Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The To-Do List of Vacation...The Quest for 5 Star Music

The life of a band director is full of....music. To me music selection is one of the most important parts of my job as a band director. It is what we are going to playing every single day. Its what people are going to come and see us do at the concert. Its a lot of what the kids look forward to every day and what they will remember about band. Its how we get them to buy into what we are doing and it dictates a lot of what we can actually teach them from music history to theory to fundamentals. It all lives in the music.

If you are friends with me on facebook you will have seen that nearly every day I am...listening to band music. There is a A LOT of music to listen through or to depending on how you look at it and I have a lot of music to program. 

I have a love/hate relationship with band music. There is some great stuff out there and there is some crap. Most band directors will agree but there really is some great stuff if we know where to find it. A few summers ago I took a great class with Ryan T. Nelson from Northwestern University as part of my summer masters degree there and we started using a "5 star rating" (modeled after the itunes rating system) to rate our music. Anything below three stars should not be considered and really we determined whenever possible we should be putting 5 star music in front of our students....because they deserve it and it does exist, it just can be a pain to find it.

But music teachers all know when you find that 5 star piece boy does it work. You actually want to rehearse the music, the kids want to play it, and the parents actually enjoy the concert. Its a win win situation. I try to even go as far as have loose concert themes or connections between the pieces and even between the pieces of all of my ensembles but the most important thing for me is that the music is quality.

And when I can get all the music picked it does make my life easier. It really allows me to be more organized and focused on what is happening for the rest of the year. My most successful years have been when I have had the time in the summer to plan my music for all my ensembles for the entire year (ok that has happened twice in 9 years).

Ok so how do I do it. Well first I have to figure out what I am programming for: so here's the laundry list right now:
Concert Band, Symphonic Band, Wind Ensemble-CMEA Band Festival (March)
Jazz Band I-festival music
Jazz Band 3-any music ( a whole folder full, swing tunes, ballads you name it)
Hawaii Band (we are going to Hawaii for 3 non competitive performances with a band combined of students from all three of my concert bands)
Indigo Band (my beginning band that is playing their first concert in January & our ST Play-A-Thon)
The First Annual ST Play-a-Thon-**more on this fundraiser to follow** but the gist is that every ensemble will be performing for an hour. This is going to be combinations of stuff we have already played this year, stuff we are doing for CMEA & other "fun stuff" (stuff from past years, movie music etc).

So yeah...there can be overlap but that's a pretty tall order of stuff.

So how do I do it....listen and listen and list and list. I have a huge folder of notes. I keep all of my lists that I ever make. That way I can see what things I have liked during other "listening" sessions. I just start listening to teaching music cds, JW pepper, (sometimes I even read through the paper catalog to get ideas), I ask friends, I download state lists, I look back at reading session lists from old years.  I take suggestions from friends and WRITE IT DOWN. I have been reading the Band Directors facebook group a lot lately and have gotten some great ideas. I also try to stay friends on facebook with young composers like John Mackey, Brian Balmages, and Steven Bryant to try to stay current with what they are doing. All of that kind of stuff is in this special folder. I put stars next to each tune and what ensemble I think it might be good for. Then when I really start feeling sold on something I put it on a post it note and hang it on the wall under the ensembles name and then I start adding other pieces around it. Its a visual way for me to "see" the concert as its coming together. I also ALWAYS go shopping in my own library. I am always forgetting what I have already purchased that is 5 stars.

Its a labor intensive process I won't lie. But it does allow me to have some pretty exhaustive lists of things that I have liked and for me to really find some great music.

Once I feel like I have a concert put together then I put those tunes in order in place list on itunes and listen to it for a few days to make sure that I'm committed to it.

Stuff I'm into right now (no commitments have been made yet):
Song of the Blacksmith arr. Loest (I love anything that is old and rescored to make accessible to younger groups)
Nevermore Brian Balmages (I am a huge fan of his music & anything written having to do with Poe. I own just about enough Poe inspired band music to do a concert)
An America Spectacular arr. Chris Sharp (something classy & patriotic for our Hawaii trip)
Jungle Dance-Brian Balmages, (for the Hawaii band)
Symphony No. 4 Andrew Boysen
Moon By Night-Jonathan Newman
Fantasy on Prospect, David Gorham (Symphonic Band)
Joie De Vivre-Gary Gilroy
Always with Grace-Gary Gilroy
Sedentary Motion-Tom Garling (for jazz band)

So that's my short list right now....there will be more to follow as I narrow this down. I thought some of you might enjoy the process!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Fundraiser Review-Apple Gift Card Drawing/Pasta Dinner/Jazz Concert

I have been working with my good friend Kerry, who has been involved in fundraising for my band program for the entire time (all nine years) even after her daughter graduated over 5 years ago. We wanted to do an event with food that could make us some money.

After several years here's what we have come up with....


Let's start first with Pasta Dinner.  Here's the run down....
-We set up tables on an outdoor area of our campus. Tables for folks to sit at and tables to serve. We cover the serving tables with tents. Those are all things that we already own at school and are free! (We do cover the tables with our rolls of plastic tables clothes that we cut and tape on the tables). (No facility rental)

-We do not prepare the food ourselves but purchase it from a local Italian Restaurant. They gave us a great deal on the entire meal for $5 per person. That's two kinds of pasta to choose from, salad, and bread. We purchased cakes from Costco for dessert. We got ice donated for the drinks. We purchased the drinks/had families donate them. We did get some donations of paper products and drinks from some of our band families which did we reduce some our costs. 

-We had volunteers from within our organization (parents & students) who set the event up, served etc.

The dinner starts at 5:30pm and lasts until 6:45pm. Towards the end of the evening we start selling seconds for a $1

We hold a concert at 7:30pm that opens with our top jazz band and then follow that up with a guest artist. Sometimes we have local groups that volunteer and some that charge. The guest artists works with our jazz band and does perform with them so it is really an educational experience for the students as well. We have parents and students that do everything for that concert: sound, lights, ushering, ticket sales.

