Monthly Archives: September 2011

What Can NATS Do For Me?

An Invitation from the National Association of Teachers of Singing

By Deborah Thurlow,
Treasurer, MDDC NATS; co-owner The Musical Source, Inc

In today’s tight teaching market, those who conduct choirs and teach singing may not be trained singers themselves. They often get stuck in a rut of “catch phrases” that are supposed to teach or coach students how to sing better, such as “increase support “ or “sing from your diaphragm.” Are these really understandable instructions to students? Does the director understand what he/she is asking? Vocal instructional language needs clarity. So, where can a vocal instructor go to learn how to be a better educator verbally, and a better singer physically?

Of course, there are numerous resources available to increase your knowledge and vocal skills. Besides books, DVDs, and choral workshops at MEA and ACDA conferences, consider joining NATS (not the Washington, DC baseball team), but the National Association of Teachers of Singing, or at the very least, consider taking a lesson or two with a member.

NATS is an international organization of professional teachers and coaches who teach people how to sing (http://www.nats.org/). Founded in 1944, it now boasts over 6,500 members worldwide. In the US, every state has at least one chapter. As a member, you receive The Journal of Singing, which contains scholarly articles on composers, song literature, diction, vocal pedagogy issues, and vocal health issues, plus reviews of new books, music, CDs, and DVDs on singing. In the last five years, NATS has given greater emphasis to the pedagogy of singing popular styles, especially musical theatre. Both journal articles and national workshops have been devoted to musical theatre vocal training.

Every year, each NATS state chapter holds Student Auditions in high school, collegiate, and continuing education categories for both classical and musical theatre singers. This is an opportunity for students to be evaluated by other voice teachers and for students to learn how to audition—a process necessary for any singer, even the amateur choral singer trying to get into the city chorus. During the yearly state Student Auditions, the top scorers in every category are invited to go on to the regional level. National NATS is split into nine regions throughout the US, and each region has a subsequent weekend event after state conferences, giving another opportunity for voice teachers to meet colleagues from different
states, hear new information from a master clinician, and practice adjudicating students. The topscoring students sing again for another set of adjudicators, and get to observe and learn from their peers.

Yearly, NATS offers national workshops on specific topics in various locations in the US. For example Let’s Make Music Together: The Art of Collaboration is being held in Milwaukee, WI, at the end of March with opera singer Denyce Graves and pianist Warren Jones. In July, NATS is offering Guys and Gals of Broadway featuring musical theatre veteran Craig Carnelia, held at the University of NC, Charlotte. On the alternate year, a national conference is held, which covers numerous topics and offers lots of great recitals, as well as wonderful camaraderie. The next one will be held from June 29-July 3, 2012, in Orlando, FL.

NATS also offers a Young Teaching Intern Program, which offers an intensive workshop for young teachers to teach voice lessons in front of master voice teachers. NATS members who are voice scientists conduct and report on vocal research, and often work in conjunction with The Voice Foundation, a sister organization which offers further scientific study of the voice. NATS is a great network for job and business opportunities that involve singing, such as the Job Board on the NATS website.

For a number of years, NATS leadership has been creating liaisons with other professional music organizations, such as the National Opera Association (NOA), the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA), and the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA). Recently, on March 10, 2011, some of the national NATS leadership gave a presentation to about 800 ACDA members attending the national convention in Chicago. Their PowerPoint presentation, “Choral Directors are from Mars and Voice Teachers are from Venus: Sing from the Diaphragm and other Vocal Mistructions” can be found at http://www.nats.org, for anyone interested in the main topics of discussion. This presentation was an invitation for choral conductors, along with any teacher guiding singing in the classroom or in a one-onone instructional situation, to embrace the concept of healthy singing and look at the kind of language they use to teach.

So why think about joining yet another professional organization, such as NATS? As a vocal educator, you are responsible for shaping and honing your students’ voices. Each of them only has one voice—ever. Healthy singing is key to a successful choral and vocal music program. For information on NATS, go to http://www.nats.org, or contact me or any NATS member: deb@musicalsource.com, 202-387-7401 x12.

