. Here are a few resources to help you along the way.

Warm-Ups and Sight-Singing
As you know, this is the most important part of your choral rehearsal. There comes a moment in every school year when the calendar suddenly shrinks: there’s only a month left until the concert, and two rehearsals are going to be taken away by assemblies, not to mention the possibility of snow days! In those moments of panic, it’s easy to breeze by sight-singing and dive directly into note-learning. But the note-learning will happen much more easily if your students are properly prepared to read music, and to sing that music with healthy technique.

A choral rehearsal is no different than any other practice. Think about a basketball team: a good coach doesn’t spend two hours of practice playing full-court five-on-five games. Instead, they use that time to develop the skills, strength, and agility necessary to play the game well. So it should be with a choral rehearsal. (And if your music is causing that much stress, it’s probably too difficult. Don’t forget about unison and 2-part literature—setting up a successful and musical performance is far more valuable than slogging through music that is too advanced for your singers).

So take time at the beginning of rehearsal to completely warm-up. The Choral Warm-Up Collection and The Complete Choral Warm-Up Book  are indispensable resources. Focus your students as they walk in the door with a few familiar exercises, and then move on to specific warm-ups that address issues from their performance music. End with a few rounds or vocalises. Round We Go and Rounds for Everyone from Everywhere are both teacher favorites. And Andy Beck’s new collection, Vocalize!, offers 45 accompanied vocal warm-ups that actually teach technique. A few clever titles: “Drop Your Jaw,” “Take Time to Breathe,” and “Listen and Blend.” This instructional book is just right for middle school singers.

Then devote as much time as possible to sight-singing and rhythm exercises. In addition to the standard method Sing at First Sight, consider supplemental exercises from Ready, Set, Rhythm!, a collection of 80 sequential lessons that teach the elements of rhythmic notation through movement-based class activities—perfect for breaking up the middle of a long rehearsal! Each 10-minute lesson is presented in lesson plan format with National Standards.

Changing Voices
Middle school boys arrive at the choir room door dealing with two important issues: changing voices and motivation (which really boils down to confidence). Middle school students desperately want to be good at something. Help them to sing their best by assigning them to the correct voice part—soprano, alto, or baritone. If you don’t make a big deal of it, your students won’t either.

If you have time, single out some time to work with the boys by themselves, whether it’s during scheduled lessons, monthly afterschool rehearsals, or sectionals during regular class. This will allow you to focus on their particular needs, monitor voice changes during the school year, and work without the distraction of the opposite gender. Jill Gallina’s For the Boys is a fantastic collection of songs for boys and young men. It includes classics such as “Buffalo Gals,” “The Drunken Sailor” and “John Henry” in singable arrangements for developing male voices.

Preparation
Attention spans are low in middle school, and that means that you have to come to rehearsal prepared with a detailed plan. Leave very little down time with your middle schools singers: start class on time and quickly transition from one activity to the next. University of Florida professor Dr. Russell Robinson models rehearsal techniques on his DVD Middle School Singers: Turning Their Energy into Wonderful Choirs. It includes examples from a convention appearance and regular classroom.

No matter what, end every rehearsal with a positive musical experience. On the first day of the year, that may be as simple as singing a four-measure unison phrase in tune. Later on, it may be the performance of a passage of harmony with shaping and dynamics. You know your students; set achievable goals and work towards them, bit by bit, taking pride in each success along the way. As your students walk back out into the hallway after class, they should take with them a feeling of accomplishment and self-worth. And that feeling is what creates lifelong musicians.

Including Your Students in Concert Repertoire Planning

By Jan Farrar-Royce 

Jan Farrar-RoyceWe all know that choosing a balanced program for our ensembles includes searching for pieces that contrast in tempo, mode, styles, and eras.  We also want to choose programs that are entertaining and include some musical and/or technical challenges.  Finally, we want to find music that our musicians will be excited to play,  and even practice, especially since we will spending so much time working on them!

Particularly for teaching students in the first three years, using pieces that everyone will recognize, notably ones with lyrics, can help students and their families enjoy their lesson and ensemble pieces more.  These tunes can include well known songs for children, folk tunes, some popular songs, and some of the tunes used in the General Music classes.  Building on this common repertoire encourages students to use their ear to help them become more skilled at playing more complex rhythms and better in tune.