This year we had the pleasure of having the Kristen Strom Trio perform.  Kris came out and worked with our jazz band and sat in a few tunes for the concert that were outstanding. Her trio was amazing and well received by the audience.

So for those two events you can purchase a concert ticket or a dinner ticket for $10. You can purchase a combo ticket (dinner & the show) for $15 or you can purchase a 4 pack (4 concert tickets/4 dinner tickets) for $50. 

We give each student in the Jazz Band to comp tickets to the show. Any volunteer (parent, student, Jazz Band member) a discounted dinner ticket at the rate of $7 (so we cover our costs). We also provide free dinners to our guest artists.

The event falls under some guidelines that I like to consider when planning a fundraiser:
-How much effort/planning/man power goes into the event?
-Based on the work put into the event is the profit worth it?
-Is there an educational component for the students?
-Is it provide a service of any kind to our community?
-Are the students able to perform music as part of the event?

If I can answer yes to many of the above questions than I typically will give the event ***** (that's 5 stars). In this case this event fulfills this!

And our event has LOTS of room to grow....advertising is the big thing that will expand our event. With more effort into the advertising we could easily expand our size of the event as its not at capacity. We also have been doing it outdoors because we have no on campus space to host one (we have no cafeteria) and we did NOT want to pay/could not make money on the event if we were paying for the venue.

I'm not sure we will stick with pasta but the infrastructure for the event is really great, adaptable to many different organizations. You can pair this style of event with other activities going on on your school campus or add a dinner element to an event your group is already doing. 

We did expand the event in other ways. Last year my mom (maker of Nifty Handbags) sent us a few handbags to have drawing for. We sold tickets for a $1 and actually made a few hundred dollars off the bags.

This year we did something else and paired it with the event (brace yourself because this is a good one). Its the APPLE GIFT CARD DRAWING.

We were selling $10 drawing tickets with the prize being a $500 Apple Gift Card. We also decided that for every 250 tickets we sold we would purchase a gift card. This year we sold enough drawing tickets to purchase 3 Apple Gift Cards for the drawing prizes. 

Now here's what you do:
-First check your state's fundraising guidelines because in California you can not have a raffle. We are not having a raffle. We are having a drawing. Everything we publish, everything we say, everything we are doing is a drawing, drawing, drawing....
-We purchased ticket printing using ticketprinter.com (that meant we had really snazzy tickets to sell folks)
-We passed out an informational form to the students. They could only check out ticket books if they had parent permission. On that form we gave families the options of donating $25 if they would like to instead of participating (I always like to provide that option, some will, some won't but its always the gesture and effort that do go along way).
-I had then had a parent volunteer assist me in checking out the ticket books to students and parents using the online system from the company we ordered the tickets from www.ticketprinting.com
-We would check out one ticket book of 10 tickets at a time to each seller.
- We asked that each ticket book be completely sold (ie you can't return just one ticket). At the very bitter end of the sale we allowed people to turn in half sold books. Most everyone did comply, especially because they signed a form saying they understood what they were being asked to do.

Incentive for sellers: for every 10 tickets sold the seller received a ticket to be put in a special "seller's drawing" for one $500 Apple Gift Card.

Our drawing ended up being for 3 Apple Gifts cards for the public drawing and 1 gift card for the sellers. It was really great to see people we all knew winning.

Without the drawing the pasta dinner and jazz concert was not as successful as I would have liked to see it (from a financial perspective). However, paired with the gift card drawing all three events made about $4500 profit which is great. We are planning on making some modifications for next year. I want to see an improved venue (we are going to move our event into our new multipurpose room). I want to see increased promotion and get more people in our program involved in selling tickets to the event (perhaps by having more incentives for the students to participate). I also want to see us sell even more tickets for the drawing.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Thrifty Find of the Day-Band Shoppe

Sometimes you just have to be in the right place at the right time. I needed to order one drum major jacket. We have been using the "in stock" Insignia Marching band Jacket as our drum major uniform for several years now from the Band Shoppe. This year, as I will be profiling soon, we have made new sashes and gauntlets to add some "spice" our rather outdated uniforms. As you may remember, if you are following the blog, we purchased this material with two awesome coupons from Jo-Ann fabrics and saved $750 on the fabric for these uniform alterations.

Today is a lesson in READING when you go on a website. I needed to purchase one jacket and they are $99.95. Monday night I was going to order the jacket online. I didn't even read the main page I just typed in the info for the jacket in the search feature and it popped up. It was the same price as last year "$99.95" I ended up NOT ordering it that night because I realized I needed buttons for them as well and didn't know exactly which ones to order without looking at the jackets I had. So I waited until this morning.

This morning I was much more rested. I go on their website and actually READ the gigantic box in the middle of the home page that says "Up to 90% off Blow Out Prices at the Outlet Store". Well in the picture on the main page I see the jacket I need so I think "hey maybe the jacket I need is onsale". So I click on the box and am taken to the outlet store. Low and behold our jacket is there (and they site actually tells me there are only 6 left at the outlet price). So I purchase it because its "$29.95".

Now that is thrifty....so I double check something. I go up to the top of the screen and I search for the jacket on the website. Up its still listed at $99.95. In order to get the outlet deal you have to click on the main page of the website!

Sometimes reading the fine print, or in this case the GIGANTIC RED LETTERING on the main page helps!

Thrifty find of the day saved $73.96.

Now that is thrifty!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Thrifty Finds of The Week/Upcoming Events!

Its the beginning of the school year which means that its time for Back to School shopping. While I might not be buying back packs, note book paper, or markers the band does need a good amount of supplies to get the school year off to a good start. Here's all the things I can remember I did last week that were thrifty:

-Music Folder Assembly: The folders are free because we get them from a local music store that we work with Bronstein Music. We also have stopped using a warm-up book and some of my staff members (Erik and Reno) have written a warm-up packet for the program that includes lip slurs, scale exercises, and percussion exercises to accompany the wind warm-ups that develop technique that is appropriate for where they are right now as players (ie we can change them as the players develop)...easily and for free. I also have materials that I received from other teaches (worksheets, scale sheets) that I use and none of which I ever purchased. (And these materials were generated by the teachers so its not like I am breaking copyright and photocopying published materials). Finally all the paper that was used to photocopy these materials was donated to our programs (thanks parents!!!)