Getting the Meanings Right

By John Glenn Paton
Editor, Alfred Vocal Masterworks Series

I love poetry. I love music more, but poetry and music added together make up the art that grabbed me at an early age. Once a voice teacher said to me, “We sing in Italian because of the vowels. The poetry isn’t so important.” I felt something was wrong with that. I knew that those words meant something, and I wondered what it was.

We are all singers because we want to say something to people, to stir them with feelings that we can all share. To do that, we must know the meanings of our lyrics. There was a time when I didn’t know German, and I hoped that none of my listeners really knew the language either. What kind of communication was that? Pretty limited.

I tried to read the singable translations of my songs. But sorry, a translator just cannot produce an accurate translation while thinking about rhymes, the number of syllables in each phrase, and accents in the right places. I could work through my lieder with a German dictionary. That helped, but it could lead to bizarre misinterpretations, like overlooking the difference between schon and schön or not knowing whether der Zug meant a train, a swig, a facial feature, or one of the other valid dictionary meanings of that one word.

In the 1950s, some collections of German and French songs had readable English translations printed in the front or back pages, a big help toward understanding. Berton Coffin, my senior colleague at the University of Colorado, published a book of phonetic transcriptions of songs and arias. Then he brought out books of word-for-word translations, which are still on the market. My friend William Leyerle combined those features in a three-line formula with the phonetics, words, and literal meanings all vertically aligned.

In addition to the three-line text analysis, the books in Alfred’s Vocal Masterworks Series have one more feature that is my innovation: A readable translation is printed at the foot of each music page. We need such a version because the word order of the original text is usually quite different from English word order.

For example, take the beginning of a famous Italian song: “Nel cor piú non mi sento brillar la gioventú.” That means: “In the heart more not myself I feel sparkle the youth.” But that’s nonsense. So we also provide a readable version: “No longer do I feel youth sparkle in my heart.” And that is printed on the music page, right where singer, pianist, and teacher can all see it immediately.

It’s up to you, the singer, to find the inner meaning of the poem, the personal interpretation that you want to share with the audience. But Alfred has given you the tools you need to do your job and know that you are on the path to successful communication.

How to Make Your Audition Stand Out from the Rest

By David V. Patrick
Vocal Coach/Music Director
So you have an audition coming up and need to choose a song to sing. Should the song be up-tempo or a ballad? Should it be more recent Broadway or a classic? Should it be by the composer of the show for which you are auditioning, or perhaps one from the same era or in a similar style?

Each audition comes with its own spoken and unspoken requirements. Certain Broadway composers love to hear their music sung in an audition, while others cringe when their music is performed in such an intimate environment.

With so many songs from which to choose and so many unique personalities behind the audition table, how does one determine which song (or songs) to sing? Here is a quick checklist of simple ways to make your audition stand out from the rest.

MAKE IT PERSONAL
The first and most important question you should ask is: Do I have a personal connection with this song? Whatever style or type of song you select for your audition, it should first and foremost be one that you can connect with, physically and emotionally. If the gender of the text isn’t yours, adapt it or select another song. Make sure it fits you and your experiences in life.

TELL THE STORY
Ask yourself some questions:
1. Can the text of this song be used to tell my own story?
2. Can I apply my own subtext to this song?
A song comes to life when you can personally tell a story—either the story the lyricist or book writer created or, better yet, your own story overlaid on the existing lyrics.

Drawing upon your own memory is there someone in your life you need to sing this song (tell this story) to? Is there an event in your life you wish for a “do-over?” Bringing these personal experiences into your performance
makes the song come alive for the listener. Liking the song is the first step. With some basic dramatic license you can use the lyricist’s words to tell your story. While the listener will be unaware of your personal subtext, they will be keenly aware of your connection to the song.

