Monthly Archives: March 2012

Twitter for Bands and Public Relations


The following is the presentation from Joe Pisano’s TI:ME/JEN clinic on Saturday, January 7th, 2012 held at the Galt House in Lousiville, KY. The presentation was titled Twitter for Bands and Public Relations.

Thanks to Joseph M. Pisano, Ph.D and for letting us reference his presentation! Follow him @PisanoJM!

Also, follow Alfred at @BandOrch!

Alfred’s Drum Method, Book 1 Celebrates 25 Years of Enduring Success

Alfred's Ledger Lines Blog

Birthdays are always fun to celebrate. It’s the one day of the year that the world gets to revolve around you; people make you a cake, sing to you and give you presents. It’s a wonderful thing.

Even though today might not be your birthday, we’d love to give you a present anyway. (We’d include cake too, but that’s much harder to send through the internet.)

In honor of this special occasion, we are sharing a sample lesson from the book that music teachers and aspiring drummers make a beeline to when they want to teach or learn the basics of drumming. Authors Dave Black and the late Sandy Feldstein paved the way for all future drum authors, devising a drum education method that focuses on teaching specific techniques and following that up with a solo that emphasizes that technique.

Many drummers and teachers alike have found Alfred’s Drum Method to be both incredibly helpful and fun at the same time. To give you a taste for the way the book is organized, you can download this sample lesson and solo on the 5-stroke roll.

Download a sample lesson from this classic >

Joel Leach, Emeritus Professor of Music, California State University, Northridge says about the book, “25 years ago, the authors set out to write what they hoped would be the finest beginning percussion instruction book available. More than 500,000 copies later, it’s obvious they achieved their goal!”

So happy birthday to you Alfred’s Drum Method!

Learn about the history of this great method >

Prima la Parola, Seconda la Musica (First the Words, then the Music)

Jennifer SeigerBy Jennifer Seiger, Adjunct Instructor of Voice,
North Carolina State University

How does one begin the process of taking a song from an unknown new piece of music to a fully memorized and expressive personal statement? Often, one opens a book, heads to the keyboard, and begins plunking out the notes of the melody bit by bit, singing through short musical and textual phrases in much the same way as one might pick their way along an unfamiliar, rocky path. As a young singer this was my standard method of music learning. Along the way I added translations and IPA for any foreign language songs, but I always began with the notes.

This was until my first opera apprenticeship. The company director looked at the chorus of apprentices during one of the staging rehearsals—most of us armed with index cards for the words we had not yet been able to commit to memory—and shouted, “You all learn your music backwards! It shouldstart with the libretto!” The libretto—the words—and not the notes were his suggested
“point A.”

Backwards is the new forwards. Not only do I approach any songs that I will perform from memory in this way, I encourage this method of learning among all of my private students. As singers, we have to communicate a text in addition to singing beautiful, musical gestures. Using the text as the starting point creates deep, multi-layered memorization.

The first step is to isolate the text. Before going any further, memorize the text of your song completely—including repetitions of words or phrases as they have been set by the composer. For foreign language pieces, this will include the translation and phonetic pronunciation. Speak the text, write it out, record it and listen to your own playback—whatever method enables you to remember each detail. A valuable time of day for memory work is that time just before we go to sleep. Let the poetry you will be singing be the last thing you focus on before you sleep. When you wake in the morning, see how easily you can recall the poem or text.

Next, look at the rhythmic structure of the piece. Often the rhythm of the music will be an outgrowth of the rhythm of the naturally spoken text. Learn to speak the text in rhythm. Notice where the strong beats help emphasize the stressed syllable in a given word, or the climactic word within a phrase. And then, how can you make the text stresses work in the places where the rhythm does not provide this underlying support? When speaking the text rhythmically, use a sing-song approach that allows you to incorporate elements of articulation and dynamics.

With these two steps you have built a solid foundation for the next layer—the music. Students often remark how easily they are able to marry tune and text—even when the melodies are wide-ranging or full of leaps. The more difficult the melodic material, the greater the benefit of already having the text and rhythm memorized. Finally, with all of the information you have accumulated, interpret the piece and allow the diligence of your preparation to blossom into full artistic expression!

Thoughts on Composing for the Young Concert Band

By Ralph Ford

Over the past year, I have presented a clinic at state, district, and university conferences discussing my thoughts about the process of creating music for beginning and developing players. It has been invaluable to receive feedback from teachers in discussions about music that engages the young musician, especially those at the beginning stages of musical ability. It is through discussions such as these that I’m able to better meet the needs of the ensembles with varying abilities around the world. As a composer of music for any medium, I truly enjoy my attempts at creating works at this level for orchestra, concert band, and jazz ensemble. Those people who know me personally understand that I often think (and sometimes act) like a child. As a father of two young musicians, I examine what keeps them drawn to music. Additionally, I feel a responsibility to find a musical balance for the ʻteacher/musician/conductorʼ: to provide the best musical experience for the director as well as the students (and the audience!). When setting out to compose (or arrange) a piece for young or beginning players, I strongly consider each of the following points:

