September 15, 2019
Greetings and welcome to the Timberline MS Elementary Band Website!
Here you will find information relating to the program, as well as regular updates as to how we are progressing, program announcements, and what we are working on!
Level II: We begin tomorrow and I am looking forward to meeting you all! Plan on bringing your instruments and books, as I would like to begin playing as soon as logistics and procedures are communicated.
Level I: I look forward to seeing you all NEXT WEEK. If you haven't already, start getting the ball rolling on securing a book and an instrument for yourself, for the year.
PLEASE do not get an early start on your instrument (especially woodwinds. Improper assembly can lead to bent keys and expensive repair bills). We will show you how to correctly assemble your instrument and how to begin forming your beginning sound; we don't want you to create bad habits for yourself that you will then have to correct throughout the year. The exception to this is if you are studying private lessons (if you are interested in investing in private lessons, please let me know).
All Levels: If you haven't already, PLEASE REGISTER WITH THE ONLINE SIGN-UP so that I can have finalized numbers (I need to send them to Transportation, in the event they need to allocate another bus for us.) I would like to have this final roster complete by the end of Level I's first week (Friday, September 27).
Thank you all, and I look forward to our first week!
- Mr. Sloan
September 18, 2019
Thank you, Level II (working title) Band, for having a GREAT first week of rehearsals! It was awesome to meet you all and hear what we can do, and I can already hear what you will sound like in June, and that is exciting!
A quick note about transportation, as you might notice from the updated language on the website, district transportation policy regarding elementary band/orchestra in the mornings is still being defined, so I want to avoid any confusion or miscommunication. Please ensure that, for the moment, your student arrives at TMS in the morning with the intention of riding the bus to their home school. This way, we know that everyone is safely accounted for and can be efficiently tracked (in the event of a delay or any other event). If this changes or once I receive more concrete information that will allow me to further define/clarify our transportation policy, I will absolutely let you know!
This week, we talked about warming up before we play, how to approach your first notes, counting notes and rhythms on numbers, using our voice to sing our parts (to make the instrument playing easier! There's actually neuroscience behind this.), and working on some old favorites from last year.
For next week, please practice:
- Breathing exercises (with a metronome (tap your foot), practice breathing 4 counts in and 4 counts out. Practice switching up the counts for extra challenges.
- EE Book 1 #52 - Use this as a warm up (first notes of the day). Practice making GREAT sounds 100% of the time.
- EE Book 1 - anything up to #63 - have notes and rhythms ready, so that we can practice putting them together on Monday!
I will create a page more geared towards giving you more specific practice information (how to practice, when to practice, etc.), but plan on fitting in at least 30 minutes a day for practice time. As with anything and as you learned last year, it takes time and practice to do something well, and you need to put the time in to get the results that you are capable of.
I look forward to meeting my Level I beginners next week! Students going to camp: have a great time and I look forward to seeing you when you come back!
Until next time!
September 25, 2019
First, allow me to introduce my co-teacher: Ms. Hannah Fulton! She is excited to work with our fledgling program and help it grow! In addition to working with our Level II group, she will be supervising the flute and trombone classes of Level I and will be the main point of contact for specific questions regarding those particular classes. Her email address has been made available on the website.
Level I is in full swing and we look forward to seeing our first-year woodwind (flute and clarinet) players tomorrow morning! Remember that band is two days a week and the second day for Level I is Friday.
Also, thank you to those of you who remembered to let me know about 5th grade camp. It's okay that they miss a day this week, as we're going through some basic (but important) procedures that we'll keep coming back to.
Level I brass has learned about expectations in and around TMS and expected behavior during band. We have started some basic rhythm work AND singing work. As I mention before, we sing in band also, and it is an extremely good idea to invest in the development of your singing voice and in ear training, as well as your instrument; you'll find that the two go hand-in-hand very easily. The best players that can operate their instruments with ease are also good singers. To that end, you will find links for MusicRacer and tonedear.com, both of which will be shown in class and both of which are INVALUABLE tools to help with your musical development.
We also got into some basic embouchure formation and first sounds on the mouthpiece ("buzz"). It is a weird sound at first, but see if you can make it as gentle, as easy, and as MUSICAL as you can. Also, don't do it too much, too soon. Right now, about 5 minutes a day is fine, while your face muscles start getting stronger. Once you have your first "buzz" sounding the way you want it to sound, practice "buzzing" some of the rhythm exercises that we worked on (alternate between singing on "dah" and "buzz". Try and make them sound and feel the same.
