Palen Music Center Quick Note

Monday, January 9, 2006


The PMC Quick Note is a weekly service provided to all area directors.  It is part of our mission to support the lives of band directors across the Midwest.  The weekly Quick Note will contain helpful tips and suggestions from area directors, spotlights on area college and university band programs, calendars of upcoming events, advocacy articles promoting music education, links to helpful web resources, and much more.  Comments, suggestions, ideas, and articles are always welcome.


Preparation for Spring Semester - Two Things to Start Thinking About Now by Mike Brown
As we come back for the spring semester, the focus of band tends to go toward festival preparation for concert and jazz band. A maintenance item that is quite often neglected is the replacement of drum heads and guitar strings. These items do have a ‘life' and need to be changed out on a regular basis. As they age, heads and strings lose their responsiveness, resonance, and most importantly there ability to hold pitch. When was the last time you replaced timpani, bass drum, snare drum, and concert tom heads? Depending on how much they are used (and by what age levels) heads should be replaced every few years. If you can't remember the last time you changed them on your concert equipment, then it is probably time. If a guitar or bass is played about an hour a day, fresh strings should be put on the instrument about every six weeks, and it's always a good idea to have a back up set with you. They always seem to break right before the most important performances.

When should you start preparing your band for sight-reading? Right now! These are three approaches I used and it helped make the sight-reading experience better for my kids. These are based on sight-reading for Missouri 's state festivals, but many of the concepts will be applicable to those of you in other states.

Every piece that went into the folder was treated like sight-reading material. Each time we started a new work we approached it as if we were in the sight-reading room. Students were given time to look over the piece (usually 2-3 minutes) and then we would play straight through.

Sight-read something every week, even if you aren't going to play it for a concert. We used envelopes, just like it is done at most festivals, and at least once each week the kids would come into the band room to find the envelope sitting on their stand, already stuffed with music (this was done daily the last several weeks before contest). I started at the beginning of the semester with very easy music to build success. This served two other purposes; it was a great way to learn the pieces in my band library, and I could ‘test-play' songs that I thought might be good for Junior High/Middle School Band. As they gained confidence I pulled out harder and harder literature.

Practice scales every week that are going to be used in sight-reading. When the composers put together the sight-reading music, MSHSAA gave them some guidelines to go by (keys, rhythmic complexities, meters, instrumentation, etc.) for each class level. We focused on 1 or 2 scales each week, and by festival time most kids had a basic concept of which keys we would be hit with in the sight-reading room. Your PMC road staff has more on this when you are ready for more information.

Sight-reading can be fun and enjoyable if attacked early! There will be more items coming in a later Quick Note on this subject, but if you would like more information now please email me at

Mike Brown has a Master of Music in Conducting from Missouri State University and a Bachelor of Music Education from Southwest Baptist University. He served twelve years as Director of Bands at Republic High School and is currently in his second year as a school consultant for Palen Music Center. His bands performed in the Citrus Bowl parade, at the World War II monument dedication ceremony in Washington D.C., and at the 2004 MMEA convention.

Contact Your Local Palen Music Center

Can we assist you with anything?  Please contact your local Palen Music Center school road representative for all of your music education needs.


(417) 882-7000
Bob Hopkins and Mike Brown
Springfield North (417) 862-2700 Martin Probstfield
Columbia (573) 256-5555 Robert Pitts
Moberly (660) 263-0109 Joe Brown
Joplin (417) 781-3100 Wayne Blades
Liberty (816) 792-8301 Ken Crisp


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