-The mellophones: We ordered mellophone mouthpieces. Then we ended up finding some mellophones to borrow (we traded Evergreen Valley a trombone and some books and they lent us two mellophones). Unfortunately we got the horns yesterday and found they came with brand new mouthpieces (after we had just ordered new ones) but I checked and Woodwind & Brasswind provided free shipping and has a great return policy so in the end everything worked out!

-We got a guitar amp donated thanks to a former band parent spotting an ad on Craigs List from King Amplification. They are a Fender warranty center and often end up with a surplus of amps. So they wanted to donate one to a local music program. So we got a sweet small guitar amp that will work perfect for our jazz combo program! Free!

-The band program has several awesome upcoming fundraisers that we are trying out. I will be profiling these this week as we launch our first official fundraiser this week. (Its a Apple Gift Card Drawing. We are selling $10 drawing tickets to win a $500 Apple Gift Card. We will purchase multiple gift cards depending on how many tickets we sell so the odds are actually really good!). I would love to see us make $18,000 on this fundraiser!

-You might remember all that fabric that I got on sale at Jo Ann Fabrics (we saved around $750 using coupons a few weeks ago). We are making bands that go around the hat and the waist of the jacket to "spice" up our marching band uniforms. One of our awesome parent volunteers, Gina is making the bands for the hats as we speak. I'm going to learn how to attach them and then we are going to start assembling them on Wednesday! There will be pics to follow for sure.

-And all music teachers, don't forget. See if your local music stores have some kind of rewards program. Our local music store, Music Village has a program where students can turn in receipts from their purchases at the store to me. I turn them into the music store and then the music stores gives me a 5% reward back. That's not half bad if your students are purchasing stuff regularly and also purchasing large stuff (like instruments). So last year I turned in a ton of receipts and got a $552 gift card. I have been purchasing mostly mouthpieces and music with it and this week I purchased a mouthpiece and some ligatures.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Thrifty Find of the Day-Use those coupons!

The thrifty band director is back! Its been a nice long summer vacation but its band camp time which means its time to start being thrifty again in the classroom. I will be doing my best to blog about how we run our season from the budget process to creative meals through the marching band season that are very inexpensive to how to save money within your budget.

Today's thrifty find is going to save us about $800!!! What the heck are we doing?

Well....it all started with our marching band uniforms. They are old. They need updating and we just aren't there financially yet to replace them. So our show designer came up with some "alternations" to the uniforms (basically making a waistband, gauntlets, and band for the hat) that is white and gold. It is going to look awesome and we plan on using these "uniform alterations" until we purchase new uniforms (hopefully in a few years).

We can't purchase these items previously made due to the construction of our current uniform. So we convinced a guard parent (Gina) who is an awesome and super crafty lady (as well as thrifty) design the pattern and figure out what fabric we needed etc. You can check out some of Gina's creations on her site http://www.ginabahrens.com

We figured out we needed two different fabrics and we needed 60 yards of it. Gina also brought me two coupons to use from Joann Fabrics We went to the fabric store and found out two very important things: yes we can pre-order the fabric & use we can use our 40% and 50% off coupons!

What does this mean. Total savings on $713.73. Now that's thrifty....

A special shout out today goes to my trusty band camp office assistant Spencer for coming up with the first thrifty find of the day (the moral of this story is look in your storage bins occasionally to see what you've got in there). Spencer noticed that we had stored white gloves in there (the last time we wore them was his freshman year which was 2003).....the same white gloves that we are switching to for this year. Meaning we might not have to buy very many gloves this year (saving us another couple hundred bucks).

Saturday, May 14, 2011

California could cut school year by several weeks - San Jose Mercury News

California could cut school year by several weeks - San Jose Mercury News

This would would be an absolute tragedy. I'm all for a little longer summer but this would just be a disaster. First off, we would once again be punishing the students who leave in the less affluent parts of the state, in the district that are struggling the most, since they would have to probably cut the most days. Our students would be at a greater disadvantage at simply knowing content for their subject areas. They simply would have learned less than other students putting them potentially behind students in other states and other parts of the state (depending on where they lived) when they apply and enter college and even enter the work force. If we were done with schools 3-5 weeks earlier our school year would be out before the nationwide AP testing (for those of you that don't know AP testing dates are not set by the district or school site but are the same nation wide).

When I read this article I did notice that someone posted that the government is only worried about the budget and that the teachers are only worried about their salary. I'm not only worried about my salary, I'm first worried about the kids, but for the first time in my career I have been forced to actually worry about myself. I'm never one who ends up doing the "work to rule" events that our teachers union puts on. I think they serve a potentially great point, to teach others how much work we do for our job that is outside of what we get paid. I personally run an entire weekly summer program in which I do not get paid at all.

But I am worried about my salary. I'm very worried about what will happen to me if we loose 3-5 weeks of school. With this job market and the loss of district summer school (which I could not have taught anyway since I'm a music teacher and we never had music in summer school) how the heck am I going to find a part time job for the summer when so many people can't find even full time work? How will I, like so many of my colleagues continue to do the same job for less pay? Heck, I already do have a summer job but I doubt I can ask for a raise, afterall its another public institution who is basically broke (San Jose State University). I know there are many people out there who are not in education who face this, but there are plenty of people outside education that would start looking for a new company to work for if that continued for years. How many people want to do the same job or more work for less pay? How many people want to do that for multiple years in a row? For the first time in my entire career, I'm honestly scared of that and it actually gets me down and makes me stressed. I wonder about my personal economic stability. How will I ever get out of this pile of student loan debt that I took out to further my career? How will I ever finish off paying off the credit card debt I got myself into when I first moved to the Silicon Valley and could not afford to live here? Screw home owner ship, that's the least of my concerns/interests at this point. Staying afloat is my biggest fear.