KEEP IT REAL
Take “Back To Before” from Ragtime by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens. The fact that the story takes place during the early 1900s should have little or no impact on your approach to the song as a solo or audition piece. The first line of the song, “There was a time our happiness seemed never-ending. I was so sure that where we were heading was right.” This could be about you alone, you and a close friend, or you and an organization you belonged to. The only real requirement is that your subtext has some type of real emotional impact for you.

So make it personal, tell the story, and keep it real—three simple statements that can make a world of difference in your musical audition or performance.

David V. Patrick has been a vocal coach/music director at the Walt Disney World® Resort for the past 29 years. He currently serves as a Vocal Performance Manager at The American Idol™ Experience at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

The Art of the Jazz Etude

By Bob Mintzer

Back in the early ‘90s, I composed a series of short pieces based on common jazz forms that combined the jazz tradition with my take on improvising. The idea was to have melody, harmony, and rhythm implied in the pieces in a way where you could play by yourself and have it sound complete (J.S. Bach did this so beautifully in his cello suites and partitas). This idea eventually morphed into a written jazz etude that could be played along with a recorded rhythm section track on a CD. I added a track with myself playing the etude as a demonstration. I think of these jazz etudes as something in between a play-along and a solo transcription. These etudes illustrated some of the things I like to play when I solo and hopefully they might be of value to aspiring students of jazz. I’ve written five etude books since then varying in difficulty and stylistic focus. All the books have recordings with the trio rhythm sections I usually play with in my own quartet or with the Yellowjackets.

The books serve multiple purposes. 1) A player can study and learn the notes of the etude by playing along with the CD demo track to match the articulation and inflection of my saxophone playing. In addition, to listen and interpret the way the rhythm section and I play the etude together. (2) The player can work on time and phrasing by playing the etudes on the CD play-along rhythm section track. (3) A player can solo over the play-along rhythm section track of the etudes and incorporate the various melodic and harmonic devices illustrated in the written etudes. In a nutshell: listen, practice, learn, and apply the knowledge. I include an explanation of the how-and-why with each etude. Finally, the fringe benefits include improving sight-reading skill, expanding jazz vocabulary, and getting the chance to play with a world-class rhythm section.

Is this a viable way to learn to play jazz? Probably not in and of itself. Nothing beats the painstaking process of transcribing solos of the masters, learning several hundred tunes, practicing soloing on the tunes, working on patterns and all the devices that give you vocabulary for soloing, going out to hear live music, and playing a lot with other musicians. But in these times of quick access to information, these etude books can provide a forum for live playing and individual study and serve as a springboard for further study of playing jazz. For example, take any phrase from one of the etude books, practice it in all keys, and see if you can find a way to use that melodic shape while soloing over a blues or standard. Or, take one of the etudes and write a contrafact on the form and changes. Or, use one of the etude grooves as a vehicle for writing a new tune. The possibilities are endless. My hope is that my etude books will inspire students to move past merely playing the etudes verbatim and use the information to further research this wonderful art form. The more the player listens and observes the detail in the way we play the etudes on the CD—details such as attack, sustain, decay, dynamics, accented notes, length of notes, and so on, the better jazz musician any player can become. It’s all about the detail!

The Real Story on Fake Books

By Pete BarenBregge
Jazz Editor

What is a Real Book?
A Real Book is also known as a Fake Book. Either way, it is a collection of song lead sheets. The term “fake book” comes from the original idea that with the fake book, you could “fake” your way through a tune you may not actually know.

What do you do with a Real Book or Fake Book and why do you need one?
There are many Real Books available, so select the one that serves your stylistic or genre needs—but make sure it is a legal version that has all the copyrights clearly notated at the bottom of the first page of each song. A jazz Fake Book is simply a collection of jazz lead sheets with the melody and the chord progressions. Usually it will contain a mix of standards both new and old, bebop, more contemporary jazz tunes, various Latin tunes and styles, and lyrics and a verse on many of the standards. Books are sometimes available transposed for B-flat or E-flat instruments, but usually the C edition is the most common and therefore the default.

