Monthly Archives: May 2012

Boot Camp for Bands Builds Strength, Stamina, and Confidence

Boot Camp For Bands
By Michel Sorrentino-Poole
Runonheart Personal Training
Courtesy of

Although the concept was relatively obscure just a decade ago, today you’d be hard pressed to find a professional sports team or elite athlete who does not use the services of a functional trainer.

Functional training works to strengthen the body by using movement without machine assistance. The exercises are integrated and utilize muscle groups rather than isolation because the body works and moves in an integrated fashion.

But how does functional training translate to the field where marching bands compete?

Pretty well, according to the Lincoln-Way East High School Griffins, who have two Illinois state marching band championships in their pocket.

“The inclusion of core and strength training in the marching program at Lincoln-Way East has transformed our students in remarkable ways,” said band director Cliff Smith. “In addition to a significant increase in stamina, the students now have a far better understanding of the relationship between their own personal strength and their ability to move well on the field.”

As owner of Runonheart Personal Training, I began working with Lincoln-Way bands six years ago. In summer 2010 I will continue my work in a “boot camp” setting to share functional training techniques with more than 700 marching musicians from six different bands. Our objectives are to build basic strength from the core outward, correct muscle imbalances and build strength and endurance.

To read the full article, please go to

How to Make Octopus Hotdogs


Teach children about the fun adventures of the sea, with octopus hot dogs. This activity is perfect for home school lessons,  or any classroom setting!


Hot Dogs
Cooking Pan
Stove Top


1. Cut the hot dog lengthwise into eights (be careful to leave the top inch of the hot dog whole)
2. Boil hot dogs
3. Make eyes with ketchup or mustard
4. Serve on blue plates
5. Pair with ocean-themed songs and lessons

This activity is from:
S.O.S. Songs of the Sea
By Lynn Kleiner


S.O.S. Songs of the Sea is the perfect mix of music, creativity, and fun for music teachers, classroom teachers, child care providers … and kids! Students will enjoy learning about the sea and its creatures through the engaging songs and reproducible activities. Classroom curriculum, music, crafts, and snacks are integrated, overlapped and joined to immerse students in a joyful, creative learning experience.

Book & CD………………………………………..$24.95
Click here to buy now!

Gateways Are Not Gates

John Glenn PatonBy John Glenn Paton

Gates may be open or shut. But a gateway invites you in, gives you a friendly access. That’s why three of Alfred’s collections of classical art songs are called “Gateway” books—they invite you to come in and explore a repertoire that, frankly, requires a bit of introduction.

The first two Gateway books gave voice students the basic repertoire they needed in Italian Art Songs and German Lieder. Our third and newest, Gateway to French Mélodies, gives them a helping hand with a style that students often find a bit scary. French is full of pitfalls for singers: unfamiliar vowel sounds, multiple silent letters, and consonants that are sometimes heard and sometimes not, even in the same word. In the Gateway books, such problems are solved by the phonetic system for pronunciation called IPA that is now taught in nearly all university music departments. The IPA pronunciations are placed right next to the printed song, where the teacher and student can look at them together. Translations are there, too, along with notes about interpretation. There’s no need to flip back and forth between different parts of the book or even to buy a separate book.

We expect a lot from classical singers. They are supposed to sing in at least four languages, even if English is the only one they learned in high school. And they have to know the meanings of the words they sing if they want to reach the hearts, not just the ears, of their listeners.

Singing in recitals in my student years, I used to hope that there was no one in the audience who really spoke the language that I was trying to sing! My goal with the Gateway books was that today’s voice students should understand their songs better than I did as a student. Shamefully, I didn’t always understand the meanings of my songs very well. The resources just didn’t exist then. But with the Gateway books, students and teachers have everything they need to prepare for a meaningful performance that makes an emotional impact on their listeners.

Wishing you the best in all your musical endeavors,
John Glenn Paton

Thoughts From the Chicken Coop

Talk is Cheep, Kris Berg’s newest chicken-themed title from the 2012-2013 new jazz ensemble releases!

My name is Kris Berg and I am director of jazz studies at Collin College in Texas and a longtime composer/arranger for Alfred. I get many, many questions from young jazz students, but these are two of the most common:

How do I get started writing a big band chart? What’s up with all those “chicken” charts?