It makes me angry because I can't look at my students and say: If you work really hard in school and go to college and do really well, when you get into the work place you will be well taken care of. But I can't live in the doom and gloom all the time. What I can say with a smile though, is that I still believe education to be a noble profession, one in which I never ever regret entering and despite the budget issues and my personal concern about my own financial well being and future, I do my best to remain optimistic because ultimately this massive budget crisis is not my fault and its certainly not my students fault so I simply have to make the best of the time I am with them for the days that I am given with them each year.

I am I scared about the state of education in California? Absolutely. But as someone who is a 'fixer' of problems, I have zero idea of where to start. What I do know is we can not take away our students' education like this.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Check out this great article

I know many of you are finding this blog through the article that I was featured in in the San Jose Mercury News but for my readers who have not seen it yet please check it out. Santa Clara County Programs Top the Charts. 

For those of you that are new to the blog....well welcome and stop by often. I'm getting some great emails inviting me to local schools fundraising events and sharing their stories of support. Feel free to post on this blog, stop by often and email me if you feel so inclined.


Want to see some great concerts this week? Its not too late. Santa Teresa's Concert Band, Symphonic Band, Wind Ensemble & Color Guard concert is tonight in the Santa Teresa High School Theater at 7pm.

Thursday night we will be featuring our Jazz Combos A & B, Jazz Bands 2 & 3, and our Guitar Ensemble at 7pm in our theater.

Saturday May 14th from 12:00-3:15pm come down to the Santa Teresa Branch of the San Jose Public Library for an event "Meddle with Music: A Teen Library Invasion" in which there will be performances by the Santa Teresa Jazz Bands, Combos,Ukulele Ensemble, and Saxophone Ensemble!

But most importantly thanks for supporting school music programs and thanks for stopping by!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Hey readers! I need your feedback!

Hello all you thrifty band director followers-all 19 of you that officially follow me and the few hundred of you who read my blogs-thanks!

Now I need your help. We have been collecting ink jet cartridges for recycling but we have not made the money that I had hoped to on it and this is a result of the vendor that we have been using (a local business not to be named). But that's not the point of this blog.

The point is that I need a new vendor for ink jet cartridge and cell phone recycling.

Right now I'm looking at switching to Phoneraiser.

So my question to all of you is that do you do ink jet cartridge recycling or cell phone recycling or both? How do you do it? Do you do it ongoing through the year or dedicated drives (certain times of year) or both? Whose your vendor and the big question...how well have you done?

Thanks and when I get this going don't worry...I will blog about it!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Los Gatos High School Crab Feed

Hello All! Well I do apologize on my lack of blogging lately. It sure has been awhile and I do hope that I will not have another extended absence. I have been busy being thrifty and being a band director but there has not been much time for blogging in that. I would like to start getting back to some of my promised blogs and one of them is this one.

I had the pleasure of attending the Los Gatos High School Crab Feed. I will say upfront that I give both this kind of fundraiser and this particular event 5 stars. I think after you read this and see the pictures you will understand why.

The event was a class act. I actually found out about it NOT because I am friends with the band director, Chris Marra, but because I just so happened to be shopping in downtown Los Gatos and saw a very nice poster in a store front that caught my eye. Being someone that enjoys crab feeds (and is always looking for great fundraisers) this got my attention. I also have learned something living in the bay area. If you want to go to an event like a pancake breakfast or a crab feed, often times the best ones are hosted by the slightly more affluent communities (however I will say that not teaching in an affluent community we put on some darn good events so its NOT an always, please don't hate that comment too much).

I promptly purchased a ticket and decided to attend. They had a very helpful website as well, which I think is really important when running an event like this.  I was very impressed when I approached the event and found this great signage at the exit right off the freeway.
For those of you that don't know much about Los Gatos High School it is in beautiful downtown Los Gatos, California, which is a pretty amazing and picturesque place. I also feel like I'm taking a mini-vacation when I am there.
Here's the high school to give you an idea.

And here is the courtyard.
 This is the church where the event was held. I think for a five star event like this that location is key. You have to find a place that is going to work well for the guests and the event (clean, good parking, decorate-able and affordable). Based on the profits earned this location seemed to be a great fit. It was particularly good for the Los Gatos HS Band students because they performed at the event and so moving equipment etc. was snap since the church is next to the school.
 They did a great job decorating for  the event.
 Clearly marked entrances to the event are a plus!
And the students performing was a great touch!

 The entry way for checking in/purchasing tickets was helpful and the parents were very friendly and helpful!
 You could purchase additional cookies & bread which is a great way to get a little extra something to eat and a little extra $$$ for the event.
It's hard to see but inside the lobby that you entered to purchase your tickets etc. you could also purchase tickets for a raffle. Each section created a basket for the raffle and there were members of each section with the basket to describe it. I purchased 20 tickets for $20. I talked with the students who knew a lot about their baskets and were very friendly. I love seeing students actively participating in fundraising events that directly benefit them! The baskets were AWESOME! I fell in love with the flute section's basket and put nearly all my tickets in that one (while giving a few to my fellow percussion section's basket). This raffle is another FANTASTIC way to enhance your event's profits, especially if each section gets most of the items donated.

Inside the hall with the tables set up for dinner there was also an AMAZING silent auction with several outstanding items donated by community members. Here are just a few examples. Regardless of your socio-economic/what you are able to get donated for the event one of the best silent auction items for any event is premium seats for graduation. Its usually free to you as the event AND its one of the most highly bid on items. Great addition LGHS Band!
Every detail of this event was handled and as you can see here is a great menu and the room was very well put together.

Here's a little video from two of the students describing the "dining" portion of the event.

The food was incredible! Here's the appetizer!
The entire meal was fantastic! I personally enjoyed the bib!

 And as you can see Mr. Marra was very excited as well!
 These hats that the students wore were a great touch! Thanks for letting me try one out!
 Here's what clenched the night for me! I WON THE FLUTE SECTION BASKET (that's the one I really wanted). It was the last item they raffled off!
 Check out my sweet loot! This included hot cocoa, chocolate covered pretzels (my fav), an awesome ceramic Starbucks mug, itunes gift card, Starbucks gift card, and why I really wanted the basket? The sweet hand knitted hat!
And here I am with that hat. 

