Sunday, January 5, 2014

Ramblings on a new year

The month of December, for every music teacher is a whirlwind. Just coming off of marching band season, like many directors out there, I was madly pulling together winter concerts and prepping for the end of the semester. Myself and my band staff were cramming in winter percussion, winter guard and after school jazz band auditions in those few weeks of December so that we could be off and running come January. With all of this craziness I also had planned a trip to the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic which happened to be the last week of our semester and the week before break. It took me three weeks to prepare for but I was able to go to the conference (virtually) stress and work free. Winter break is the one holiday I really try to observe...meaning that you can usually catching me working on the February break, spring break, and summer but a few years back I decided to do my best to clear my schedule and actually vacation on winter break....sort of (I did "schedule" three days of work at the end of the vacation so that the beginning of January doesn't slap me in the face and push me to the brink of tears). I traveled to Midwest, spent time with my family in Oregon, spent time with friends in Santa Cruz for New Years, and then came home to prep for the upcoming year.

No matter how much preparation you plan and how many lists you make sometimes life brings you challenges that you can't plan for and never expect. The community for which my band is apart of was rocked by tragedy during this month. It brought people closer together than I could have ever imagined and reminded me of how important and valuable the villages we are apart of and create really are. It reminded me of the importance of spending time and treasuring those that we love.

The Midwest Clinic was a welcome event in my life. It was a wonderful and exciting conference as always. I had been looking forward to going for a year. Not only did I enjoy excellent concerts, great sessions, and bonding with my band director friends from all around the country,  I was honored to provide percussion coaching to my good friend Jon Grantham's band, Amador Valley Wind Ensemble 1 as they performed at the concert and got to support the Gunn HS Orchestra under two friends of mine, Sandy Lewis and Todd Summers. I attended some fabulous sessions that have really stuck with me.

One of the things I desperately need to improve is my approach to tone quality, intonation etc. Basically, my groups play way too out of tune and its time for me to change my approach. I attended Beth Bornk & Marry Ellen Cavitt's session "Understanding Chord Tuning, Balance, & Intonation" which was wonderful and really set the stage for Shelly Jagow's session "Tuning for Wind Instruments." I have made it my "band room New Year's Resolution" to absorb this information, read more, use tonal energy, and get our intonation IMPROVED!

I got to celebrate my friend Rob Franzblau's release of his new book that highly recommend to students considering majoring in music education and their teachers who have to answer the questions "should I major in music" and "how do I major in music"

I also attend sessions on the Finnish Conducting School, "Help for your Horn Players" (which was amazing!), and Composing 101 for Music Teachers by Dr. Rob Deemer. Rob and I both had the opportunity to contribute lesson plans to a new GIA publication entitled "Musicianship: Composing in Band & Orchestra." This book is an outstanding collection of chapters on the topic as well as practical lesson plans.

This year I will be sharing more about this book on the blog as well as trying out several of the lesson plans in the book out on my classes and sharing them here with you. If you are in California and will be attending the CASMEC consider coming to my session. I will be profiling my lesson plans from the book as well as strategies that I use to teach composition in my large ensemble classes.

This week I will also be presenting on the topic: "Getting the Most Out of Your Percussion Section" at the CMEA Bay Section Conference. I will be sharing more on this session this week and following the session will present a summary of the session right here on the blog.

And here's a little LBD meme that I was sent during the break for your enjoyment:

Happy New Year!