The uses are varied, for example:

  • For use on jazz gigs, jam sessions, club dates/casuals.
  • For combos or individuals.
  • For teachers, or instrumental/vocal groups.
  • To study and analyze compositions.
  • Educational—learn essential jazz tunes.
  • A reference of jazz repertoire.
  • Style guidelines are provided for each song, such as swing, ballad, rock, salsa, bossa
  • nova, and so on. Suggested tempos are usually included as well.
  • Learn the form of various songs. The lead sheets are often notated with rehearsal letters
  • to assist with understanding the form and musical phrases.
  • Play through tunes on piano (or guitar) with right-hand melody and left-hand chords.
  • Practice comping as well.
  • Learn to play through chord progressions.
  • To practice sight reading and to gain experience.

Other features and tips:

  • Many arrangements of jazz tunes include introductions and optional endings.
  • Clear lead sheets with accurate chord symbols.
  • Suggested substitute chord progressions are shown above the main chord symbols.
  • Many jazz standards include the song verse.
  • An authorized (jazz) real book or fake book is a professional-quality legal resource.
  • An invaluable tool for musicians.
  • Practice the songs in different keys and tempos.
  • Arrange songs to practice arranging and to make a more interesting performance.

Click here to check out Alfred’s available Real Books!

Format a Tune: Making Your Small Group Sound Their Best!

By Kris Berg
Composer/Arranger/Bassist/Educator

Arranging can involve complex issues such as re-harmonization, counterpoint, horn voicings and so on, “formatting” a tune involves simply taking the time to imagine what a tune will sound like when it is actually performed. Think of it as washing and detailing your car—certainly not a new paint job and a custom interior, but nonetheless, it makes it look better in the driveway. Many student jazz combo performances can be greatly enhanced with a little bit of formatting.

I suggest approaching the concept of formatting by imagining that you are in the audience watching your student combo perform. Think about the details of the presentation while the tune(s) are being played. What do you think the audience wants to see and hear from the performance?

  • Here are a few questions to ponder:
  • What style is the tune?
  • Is the style accurately performed?
  • How fast or slow is the tempo?
  • Can the group handle the tempo?
  • How many soloists?
  • Too many, too few soloists?
  • In what solo order?
  • Are the rhythm section players working as a unit?
  • Is there an introduction to the tune?
  • Is there an ending?
  • Is there development?

These are all simple questions to answer and will involve very little time.

Here are some things to consider:

Style/tempo: These are big priorities as it affects most of the remaining decisions you will make. Both style and tempo are great ways to change things up. Try playing a tune much faster or slowing it down. Alternate styles or grooves as in a tune similar to what typically occurs in “On Green Dolphin Street” or change the style completely. Try changing the meter. Play with it—step out of the box!

Introduction: Typically vamping the first four bars, the first two chords or depending on the tune, a I-VI-II-V cycle may be a good intro. But why not change things up? Maybe eight bars of drums as an intro or a solo before the melody. Sometimes, no intro is a good intro too!

Orchestration: An easy way to bring color to your performance is to experiment with sounds. Try a solo horn on the melody, and then try different combinations of melody instruments. Try various brass mutes. Add guitar or piano to the horns or have them solo by themselves. You might even try bass on the melody!

Melody style: This is very important to the style of your performance. Often real book or fake book lead sheets are notated in a simple style and usually don’t really swing as written. I strongly suggest a simple change of a few notes to upbeats at the beginning or ending of phrases can do wonders for the feel. FYI, listening to jazz recordings is THE BEST way to get ideas.

Order of soloists: Too often groups fall into the common sequence of first horn solo, second/third horn solo, piano solo, then trade fours with the drummer—that is so predictable. Switch things around like by asking the bass player to solo first and then have that lead into a horn solo with just the bass playing a solo walking bass line as the accompaniment. Just having the piano or guitar solo between the two horn solos will change the sound of the group enough to make the presentation more interesting.