Now when I left the event I had such a positive "taste" in my mouth about the event and still do. I always have to say that I was a little nervous about how much I would like the event because I didn't know very many folks and that they were not serving alcohol. DON'T LET THIS DETER YOU FROM DOING AN EVENT LIKE THIS. Its often really hard to find a venue that will let you serve alcohol, or many folks in your organization may not be comfortable with having alcohol at a school related event. To be honest with you,  I didn't miss it. The event was GREAT without it!
What really put this event for me at 5.5 stars if that's possible was the follow up afterwards. I received this letter and picture a few weeks later. Outstanding job LGHS. I hope to "steal" some of your ideas and will be at your event again next year!

 Great Job Los Gatos HS Music Boosters, Students, & Staff. Excellent event.
Thanks for being my first fundraising event profiled on the blog and your 
thrifty rating is ***** (5 stars).

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Thrifty Way to Help Japan-SOCKS

I am the kind of person who gets really moved when terrible things happen to people. If I wasn't a music teacher, I am pretty convinced that I might be working for a humanitarian relief agency somewhere. But I am a music teacher and so in the wake of this crisis in Japan I have been struggling to figure out what the answer to the question "what can we do to help?" is.  So at my concert, one of my band parents and friends', Robin, suggested that we have donations jars and we can make a donation to the Red Cross. Done.

But I wanted something more. Something that my students, if they choose to, could get involved in. Because, like me, I think many of my students are seeking a way, beyond just posting on facebook that they are troubled by what has happened and want to do something to help.

My friend Nancy Moser (via someone else via someone else) on facebook posted about "Socks for Japan"  http://jasonkelly.com/helpjapan/

Its pretty simple and I read the website, the facebook, the nay-sayers comments etc. I'm doing it. Why? Because socks are cheap & thrifty and oddly enough yesterday I had my own personal mishap with socks yesterday that WAS IN NO WAY COMPARABLE TO WHAT IS GOING ON IN JAPAN BUT MADE ME REALLY THINK ABOUT HOW SIMPLE SOCKS ARE AND HOW IMPORTANT THEY CAN BE TO SOMEONE! 

Everything happens for a reason. So I took my large jazz band program to the Santa Cruz Jazz Festival and it poured. I was dressed in my cute dress and heels and it poured down rain while we were inside as the storm had finally hit us. I went out to the bus and in the walk my feet got soaked. I went in and grabbed my change of clothes, went in the bathroom to change and found that I had everything I needed but socks. We were stuck there for several more hours and our bus did not have heat. And I had no socks. I was frustrated and freezing and I do not live through an Earthquake, loose everything, it was not snowing (like it is in many parts of Japan right now) and I had more pairs at home to look forward to (and I have a home).

So when I got home and saw Nancy's post it resonated with me. This is something simple and easy that we can do to help. Better yet, Jason, who is coordinating this whole thing, suggests and provides resources for writing a care letter to include in the socks.

So here's what we will be doing in my band room. Collecting socks. We will be putting the sock sets in plastic bag to ease their sorting upon arriving in Japan. In zip lock plastic bag of socks we will be including a care letter. If you do donate you can send your own (please follow Jason's instructions on his website) or my student aides (and student volunteers) will do so for you. We will leave our contact information in the letter as the Santa Teresa Band Program/Santa Teresa HS Community.

A simple & thrifty way to help! Socks for Japan :)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Midwest Proposals-Feedback Needed

So the Midwest Proposals are due Friday. I'm trying to have mine done Wednesday.

Here are the three that I'm thinking of submitting
A Thrifty Approach to Running Your Program-Tips & Suggestions to be successful on a budget!
It could also be called "Thrifty Tips for Your Music Program" Suggestions on how to be successful on a budget!
This clinic will summarize sections of my blog "The Thrifty Band Director"  http://thethriftybanddirector.blogspot.com as well as discuss additional suggestions of ways that music teachers can run their programs on a budget. While specific fundraisers and products will not be discussed this session will include tips on how to evaluate your fundraisers (for example is the amount of work put into a fundraiser worth the how much revenue the fundraiser brings in). The session will talk about easy and free ways to market your program's concerts, fundraising events, etc. and will also touch on the topic of social media (since its free). 
Other ideas or suggestions for this one? They are all a work in progress....

Another one would be all my tricks and suggestions for running working with your percussion section. 
How do you get your percussion section to do that? 25 tips on how to improve your percussion section. 
My friend Mike suggested these topics:
the bare necessities for a fully functioning section
                             - percussion notation (is there a reason you're at the bottom?)
                            -resources for finding out answers to questions like "what is the proper technique for triangle"
          -what does a percussion section need from a conductor/director to succeed.  
-and cymbal felts will always disappear (there are some other things but these are like reeds or the socks that come out of the dryer and one always goes missing, thanks for the help Reno). 
And social media and education :)
Things like how to set up your facebook and concert advertsing? Twitter etc....
Thoughts everyone ? 

Oh were oh where has the thrifty band director been?

Oh where oh where has the thrifty band director been? Basketball games. Lots of basketball games.
Santa Teresa's Boys Basketball Team just started winning football games and all of a sudden I realized that they were playing in the CCS (league finals) so we took a band to Santa Clara University and had an amazing time!

So in one day I formed a pep band for the boys varsity basketball team (that's right folks we don't have to play basketball games so we haven't been....there isn't an expectation at STHS that we do so). I did when I first got there but then the coaches of both boys and girls basketball didn't really ever get back to me about playing games and then never asked. The boys team completely disrespected me in ways I won't publish online when I repeatedly asked them not to leave all of their trash outside my room during lunch. So I just stopped going and no one noticed. Its not like our band program is busy or anything.

But I digress. Here's us at the CCS Finals at Santa Clara University against Serra HS. This was only our second time in school history that we have ever even made it this far. The last time was 1991 and oddly enough we played Serra and they won. Let's just say that Serra (based on what their parents & alumni were saying to the ST folks) was completely convinced they would shut us out....

