Monday, October 3, 2016
IN THIS ISSUE:
Folks, its busy season in the music world and its crazy busy for all of us out there. Sometimes, in the middle of craziness, we need to be reminded of what we are doing, how to be a bit better, and why, so here's my $.02:
#1: Make a list.
Many times in the heart of marching band season, I (or a student!) would think of something important and write it down for uJse later. Between the extra hours in rehearsal, shopping for the band's meals, requesting purchase orders for those last minute items, or grading assignments, the grind of marching season can take its toll on your ability to be the best educator you can be. If you're anything like me, a few missed hours of sleep can be all the difference between super teacher and physically present mental zombie.
Your lists could involve your daily tasks to complete, things to pack for the trip to the competition, literature ideas for an upcoming program, or just reminders for the students to keep in mind. Taking these items off your mental laundry list can free up time in your crazy Thursday schedule, give you a visual reminder to talk to someone, or just help you unwind and go to sleep at night. Whatever your program, students, or your personal sanity requires, write it down and make it visible.
Speaking of sanity...
#2: Enlist parent and student help!
Students and parents are a frequently un- or under-utilized resource in the band world. Why? Because most teachers are self-reliant, self-supporting go-getters who are used to making great things happen despite difficult circumstances. This drive to succeed is a good thing, and I believe it is a main contributor to the tremendous success that music programs have in educating students, not only in music, but in effective life skills.
If I had to guess, I would venture to say that many of the people reading this article have at one time been used to working alone and with others, but not necessarily used to asking for assistance and leading other people through the task delegation and completion process.
Whether you are a seasoned veteran used to delegation or just starting out with your own program, it is completely normal to feel apprehensive about handing some of your "responsibilities" to others. After all, in what other profession are professionals required to wager the success and future of their careers on the whims and feelings of a bunch of 13-18 year olds! Asking for and receiving help from the parents of said adolescents seems to me like a great way to involve those that have skills and abilities to make your life easier.
Your students and their parents will appreciate your willingness to let them help you in building success in your program. Need a backdrop built? Pants hemmed? Cooks for the meals? You would be surprised how many parents and students will jump at the chance to come up with materials, participate in the process, or help finish the product.
A great example: I needed a set of racks for our pit percussion, and our budget simply didn't have room to make the purchase from a company. Instead, I sent out a mass email and a letter with the kids simply asking for help with a couple of projects. Within the week, I had three parents offering their services to help us out.
The best part: one of my students at the time was, under the supervision and guidance of his father, able to hone his computer skills programming his parent's CNC machine. In addition, the student learned how to powder coat while helping his dad in assembling and finishing our brand new, custom made heavy-duty steel percussion racks. The student and parent got to spend time working together toward a common goal, learning and revisiting skills, and all for the benefit of a band. Sounds like a win-win situation to me!
What this all boils down to is: don't be afraid to ask for help, as it can not only free up mental and physical energy for you as a director, it can also lead to building better relationships with your students and their parents while helping your program.
#3: Take care of your people.
I say people, but I really mean YOU. Yes, you---the director sitting at the desk before anyone else in the district is even awake---checking emails and chugging coffee just to be able to stave off the ever present threat of total mental exhaustion. I also mean YOU---the type to roll in just before rehearsal, and stay until your car is the only one in the parking lot and you wonder how "easy teacher hours" must feel. Maybe you're both, depending on the day.
I'm talking to you as well.
You MUST take care of yourself, otherwise that well labeled "Human Resources" will run dry and your health, home life, and program will collapse from sheer exhaustion. This means that you officially have permission to play some video games, take a walk, sit and stare blankly at the wall, eat healthy, binge watch Netflix, enjoy a massage, or destroy a triple cheeseburger, cheese fries, and a milkshake and not feel guilty. Figure out whatever works for you, hit that reset button in your brain, and spend a little time taking care of the director. After all, without the director, who will lead the students, focus the seemingly unlimited energy of the parents, and make sure that music changes lives each day?