Rhythm section: Changing the sound of these instruments can produce big benefits to the performance. Behind melodies try having the rhythm section start with a two-feel and then full swing in four for the solos. Try some stop-time figures a la “Autumn Leaves.” How about omitting piano and/or drums behind the melody or try having everyone play the melody with drums keeping time? The interaction in the rhythm section behind solos is also critical.  Avoid having guitar and piano comp at the same time—it usually sounds cluttered. Have the player alternate behind soloists. Try dropping either guitar or piano out during the second solo of a tune or perhaps no piano or no drums. I strongly suggest directing the drummer to alternate ride cymbals for each solo because it will produce nice color changes.

Ending: Bop tunes typically end with a short hit on the last note—simple but effective. A slight ritard and a fermata on the last chord can also be effective. Perhaps have the group play the last four or eight bars three times before the ending. Try holding out the last three chords and have short cadenzas on each. There are many, many possibilities.

Listening to great jazz recordings is THE BEST way to learn jazz and certainly to explore ideas that you can adapt for your group. Here are a few of my favorite jazz artists and their groups:Horace Silver, Bobby Watson, Art Blakey, Wayne Shorter, Conrad Herwig and Clifford Brown.

Remember, it’s about effecting what the audience hears when the group performs. Don’t ever forget that music is ultimately entertainment. Changing things up will certainly make things more enjoyable for your listener and I am sure, more enjoyable for the performers. I guarantee that just a little bit of time spent formatting will produce some big results for your small group or jazz ensemble!

Kris Berg is available for clinics, guest appearances and commissions and can be reached at

kberg@collin.edu or by searching “Kris Berg Jazz” on Facebook.

The Art and Craft of Jazz Arranging and Composition

The Big Picture = global + local planning

By Eric Richards
Assistant Professor of Composition/Jazz Studies

My name is Eric Richards and I’m the assistant professor of composition and jazz studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Prior to beginning my 2nd career as a college professor, I spent 20 years as composer/arranger with the US Army Field Band based near Washington, DC. I’ve had the good fortune of having my music played in world-wide venues and jazz festivals by groups such as the US Army Jazz Ambassadors, the USAF Airmen of Note, the National Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Pops Orchestra and many others. As a professional writer and an educator of composer-arrangers, I’ve seen the importance of what I call “global planning” (I’m not talking about carbon footprints here) with regard to a clear, compelling structure for a composition or arrangement.

Many new writers have already developed a solid basic vocabulary of harmony, melodic concepts and the most important component in jazz composition or improvisation, RHYTHM. The challenge is assembling these components into a musical “story” with an effective arc that unfolds in the time allotted for the piece. I think the challenge is very similar to the one faced by improvisers: “I’ve spent all of this time working on ii–V patterns, bebop scales, hip licks, and learning the changes, now how do I put this all of this vocabulary and technique together to tell a story?”

Developing a master plan for a chart helps to sort out these “global” organizational issues prior to working out the very important “local” issues of reharmonization, voicings, orchestration, and so on. This process is not very time-intensive and will yield great results.

CHART SYNOPSIS
A simple, but useful exercise for writers is to carefully think through the chart. The writer should be able to summarize the concept of the chart in no more than 2 sentences. Example: “RECORDA ME” is a setting of composer Joe Henderson’s jazz classic for medium-advanced big band. Use the original Latin groove as a point of departure and be set in the standard key.
• This provides clarity and focus in the initial sketch score process.
• The concept can change mid-stream and that’s okay.
• Develop the concept from the perspective of the conductor: where would I program this chart in the concert program design?

CHART OUTLINE
So, what would a chart outline look like? Here’s an example of one I used for my new arrangement of Freddie Hubbard’s great tune “The Intrepid Fox.” The timeline helps to see how I ensure the chart maintains the artistic balance frequently cited as “unity vs. variety”.
• A general sense of how the structure unfolds reduces the probability of a piece that is too long (common error) or too short or unbalanced (e.g., wide open spaces for improvised solos with little substantive ensemble writing).

