Tag Archives: band

Our Favorite Music Moments

MIOSM2017_BlogImages-StoriesFromTheMusicClassroom_March2017_BG

Our mission here at Alfred Music is to help the world experience the joy of making music. We’ve certainly experienced this joy ourselves, and it has helped guide and shape our lives in one major way or another. In honor of Music In Our Schools Month, we reflected upon some of our own music classroom moments that brought to us the very joy we hope to share.

Brooke-Greenberg-Headshot

“My middle school band director was extremely understanding when I told her I had trouble breathing and couldn’t play the clarinet anymore. She saw potential in me, and handed me some drumsticks. Switching to the percussion section was a blessing in disguise. I was the only female percussionist among 4 rowdy boys, so I quickly learned how to speak up. It also helped me make a lot of new friends. I continued playing drums in my high school jazz band, and in the pit orchestra for our senior year school musical. Drumming gave me confidence, introduced me to new types of music, and became an important piece of my identity. I can’t believe what a crazy turn my life took, and it’s all because my middle school band director gave me a chance.”
—Brooke Greenberg, Graphic Designer

Toni
“Some of my best memories span across all of high school. Every Tuesday and Thursday, we had show choir rehearsal. This was where the magic happened. Everyone left their troubles at the door to make amazing music. The energy was electric. It was as if we all came together with one goal in mind, to sing and dance without fear. Best memory was when our choreographer roped our director into warming up with us! He happily joined in, even though he had no dance experience. Made the rehearsal so much more fun!”
—Toni Hosman, Product Marketing Manager, Instrumental Solo & School Performance 

Vicki

 

“Throughout school, I bounced back and forth between band and choir, but mostly focused on band in high school. But every time I was in band rehearsal and heard the choir, I wished I was in choir. The sound of the voices, the emotion and meaning that could be communicated through words and vocal inflection. And every time I was in choir and heard the band, I wished I was in band. To be surrounded by beautiful brass and woodwind instruments, a different kind of choir. My band director was great, but I was more inspired by my choir director. He was unique in that he also coached football, wrestling, and track. In fact, he knew me by ‘Rees’ (my last name at the time) because he knew my brothers from track and football. His recruiting campaign to get more guys in choir was hanging ‘Real Men Sing’ posters everywhere, and it was brilliant! Choir went from three guys to an entire section within one semester of campaigning. Honestly, I don’t think it was just the posters that did the trick. It was his true joy while teaching choir—it was contagious. He created an atmosphere where we could ask questions, struggle with parts, and try out for solos without fear of ridicule or judgement from him or other students. It was ultimately that teacher that made me choose voice for my instrument in college.”
—Victoria Meador, Product Marketing Manager, School Methods & Suzuki

Heidi Smith

 

“As a pianist, the majority of my music education was solitary until college. A whole new world opened up to me when I started college! A classroom full of other musicians, long choir rehearsals and weeks on tour buses, accompanying soloists, spending hours ‘together’ in the practice rooms, struggling through theory and music history homework . . . these experiences helped me bond with my classmates quickly and foster friendships that will last a lifetime. A community of musicians is special, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. One of my favorite memories is from my 8 a.m. theory class, discussing the form of pieces. Our professor told us to sit on the floor in a circle and passed out plastic cups to each of us. She demonstrated a couple different rhythm patterns to tap on the cups, passing our cup to our neighbor every so often. We listened to ‘Yellow Submarine’ by The Beatles—clapping out rhythms, changing the pattern when a new section of the song started (verse, chorus, bridge). We felt a little silly at first, but I think we all secretly had a blast and loved it! The story was told throughout the music department and in subsequent years, everyone knew what it meant when a theory student said it was ‘Yellow Submarine Day.'”
—Heidi Smith, Product Marketing Manager, Piano

Billy Lawler

 