Here's the 20 piece pep band that I "hand selected" that I started calling the Elite 35. Yes notice those ties. We purchased them for $6.95 as a set for Jazz Band 3 but they look awesome with the Elite 35 (I struggle with the kids wearing them since they are "Auburn ties"). We purchased them from NeckTies, Inc. you can check them out at NeckTies.Inc. (www.NeckTiesInc.com).
We have a pretty awesome and rowdy bunch of boys called the "6th Man" that attend all the games. My lovely student Dallas (in the orange face paint) is in 6th man so I pushed past security and got a quick pic with him. Since I'm standing down a row this picture makes me look a midget and him a giant!
And there's my sign. I'm not sure how this all came to be but apparently at some point I was complaining that no one ever makes me a sign or anything so Melissa my master sign/card maker/trumpet player/trombone player/drum major extraordinaire made this for me! What a nice surprise.

You may already know but you might be wondering....did we win the game?
Heck yes! Here's a video my friend Don Yellum (ST English teacher, alumi, & band groupee) shot.
The Final Seconds

Interested in seeing video of the band at the game? Our band's videographer Marty has some great videos on his youtube channel of us. Check it out Marty's You Tube Channel-mreinders

Then it was hosting the next game Tuesday night at 7pm at STHS to go against the San Francisco Section for a spot in the state California Interscholastic Federation Division 1 State Basketball Tournament. Our band expanded to the Elite 35 and we up-ed our game (and I played cymbals). Here's a few pics from that game.

Well we won that game too! Then it was go time. My friend Ben said to me my first year "Julie do not demonstrate competence. You will only be rewarded by more work". Boy was Ben right. Since I'm really functional and know how to get stuff done let's just say I assembled a small team and organized transportation, field trip forms, etc. for the team, the band, the cheerleaders, and 70 student fans & teachers to attend our next game at Sheldon HS in Sacramento. It was a lot of work but worth it. It was a super fun event. Sure, we did not win the game but hey, we made it to the Sweet 16 and for once, Santa Teresa HS came together to do something positive. In years full of tragedy it was nice to see us rally together. The band in particular had a great time playing back and forth with the Sheldon Band and their entire school were gracious hosts. It was the most fun I have had a high school sporting event probably ever...

And here's a pic of the band that night....The Elite 40 (give or take)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Thrifty Find of the Day

Everyday I park in the same place at work. My parking spot is right out by the trash compactor which means that every morning I see the pile of stuff that is up for grabs.

Today it was the one thing I have been looking for but refuse to purchase. The one thing for 8 years no one has had an "extra of" today I found a cart.

I sent Lauren (2nd period aide) on a mission to retrieve it. Tyler & Lauren cleaned it up and it looks great. We will give it a good home & it was free!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Thrifty Finds of the Week-Girly Edition-Men Beware

This week was my "stay-cation" which is a vacation at your home. While I was busy every day I was doing things that I enjoy, which is what you do on a vacation when you go away. I guess in a lot of ways a stay-cation is a very thrifty approach to a vacation. While today's post is not "professional" in nature, I am thrifty and I am a band director and I am a person that doesn't always work so here are some of my personal thrifty finds of the week. In order to truly understand my level of thriftiness you do need to understand that it goes through my whole life.

First off I was up in Fremont on Wednesday visiting my good friend Chris and his wife Tanya. On my way to hanging out I came across this fine establishment. One of my personal fav things to do is to thrift shop and also bargain shop at a variety of stores. It does take a lot of patience and time but the rewards can be great! I had to stop and take a pic.

Thrift Town Thrift Super Store, Fremont


Saturday was the absolute most THRIFTY day of the week for me personally. The entire week was great but Saturday was a "me day". I live thrifty and you are about to see how! I spent the first half of the day with my good friend Rachel who is a representative for Beauti Control Products. We had a great morning of girl time, massages, facials etc. Rachel did a make-up consult with me and it was a lot of fun. In doing the make up consult I discovered that I would be able to switch to Rachel's product from the one that I have been using and I figure I probably am going to save about $100. Now since I am going to host a party I will continue to get deals so this is good!

Make up application begins

A little eyeliner

Eye shadows used on me

Here's the finished product

And here's the products that we used.

You can reach Rachel at www.beautipage.com/bull

The thing about being thrifty is that its all about networking. So I will be hosting a spa party at my home on Spring Break (April 25-29). I will have spots for 10 ladies at my apartment so if you are interested in coming please let me know. At Rachel's party I also had the pleasure of meeting Christine. Christine is a representative for "Silpada Jewlrey". You can reach Christine at www.mysilpada.com/christine.verra. Christine and I are going to be planning a very exciting fundraising event together with her products at STHS in the library in mid-April. We are going to have an open house and the proceeds from the event will benefit a scholarship fund for students who need assistance in raising money to attend our 2012 Band Trip to Hawaii. I hope to host several parties in the future and other events to support sending more of my students on the trip. You gotta get creative sometimes and this is yet another way for me. There are several vendors with other companies that I bet would be willing to do the same kind of events...you just have to network and find them (they probably are in your band program now...)

At Rachel's party I just got plain lucky and won the raffle.

Here's my sweet pedicure set!
Then it was off to do some thrifty shopping. I was looking for a jacket to wear with my nicer outfits (festival attire etc). I saw it in a magazine but it was $100. I was not going to pay that. So I was off. Being thrifty can be a pain because you have to look at several locals. I looked the jacket up online and went to Macy's. No luck. But I did find this wallet for $7. It matches my thrifty band director red look.
It matches my business cards and my business card holders! (Yes that is my conga)
I used my sweet new iPhone to call Burlington Coat Factory and sure enough they stocked the brand of jacket I was looking for. Wow. That place is full of deals and that's going to be an entire day long journey. I had places to go and people to see so I was power shopping. It took me all but 10 minutes to find it in the bargain area (in black yes!). I was shocked. They had only one and it was a small but I have been loosing weight (yes) and low and behold it fit! Here's the jacket....AND IT WAS $40.