That's right---your responsibilities to others are great and numerous, but your responsibilities to yourself make the importance of your work possible. Now take a moment, breathe, and get back to work--you can do it!
The article below appeared in the School Band & Orchestra monthly newsletter and contains some wonderful information about cold-weather tuning. Please check out this great resource! You can click here to view the original source material.
At a recent caption-style marching band competition, I had the pleasure of judging the music performance caption. Even though it was a southern destination in very early October, temperatures were extra cool, especially as the sun went down. This of course lead to the many intonation challenges with which we're all familiar: rising pitch in the mallet instruments and plummeting pitch in the winds. So, as we get deeper into the Fall contest season, and as temperatures continue to drop, keep in mind these strategies that can help fight cold weather intonation challenges!
Tune Against Temperature Pitch Tendencies
Instrument manufacturers, as a general rule of thumb, build their instruments to play in tune at around 72 to 76 degrees (climate-controlled room temperatures). Anything below that and we've got problems. The contracting bars of the mallet instruments skyrocket sharp, and the shrinking walls of the wind instruments open their bore, creating a flatter pitch. So tune and plan to combat this trend!
First of all, make sure you tune your wind instruments to the highest pitch that they can all comfortably reach and maintain. It's no good if your entire band can be tuned to A=444 except the tubas. Therefore, do a little research to find out the lowest common denominator instrument in your band for a higher pitched intonation calibration. For example, if your trumpets can't get higher than A=443, then tune your entire wind section to A=443. The entire wind section except for the mellophones and alto saxes that is!
Tune Mellophones and Alto Saxes Even Higher
The alto lines, your mellophones and alto saxes, spend a majority of their time in the marching activity playing upper fifths of chords. And just intonation dictates that the fifths of triads be raised two cents. In addition, marching alto sax parts often stray into the G at the top of the staff and higher, notes that tend flat in that register, especially at higher volumes; mellophones spend a lot of time in the upper register, which contains some flat partials, but also can grow flat as your performers tire in that tessitura. Therefore, if at all possible, tune your alto saxes and mellophones to an even higher pitch than the rest of your wind section. Anywhere from five to ten cents higher, depending on your own taste and the limits of those instruments' tuning capabilities.
Keep Those Instruments as Warm as Possible!
Everyone loves a sharp-looking, stock-still band at attention. It really demonstrates discipline and focus. However, in colder weather, having your band stay at a frozen attention simply allows their horns' temperature to plummet after your pre-show warm-up. So play it smart:
Trust me: we judges will understand that your band needs to keep instruments warm for their performance and we won't dock you points for "fidgeting." We would much prefer to hear better intonation!
Pay Extra Attention to Soloists
The most perilous marching moments in cooler weather are for your wind soloists. They are often accompanied only by the mallets, who are very sharp in cold weather, and they often approach their solo from a tacet moment, allowing their instruments to cool and flatten before they perform their feature. Also, some solos are on doubled instruments that aren't played anywhere else in the show (soprano saxes, flugelhorns, concert euphoniums), and therefore sit in cold, windy weather right until they are utilized. Therefore, consider the following strategies for your wind soloists:
If the soloist has any such opportunity before their solo begins, have them push in slightly to raise pitch. This is especially important if they are accompanied primarily by the mallets.
If the instrument is a doubled instrument that is only used for this solo moment, consider some sort of protected warm enclosure in which to keep the instrument on the sidelines before it is used. A small warm box with blankets inside can help immensely in keeping a flugelhorn warm before it is used. Also, make sure this doubled solo instrument is pushed in further, as it won't have the benefit of hot breath inside it before being used on the field.
Employing these techniques and strategies can greatly improve your band's intonation and therefore its volume and sound. As crisp fall temperatures continue to encroach across the country at marching festivals and contests, consider employing these tips at your next halftime or adjudicated performance. Good luck and stay warm!
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.