“My favorite moments from studying music in school happened in between classes. Singing in my school’s vocal jazz ensemble, playing piano in combos, or serving as an accompanist provided so many opportunities to practice alongside others and grow with others as musicians. We shared the common goals of improving both together and as individuals, and that was a major factor in establishing lifelong friendships with my classmates. Our teachers felt more like mentors, coaches, and comrades compared to instructors I’d had in other subjects, and growth as a musician translated into growth as a person. The process of studying music taught me so much more than just how to play an instrument.”
—Billy Lawler, Social & Digital Marketing Specialist


Finding the Meaning in Your Teaching Career

MIOSM2017_BlogImages-FindingMeaninginYourTeachingCareer_March2017_BG

By George Megaw

I’m reminded of two former students that brought meaning to my teaching career. Beth was an outstanding clarinet player and contributed to the high school band program above and beyond. She pursued music as her passion and career; she eventually earned her doctorate and is now teaching at the university level. It’s always gratifying to see a former student of this caliber share our passion and succeed, or even surpass their teacher.

Conversely, Ron was a good trumpet player who had lost his father at a young age and was brought up as the only child of a single mother. One weekend, I chose to take him flying with me to give his mom a break from being both parents. The afternoon had nothing to do with music or band. Fast forward about 20 years to when I was reading the newspaper while waiting for an early commercial business flight, when I became aware of a uniformed flight crew member looking at me from across the waiting area. As he approached me, I was sure I was going to end up on a no-fly list or something . . . but it was Ron . . . the Captain on my flight. That Saturday flight in a little airplane so long ago inspired his career choice as a commercial airline pilot.

I can’t tell you which former student I’m most proud of, and there are many more. (The first-class upgrade was certainly a nice treat though!) Every teaching day we have a critical impact on our students’ lives. Sometimes it just takes years to learn about them.

George_Megaw

Active in all aspects of music education, since 1999 George Megaw has served as editor for Belwin concert band publications. Prior to that Mr. Megaw was a college band director in both Virginia and Tennessee for 12 years. He has taught music education at all levels, elementary through college, and remains active as an adjudicator, clinician, and guest conductor throughout the United States and Canada.


 

Brass Quintet Swing: It’s All about That Bass

Zachary Smith

If you have ever heard a brass quintet plod its way through what is supposed to be a “swinging” arrangement of a standard and wondered why it doesn’t feel right, the answer is simple: It’s “all about that bass”…or more accurately, the bass line and the tuba playing it.

In a typical “classical” brass quintet, the tuba is treated as one of five voices which come together to paint a sonic picture. To create an effective “swing” quintet arrangement, a composer has to write for four voices which will play over the top of a tuba bass line. Listen to a jazz small group and you will realize that the bass almost never stops playing—often playing a “walking four” as horn players solo over the top. The tuba has to embrace the same role for a brass quintet to swing and to maintain accurate time.

“Walking four” is the art of playing long strings of quarter notes which provide the chordal or harmonic foundation of a swing tune. One issue for the tuba player playing a walking bass line is that there seems to be no opportunity to breathe. A composer can address this problem with skillfully placed quarter or eighth rests, and the tuba player must learn to take quick, efficient breaths. Planning and practicing where to breathe should not be overlooked when rehearsing a swing tune.

Connecting notes is also critical when playing an effective walking bass line. When an acoustic bassist plucks a string, it rings until the next note is plucked. Many tuba players have a tendency to leave space in between every note they play. The result is a stilted bass line that sounds more like ragtime than swing. In the quintets I have written for Alfred Music I frequently write legato marks over the quarter notes for the tuba as a reminder (or plea) to use a “doo” tongue and connect the notes. In addition, the “doo” articulation will provide a smoother, more connected line, therefore a more effective approach to the quarter note line. If your quintet isn’t swinging, work on it from the bottom up—because it truly is, “All about that bass!”

Zachary Smith
See all titles from Zachary including his three new brass quintets here.