London Fog Jacket $40. That is a $60 savings! Thrifty!
While I was at the fine Westgate Mall (which I think has many deals lurking in it but it is kind of a dirt mall) I came across Hancock Fabrics. As you may or may not know my mom is starting a business that I am managing called "Nifty Handbags." When I have time to deal with working on her etsy site I will profile her business on here. But I decided that in order to properly promote her bags I needed a nifty handbag myself to match my "branding" of the thrifty band director (we will talk about "branding" later but I have to learn more about it myself before I can blog about it). I bought all the fabric on sale for a total of $10.71
Thrifty Fabrics for a Thrifty Bag!
I finally made it home and then I was out the door to the Los Gatos HS Crab Feed. It was a five star event and I will be blogging about it tomorrow (video and pics). However, here's what I will share. The event cost me a total of $70 ($50 for the ticket and 20 raffle tickets for $20). I put most of my "eggs" or "raffle tickets" in a basket sponsored by flute section. AND I FREAKING WON! It included a sweet knit hat, an ipod touch, chocolate covered pretzels (my fav), ceramic Starbucks coffee mug, hot cocoa, $20 Starbucks card, and $15 itunes gift card.

Here's me in my sweet new J. Crew outfit, make up by Rachel, & my new basket of goods  
So yeah it was a pretty thrifty day!

What's on the blog for this week?
-Los Gatos HS Crab Feed Fundraising Profile
-Marching Band Budget Planning (it all starts now)
-We Care Coffee
-Midwest Fundraising Proposal Brainstorming
-101 Marketing Ideas Marketing Seminar by Marketing Maniacs!

And Happy Monday everyone! I'm heading back in the classroom after two weeks of being away! The podium awaits me!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sometimes you just gotta drop some cash

So this blog is a little bit more personal but since being thrifty for me a state of mind I do really live my personal life the same thrifty way I run my band. I may be two steps away from being a dumpster diving band director but as we all know as music teachers, parents, etc. sometimes you gotta drop the cash.

As some of you know personally I have been having a lot of health problems and they recently figured out that I have this crazy infection. Well I was already loosing weight and then BAM it's just coming off. It's meant that I really don't have clothes that fit and I especially don't have anything to reflect any level of professionalism or class.

Now as a back story for those you that don't know me very personally then you should know this about me. I'm a recovering birkenstock and sock wearing tree hugger. I literally wore tye-died socks and birks my first two years at ST. I still get mistaken for one of my students all the time and last night got carded with the band parents at Happy Hour. I have super classy, well dressed friends (men and women) and just haven't been feeling like I have been walking the walk.

Now we tell folks its not about what you look like on the outside, its on the inside that counts. Yeah right. It is sure. But we all know as performers, educators etc. that when you a see good lookin' band come on stage your going to take a little bit more notice. I have also found that when my students dress up, just a little bit, there's a different sense of pride and professionalism...its why most of us have required concert dress.

My life needed a new dress. Ok my wardrobe needs a serious overall. So...I took the advice of one of the best dressed ladies I know (thanks Jessica Vaughn-Marra, one of the best dressed female band directors I know) and I went to a personal shopping appointment at J. Crew.

Now its where I start to feel dirty as the thrifty band director because I typically spend hours shopping the racks of Marshall's and Ross. Which I do pretty well at and that will not stop being part of regular wardrobe replacement plan. Three weeks ago when I needed new pants I went and spent $50 (had a $25 visa gift card so it actually cost me $25) and I got three pairs of pants and two shirts!

We know that's not happening at J. Crew. I had never been in a J. Crew. It's like this scary place in downtown Los Gatos where rich people hang out. Out of my element completely. But I met Lorene and she was 5 stars and she was my personal shopper. By the way this is free.

She picked out everything and helped me buy pieces that would all be interchangeable. That too I guess is thrifty. It was amazing and empowering and I'm going to be able to rock the conference & concert circuit in the coming weeks.

Then I had to check out. FYI teachers get a 15% discount so that is very thrifty all the time. She was really encouraging me to get a credit card with them. I don't do credit cards with anyone any more. That's not part of my personal get out of debt plan (in case you don't know I'm a huge disciple of Dave Ramsey and his Total Money Makeover....more on that later) but I did it. See the discount was 20% and then I got free alterations (apparently you can actually clothes altered to actually fit...this is a little shocking that I have never done) and then I got a $25 gift card. I also didn't buy everything that I tried on. I wanted to but...I can't afford to so you can have it all. Restraint is hard but necessary.

And then I did something that I am really proud of. Something I never did when I got into debt. I charged it and then I paid most of it off right there on the spot. I went home added the balance to next month's monthly budget (I do have a clothes allowance in my monthly budget) and reminded myself that I would have it paid off in two weeks anyway.

But the same can be said about band products. Sometimes you have to buy the higher quality product to last you long term. Sometimes you have to make an investment, cutting corners in the short term does not always pay off long term and that is part of the considerations you have to make when being thrifty. The most obvious example is cheap instrument purchases but another one is everyone's gripe about Wenger products.

Oh Wenger stuff is so expensive blah blah blah. Well trust me I have the knock off cheap-o band lockers because my district cut corners and after a year and half they already are totally falling apart. But when you pay attention to your budget, monitor cash flow in and out, and make plans to sometimes invest in the things that need just a little extra capitol then the extra investment is worth it in the end (especially if you can find ways to save money other places).

Here's a pics of a few of the outfits I picked up. I have more pants coming :) Now in going and taking the picture and re-looking at the price tags on a few things just now I think I may be heading back there and swamping out a few things. I think I would rather have some of the other pieces I didn't get than the ones I did. But that's also ok because you can always go exchange stuff!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The tired band director

This band director is tired from an AMAZING mega conference. I made it home safely and am enjoying a leisurely evening at home watching a movie I was told I had to see as a young new blogger...."Julie & Julia". It is just what I needed to see for a little blogging inspiration (as if the conference wasn't inspirational enough).

I will be wrapping up the conference and sharing all of the exciting things that are going to come from the thrifty networking at the mega conference. Networking is at the heart of being thrifty.

