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Palen Music Center Quick Note

Monday, January 3, 2011


The PMC Quick Note 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!

We are hosting a mouthpiece and reed clinic this Thursday at the Palen Music Center location in Springfield, MO. Have your students bring their instruments and try a bunch of different products from Vandoren. We will have band specialists from Palen Music and Vandoren on hand to assist. This is a perfect opportunity for your students to try a bunch of different mouthpiece/reed combinations at this free clinic! See you Thursday! Click the banner for more info.

The Outstanding School Band Program by Julie Capps
Editor's Note: We always love getting articles (or even just article suggestions) from the band directors we serve. This Quick Note edition features two articles from Julie Capps, Director of Bands at Santa Fe. These articles were previously published in the WBDI Women's Conductor magazine. Do you have ideas for upcoming Quick Note articles? Please submit them! --Eric

1. The philosophical base should be large numbers of students, a thriving program. Teaching a child to play an instrument well, and having a sense of achievement. The end result will be a love for and an understanding of music.

2. Recruiting is basic and organization is the key. Possible ingredients are testing, instrument demonstration, and the use of films, flyers, letters, and phone calls. Basic orientation is, “Music for Everyone,” but with a rifle approach for the talented. The ideal process is written out in detain in James Middleton’s book, Complete School Band Program, Chapter Two.

3. The band program should have a low dropout ratio. Every program loses some, but a characteristic of the “successful” program is that most will stay. Social values are important and a strong awards plan should be in place. Psychologists say there is more happiness in achievement than any other aspect of daily living. Students want to work hard. The director must make it interesting. Motivation must be constant, persuasive, and individualized.

4. Team Teaching is the source of most innovations in teaching. Many outstanding programs have viewed
the “team teaching environment” as an essential ingredient in their success. Of course, this is not always
an option for smaller schools.

5. Beginning Band is the foundation for the entire program. Motivation is the key. Characteristic sound is 50% and technique is 50%. Teaching efficiently is highest with a holistic approach. The goal is do to it right, and avoid re-teaching at a later level on basic fundamentals. But, ALL LEARNING TAKES PLACE AS A RESULT OF AN APPLICABLE SET OF FUNDAMENTALS.

6. Motivation for beginning band, (and intermediate classes), is crucial. The DAILY six-second playing test is the all-time best motivational device. Others must be used, also. Every top notch program I have known use practice cards.

7. Private lessons: The best junior high bands seem to have a minimum of 10-20% of beginners studying privately, at least that many or more of intermediate students and 50% of students in the top band. High school seems to drop to 10-20% again. However, some of the best players may never take a lesson and others may study for years. And again, this may not be possible in smaller school situations.

8. The Breath Impulse, (short for Breath Rhythmic Impulse Method or BRIM), is the single biggest advantage you can give a good teacher with good students and a good teaching environment. BRIM won’t do anything for a mediocre teacher. All you will have is mediocre teaching with an impulse! It makes good teaching more efficient by attacking the basic two areas which consume the most teaching time: breath support and rhythm.

9. The second biggest advantage you can give a good teacher is a unified system of counting. I use the Eastman System of Counting.

10. The best teachers have lots of teaching routines. A teaching routine reflects refined thinking and an organized approach. A counting system is a teaching routine. Others might include warm-ups, key signature chant, rhythm slides, and daily playing tests.

11. Why don’t teachers do steps recommended above, (especially steps 6 to 10)? Because growth and development is so slow… watching grass grow. What to do????

12. Intermediate class is the most difficult level to teach. Consequently this is the level with the most latitude for building a truly outstanding program. Motivation is the key. Team Teaching by specialist is the way. Unison scales, exercise and etudes are the meat and potatoes. Save the dessert for later. The playing of simple band pieces should be avoided as much as possible. Most bands allow this valuable opportunity to dissipate in to little or no result.

13. Junior High Advanced Band can be the most rewarding teaching there is. It is much easier to get an I+ rating with the group than any other. The secret is to have really fine players. They must have an outstanding background. Technical growth must continue. Sectional rehearsals, (which are mainly weekly playing tests), are the key. Momentum is crucial; start slow and easy; let it build.

14. Reading must be taught. Assuming basic fundamental of notation, counting, foot-tap, etc. have been learned, the way to teach music reading is by reading music. Selecting the appropriate level is crucial. Various method books are the answer.

15. Students who have been taught to play well can and should play difficult literature. The reverse of this statement, (i.e., you should use difficult literature to teach student to play well), will not work and is the source of much frustration for students and their teachers. A very GENERAL, gross, and sometimes inaccurate, (with many exceptions), rule of thumb, if that if student cannot play through the piece the first time they see it, it is probably to difficult for contest. This concept have never failed me when selecting contest literature.

16. The head director at a high school has status, the larger the school, the greater the status. Many teachers aspire to become the head director at a large school with a well-known successful program. Because so many feel that way, there must be some validity to the goal. It is obvious that there are also many drawbacks. High school student will never have the wonder of discovery that is characteristic of #13 above and that is so rewarding to teachers. Each person must find their personal niche; the returns from teaching are not financial, so personal satisfaction becomes paramount.

17. The best High School programs have the best players. Another way to say this is that, “nothing beats fine players!” The best marching bands have the best players. The best jazz bands have really fine players, etc. To build a reputation, you must build fine players.

18. Technical growth should continue in high school. Students will respond positively to a well-organized routines similar to that described in #13 above.

19. Ensemble morale must be nurtured. Present challenges that are accessible. And don’t forget to prepare the students for disappointment.

What Is Band? by Julie Capps

Band music is precise, and it demands exact acoustics. A conductor’s score is a chart or graph which indicates frequencies, intensities, volume changes, melody and harmony all at once, and with the most exact control of time.

The music is rhythmically based on the subdivisions of time which must be done instantaneously, and not worked out on paper.

Most of the terms are Italian, French or German, and the notation is certainly not English---but a highly developed kind of shorthand that uses symbols to represent ideas.

Music usually reflects the environment and times of its creation, often the country and/or racial feeling.

It requires extraordinary coordination of fingers, hands, arms, and facial muscles. In addition to controlling the abdominal muscles and the respiratory system, all of which respond to the sound the ear hears and the mind interprets.

Band is all of the above things, but most of all, BAND IS ART! It allows a human being to take all of these difficult, (but dry and boring) techniques and use them to create something all its own: feeling and emotion.

This is why children should take band! Not because we expect them to major in music.
Not because we expect them to play an instrument all of their lives
But------So they will be human.
So they will recognize beauty.
So they will be more sensitive.
So they will have more love, more compassion, more gentleness, and more good.

In short, so they will have MORE LIFE!!

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, as well as with the All-State Collegiate Band. Julie moved to Texas and graudated from University of Texas, 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 Missouri in 1995 to get closer to family and taught at Bolivar for two years. Then in order to get closer to "home," she accepted the position at Santa Fe. She resides in Waverly. 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. She won Missouri Teacher of the Year Award for 2009. She has three sons: Tommy, Max and Joshua. Julie is an avid reader and writes poetry. She can be contacted via email at

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, Wayne Blades, Brett Palen, Eric Matzat, Jason Moore, and Paul Bowen (417) 882-7000
Columbia Robert Pitts and Jake Herzog (573) 256-5555
Liberty Ken Crisp and Harlan Moore (816) 792-8301
Joplin Dave Coble and Chelsea Samuel (417) 781-3100
Broken Arrow Mark VanVranken and Tiffany Dempsey (918) 770-6827


If you would like to submit material, make corrections, give comments, or wish to be removed from this mailing list, please contact Eric Matzat.  

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