Your students may even recommend songs that you wouldn’t have considered. If some of these pieces are a little beyond their current technical level, feeling like they have some input into what they play may further motivate students to be more invested in their practice, and encourage them to learn new notes and techniques.

You or a parent can help monitor internet research so that your students can earn extra credit by learning about “the story behind” the tunes you play, or about the composers who wrote the music.  This kind of investigating can be especially satisfying with living composers who will sometimes write back to students who ask them questions through the composer’s own or their publishers’ web pages! Use this research to create program notes that can be included in the printed program or read to the audience by a student before playing a piece.

Using familiar tunes and empowering your students to choose some of your ensemble materials may help them to be more invested in their practice, leading to better intonation and rhythmic capability, and more willingness to learn new techniques so that they can play the tunes that they have chosen!

Developing Improvisational Skills on Recorder

JIm SolomonBy Jim Solomon

Teaching elementary school music full time for over 30 years and working with middle/high school students every summer has allowed me to experiment with and develop ideas that work with students. Through the years I have become convinced that we need to begin improvisation (and composition) immediately with our beginning recorder players. Click HERE for an excerpt from pages 4-5 of my newest Alfred Music  publication, Hot Jams for Recorder with Guitar and Drum. The focus is how to develop improvisational skills with students in a practical way. I hope it works for you!

IDEAS FOR PRACTICING IMPROVISATION
*A simple definition of improvisation: “Make your own to fit the music.”

*Improvisational sections are included in five pieces in this collection. For improvisation (improv), all five pieces use the notes of the G pentatonic scale (G-A-B-D-E) centering either on the “la” tonal center (E) or “do” tonal center (G). On the soprano recorder these notes line up in descending order as B-A-G-E-D. Upper octave notes D2-E2-G2-A2-B2 are also available for improv with advanced students. The tonal center is E in all of these five pieces except for “Samba in the BAG,” in which the improv begins over the Em chord, but resolves to G.

*Start working on improv early in the learning process.

*In the beginning practice stages, have students improvise as a group. This will give them the opportunity to experiment and make mistakes without being put on the spot.

*In the later practice stages and for performances, use solo improvisers. Give any interested students the opportunity to solo improvise during the later practice stages.

*When beginning improv practice, start with only one note: B. Teacher plays the guitar part, and students play their ideas that fit with the rhythm and the feeling of the song using only B.

*Then, “Add the note A. Start on B, but add the note A sometimes.” Teacher plays guitar, students experiment with two notes.

*Then, “Add the note G. Start on B, but add A and G sometimes.” Teacher plays guitar, students practice improvising with three notes.

*Then, “Add the note E. Start on B or on E, and add in the others when it feels good to you.” Teacher plays guitar, students practice with four notes.

*Then, “Add the note D. Start on B or E, and add in the others when you wish.” Teacher plays guitar, students practice with the full pentatonic scale.

*For your very capable players, add in any upper octave notes they can comfortably play: D2-E2-G2-A2-B2.

*I’ve found it to be extremely helpful to limit the number of notes they can use in the beginning. Many students, when given a full scale to use at the outset, will randomly play all over the recorder. Starting with one note will focus them on playing within the feeling of the music. Adding one note at a time will gradually increase their options.

*Include vocal improvisation in your practice time. It is excellent for developing improv skills. Echo speak or sing rhythms and melodic patterns that fit the feel of the music.

*Set up improvisation sections according to the abilities of your group. Individuals can:
>Question/Answer
(Note: In the beginning of Question/Answer practice, Teacher plays the Question and Student plays the Answer. As they develop ideas, change this to Student/Student.)

>Perform their own question and answer.

>Improvise for the length of a section.

>Improvise over the song, or add in “fills” the last time through the song.

Click here to find out more about Hot Jams for Recorder, Book & CD.

Other publications by Jim Solomon:

Conga Town (00-BMR08002)

D.R.U.M. (00-BMR08009)

Hands On (00-25898)

Do you have any improvisation or composition success stories you’ d like to share? We would love to hear  from you!

