Click to visit the Palen Music Center website

Palen Music Center Quick Note

Monday, September 24, 2012


Palen Music Center is dedicated to helping children experience excellence, personal growth, and joy through involvement in music. We carry out this mission by supporting area band directors through weekly service, support, educational programs, and quality products. This weekly Quick Note newsletter strives to highlight topics that are immediately helpful in the classroom. 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 helping an area university sell their existing Pearl drumline. If you are interested in pricing, please contact Eric Matzat at They have 5 snare drums, 2 tenors, 4 basses, carriers, and assorted cymbals. It must be sold as a set.

Ideas to Start/Revamp a Jazz Program in Your School
By Mike Steffen

This Quick Note post grew out of conversations I’ve had with directors about how I structured my jazz programs when I taught.  As you will see below, I tried different models based on my different situations.  Hopefully, if you are looking for ways to bring the study of jazz to your students – or simply want to revamp what you’re already doing – this will give you some ideas.  I’m happy to discuss any of this with you in more detail.  Please contact me if you’d like to do so! 
As you’re reading the various set-ups I’ve used in the past, I’m assuming the following is true.  You have…

  • Figured out what you’d like to see eventually from your new program (Big band? Combo? Competitive or not?  Community performances?  Basketball games?)
  • Looked at your instrumentation to see what is possible (Is your program big enough to support a “big band”?  Is combo what you need to pursue?)
  • Examined options for your personal schedule (When do rehearsals need to be and how often?)

Now that you’ve done so, here are some examples of how I set my programs up in different school districts at both the middle and high school level.  Maybe one will work for you!

  • “Feeder Within a Feeder”
    • Two groups at the middle school level: one was open to all, the other was auditioned (open one met for a month before auditions took place to teach basics of style)
    • Both rehearsed before school (M/W/F for “select” group and T/Th for open group)
    • All traveled to competitions in spring where “select” group only performed
    • Both groups performed at school assemblies, end of semester concerts, etc.
    • Both groups studied out of Standard of Excellence Jazz Method and “select” group additionally learned three or four competition pieces
  • “Club Time!”
    • Group met within the school day during the school’s “club” time.
    • 1st semester was open to all (piano/bass/guitar open to full student body)
      • Played at assemblies, used SOE Jazz Method, began to learn spring competition music, extended instrumentation (clarinet, flute, horn, etc)
    • 2nd semester was an auditioned group (supplemented with after school rehearsals)
      • Competitions, community events, school “tours”, etc.
  • “Try Before You Buy!”
    • Open rehearsals were held daily for one month so anyone could explore what it is like to play in a big band and get help learning audition material. (students were not committed at this point to joining the group)
    • Auditions followed the month of open rehearsals to fill the band and select alternates.
    • Regular rehearsals began for the auditioned group with alternates joining one day each week to gain experience for future years.  No method book, only sheet music.
    • Auditioned group traveled to competitions, community events, fundraisers, etc.

Please contact me if you’d like to discuss any of the above or you would like to discuss anything else with your program.  I’m happy to help in whatever way I can!  Keep Swinging!

-- Mike

Mike Steffen grew up in Grandview, MO and holds Music Education Degrees from Missouri State and University of Missouri - Kansas City. He served as a band director for five years in the Lee's Summit R-7 School District (KC area) where he taught band in grades 5-12. While he was there, Mike worked with the LSHS Golden Tiger Marching Band, directed the Concert Band, and directed the middle school program. Most notably, he was instrumental in the development of the Lee's Summit High School Jazz Program which had an active, well-respected big band, two student combos, and placed many students in the All-District Jazz Bands each year. Prior to that, Mike taught middle school band in Pleasant Hill, MO. Mike loves playing the saxophone, is married to his high school sweetheart, Miranda, and is the proud papa of three beautiful girls - Meldoy, McKenna, and Mae!

Mike has been with Palen Music Center since 2011 and can be reached at

Does Anyone Remember?

Craig French from Versailles was asking about a Missouri director/composer who presented last year at MMEA (or MBA) who had written a band method covering all 12 key signatures. He can't remember the name. Ring a bell with anyone? If so, please email Rob Goade with the information. Thanks!

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, Jason Moore, Mike Steffen, AAron Bryan (417) 882-7000
Columbia Chuck Appleton and Rob Goade (573) 256-5555
Liberty Ken Crisp, John Bell, and Victoria Clymore (816) 792-8301
Joplin AAron Bryan (417) 781-3100
Broken Arrow Jeff Lawless and Mary Ann French (918) 286-1555


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

Follow us on Twitter Follow us on Facebook