Click to visit the Palen Music Center website

Palen Music Center Quick Note

Monday, March 31, 2014

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!

What Are You Doing This Summer? by Chuck Appleton

I want to encourage each of you to keep your program as active as you can during the summer months, while also taking some time off for yourselves to recharge and refresh your body and mind!

I want to remind you to attend the Missouri Bandmasters Summer Convention (June 22-25, 2014) if at all possible. It truly is a great time to get new ideas and visit with other directors. The convention will be held at The Resort at Port Arrowhead. Check out for up to date information.

Here are a few tips for a successful summer band program:

1. What kind of format should you use? You have several options here. One approach used successfully by many band directors is a private lesson schedule for 1-2 days each week for 4-6 weeks, depending on your own personal schedule.

Set up blocks of time each day to teach and offer the students incentives for attendance. These can be in the form of letter points or some kind of extra credit. Many directors find that teaching morning lessons and keeping afternoons open allows for time not only with your students, but also much needed family time and time for personal recreation. You can choose whether you want to use 30, 45 or 60-minute time slots for these lessons. Think about your attention span as well as the attention span of your students. Factor in your family schedules so that you schedule time with your family. This is so very important!

Many districts will fund summer band programs as a part of the summer school program the school offers. It is a win-win situation for you and your district as they receive state money for each student attending and you can earn a salary for your teaching efforts.

2. Another option for summer school band programs is like instrument instruction. Consider dividing your students into woodwind classes, brass classes and percussion classes. If you have the time and the schedule permits, you can divide the sessions further into like instruments (flutes, clarinets, saxes, etc.).

The great thing about a summer band is that you get to set up the format and the length of classes (30, 60, 90 minutes), the days, and even the term length of each session (four weeks, five weeks, etc.). Depending on the length and frequency of each class you teach, you can mix in book instruction with sheet music, perhaps even guest speakers or clinicians. Your class options are wide open! You will want to make a division according to ability levels (1st-year players, 2nd-year players, etc.).

3. Still another option for your summer band program is to have different levels of concert bands functioning. An approach that has worked well for us has been to offer classes in the following manner, through our school district summer school program:

8:00-10:10 AM: Beginning Woodwind Classes (flutes, clarinets, saxes), Monday-Friday

8:00-10:10 AM: Intermediate Concert Band (any student who has played one year or more), Monday-Friday

10:10-12:25 PM: Beginning Brass Class (trumpets, trombones, horns, mallet percussion), Monday-Friday

10:10-12:25 PM: Advanced Concert Band (any student who has played more than two years or has completed book 2 assessments). Monday-Friday

Our district funds our summer school through the attendance of each student per class. In other words, your band program can bring in big bucks for your schools’ summer school program because of the number of students that we service.

Here is how we set up our beginning summer band program. It lasts for four weeks during the month of June.

Each class is two hours in length which allows for quality instruction at a comfortable pace.

During the first week we review recorders allowing for us to solidify counting systems, note reading, breath support, tonging and posture before the students ever have an instrument to play. During this time we focus on rhythmic reading of music using a system of counting and clapping while a CD plays a recording with steady beat for each line performed. We make games out of accuracy and counting ability and reward the students for clapping and counting a line of music correctly.

This approach also allows you to have an instrument rental during the first week of summer school band. During this time you can demonstrate the instruments and allow students to “try out” instruments to see what works well for them. At the conclusion of the first week, you are ready to begin instruction of your beginners on instruments.

The concert bands are run in a “review” and “new” method of teaching. What we do is “review” music from the student method book for the first part of class and then try to correlate what we have reviewed to “new” sheet music that we will perform in a concert on the last Thursday of summer band.

We do a lot of sight-reading of music during the summer program. This is a great way to practice unfamiliar music with your students. The advanced band will often read music that the intermediate band will perform. This allows us to expose our students to many pieces of music during the four-week period.

We also encourage high school students to participate in this program. Many of the high school students play a second instrument during summer band as well as help with the instruction of beginners. It is a great way to keep continuity going throughout your program and also a great way to challenge and involve your high school students.

Our summer school summer band concert is held in our local park the last Thursday in June. We are trying to copy the old “Concert in the Park” format used successfully for so many years. We have a very active community band that performs at this concert as well.

This concert has been dubbed our “Children’s Concert” complete with an instrument petting zoo, a clown with balloons, ice cream provided by our park board and a concert that features our Intermediate Band, Advanced Band and Community Band. All of the activities during that evening are geared toward the children and the musical selections reflect songs that they will know and identify with.

Keep those students playing through the summer and you will be amazed at the difference it makes in your program when school starts!

Try it, you may like it!

Editor's Note: You should also check out the great summer convention put on by the Oklahoma Bandmasters Association. The convention will be held from July 21-24, 2014 at the Tulsa Renaissance Hotel. Click for more information.

Chuck Appleton currently serves as a road representative for our Palen Music Center location in Columbia, Missouri. He has been teaching instrumental music for 33 years. He retired in May of 2010 after teaching 23 years in Warrensburg, MO and eight years in Dixon, MO. A native of Sedalia, Missouri, Chuck received his bachelor of Music Education degree from Central Missouri State University in 1979 and a Master of Music Education degree from Central Missouri State University in 1995. He served as Band Vice-President for the Missouri Music Educators Association from 2006-2008. Chuck is also a member of MENC, Missouri Bandmasters Association, Missouri Association of Jazz Educators and Phi Beta Mu.

You can reach Chuck by email at [email protected].

Follow us on Twitter Follow us on Facebook