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Palen Music Center Quick Note

Monday, February 9, 2009


The PMC Quick Note is a service provided to all area directors.  It is part of our mission to support the lives of band directors across the Midwest. The 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!

Music majors are the most likely group of college grads to be admitted to medical school.

-- Lewis Thomas, Case for Music in the Schools, Phi Delta Kappa, 1994

Best Communities for Music Education

Since 1998, the NAMM Foundation has been conducting the Best Communities for Music Education (BCME) Survey. Over the years, school districts have reported that being designated a “Best Community for Music Education” helped them gain valuable recognition for their communities that in turn helped them sustain and grow their music education programs.

Your participation in the 10th annual BCME survey continues our effort to save and strengthen programs all over the country and creates publicity and support for this issue. If you wish to participate, please take a moment to complete the survey before the March 13 deadline. Good luck!


Quick Tip -- Three Levels of Listening

Today in rehearsal, talk to your students about the three levels of listening. Experiment with the following:

"Level One Listening" - As the ensemble plays, listen carefully to yourself.
Evaluate your own tone, expressiveness, dynamic contrast, and note accuracy. Most entry-level musicians never go beyond this level because they are simply hanging on to their own part. There is little eye contact with the director, and no effort to hear what other sections in the ensemble are performing.

"Level Two Listening" - As the ensemble plays, listen carefully to your entire section.
Work to match pitch, blend, and balance. Is each member of the section audible? Is anyone covering up "softer" players? I like to use the bed of nails analogy. A circus performer can successfully lay on a bed of nails without getting injured because all of the nails are the same height. If one nail is too high, or if random nails are too low, the results will be obvious -- BLOOD. To avoid a bloody sounding section, make sure that all members are contributing to the sound with no individuals sticking out. Kids love this bed of nails analogy and can understand the musical application.

"Level Three Listening" - As the ensemble plays, listen across to another section.
Identify a group or even an individual across the ensemble and listen carefully for other parts. Identify other sections within the ensemble that are playing a similar or identical part to your own. Work to match their style, articulation, note length, breathing, and releases. Blend and match pitch. Play "inside" each other's sounds. Groups that talk about and execute level three listening will play better in tune and with a homogenous sound. The increased awareness will get the individual musicians "out of their own stand" and into the ensemble as a whole.

Discuss these terms with your group and play through a passage with level one, then level two, then level three listening. This exercise, if repeated and reinforced regularly, will shift the focus of even your youngest musicians up from level one and two into level three listening. The results will speak for themselves.

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.


Springfield Bob Hopkins, Mike Brown, and Jeromy Pope (417) 882-7000
Columbia Robert Pitts and Stephenie Algya (573) 256-5555
Liberty Ken Crisp and Dick Murdock (816) 792-8301
Joplin Wayne Blades, Scott Frederickson, and Zach Houser (417) 781-3100
Broken Arrow Mark VanVranken (918) 770-6827


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