It’s true; I have written a bucket full of chicken charts. I believe number 13 is in the works! It all started last century with an arrangement I did of a tune called “The Chicken,” composed by Alfred James “Pee Wee” Ellis, a sax player with James Brown and Van Morrison, and popularized by one of my favorite bass players, Jaco Pastorius. I actually wrote the arrangement as a grad student in college and then years later had the blessing of getting it published. I’m proud to say that “The Chicken” has gone on to become one of the best-selling big band charts of all time. Again, another blessing and I thank everyone for playing the chart (keep posting those videos on Youtube, they’re great!). More importantly, that chart has egged on an entire franchise of fun funk tunes, all with chicken titles. If you are familiar with some of these, you know that they are all funky, blues-based tunes with challenging lines for everyone, especially the bass player. For example; “Tastes Like Chicken,” “Chicken Scratch,” “Poultry in Motion,” “R U Chicken?,” “Fowl Play,” “Pecking Order,” “Rule the Roost,” “Flew The Coop,” “Feather Report,” “No Spring Chicken,” and the most recent chart, new for 2012, “Talk is Cheep.” I am not sure which will happen first, running out of ideas for tunes or running out of titles!

So where do I get all those ideas for new chicken tunes. I think the key here is listening — lots and lots of listening. When learning to improvise, we (jazz musicians) listen all the time to great players. We learn their licks in all 12 keys and we learn how to manipulate those licks to fit into our playing. The same idea is true for arrangers and composers. We listen. We listen to jazz, we listen to classical, we listen to just about every type of music. As a writer of music, everything you listen to becomes part of you — it’s mentally digested and becomes part of your internal jazz vocabulary. It can help suggest an idea for a new tune or possibly solve a problem with particular part of a chart. When I look back at the flock of chicken tunes I have written, I see influences from listening to a lot of funky music. Sometimes it’s Tower of Power, sometimes it’s Jaco Pastorius, sometimes it’s James Brown’s great recordings. The Internet has led me to newer groups like Groove Collection and Dirty Loops. It’s so easy to listen now — take advantage of the technology!

Let’s look at the tune “Feather Report.” The inspiration for that tune came about from the obvious word play in the title. To stay true to that inspiration, I pulled out many years of Weather Report recordings. They are one of my favorite groups and I have numerous albums, CDs and downloads I can listen to and I did — a lot! I listened for groove ideas, as that band has always had wonderful bassists and drummers. I listened for chords and chord progressions typical for that group. They have a very distinctive harmonic sound and it was important for me to try and capture that. I also listened to sounds the group uses, especially the synthesizer sounds from the great Joe Zawinul. This last part inspired several orchestration ideas as I tried to imitate those sounds and colors. For example, altos saxes blending with Harmon-mute trumpets and sub-tone tenors with a flugelhorn up an octave.

This leads me to the other question that students often ask me: How do I get started writing a big band chart? That first big band chart can appear like quite a daunting task. Aside from learning theory and melody building, a technique that I use that helps my arranging students is the concept of modeling. Let’s say you want to write a blues tune for big band. Start listening and put together a playlist of big band blues tunes that you like. From there start noticing how the charts are put together. Is there a BIG intro or maybe just a piano solo at the top? Which idea do you like better? Whatever it is, make that part of your chart. Who plays the melody? Is it saxes, trombones, trumpets, or some combination of horns? Which idea do you like better? Whatever it is, make that part of your chart. What do the rest of the horns do behind the melody? Are there counter lines maybe or punch-figures? Which do you like better? Use those ideas. Modeling can help you with the big picture. Where do solos typically come in? How long are they? How many are there? How does the writer build up backgrounds behind the solos? If there is a sax soli, where does that come in? Maybe you hear a great trombone or bass solo? Where does the shout chorus come in? How long does it last? What kind of range in the lead trumpet gets you excited? Are there any restrictions to lead trumpet range for the band you are writing for? Does the chart end with a repeat of the melody or something else? Does it end loud and exciting or does it bring it back down dynamically? The list of what you can learn from listening to big band charts goes on and on and on. So I highly recommend you begin now!

Thanks for taking some time with me. I hope you will check out my new big band CD, This Time/Last Year featuring Wayne Bergeron, Delfeayo Marsalis, Clay Jenkins, and Chris Vadala. It features some of my favorite Belwin Jazz charts, “Softly, as in a Morning Sunrise” and “R U Chicken?” Check it out — available now at

Kris Berg, Alfred Author