  1. Individual parts strive to be linear: As though each individual part were a solo line, I strive to make everyone’s part flow musically and logically.
  2. Everyone gets the melody, or at least a motif: This is extremely important for the developing musician. Years ago this advice was given to me by one of the best middle school directors I’ve ever known and I have tried to stick to this principle on every piece.
  3. Cross curricular opportunities are examined carefully: Finding ways to integrate music into other school curricula is a positive way to encourage connections with other academic subjects.
  4. Provide a musical ʻhookʼ to excite the players: Especially with beginners. Strong unison lines that establish a piece and re-occur during the performance seem to engage even the shyest of students.
  5. Create a piece that provides materials for concept reinforcements, i.e. the ʻreal worldʼ application of concepts from the method book(s).
  6. Create a piece that is fun to play: music that motivates practice and continued involvement in music.

The esteemed conductor and educator, Ray Cramer, once made a list that attempts to answer the question, “What comprises music of artistic merit?”Although this list has been quoted many times, I feel it is appropriate to revisit it for this discussion. DOES THE MUSIC POSSESS/CONTAIN:

  1. A well conceived formal structure?
  2. Creative melodies and counter-lines?
  3. Harmonic imagination?
  4. Rhythmic vitality?
  5. Contrast in all musical elements?
  6. Scoring which best represents the full potential for beautiful tone and timbre?
  7. An emotional impact?

Well stated, in my opinion. For the record, I keep a copy of this list in my studio to review before I embark on a new project. During my college band director days, I also kept this list at my desk as I reviewed music for performance with my wind ensemble. It continues to serve me well.

Singing Outside the Schools: Spotlight on the Durham Children’s Choir

Scott HillBy Scott Hill, Director

Like many music teachers, I have had a long and varied career. When I began teaching in the late 1960’s, I worked with college preparatory students. While my own children were young, I taught music part-time at a pre-school, in addition to taking several years to study for a Masters in Music. In the mid-70s, I was fortunate to find a job in the Durham Public Schools in Durham, North Carolina, teaching everything from elementary music for special education students to high school music. My final years of teaching music were spent at the Durham School of the Arts, a comprehensive 6-12 Visual and Performing Arts Magnet School.

Early in 2000, it became evident that I could not go on much longer teaching six classes each day, directing school musicals, and preparing students for honor choirs, not to mention all the grading and paper work that comes along with those teaching duties! I began exploring options for continuing my work with young singers, perhaps on a community-wide basis. After discussing various options with colleagues, local musicians, and parents of former students, it was recommended that I apply for an Emerging Artist grant from the Durham Arts Council. Fortunately, I received one of these grants, along with support from Duke University Chapel Music. With additional financial assistance from the parents of many former chorus students, the Durham Children’s Choir was founded in June 2004. Announcements were sent to every public, private, and church school in the area, as well as local churches and synagogues. Over 140 children came to auditions . . . and the Durham Children’s Choir began rehearsals in August 2004.

There are other excellent choirs in the Durham area, such as the North Carolina Boys Choir and the Capital City Girls Choir, but by their titles one can see that these groups are limited by gender. Many of the schools in Durham have highly-qualified music teachers, but their time is often severely limited. There are also wonderful sacred choirs open to children, but repertoire and performance opportunities are usually limited to sacred music intended for religious education or worship. The Durham Children’s Choir (DCC) offers an opportunity for all children in the Durham area to sing and experience the joy of choral music!

The mission of the choir is to learn a wide variety of high quality choral music and to share that music with the community through public performances. The choir studies and performs a wide variety of choral music, including sacred and secular music, world music, gospel, Broadway, and American popular song. The performance opportunities are wide reaching. Since its founding in 2004, the choir has sung regularly on the Duke University Performance series. They have also sung with Bobby McFerrin, the Welsh Men’s Choir, the Kronos Quartet, the Choral Society of Durham, and the Durham Symphony Orchestra. The DCC also regularly sings for community celebrations and at retirement centers in the area.

In recent years, several extraordinary opportunities have been afforded to the choir. In late June of 2008, 50 members of the choir took their first international tour, singing in south Wales and Durham, England. While in Wales, the choir visited and sang in several schools, including a primary school dedicated to preserving the Welsh language. Plans are currently being made for a tour to Toyama, Japan. The DCC has also had the good fortune of premiering several commissioned works, including Songs of Flight, a charming song cycle written by Andy Beck for the North Carolina chapter of the Music Teachers National Association.

The members of the Durham Children’s Choir are selected by auditions, which are open to all interested and motivated young singers in the area. As a result, the choir is comprised of children of all racial, cultural, religious, and economic backgrounds. Many of them are leaders in their own school music ensembles and have been recommended by their music teachers.

Take the opportunity to look for similar groups in your area! Participating in children’s choirs such as this can provide talented young singers with an opportunity to develop their singing abilities and performance skills, as well as to learn and perform high quality vocal literature while working in a cooperative atmosphere with a variety of students from across their community—a true example of the kind of musical activities we hope our students will grow to participate in and support as adults!