Monday, February 25, 2013

Fundraiser: 2nd Annual ST Play A Thon

Part of the fun of this blog is sharing fundraising information. The Santa Teresa Music Play A Thon is going to need more than one blog to talk about it but here's an intro into what it is.

My band staff member/percussion educator/musician extraordinaire, Reno Brian, brought our program the idea for this fundraiser that he done at his high school. We embraced the idea, even though its a ton of work, to put together the Play A Thon with the hope that eventually this would be one of the only fundraisers that we do in the entire year. In our second year, I believe we have barely scrapped the surface of what is possible with this fundraiser....but that's another blog.

What is it? Well here's what Facebook says "The Playathon is a FREE performance fundraising event in which various ensembles at STHS come together for an 16-hour musical marathon. Come enjoy music from our award-winning Jazz Bands and Concert Ensembles, and even some student rock bands. Donations go to new marching band uniforms, instrument repairs, staff instruction, music purchases, and much more. This year's theme is Viva Las Vegas and will feature music inspired by the iconic city. Some of San Jose's finest food trucks will be on hand to support the public portion of the 16 hours of continuous music. They are donating part of the profits to support the next generation of musicians.This event is open to the public after 3pm. Free to the public. Donations are tax-deductible."

Committees were formed in the fall for everything from decorations, prizes, advertising and media, and pledge parties. Parents and students join the committees because an important element of this event is that we want the students to do a majority of the work and participate in the planning and execution of the event itself. The students and parents have all been hard at work on the event planning for months. 

Prior to the event the students volunteer on their committees. The students have been building props and decorations for the event, which the theme this year is "Viva Las Vegas" The student prize committee has been soliciting local businesses for donations of prizes for our student prize drawing (students earn drawing tickets through all their volunteer efforts that they can use to enter for prizes at the prize drawing) and for a silent auction like drawing as well (the public can buy tickets and put them in for various items in our public drawing). 

The big thing that students have been participating in are pledge parties. This is where a family hosts a group 10 students at their home and go out amongst the neighborhood and knock on doors, play some songs, and ask for donations. To date we have made just over $7,000 on our pledge parties. 

We have also been soliciting donations for our uniform sponsorship drive as well.

The event is a fundraiser, before and during the event. Last year we raised around $10,000. With our new marching band uniforms in production we hope to raise as much money as possible to assist in that purchase as well as to continue to support student scholarships and badly needed instrument purchases. The event is also a thank-you event for our community for their support of our program. Its also a celebration for all the students' hard work. While they do perform at the event they also receive drawing tickets and a delicious free meal donated by Buca di Beppo and Whole Foods (the students actually were able to secure the Buca di Beppo donation themselves which is awesome). 

So in a nutshell that's the Play A Thon. If you are local we hope you can come check it out. Visit our website at or join us at our event on Facebook at

Sunday, February 24, 2013

It takes a village....reflections from CASMEC 13

Its been a long time since I posted anything. In essence the thrifty band director just dropped off the blogging map but I didn't drop off the face of the planet. I just got too busy. Most teachers and band directors are but I have had an extreme case of overcommitment. A few of my close friends basically started staging mini intervention conversations with me about slowing the heck down! But volunteering for everything is like an addiction and you can't really get help until your ready.

Last week I hit my breaking point. Rock bottom. And I am now ready to go into recovery. What's the solution for being too busy? Quitting everything is what I have been saying. Now that's not entirely true. The root of all of this stems from this reflection point....I have been teaching high school for 10 years (at the same school, I might add) so what do I want out of the next 10 years? And that's an interesting question. But the simple answer is that I know I can't go on doing everything that I have been doing.

In the first 10 years of your career I think you do need to jump in and get involved. You need to volunteer to work at conferences, host music festivals, work at summer music camps,  network with colleagues, and serve the profession. Heck I think you always need to do that stuff but in the first 10 years of my career I have done ALL of that and simply put, I would like to stop for just a little bit and.....

Focus on my continually growing program. Professionally develop. Keep up on this blog. Prepare and present sessions at conferences. Play vibraphone, ukulele, and french horn. Heck maybe even audition to have my band perform at the state conference. I could even maybe attend CASMEC (California All State Music Education Conference) because I haven't attended 1 entire session or concert in the history of the conference (and previously the same was true at CBDA).

So the last few months have been really challenging for me as I have tried to sort out and prioritize my time and how I want to use it most effectively while barely maintaining an insane schedule. Last week I had my breaking point. The Wednesday I am supposed to leave to go to the CASMEC conference and be on the special projects committee with a car literally full of percussion equipment (that percussion schlep directly contributed to multiple mini meltdowns & minor injuries) I have no car because its in the shop and am hit in the same day with my tax bill and a ridiculous price tag on the repair. My spirits were crushed when making those hard adult decisions about money etc. and I just felt like the last thing I wanted to do was go to work at a conference that I wasn't even going to attend....again.

Here's the percussion equipment I hauled down to Fresno.

That became this....
I call this percussion jenga.

We call that burnout. And I am and was burned out BUT I will say that despite blistered feet and little sleep I got more out of the conference than I actually thought I would. While I am leaving the special projects team for next year's conference (because I know that when this conference comes to San Jose there will be NO way I am getting out of working that event) I was able to tap into more professional development than I would have thought. Within the first evening at our special projects team meeting I learned more about technology and the use of my ipad in the course of our first night hang than I have since I got it. People go to sessions to find out about cool apps and more effective ways to use technology in a classroom. Before the conference even started I got all of that without attending a single session. I got the opportunity to spend 4 days with my amazing group of friends on the special projects committee, the Fresno State Music Ed crew, and the rest of the CBDA conference volunteers, who just working and talking to them did help re-focus my energy about teaching and also help answer the question "what do I want in the next 10 years of my career?"

I don't really plan on fully answering that question because what I have learned in the first 10 years is that nothing ends up how you plan it....and that isn't necessarily a bad thing. I might not have seen an entire concert but I did get to spend hours hanging out with Third Coast Percussion who were our headlining guest artists for our opening concert (hence the ridiculous amount of percussion equipment in my car). I got to geek out with them about percussion and new music and had a great time hearing great percussion ensemble music. I got to spend some quality time with my one student who made the all state high school concert band.  My former student teacher/friend/ Mr. Lane was there to rescue me when I needed a break from conference working to run around the exhibit hall. I made more friends and connections. I found out our marching band uniforms are in production. I finally got around to purchasing a text that I've been meaning to get for the AP Music Theory Class I am teaching in a few years.  I got some advice on some tenor sax jazz ballads. As I drove home and as I type now I am amazed at how much I got out of the conference that I didn't really "attend" but "worked".

We have a pretty good thing going on here in California Music Education. So thanks to everyone for a great conference. Thanks to all of you who have been bugging me about what happened to the blog. I'm shifting some priorities to make time for the things that I enjoy and actually learned how to use twitter after having an account for a couple years....

Here's some more fun shots from the conference.
Mr. Lane ANGRY bell

Paulo....unsure bell

Mr. Lane "happy bell"

Paulo rocking the SJSU Marching Band Shako at the SJSU Booth

Rocking the shako myself

Rocking the exhibit hall by playing a pocket trumpet

I have fallen in love with this sage green plastic flute I can clean in my dishwasher. Not a bad sound either for the price :) Add that to my wish list of instruments I want to own....
Special Projects Dinner...besides the company the second best thing about working is the dinner that we get to have at the end of the conference! Jon Grantham ROCKED finding us a 5 star restaurant experience in Fresno....not an easy task.

A deconstructed drumstick. Box 5 dessert.