Level I woodwinds can expect the same plan as the brass. We will talk about expectations, procedures, do some rhythm/melody work, and begin BASIC assembly. Flutes will be taught how to begin making their first sounds on the headjoint and clarinets will learn how to assemble the mouthpiece, ligature, barrel, and reed (DO NOT TRY AND PUT THE ENTIRE CLARINET TOGETHER YET!). Assembly is a skill that will need to be practiced. DO SO EXACTLY AS WE TEACH YOU, SO THAT YOU DON'T END UP WITH AN EXPENSIVE REPAIR BILL!
To practice, once you have your first sound, try and play some of the rhythm exercises in the back of the book. Practice counting/clapping/singing/and playing on your mouthpiece/headjoint.
Level II has been picking up where they left off last year with some pieces like Aura Lee, Frere Jacques, and Ode to Joy. In addition to practicing the band warmup routine (Breathing, long tones, #52 tone builder/rhythm etude (which should be your own practice warmup every day that you practice)), you should be practicing each of the above pieces (at least for another week) working on keeping a steady beat with your foot, and with a tuner/metronome. Once great sounds are on each note at exactly the right time, then we can move on.
If you are looking ahead, start looking at the next few songs (up to #63). Aim to practice once a day (every day if you can) for 30 min/day (but remember to REST. See the FAQ page for a sample practice session). If you need help scheduling a practice session, let me know and I will help you find time.
If you have any questions or concerns, let us know!
October 5, 2019
I hope everyone has had a great week and are having a great weekend!
Level II has started to work on some new content (the dotted half-note) and will keep working in the book starting on #61. Also, all players should have received supplemental technique studies that will make them better at their instrument (these documents will also be made available on the website, should you need them). It is a good idea to practice those, as we will come back to them when we have sectionals on Wednesday. Practice with a metronome (clap AND count, note names, sing on "dah", air and finger, and finally play).
Level I has begun making first sounds! It's super exciting and I'm thrilled with the enthusiasm that I am getting from our beginners, but we must remember that the very beginning is very slow and methodical (to avoid bad habits that must be fixed later). It is EXTREMELY important that you not work ahead of us (especially woodwinds, who have not yet been taught how to properly assemble their instrument. Bent keys due to shoddy assembly can lead to EXPENSIVE REPAIR BILLS!).
Flutes and clarinets should be working on their headjoint and mouthpiece/barrel/reed/ligature assembly EXCLUSIVELY. Aim for an easy, gently sound (even though that may be hard to hear at the beginning). You should not be working hard to blow into the instrument. I am also starting to see chipped reeds. Chipped reeds are a "no,no" and must be replaced immediately. You should always have AT LEAST one backup reed ready to go, in case something happens with your main reed.
Trumpets and trombones have been taught their basic embouchure formation (emm/poo) and how to roll their mouthpiece up to find what their embouchure feels like. Brass instruments have also been taught how to buzz on the mouthpiece (a soft, gentle, musical "buzz" should be encouraged. Anything loud or spread will be harmful for the embouchure and will build bad habits). Beware of puffed cheeks! Firm corners will force the air to leave the mouth and will not allow air to be stored in the cheeks.
Trumpets have also been taught about the "free buzz" (buzzing the lips without the mouthpiece). Free buzzing is an excellent tool designed to help strengthen corner muscles and encourage proper form, but should be done NO LONGER THAN 1 MINUTE. If done for too long, at this stage, it will tire your face muscles too much for you to be able to practice. Trombones would also do well to practice free buzzing (though for them it will be much looser; more like flapping their lips). Trombone players would also do well to start learning bass clef notes. We will cover it in class, but every other instrument uses the treble clef (which many of them were taught when they learned recorder in school). The bass clef is a different system entirely. Feel free to use MusicRacer, found on the website.
Some good work this week! Keep it up and I'll see you all next week!
October 11, 2019
I hope this email (if you did not receive this as an email, I don't have your email address or the one that I have is invalid) finds everyone well and that we have all settled into our autumn routines.
A couple of housekeeping reminders:
- We have begun taking regular attendance. If your student’s name is routinely not appearing on our roster, it means that we do not have registration information for them. If they come to you with that information, please send us (or resend us in some cases) the required information so we can then update our records and ensure that they are registered in the program.
- At the request of Timberline MS staff, we ask that drop-offs for band happen at 7:30a SHARP. We are having quite a few that miss the initial surge and, since neither one of us can really be there to continue monitoring the door, a lot of students are having to enter through the office door (which is the policy that is on the website). However, the number of students missing that initial surge is becoming a distraction to the office staff and so we would like to ask that we do what we can to be on time. Even though group rehearsal begins at 7:40a, it is vitally important that they arrive when they do (other than because it’s easier for the TMS office staff), but because that is their time to get ready for rehearsal (warm up, oil valves/keys, ask directors for assistance, etc.).