Exploring Holiday Songs, Carols, and Customs

By Sally K. Albrecht, Composer/Conductor/Clinician

Sally K. AlbrechtThe holidays are the perfect time to explore, study, and celebrate the music from other lands. Through music we can learn so much about people and traditions around the world. Alfred’s new publication A World of Christmas was put together with that in mind—to teach young singers about the cultures, customs, languages, and music of other countries.

Use A World of Christmas as a songbook (approximately 30 minutes) or add the optional script to create a full-fledged global musical (approximately 50 minutes). The publication contains an opening/closing theme, plus songs from 15 countries around the globe. Feel free to add other holiday songs from other countries, or select only your favorites for a shorter program. The optional script includes lines for 10 narrators, who introduce the customs of the featured country before each song. Use the same 10 speakers throughout the program, or change before each song—it’s up to you.

If you teach many different classes, consider having all your children perform the opening and closing theme, with different individual classes performing one or more songs alone. A World of Christmas may be performed simply on risers, with narrators coming forward before each selection.

You can easily turn this program into a full-school project, inviting fellow teachers or people from your community to join in on the fun. Consider using the study of this material to develop further interdisciplinary study:

  • Invite a geography teacher to talk about the different countries that are featured: the locations, hemispheres, longitudes and latitudes, major cities, topography, imports and exports, major crops, etc.
  • Invite a language specialist to teach a few important words in each country’s native language: yes, no, hello, goodbye, bathroom, numerals from 1-10, please, thank you, etc.
  • Invite an art teacher to help students draw a map of the country, the flag, or even children wearing typical costumes of the country. Plan an art project or exhibit based on the particular art styles of the country or specific region.
  • Invite a history teacher to talk about past and recent developments in the country’s politics, borders, rulers, etc.
  • Invite a chef to talk about foods and perhaps cook a typical dish from a few of the countries.
  • Invite a banker to show your students currency from each country.
  • Invite an ethnomusicologist to demonstrate musical instruments or play examples of folk music from each country.
  • Invite a music specialist to talk about and play examples of the music of famous composers from each country.
  • Invite a zoologist to talk about each country’s native animals and what they eat.
  • Invite a meteorologist to talk about each country’s climate and typical weather patterns.
  • Invite a travel agent to talk about the highlights of each country, things to see and do, and how to get there. Collect some travel posters for your hallways and classrooms.
  • Invite a costume designer to show examples of the typical dress of each country.
“We hope you enjoy introducing your students to The World of Christmas

Music in Your Community

By Julie Lyonn LiebermanJulieLL

Imagine a wedding without music. Impossible, isn’t it? How about a movie or TV show, a party, the doctor’s office, an inauguration, a worship service, or a sporting event?

Music has been inextricably connected to social events and spiritual worship throughout the world for eons. Music is to the human spirit what skin-temperature water is to the human body — an environment that provides transformation and unity through engaging in an activity that is larger than self.

Introducing the art of performance to a young person without a focal point or a higher purpose is, to my mind, backwards and bereft. Performing for its own sake —a relatively new addition to the use of music historically speaking— tends to focus a young, inexperienced musician on fear and on first person thinking:  How am I doing? What will they think of me? Am I good enough? Will I make a mistake? It’s also a missed opportunity. Music is about community and sharing. It’s an act of nonverbal communication.

There are at least three approaches you can employ to transform the performance experience for your students while providing your community with something special: 1) Intergenerational/interschool, 2) Theme-oriented, and 3) Location-oriented.

1) Intergenerational — Interschool 

Everyone immediately notices the spark and learning curve an inter-generational concert can generate within the student body and community versus the traditional “my age group plays, followed by your age group, followed by …” When you have everyone on stage together creating music, the excitement in the hall is tangible.

I first began to develop scores with interlocking parts decades ago for school systems that couldn’t afford to bring me in to do a residency for a single age group. I use the term “flexi-score” to describe a score that has an middle school part and a high school part that each work perfectly well on their own, yet interlock to create a rich, whole-group interaction. My newest flexi-score, Newtown Peace Anthem, offers this opportunity.

