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Palen Music Center Quick Note

Monday, March 29, 2010


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.


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The nation’s top business executives agree that arts education programs can help repair weaknesses in American education and better prepare workers for the 21st

-- The Changing Workplace is Changing Our View of Education, BusinessWeek

Instructions For Sightreading Contest by Julie Capps

I had the good fortune of teaching in West Texas for fifteen years with some of the finest band directors in the State of Texas.  At Permian High School, (yes, Friday Night Lights),   there were the likes of J.R. McEntyre and Charles Nail, and at Midland Lee, there was Randy Storie,  all of who helped me make it successfully through my first UIL Contest with a Sweepstakes.  This is where you get a I on the stage and a I in sight-reading.  This is done is a very nerve wracking ceremony in front of all the other bands and band directors in your classification.  I was the only woman band director in the area, and I was the only band in my classification that year to get a Sweepstakes!!  In case you’re interested, I taught at San Jacinto Junior High, a CCC Middle School.  We started band in the seventh grade and did full field shows, parades and concert contest in the 8th grade.

When we went to contest on the buses, we rode from Midland to Odessa, which was about a twenty mile drive.  We rode in complete silence on the way to silence, (this was a school tradition), and the students read this handout on the way.

I went over these handouts then and still do every year before we go to contest. I can’t take credit for the handout.  One came from Randy Storie and I forget where the other came from, but I hope they are helpful. To sum both of them up in a short and sweet way, I told my students to be Sight-reading Stars.

S = Sharps, flats, key signature, key changes

T = Time signatures, tempos, meter changes, tempo changes

A = Accidentals

R = Rhythms, count the rests as carefully as notes.

S = Signs:  fermatas, retards, dynamics, repeats, codas, 1st and 2nd endings, etc.

On a side note, the reason my band was the only one to get a Sweepstakes that year was because of whole rests in 3/4 time.  All the other bands had counted those rests as 4 beats each and therefore mis-counted their entrances.



  1. Enter the room in an orderly and business-like manner.  Go straight to your   assigned place and remain standing until I tell you to be seated.  Do not talk, visit, or allow anything to interrupt the disciplined atmosphere.
  1. Be sure that you are given the correct folder to read.  DO NOT OPEN the folder.
  1. Before we begin, be sure that you have your chair and stand adjusted so that you can see the director at al times.
  1. We will be given a period of time to examine the music together.  The director will explain and drill the music during this time.  However, you may not perform the music aloud in any manner whatsoever during this time.
  1. When looking at the music, find first the beginning time and key signatures.  Finger the scale of the key on your instrument several times.  Then look in the first several measures to find those notes affected by the key.  Put your finger on them and concentrate to try and memorize them.  This process should be repeated at each key change.
  1. As the piece is explained, put your finger on all repeats and the place where they return.  Let your eyes move from the repeat back to where they return several times. Put your finger on each time and key change. Concentrate to memorize where they occur.
  1. As melodies and patterns are explained, hold your instrument in playing position. Finger the passages as they are explained and articulate them silently.
  1. The director will attempt to sing/count and direct all tricky rhythms, fermatas, tempo changes, etc. If something critical is overlooked, (key change, time change, major ritard, etc.), bring it to the director’s attention immediately in a business like manner.
  1. In passages where the texture is thin, PLAY OUT to maintain confidence and control.
  1. Try to read AROUND the notes.  Be alert for dynamic indications, style markings and time changes.  Strive for AMUSICAL PERFORMANCE!
  1. During the performance watch the conductor at all times for cues, signals and style indications. Should you become lost, watch for an extra large downbeat to indicate rehearsal letters.  WATCH!!! WATCH!!! WATCH!!!

Guidelines for Effective Sight-Reading

We will single file, by rows, from the state tot eh sight-reading room, to the chairs that have been set up for us.  Do not sit down until I check each row.  I will tell you when to sit down.  If you don’t have a chair, please raise your hand and wait patiently. DO NOT TALK!

From the moment we enter the room I MUST have your full, undivided attention.  You are being observed by the judges at this time and our contest evaluation has begun.  DO NOT TALK!

After you have been seated, put your band folder under your chair.  If you need am music stand, raise your and wait patiently.  DO NOT TALK!

Once the actual explanation of the sight-reading piece begins, remember the following:

  • Look at the overall piece silently as I do the same out loud.  Point out unusual features to you and your stand partner such as:
      1. Key Changes
      2. Tempo changes, meter changes, dynamic changes
      3. Repeats, 1st and 2nd endings, codas, etc.
      4. Fermatas, cesuras, ritardandos, rallentandos, etc.
      5. Accidentals, (always check for others in the same measure)
      6. Syncopated rhythms unusual rhythms, ties across the bars, etc.
  • Put your finger on specific measures that I indicate.  Finger your instrument as I count your rhythms.  If I am not counting your part, finger what you have and make it fit with the part being counted.
  • If I tell you that your part is important, that means to play it as least one dynamic louder than marked.
  • Play all cures unless I say otherwise.
  • Double all solos unless I say otherwise.

During the actual performance, be aware of the following:

  • I will always give an extra large downbeat at all rehearsal letter letters or numbers.  If you get lost, don’t quit-Find Your Place! 
  • Any musical sign that you come across means one thing-Look Up!
  • Count rests as a group. Use your fingers.  No Counting Out Loud!
  • Watch each other for entrances.  Rely on each other-Rely on me!
  • Percussionists who are not playing MUST help by counting with those who are playing-Work Together.
  • Above all-Do Not Panic-Do Not Hide-Play out!

This contest calls for absolute concentration and alertness from all members of the band.  It is just as important as a marching contest or concert contest.  It must be treated with the utmost maturity.  You must not relax in your efforts or discipline.  Good luck!

Julie is a native Missourian who graduated from Maysville High School with Highest Honors. Her high school band director was Jim Oliver.  She received the Arion Award as outstanding senior musician and is listed in Who's Who Among American High School Music Students.  She attended Missouri Western State College, where her band directors were Bill Mack and Tom Price.  She performed as the flute soloist in "Danses Sacred and Profane," with the MWSC Symphonic Winds at MMEA. Julie moved to Texas and graudated from UT, during which time she performed at TMEA with two different early music consorts.  Then she began her teaching career in Odessa, TX at a Visual and Performing Art School, where she taught for nine years.  She then took over the band at San Jacinto Junior High in Midland, TX, the only woman band director in many a mile in West Texas.  There her band played for George W. Bush, an alumni of SJ.  She moved back to MO in 1995 to get closer to family and taught at Bolivar for two years.  (Jonathan Kitchin is her claim to fame from there!)   Then in order to get closer to "home," she accepted a job at the Santa Fe School District in Waverly, where she still resides.  She has a Master's in Flute Performance. She has been published twice and has been a presenter at MMEA.  She has been teaching twenty-seven years.  She is a member of MENC, MMEA, MBA, MNEA, NEA and Phi Beta Mu. She is a charter member of MWBDA and serves as the Industrial Membership Chair on the Executive Board for the WBDI.

Contact Your Local Palen Music Center Representative


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, Phil Myers, and Paul Bowen (417) 882-7000
Columbia Robert Pitts and Jake Herzog (573) 256-5555
Liberty Ken Crisp and Dick Murdock (816) 792-8301
Joplin Wayne Blades, Scott Frederickson, and Chelsea Samuel (417) 781-3100
Broken Arrow Mark VanVranken and Tiffany Dempsey (918) 770-6827


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