Whiplash—Conquering Complex Time Signatures in Jazz

Erik Morales

Erik Morales

“Whiplash”
By Erik Morales
10/09/2014

A movie hit the cinemas, Whiplash. This highly acclaimed film is about a young student drummer and his relentless pursuit of perfection. The title of the film is borrowed from a jazz band composition by Hank Levy of the same name and is featured in a key scene of the film. “Whiplash,” composed by Levy for the Don Ellis band, is a notoriously difficult piece. This is due largely in part from the time signature that prevails: 7/4. Don Ellis was a pioneer in championing music that had odd meters. But the difficulty does not necessarily arise from the 7/4 meter.

The challenge of this arrangement and many other odd meter pieces in any genre lies in how the individual measures of 7/4 are subdivided. In order to perform this piece effectively all members of the band must understand how each measure is sub-divided or broken down into smaller parts. Specifically, each measure is subdivided in groupings of two or three eighth notes. Of course the eighth note groupings are arranged in a manner that always equal out to seven full beats (14 eighth notes). These groupings are illustrated in the following manner: (2+2+2+2+3+3), (2+2+3+3+2+2), (3+3+2+2+2+2), (3+3+3+3+2), and so on.

Luckily, most of “Whiplash” is based on the (2+2+2+2+3+3) subdivision of the 7/4 meter. Another variation to count this subdivision is a measure of 4/4 plus a bar of 6/8. Levy’s genius shines in his ability to save the more complex subdivisions for later sections of the work including the head-spinning ending. I was lucky enough to create an arrangement of this work for Belwin Jazz (00-30647).

Whiplash

The Levy arrangement was out of print so hopefully I was able to bring new and fresh light on this terrific tune. My version of the work attempts to be as close as possible to the original version but remain within the standards of today’s modern jazz ensemble. The producers of this film could not have found a more appropriate title. Whiplash lives up to the billing as both a brilliant movie and a musical masterpiece.

I highly recommend students and educators step out of the common time “box” and explore odd meters. It is a great way to expand the focus of meter and time in general.

Most importantly, have fun playing jazz!

Erik Morales
http://moralesmusic.com/

Click Here to see all of Erik’s Belwin Jazz arrangements.

Piece of the Week: A Very Respectable Hobbit

Jack Bullock

Jack Bullock

Blog provided by:
www.smartmusic.com/blog

From Academy Award winner Howard Shore’s score for the 2012 movie The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, this piece will delight students and audiences alike. The first of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey introduces audiences to the characters and themes of the fantastical world of Middle Earth, a setting already familiar from the beloved Lord of the Rings franchise. This arrangement features the Hobbit’s main theme, a folk-like tune that depicts the pastoral life of Bilbo Baggins and his fellow hobbits of the Shire, and hints at the adventures and conflicts to come. This easy and fun piece is available in both a concert band and string orchestra arrangement.

Audio Sample:

Audio provided by Alfred Music.

Composer Biography:

Howard Shore is among today’s most respected, honored, and active composers and music conductors. His work with Peter Jackson on The Lord of the Rings trilogy stands as his most towering achievement to date, earning him three Academy Awards. He has also been honored with four Grammy and three Golden Globe awards. Shore was one of the original creators of Saturday Night Live. He served as the music director on the show from 1975 to 1980. At the same time, he began collaborating with David Cronenberg and has scored 14 of the director’s films, including 2012’s Cosmopolis, The Fly, Crash, and Naked Lunch. His original scores to A Dangerous Method, Eastern Promisesand Dead Ringers were each honoured with a Genie Award and Cosmopolis was awarded for score and song “Long to Live” with Canadian Screen Awards. Shore continues to distinguish himself with a wide range of projects, from Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, The Departed, The Aviator and Gangs of New York to Ed Wood, The Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia, and Mrs. Doubtfire.

Shore’s music has been performed in concerts throughout the world. In 2003, Shore conducted the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in the world premiere of The Lord of the Rings Symphony in Wellington. Since then, the Symphony and The Lord of the Rings – Live to Projection concerts have had over 285 performances by the world’s most prestigious orchestras.