Example: “The Intrepid Fox”
Comp. Freddie Hubbard Arr. Eric Richards
CONCEPT: An up-tempo medium-advanced arrangement of Freddie Hubbard’s classic that features trumpet 2 and the saxophone section.
TEMPO/FEEL: quarter note = 240+/straight-ahead groove
LENGTH: 5–6 minutes PROGRAMMING: Opener, central anchor, or closer.
FORM: AABA (melodic form); solos: modified variant on A

LAYOUT

  • Intro: full band into brief free-drum solo
  • Groove (bar 11): drums sets up straight-ahead groove in rhythm section, band layers in.
  • A1 (bar 28): saxophones, trumpet 2 and guitar on head
  • A2 (2nd X): add brass commentary (Harmon trumpets, open trombones)
  • B (bar 51): parallel 11th chords, open brass
  • A3 (bar 59): saxophones and trumpet 2 on head, open brass commentary but more assertive
  • Set up solos (bar 75): reference intro to setup solo section
  • Solo chorus 1 (bars 81–102): backgrounds as desired: sparse, comping trombones derived from opening rhythm section groove @ m. 11 w/sparse melodic references in saxophones and trumpets.
  • Chorus 2 (bars 103–124): increase energy by adding more assertive brass section figures derived from trombone figures beginning in m. 81.
  • Short interlude (bar 125): modal riff functions to dissipate energy and set up lighter feel for the beginning of the 4 horn soli with rhythm section.
  • Small band soli (bars 133–154): lighter texture for 4-horn soli. Voiced in octaves, build to shout chorus
  • Shout chorus (bar 155): climax of chart. Maximum range demands within guidelines.
  • B recap variant (bars 179–186): variant on B w/drum solo over rhythm section figures, brass layer in to add energy setting up final A statement.
  • Final A section (bar 195): final restatement of A phrase in saxophones, trumpet 2 and guitar, open brass.
  • Outro (bar 211): closing variant on introduction.

Not all details will be in the initial draft of the outline, but there should be enough detail/structure so that the writer has a big picture sense (global) of where things are going before starting to sketch the detailed notes and rhythms (local). If the concept changes while the chart is in progress, that is okay—be flexible. However, do update the timeline/outline. The whole point of the timeline/outline phase is to separate the “big picture” issues like form and architecture from the details like voicings and rhythms, etc. For composers, arrangers, and conductors, spending some time on the BIG picture issues will yield BIG results!

Best wishes,
Eric Richards
Assistant Professor of Composition/Jazz Studies
University of Nebraska-Lincoln School of Music
http://fpadirectory.unl.edu/user/erichards2

The Jazz Concert

By Pete BarenBregge
Jazz Editor

It’s time to schedule, plan and begin to program a spring jazz ensemble performance. Where to begin? How many times have you heard another jazz ensemble play a chart you wish you had selected it for your band? Hey, it happens to all of us, that’s how we learn. The selection of music that fits your group is no mystery but the process should be logical and practical. The selection of music can make a significant impact on your program.

Goals: jazz education—to educate in the jazz idiom; select music that appeals to the band; select music that will appeal to the audience; and select music that is playable by your band.

Additional tips:
1)      Morale. Avoid selecting music that is simply too difficult for your band to play. It  will frustrate the players and you. Plus it will consume a lot of valuable rehearsal time and even potentially damage young embouchures.

2)      Programming. Always keep your audience in mind. Try a strong opener followed by something new and creative then something familiar. Offer a nice mix of swing charts, a ballad or two, a Latin, perhaps something funky or something more traditional or historic. Pace the band and avoid too many “power” charts or music that sounds similar back-to-back—imagine yourself in the audience as the critical listener.

