Click to visit the Palen Music Center websitePalen Music Center Quick Note

Monday, September 25, 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 contains 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. Looking for help on a particular topic? Be sure to check out our Quick Note Catalog of back issues.

Portfolios: A Systematic Approach to the Practice Room by Craig Finger

I think we would all agree that as teachers we must go into our classroom every day with a plan of attack to teach the day's objectives. Whether it is sight-reading, cleaning up a certain musical passage, or adding a certain number of sets to the show, the class progresses further and faster if we have an agenda. All tasks that we undertake must have a plan and then we evaluate the progress of that plan in order to move forward. However, many times our students do not apply this same principal to their individual tasks such as practicing. Most of students simply go into their room, pull out the horn and just start playing with no clear objective in mind except that they would like to be better at the end of the session. It could be argued that we don't educate our students well enough on “how” to practice; we just want them to practice. To combat this issue, we have starting using practice journals and portfolios. Journals are a simple form that students fill out that not only organizes their goals but allows them to record feedback on the progress of those goals. Prior to practicing they list what they will do for a warm up, three specific objectives, as well as a warm down. At the end of their session, they simply rate their progress and set up their plan for the next day. At the JH, students turn these in as a type of practice record and at the HS it is primarily a tool that we encourage them to use.

So that students can track their progress over a longer period of time, they file their journal entries in their portfolio. The portfolio is a three ring binder filled with clear plastic sleeves. Students divide the portfolio into three categories: music, journal entries, and resources (such as fingering charts, breathing exercises, or articles). This provides the kids with a very organized approach to their playing.

It may seem like extra work but once your kids buy into the portfolio process, it really will help with their organization and practicing. It allows students to turn the time they spend practicing from “quantity” time into “quality” time. To see a sample of the form that is used at Nixa, visit them at

Nixa Bands Practice Log

Craig Finger has been the Director of Bands for the Nixa school District since 1997. As head director, Mr. Finger supervises all aspects of the Nixa band program.  He is the lead teacher for the high school ensembles and is the percussion instructor for the overall program.   Prior to teaching at Nixa, he was the Director of Bands for the Mtn. Grove school district. Mr. Finger is a 1994 graduate of Southwest Missouri State University and also holds a Masters in Educational Administration from that same institution (2003). Visit the Nixa Bands website.

Music Training Boosts the Brain

In a BBC news article that came out this week, Canadian scientists found that children who studied music performed better on a memory test also designed to assess general intelligence skills such as literacy and math ability. The study was performed by McMaster University and published in the online by the journal Brain.


As a result of the findings, lead researcher Professor Laurel Trainor said,"This is the first study to show that brain responses in young, musically trained and untrained children change differently over the course of a year."


For the complete story, please visit the BBC News Page link to the article.

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 Burl Williams
Columbia (573) 256-5555 Robert Pitts
Joplin (417) 781-3100 Wayne Blades
Liberty (816) 792-8301 Ken Crisp


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