There’s very little published music designed to support this kind of intergenerational all-community event, but it isn’t that difficult to take a high school piece and write a simpler version of it for middle school. In fact, you can turn this into a class or student project, thereby satisfying National Music Standard number four, “Composing and arranging music within specified guidelines.”

Since it’s important to respect copyright laws, you can write to the publisher or the composer and either ask for their permission to develop a complementary part or commission them to do so for you; or choose a published arrangement of a traditional piece of music and create your own level-specific arrangement that complements an arrangement in your music library.

2) Theme-oriented

Choosing a theme for your concert can provide a positive and creatively challenging point of focus for the students. For example, this fall I’ve invited NewtownPPstring teachers nationwide to schedule something in their December concerts in honor of the 20 children and 6 educators killed in my town, Newtown CT, 12/14/12. The overall project, Newtown Peace Park, invites students to conceive of ideas they can implement in their community to foster a culture of kindness in the names of Newtown’s fallen angels.

Virginia-based string educator Laura Parker approaches each concert with a theme. Her last concert theme, “Spread Your Wings,” focused on the life cycle of the butterfly. She covered the four stages of the butterfly musically through four carefully chosen pieces of music, challenged her students to identify four stages in their own musical development, and included the art department, the dance department, and many individuals outside her string program in the process. Her next theme is called “Reaching for the Stars.” You can read more about her butterfly concert here.

Whether it’s a local topic  (tragedy or good fortune), a national topic like the environment, or a personal one, the school concert can provide a model for a caring community that can accommodate many opinions, many points of view —all presented in a creative fashion while providing a unique opportunity to its music students.

3) Location-oriented

As referenced in Richard Meyer’s article, Giving Bach, moving your concert out of the auditorium and into the community can help shift your students’ focus to groups within their community that can benefit from or even be healed by their music making. Whether it’s for a school that doesn’t have a music program, a retirement home, house of worship, sporting event, or town hall meeting, giving to the community can achieve wonders for all those involved.

Playing Melodically: A Different Approach to Teaching Phrasing

By Todd Stalter

During my first semester in college, my studio teacher gave me what seemed like an insurmountable amount of technical studies to prepare for every lesson which, frankly, I enjoyed in a perverse sort of way—being able to play rings around everybody else was certainly on my mind as an ambitious freshman trumpet player (as if that was all there was to it).  During second semester, however, he tacked on some simple melodies in the back of the Arban Method for each lesson as well, saying, “I think it’s about time you learned how to play a melody.”  Of course, I thought I already did…boy, was I in for an education.  Thanks to him, I was initiated into my first truly detailed study of music.

One of the most important concepts we try to teach our ensembles is to play with good phrasing, but we often become frustrated when we don’t hear our groups playing phrases consistently.  I believe that part of the reason for this can be traced to our students’ first experiences with full ensemble music. They may be unconsciously making a distinction between that music and the material in their lesson books, which is naturally almost 100% melodic in focus.  You can’t really blame them; it’s hard to convince a young trombone player playing whole and half notes all day long, or alto sax and French horn players with an awkward middle voice part that sounds weird, that they actually have a melody of any kind.  And, to be honest, if we’re not careful, we directors can relegate phrasing pretty far down our priority list when rehearsing (guilty as charged).  After a few years of playing Grades 1 to 2.5 ensemble music with little or no attention to melodic playing, it becomes even harder to get good musical phrases out of them when they are in an ensemble capable of playing Grade 3 music and above.

We all know that for an ensemble player of any age, playing a good phrase requires knowing what the melody actually is, who plays it, and how their part relates to it.  I think too many directors get caught in the “melody vs. non-melody” trap while teaching phrasing, and are in fact unwittingly telling their students that when their part is not the melody, they should play “non-melodically,” which is exactly the opposite of what creates good phrasing in the first place.  I believe part of the answer to effectively teaching phrasing lies in convincing EVERYONE that their parts are melodic. Realizing that sometimes they may have the “primary” melody, a “secondary” melody, or even a “background” melody of some sort helps them find their place in the musical texture.  Using this approach, every member of the ensemble is focused on melodic playing, and is instinctively trying to phrase it musically, which gives the director something audible to work with, as in “Hey trombones, did you hear how the euphoniums played the part you share?  That’s how I want you to phrase it.”