3)      Choose quality music. How about jazz charts you are familiar with and can count on to fill a programming niche, perhaps a jazz standard? Or new charts that you have selected this year, perhaps an original composition or something a little out of the box. Listen to the publisher demos, they provide you with a very good example of how the chart should sound. As you make your selections, get a feel for the style, phrasing, articulation, rhythmic complexity, brass range and so on. Does the chart fit your band? Select music that will be a valuable addition to your music library—a jazz chart that will sound good five years from now.

  1. Evaluate your groups’ performance level.
  2. Accurately assess the practical range of each player in your group.
  3. Who are the strong or weak players in the ensemble?
  4. Who are the (potentially) strong soloists and what is their improvisation skill level or knowledge? Do they require written-out solos?
  5. Featured soloists.
  6. Brass section endurance.
  7. Can the rhythm section players comp or do they need written-out parts?
  8. Do you need to include any non-traditional instruments such as flute, auxiliary Latin percussion, F horn or tuba?

4)      Work it. Spend time working with the rhythm section before the winds.

5)      Listening. It is the most efficient way to learn jazz—use the demo recording to assist in teaching the chart to the band.

Most importantly, educate, enjoy and have fun playing jazz!

The Importance of Popular Music in the Band Program

Author Photo

By Victor López,
Belwin Concert Band Arranger

As educators, band directors certainly understand know the importance of music education and its positive effect on students. However, when teaching popular music, some do not realize its importance and the positive effects on students’ experiences in music education

Over the past 40 years, American popular music has consistently demonstrated great variety, originality and evolution. However, while the music has evolved widely, the same cannot be said for American music education. The issue is that in the classrooms, specifically in band rooms, we have not been inclusive of all types of music; teaching and programming popular music.

I must admit that when I first started teaching band, due to a unique situation at the school, I used pop tunes and film music to lure students into the band program and eventually to classical repertoire. I treated it as if I were feeding a baby. I would feed the students the music they liked and then slowly introduce them to more serious literature, in no particular order. I knew that each student was special and that each would assimilate and relate to the music learned in their own particular way. This process worked somewhat as I was able to build the program rapidly. Nevertheless, it was not a proper way to introduce popular music overall.

Popular music has its own merit. Perhaps more importantly, music in itself tends not to operate in isolation. Often, it involves an entire worldview and lifestyle associated with different cultures and subcultures. Therefore, we must be inclusive of all kinds of music. We must not forget that in order to provide meaningful and motivating connections between students and ensembles, band directors must realize that students’ prior experiences profoundly affect learning.

Given that band directors always strive to educate both the students and audiences, a concert program where most of the audience cannot identify with the music performed will leave the attendees with an empty feeling. Whether we like it or not, we have to admit that the nature of the beast, to a certain extent, is to entertain. Having said that, do yourself a favor and make certain that you include quality popular music at your next concert. You’ll be glad you did.

21st Century Student

Author Photo

By Chris M. Bernotas,
Concert Band Composer

Being in the world of music almost automatically makes us all involved in the trends of technology. With the many notation, sequencing, and recording programs available to our students, they can easily immerse themselves in the creation of music. While facilitating and fostering our students’ creative minds there is another way we can guide our students in technology.

The other major development that has changed the face of communication is e-mail. Since the introduction of e-mail, communication with people from all over the world has never been easier! We are no longer in the days of the “Pony Express” (available from Alfred!). A lesson I am planning to use with my students is going to involve having them select one of the pieces in their folder that particularly appeals to them and have them conduct some research. Their research will include investigating the background of the piece as well as the composer.

Luckily, many of today’s composers have websites that include tidbits of inside information about themselves and their music. As a part of my students’ research, I am going to suggest to them to contact the composer via e-mail and ask a question. The question can be about the composition, the composer or compositional technique.

I am excited to hear back from my students to see/hear the results of their info-quest. The goal is for my students to expand their understanding of music, connect to an artist and develop their communication skills. I believe that composers will enjoy hearing from students that are performing their music!