In 2008, Howard Shore’s opera The Fly premiered at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris and at Los Angeles Opera. Other recent works include the piano concerto Ruin and Memory for Lang Lang premiered with the China Philharmonic Orchestra on October 11, 2010, the cello concerto Mythic Gardens for Sophie Shao premiered with the American Symphony Orchestra on April 27, 2012 and Fanfare for the Wanamaker Organ in Philadelphia. He is currently working on his second opera.

Shore received the Career Achievement for Music Composition Award from the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures, New York Chapter’s Recording Academy Honors, ASCAP’s Henry Mancini Award, the Frederick Loewe Award and the Max Steiner Award from the city of Vienna. He holds honorary doctorates from Berklee College of Music and York University, he is an Officier de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres de la France and the recipient of the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award in Canada.

Howard Shore’s biography courtesy of http://www.howardshore.com/biography/

Arranger Biography:

Jack Bullock holds undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees in the field of Music Education. As a performer, he studied trumpet with Harry Glantz, James Ode and Craig McHenry, and performed with the Miami Philharmonic Orchestra and the Miami Opera Company. He also performed statewide with New York show and territory bands, and nationally with traveling dance bands. A prolific composer and arranger, Dr. Bullock has written more than 600 publications for a diverse group of ensembles, including concert band, orchestra, jazz ensemble and marching band. He is the co-author of the Belwin 21st Century Band Method, and was a contributing arranger for the recordings of Music Expressions, the innovative school music curriculum published by Alfred Music.

You Want Me to Teach What? Transitioning to the Elementary Music Classroom

By Mari Schay and Michael TolonSchay

You’re a secondary instrumental or choral specialist, newly assigned to the general music classroom. What now? First, take a breath, calm down, and then read this book. Two experienced teachers who conquered this challenge offer practical advice with great care and wit. Chapters of the book address attitude, school environment, classroom management, curriculum and assessment, and student performance. Read on for an excerpt from the opening chapter.

Director/Conductor vs. Teacher

Many middle and high school music educators refer to themselves as “director” or “conductor” as in, “I’m a high school band director” or “I am a middle school choral conductor.” When you move to elementary school, though, you become a teacher. The key difference between a director/conductor and a teacher is that a director is refining existing skills and working toward beautiful performances, while a teacher is developing new skills so a director can eventually take over.

Elementary music is not just pre-band, pre-orchestra, or pre-choir training. Your primary job is to instill a love of music, as well as to develop musical skills, in kids who may walk in the door with no musical experience whatsoever. Singing a simple song may be a completely new experience. Keeping a steady beat may take time. This can feel overwhelmingly slow to a teacher used to conducting nuanced ensemble literature; however, if you plan well and deliver lessons with joy and enthusiasm, the kids will love music … and, as their music teacher, you will begin to see the necessity of a great teacher in the early years.

The importance of professional development cannot be stressed enough. I will admit that as a high school band director, I did not seek out colleagues or attend my state music conference often enough. I learned the hard way that by skipping professional development opportunities, my effectiveness as a teacher was lessened. Not only did my skills suffer, my standing with my fellow directors was hurt. My sense of isolation was of my own doing.

The ability to attend a conference, find professional development opportunities, or simply sit and share with another colleague will become vitally important in helping you gain new skills, sharpen old ones, and meet fellow music teachers. Ah! Yes, young grasshopper, you are not alone in the universe. Inspiration will come in many, many forms.

The Band Director’s Afro-Cuban Survival Guide

Joe McCarthy

Part 1: The Clave

Welcome to the first installment of “The Band Director’s Afro-Cuban Survival Guide” for percussion and the drumset.