If we met up at the conference I am hoping that you would consider participating in my thrifty networking by joining the blog or follow me on twitter. Even better join the fun and add a comment. Stop by and be heard! ITS FREE!!!! The more the merrier!

I'm getting ready this week to put together a few conference proposals for the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic next week. I have a few ideas about what I might want to share but am open to suggestions.

So far its either been suggested to me that I consider presenting on or I have been thinking about presenting in the following areas:

-Integrating existing improvisation materials (Abersold books etc) into the band curriculum to fulfill the improvisation national standards.
-Space management/remodeling for the band classroom
-Percussion management/suggestions/strategies etc (naturally on a thrifty budget and FYI if you don't know I'm a percussionist not a sousaphone player).

Suggestions??????? What do you want to see the thrifty band director talk about??? Midwest needs some fun and killer sessions next year.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Conference Day 2

Day 2 of the conference is amount to commence. Yesterday brought lots of networking opportunities & fabulous clinics/performances. Today you can catch myself and team "special projects" (or as I like to say Tim Harris' entourage) at the general session & the JW Pepper Reading session. I will also be promoting We Care Coffee, Rav Embroidery, San Jose State University, Music Filing Systems & JW Pepper Music.

Here's a few shots from last night's concert with San Jose State University & Eddie Daniels.

San Jose State on stage for sound check

Eddie Daniels & I :)

Happy Conference! And update from yesterday...they (the powers that be) are considering the whole "discount for multiple conference memberships). That would be thrifty!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:M St,Fresno,United States

Friday, February 18, 2011

California All State Music Education Conference

Here we go!!! It's the California music education event of the year. After years of mumbling and grumbling about California having far too many conferences and music education events many of our organizations have come together to form the very first "California All-State Music Education Conference". We've got California Music Educators Association (CMEA), California Band Directors Association (CBDA), California Alliance for Jazz (CAJ), California Orchestra Directors Association (CODA), Western Band Association (WBA) and many others. There are some many organizations I think it would be thrifty if they would allow us to purchase a discount membership. Join 3 groups and get $10 off your registration fee...geez joining all these groups is getting expensive...but at least we are all hear at one mega conference.

I always find interesting that in one of the largest states in the union with beaches and sun and San Francisco where is our mega conference....Fresno. Supposedly they give us a great deal. Which I suppose is good being that I'm the "thrifty band director" but really Fresno? Oh well, we're here to go to a conference anyway. If we sent somewhere else we probably wouldn't even attend anything at the conference anyway.

If you are here at the conference you will be able to find me "in real time" on twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/thriftyband

As I have mentioned I am working at the conference on the "Special Projects Team." My partner in crime is one of my good friends, Mr. Jon Grantham. You will be able to find us today since we will be some of the best dressed band directors at the conferences. You can find our "power team" presiding over Shelly Jagow's sessions.

I will also be in the exhibit hall from 11:20-1pm & 2:00-4:30pm promoting my thriftiness, the San Jose State University Summer Music Camps (including our Summer in the City Camp & The Jim Widner Jazz Camp), as well as promoting two of my favorite fundraising products...We Care Coffee & sweatshirts from Rav Embroidery. So come on by and say hi!

And hopefully today is the day that I can get all of my technology to work together (hoping to begin posting today from the iphone).

Happy Friday!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Day in The Life

I figured its about time that I start posting a little bit more about me personally as a band director. Here's the reader's digest version of my life recently. I have been wanting an iPhone for every and recently got the iPhone from Verizon. It has changed my life and brought me a lot of joy. It's also enabling my technology abilities to sky rocket. I took the following pics on my iPhone over the last few days.

I also have been really sick. For a really long time. The short version of this story is that after finding out that my chronic sinus infections, migraines, constantly ailment is not a result of allergies. I'm not really allergic to anything and after having CT scans done yesterday my doctor says "it's bad and we need to meet tomorrow". So tomorrow at 10am we will finally know what the heck is wrong with me and maybe after 13+ years I can finally get well.

Now on to the fun pics. Here's pictures from my life on the job at ST.

This is my beautiful lovely third jazz band. We have three jazz bands. I teach the top jazz band which is during the school day. Jazz Bands 2 & 3 are after school. My good friend Reno Brian teaches Jazz 2 and I teach Jazz 3. This year the group has full instrumentation which is killer and an amazing work ethic and are a joy to teach. This was taken Tuesday when our Jazz Band I trumpets came and played with the Jazz 3 section making a MEGA TRUMPET SECTION. I'm also super proud of the trombones because only one of them is actually a trombone player (the others play baritone, trumpet & tuba) and they are doing an amazing job.

This is Tyler. He is my student aide and member of our band program. He is also about to be one of my great success stories. He went through a bit of a rough patch this year but has really taken a life turn around and is just thriving. He keeps the program running by being a student aide/percussion manager during 2nd period, 4th period student aide, and plays percussion in Symphonic Band. Since I'm thrifty I can't afford a personal assistant or a real secretary but I have students like Tyler who keep the program running and are amazing. This morning Tyler was running two computers at once :) Also notice that he is wearing an Oregon shirt. That's why he rocks.

We'll be talking about some of Tyler's projects that are part of being a thrifty band director at a later time.

And then there are bird whistles. Why are they here? Because we have kids playing bird whistle and that's funny and they are thrifty instruments (99 cents). I can't discuss this at much detail but to say they are part of our Performing Arts Department "Beatles" Concert this year. It's a fundraiser (that's right more on that later) to benefit our entire department (to buy things we all use like microphones & a grand piano cover etc) and will include performances by our percussion ensemble (bird whistles are part of that) and Jazz Band I, Chamber Singers, Ukulele Ensemble, Guitar Ensemble, Musical Theater, and Advanced Drama.

And here's our percussion ensemble for the Beatles concert. We are performing an arrangement of "Blackbird" arranged by Reno Brian (conductor and arranger). I'm also playing. It's a fun mish mash group of percussionists, a group of marching band percussionists who play wind instruments and some wind players/aspiring percussionists. It was a good time!

So welcome to the Santa Teresa Band room!