Not only does this approach foster better individual and ensemble musicianship, but it teaches students to be more creative musicians and “think it” before they play it, which is a far more gratifying artistic result for both the director and their students.

Be an Active Listener

By Jeff Coffin and Caleb Chapman,
The Articulate Jazz Musician
Authors

calebchapman_jeffcoffinIn our new book series, The Articulate Jazz Musician, one of the first skills we discuss is the ability to listen. Listening is fundamental! We believe it is the most basic fundamental in music and ultimately essential to success. To participate, we like to think of the listening process as “the act of listening” or, better yet, “active listening.” To get the most from a practice activity, you need to be focused and involved. We would like to share some of our ideas on becoming better listeners, as well as some important recordings to listen to and share.

1. Listen with the Whole Body

Have you ever had goose bumps while listening to music? Where do they come from and why do they happen? Goose bumps come from a WHOLE BODY listening experience. Hearing and feeling music through your body can be a profound experience. Learn to appreciate the sensations of music on your arms, legs, feet, chest, hands, and face—they’re all vibrations and we can “hear” those vibrations with our bodies.

2. Listen to Your Surroundings

Learn to listen around you. Close your eyes, be silent, and pay attention to what you hear. It may take a few moments to perceive your surroundings but there is a lot there! The better your perception is, the better your listening skills will become. There is a big hint in the fact that the words “listen” and “silent” contain exactly the same letters.

3. Listen to an Expanded Range of Styles

It’s important to listen to and enjoy different styles and types of music. A wise person once said: “All listeners are equal in their opinions.” Just because you like something doesn’t mean someone else will feel the same way. The opposite holds true, as well—just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean it’s not valid. And similarly, just because something is new or is in a style that is unfamiliar, don’t dismiss it! Give it a listen, not just once but a few times. You might be surprised at how your appreciation for the music changes as you spend more time with it.

4. Listen More than You Practice

A good rule is to listen twice as much as you practice. Music is a language and we need to hear it in order to assimilate its sounds, articulations, rhythms, and emotions. It’s not realistic to expect children (or anyone) to learn a language without first hearing it and imitating it. Music is no exception. It takes time, effort, imitation, and listening.

5. Listen with Others

What is some of the most unusual music you have heard? Have you shared it with your students? Have you asked them to share theirs with you? Listening with others will give you a fresh perspective on what you are hearing. People enjoy talking about what they have heard. It’s important to ask the question, “What did you hear?”

Start a dialogue about music and about listening. Be sure to listen to your students’ comments. This is important even if you don’t agree with them or if their assessment seems a little strange to you. Experience is a beautiful teacher and we can all learn something from communicating and listening to one another.

Chances are that you, your friends, and your student musicians have some favorite current jazz artists that you are listening to. However, sometimes the vast catalogs of earlier recordings can be intimidating—often students will inquire about what to listen to. Below are a few recommendations from us of some great music to hone those listening skills on!

Small Group Recommendations from Jeff Coffin

Louis Armstrong & the Hot Five – anything!

Miles Davis – Kind of Blue

John Coltrane – Ballads

Sonny Rollins – Live at the Village Vanguard

Keith Jarrett – Standards Vol. 1

Cannonball Adderley – Something Else

Alan Lomax’s field recordings (These are online for FREE).

www.folkstreams.net (Great folkloric documentaries for FREE!)

Ali Fakar Toure – anything (He’s a guitarist from Mali, Africa.)

Aretha Franklin – Aretha Sings the Blues

Large Ensemble Recommendations from Caleb

Toshiko Akiyoshi – Long Yellow Road

Count Basie – April In Paris

Duke Ellington – Jazz Party

Gil Evans and Miles Davis – Miles Ahead

Maynard Ferguson – Birdland Dreamband

Dizzy Gillespie – Birk’s Works: Verve Big Band Sessions

Benny Goodman – Live at Carnegie Hall 1938

Fletcher Henderson – 1924-1925

Joe Henderson – Big Band

Woody Herman – Keeper of the Flame: Complete Capitol Recordings

Thad Jones/Mel Lewis – Live at the Village Vanguard

Stan Kenton – Cuban Fire

Charles Mingus – Let My Children Hear Music

Buddy Rich – Roar of ’74 

Bang Zoom!!