Afro-centric rhythms and instruments are present in virtually all styles of music and it is imperative for band directors of all levels to understand the core functions and applications of these rhythms. When studying this genre, one must turn to Cuba because of its unparalleled contributions to this style of music. Since the 16th century, Cuban music has been a melting pot of African and European harmonies, melodies and musical instruments. Of particular interest are deep connections to many Cuban drumming styles where enslaved African people were able to maintain their sacred and secular drumming traditions. These traditions created an essential bond between music and language.

You’ve heard this term before, but I’d like to simplify this topic so you are totally comfortable and understand it completely. This way you can explain it to your students.

Stay with me now:

One of the most important and unique characteristics of Cuban music is the clave, which translates to the “key.” Clave is quite simple and easy to understand. The clave is the structural core of Cuban music. I am referring to clave as a concept, not the percussion instrument the claves, although the rhythms of the clave patterns are played on the claves. You hear it and feel it constantly in all styles of music including classical and pop. It is a rhythmic cell or pattern which is the foundation of most Cuban rhythms. In a nutshell, the clave is the glue that holds this music together. In the Afro-Cuban style and related music, all instrumental, melodic and harmonic phrases should be in sync with the clave, this includes phrases that are improvised. The clave concept is a 5-note (5-stroke) cell or pattern phrased over two measures. The clave pattern is either 3:2 or 2:3, which means there is a 3-side and a 2-side of the clave. These numbers simply indicate which side of the clave the phrase begins.

The next step: The son clave and the rumba clave are the common types of clave. Son clave is heard primarily in salsa and popular dance music, while rumba clave is heard primarily in folkloric music and Latin jazz. Although the rhythmic structure of son clave is similar to rumba clave, the difference is the rumba has a little syncopation of the last note on the 3 side which adds tension to the music.

I’ll demonstrate the son clave, both the 2:3 and the 3:2 in 4/4 and then in cut time.

Here are three short video clips to further explain:

Now, in this short video clip, I’ll demonstrate the rumba clave and clearly show you the difference between the son and rumba clave.

How do you know which clave is correct or which one to use? Typically the 2-side clave corresponds to a melody containing less syncopation. Conversely, the 3-side clave typically contains more of a syncopated melody. There are exceptions of course. The direction of the clave is either 2:3 or 3:2 and the direction is dependent upon the rhythmic and melodic structure of the tune. In other words, begin by determining whether the rhythmic structure of the melody has a tendency towards the non-syncopated 2 side or the more syncopated 3 side of the clave.

Not every melody will outline the clave exactly, so listen for accents and figures, many of which are characteristic to this style of music. Once the clave is internalized, this concept will make more sense, as you will relate the phrase to the clave. How does this happen? LISTENING. Investigate Cuban folkloric drumming, salsa and Latin jazz. The clave is there.

Next: It is also very important to understand that clave is a fixed pattern, which means the direction of the clave does not change! Stay with me now: However, because it is an even-numbered phrase, a common technique is to incorporate an odd-numbered phrase to give the illusion of a “change” in the direction. In other words, the next phrase starts on the other side of the clave, tricking our ears into thinking it has changed, but it hasn’t. Another odd-bar phrase will return the clave to the “original” direction. I refer to this as “Moveable 1”.

Check out these short videos to further explain and demonstrate the “Moveable 1.”

Take a few moments to internalize the clave so you are able to hear and feel the pattern. Share it with your students too.

Look for the next segment in a future Alfred Ledger Line. It’s easier than you think and all the rhythms associated with the clave will make much more sense with this foundation in place.

Thanks. Keep listening and most importantly, have fun!

Joe McCarthy

Check out more instructional videos from Joe McCarthy on his YouTube playlist:

Check out his books and DVDs here.

 

Composition Notes by Vince Gassi

Vince Gassi

Vince Gassi

Blog provided by:
www.smartmusic.com/blog

Poems and paintings are often great inspiration for writing music. “Climb the Mountains Tall” was inspired by “The Dream,” a poem by James Clayton. James’ poem resonated with my desire to travel to new places, meet new people, and learn new things. New experiences enrich our lives and allow us to grow in unexpected and ever interesting ways. In this work, I really tried to capture the spirit of risk involved whenever we step into the unknown and so, the words brave, heroic, and adventurous might spring to mind when you listen to it.

