Monday, December 15, 2014


Wind Ensemble Survival Guide

This will be the last Quick Note of 2014. We hope that you have enjoyed another year of receiving these weekly issues. Just a reminder that you can view our entire catalog of back issues on our website. The Quick Note will resume in early January, 2015. Have a wonderful holiday break and a very Merry Christmas!

Wind Ensemble Survival Guide
by Charlie Bartrug

Every year, at the start of concert season, I passed out and went over a document called the Wind Ensemble Survival Guide. The plan was to approach possible problems with a "preemptive strike". The Survival Guide also helped remind me of the little things I should be aware of with my students. As the need would arise, I would often refer them back to this document.

As you read this document you will probably notice that some of the concepts are rather basic. We implemented many of these ideas in beginning band, and reinforced them throughout middle school. Obviously, a document like this works best in a program that has consistent expectations at all levels.

Please feel free to steal the document, make changes, and use it with your group.


  • Reed players -- always have at least 3 back-up reeds that have already been broken in.
  • Play in tune. Check the tuner before class. If you have your own tuner, or if you have a tuner app on your phone, bring it and use it every day. Know your pitch tendencies. Tune passages, not just individual notes.
  • Check your instrument often for loose screws, etc. If you are having a horn problem that you cannot solve, bring it to a staff member BEFORE school.


  • All slides should be greased and easy to move (especially the trumpet 3rd valve slide). Take care of slides and valves at home so we don't have issues in rehearsal.
  • Play in tune. Check the tuner before class. If you have your own tuner, or if you have a tuner app on your phone, bring it and use it every day. Know your pitch tendencies. Tune passages, not just individual notes.
  • Horns -- make sure both sides of your horn are in tune. If you are not sure how to do this, ask a director.
  • Trombones -- make sure your F-attachment is in tune. If you are not sure how to do this, ask a director.
  • Be sure you have all the necessary mutes for rehearsal every day.


  • Start setting up before rehearsal begins. I will have the plan posted before rehearsal. Consult it. Be picky about logistical details. Set up all equipment so that instrument changes require minimal movement.
  • Don’t wait for equipment problems to be "discovered" by Mr. Bartrug. Report them to him before rehearsal.
  • Always play keyboards in the warm-up without being asked.
  • If you play on a piece that we are rehearsing, sit in a nearby chair. If the full band is playing, stand at your post even if you have many rests to count.
  • I expect all parts to be covered even when someone is absent. Work out how to do it amongst yourselves without being asked. Those who are not assigned a part on a certain piece should be the first ones to cover for an absent person.
  • Make every note you play look and sound vitally important.


  • Properly warm up before rehearsal begins (long tones, passages of music). Remember, the first part of rehearsal is dedicated to ensemble skills, not warming up.
  • You will be having early sectionals. Pay close attention to the schedule.
  • Pencil use is absolutely necessary. Don't make me ask or hold up the rehearsal.
  • Schedule dentist/doctor appointments around 1st hour band rehearsal. Your absence affects the entire group.
  • Strive for shape and expression in everything you play. Sometimes it is not written in you music. Make an effort; the director will let you know if you are overdoing it. In other words, take musical risks -- "nothing ventured, nothing gained".
  • Prepare for your first note. Don't make your first note your worst note.
  • Check the band website for rehearsal updates and pertinent information (
  • Entitlement -- As a member of the Wind Ensemble, you are entitled to perform challenging music that requires individual practice. You are entitled to a high level of expectation from rehearsals, both in rehearsal discipline and individual musicality. You are entitled to a director who is prepared for rehearsal and expects you to be the same. You are entitled to the most efficient use of rehearsal time, including starting in a timely fashion, and spending time on task. You are entitled to expect yourself and the other members of the ensemble to prepare and perform to the best of their ability.

Charlie Bartrug
Manager - Palen Music Center Oklahoma City
[email protected]

Charles Bartrug recently retired after 33 years as a public school band director. The last thirteen years were spent as High School Band Director and Coordinator of Instrumental Music in Yukon, OK. Before coming to Yukon, Mr. Bartrug was band director at Midwest City HS, Guthrie High School, Owasso Junior High, and Collinsville Junior High. Bands under Charlie's direction have earned twenty one O.S.S.A.A. Sweepstakes Awards and three Double Sweepstakes Awards. The Guthrie High School Concert Band performed as an honor group for the OMEA Convention in 1999, and the Yukon High School Wind Ensemble performed in 2014. Mr. Bartrug is a recent inductee into the Oklahoma Bandmaster's Hall of Fame. He earned National Board Certification in 2004, was the 2005 Oklahoma Bandmasters Association Band Director of the Year, the 2005 Yukon High School Teacher of the Year, and a 2009 OMEA Exemplary Teacher. Charlie served as the Oklahoma Music Educator's Association Band Vice-President, and has presented clinics at the OMEA and OBA Conventions. He was twice named the A.S.B.D.A. Stanbury Award winner for outstanding young band director at the State and Region level, and was twice named Guthrie High School Teacher of the Year. Two highlights of Charlie's career have been teaching band alongside his wife Nancy for 26 years and seeing his 18-year old son Josh develop into a great young man and an outstanding musician.