Start your program off with a bang and watch kids get excited about music.

By Vince Gassi

Vince Gassi
There is so much to do in preparation for September and beyond, but just as important as all the organizing and ordering are the ways that we generate enthusiasm and excitement.  So how do we do it? How do we get kids buzzed about band and maintain that excitement all throughout the year? Here are just a few ideas. I’m sure you’ve got many more.

As you browse these eight great ideas, you can use the Mind Map below as a visual reference:
vincemindmap

1. BAND NIGHT OUT. Attend a concert as a band within the first few weeks of school. It’s a great way to kick off the year. There are always exciting performances to attend and good live music will aid in the development of a student’s concept of tone and style. Parents are always willing to help with transportation and other considerations. Plus, they will soon realize just how cool your program is.

2. SNEAK PREVIEWS. Consider inviting other classes, teachers, or parents into the band room for a quick snippet of your next concert. This doesn’t have to be onerous. Just one piece is sufficient or even a section that you are working on. Better yet, simply nab the next person walking past your room. Ask them to come in for a minute and listen. Kids love to perform and sometimes the best progress is made in front of a live audience.

3. OFF SPEED PITCH. As students are entering your room, why not have music playing? The twist is that it can be music that they listen to and not necessarily your musical preference. “Hey Miss, you like this stuff?” is a question you’ll no doubt hear. That’s okay. They’ll think that they have the coolest teacher in the school.

4. VIDEO TESTS (CONTESTS). Have students record their own playing tests. They are much easier to grade. What if they make a mistake and re-record? Great! The more they do that, the more they practice. Isn’t that the point? “But sir, I get nervous when I have to play a test.” My reply is, “Don’t think of it as a test but rather as a contest.” The word contest can imply a game or challenge to achieve a personal best. Athletes do it all the time.

5. BAND CAMP. It would take some preparation during the previous school year so you may want to save this one for next September, but how cool would it be (while the rest of the school is in class, of course) to have the senior band or the entire music department away at camp for a few days? Run sectionals and full rehearsals. It’s a great way to introduce repertoire for the year. Invite guest instructors for master classes and/or to perform with the band. Remember you want to turn kids on so it has to be fun.

6. BEGINNER CAMP. Have just the beginning music students at a mini-camp for one day. Specialists will ensure that concepts get ingrained correctly from the start. Order pizza (band budget) and invite parents to attend a very brief mini-concert (one very easy three-note piece). Briefly outline what your goals are and why home support is so crucial. What a sense of accomplishment your students will feel and what a fantastic sneak preview of the fun they’ll have in your music program!

7. VIDEO CONFERENCE. Set up a videoconference with a composer whose music you’ll be performing this year. It can just be a question and answer session. Forward student generated questions to your guest composer ahead of time. There isn’t a lot of tech setup (laptop, screen, Skype). Schedule a second session later in the year when the band has had time to work on the music. What an invaluable experience and what a great preparation for the actual concert. Plan ahead and this one will reap great benefits.

8. BANDFEST. How about a virtual and/or real band exchange? Two bands from different parts of the country or the world (or even just down the street) could meet via webcam and perform one piece for each other in preparation for an actual trip to each respective city. It’s up to you just how big you want to go.

OTHER IDEAS: 9. Youtube concert report (students critique other bands performing similar repertoire), 10. Senior students mentor juniors, 11. Start an ensemble or two, 12. “Hear and Tell” (students play short recordings for the other students of their favorite band piece/composer and talk about why they like it), 13. Students create a band website or a band blog, 14. Movie day (composers, famous musicians).

All of these activities generate excitement and energy and, most importantly, engender the belief that music is important and fun! Remember to make your classes and rehearsals engaging as well. Your excitement and energy will rub off, so be creative. Tap into your own passion for the music and share it. Start the year off with a bang and it won’t be long before your program will be zooming along!