“Climb the Mountains Tall” was commissioned by the Unionville Public School Band in Unionville Canada. I met with their conductor, Will Stokes, to chat about the band, the piece, and the performance. Will’s passion for music and for sharing it with young musicians is impressive. Music educators are some of the most dedicated and hard-working people I know. The truth is, it’s not an easy job, plain and simple (so thank your teacher regularly for all they do).

After deciding on a title, I usually try to create a theme or motif that the piece will be based on. You can hear this theme in the flutes and bells at measure 11. Next up, an accompaniment part; at measure 11, it’s the snare drum providing support for the flutes. Incidentally, did you notice the baritone helping out there as well with a simple counter-line? Now take a look at measure 21. Do you hear the more pronounced accompaniment part (horn, baritone, and tuba) where the trumpets join in the melody? This accompaniment part starts two bars earlier (bar 19) so that it connects the previous section to the next.

At measure 29 a secondary theme is heard in the horn, trombone, baritone, tuba, and other low woodwinds. By the way, you can hear a variation of this in the introduction to the piece. For the slower middle section, the melodic shape is reversed. Instead of the melody moving from a low note to a higher note (see bar 38 in the flutes), it goes the other way as at bar 11 in the flutes. At bar 40, you can hear it in the baritone, tuba, and bells, then back to the flutes and bells in measure 42 and, well… you get the idea, it keeps moving around the band. Even the accompaniment part, (low brass and saxes at measure 38) is a “slowing-down” of the accompaniment figure at measure 29.

But watch out! At measure 51 the tempo increases and we hear the main theme again at measure 62, only this time it is played softly by the low brass, bass clarinet, and baritone saxophone (flute, oboe, and clarinets play a countermelody). Finally, at measure 70, the key moves up a step and we are carried to the end.

After I had finished this piece, I had the wonderful opportunity to rehearse with the band and conduct the premiere performance. The Unionville students had a lot of energy and, being well trained young musicians, made it a very enjoyable experience for me. Thanks James, thanks Will, thanks Unionville Band, and thank you too. Here is James’ poem. Enjoy!

The Dream,
by Darren James Clayton

I walk, I run, I fly,

Through street, through field and sky;

I open every door,

To those who’ve flown before;

We fly to countries too,

And speak in language new;

I sing the natives’ songs,

Not caring if they’re wrong;

I swim in oceans deep,

As clouds begin to weep;

I bathe in Heaven’s spring,

And hear the angels sing;

I climb the mountains tall,

I jump, I fly, I fall;

A darkness fills my head,

I land at home,

In bed.


Climb the Mountains Tall

Climb the Mountains Tall

View the score and hear the recording at alfred.com.
This piece is also available on SmartMusic

A Few Tips on Selecting Your Halftime Show Music

 

story

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!

Classics from One Generation to Another

By Douglas E. Wagner

Douglas WagnerIf there ever was a blast to the past in my life, it happened this past spring when I began to write concert band and string orchestra arrangements of The Who classic single, “My Generation.” That day, it was 1965 and I was 13 again.

While not fitting the mold as the stereotypical angst-ridden, anti-establishment teen of the time, the words didn’t hit me as strongly as they did some of my friends. For me it was all about the beat — that driving, pulsating forward motion and unrelenting call-and-response pattern. I remember hearing it for the first time, being jolted to a new awareness of the world around me, of life, of the freedom that only music can bring. And so it has been I’m sure for millions through the decades whose lives have been forever affected by this quintessential British Rock standard.

My five-year-old granddaughter happened to be in the house when I was listening to the playback. She exuberantly came running up the stairs exclaiming: “Papaw, Papaw, what is that?” “My Generation, Alex … and now it’s yours.”

Hope you and your students like the charts!