- I’m seeing a number of students carpooling to bypass the bus. That is totally fine (and also helps alleviate congestion/loading times which will help the buses run more smoothly). Many of the students are doing a great job of telling me ahead of time what their pick-up plan is and I would like for that to continue. At this point, the only ways that are sanctioned by the elementary schools is either taking the district-provided transportation OR arrange for parent transportation/carpool. Thank you all for your patience regarding the transportation situation, and thank you to those of you who are being an active participant in this situation. I will do what I can to keep you all abreast of any updates that I receive from the Transportation office.
- Remember to check the website (found at all three elementary schools’ and Timberline MS’s website) for any pertinent information regarding program policy and updates. I will do what I can to regularly update it with helpful information, as well as update you all with our progress and what each group is working on (and is expected to be practicing) found in the “Weekly Blog” section.
- Also on the website is information regarding private lessons. It is STRONGLY suggested that your student invest in private lessons to help supplement their band experience. It is very common for older students to begin taking private lessons as they start and there is a SIGNIFICANT difference in how they progress, compared to those who do not. Ms. Fulton and I do our best to work with as many individual students as we can (and we will continue to do so to the best of our ability), but to ensure that your student is getting the most out of their time with their instrument, I suggest seeking the advice of a qualified and proven teacher who will meet their individual needs, a list of which you will find on the website.
Level II has been working on dotted half notes, reading ties, and meeting 3/4 time. They would do well to practice their assigned lines (#60 - #70) using a metronome AND a tuner. M/T apps can be found at any app store and many are free (the one I use in my own practice is an app called TonalEnergy and costs $5, but it is well worth it; I use it everyday). Also, each instrument group has been given supplemental technique exercises that addresses technical issues specific to that instrument. It is highly suggested that you practice a few of those a day, as well (see the Band FAQs and Blog section for sample practice schedules). Aim for at least 30 min/day of practice, but feel free to practice more than that.
Level I has begun making first sounds! Ms. Fulton can make specific comments regarding flute and trombone work that needs to be done, but trumpets should spend at least 5 min of their practice session making sounds on the mouthpiece. Remember to take the time and find your embouchure first; make sure corners stay firm against the edges of the mouthpiece so that your cheeks don’t puff. As you assemble the entire trumpet, take the time to find your left and right hand positions and practice cycling through the “rest”, “ready”, and “playing” positions that we learned this past week. Now that you know how to oil your valves, do so every day (certainly every band day). Be careful to not unscrew the entire valve assembly; it can be a real pain to put back together. If you find that you have oiled your valve and it still sticks, take it to your rental place and they will fix it for you. Clarinets have been practicing their mpc/barrel/reed/ligature assembly and have begun adding their upper joint. With all of that, they are able to practice their left hand position and begin playing their first few notes. DO NOT PUT ANYTHING ELSE TOGETHER YET!! Wait until next week for us to get to the whole clarinet. If there is squeaking, it is because you are biting the mouthpiece or your lower lip is not over your bottom teeth. Only about half of the mpc needs to go in your mouth. And always check your reed. If it’s chipped, you need a new one. If you can see through it, you need a new one. Plan to have the same reed for about 3-4 weeks then toss it and get a new one, but always have a backup reed ready, in case something goes wrong with your primary reed (the best players I know often cycle through reeds e.g. Monday reed, Tuesday reed, etc.).
If I think of anything else, I’ll let you know via the website. Thank you all for a great start to the year! This looks to be a promising crop of elementary band students and I can’t wait to hear what they sound like in the next few months!
As always, please don’t hesitate to contact me about questions or concerns. Email is preferred.
Wilder Elementary/Timberline MS
October 11, 2019 PS
...as it turns out, I did have something else.
For Conference Week, there WILL BE BAND in the morning. For LEAP day (no students), there will NOT be band on Friday.
November 1, 2019
I hope everyone had a wonderfully Spooktacular Halloween! The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting longer, and the weather is getting colder (and wetter) and that can only mean one thing: WINTER IS COMING!
We’ve been gearing up for our first (ever) concert! It will be on Tuesday, December 17 at Timberline MS (in the gym), at 7pm. I understand that many of us are busy with commitments outside of school, but I would like to ask that you do what you make yourself available for that date and time. It would be a shame to put in so much effort and not have the opportunity to show it off for your friends and family!
Concert Repertoire is as follows:
Level I: The First Note (#1), The Fab Five (#10), Rolling Along (#14), Hot Crossed Buns (#17), Go Tell Aunt Rhodie (#18), Lightly Row (#25), and Jingle Bells (to be performed with Level II)
Level II: Cardiff Castle, Sakura, Kings of the East, and Jingle Bells (to be performed with Level I)
As you can see, there is plenty to work on and December is fast approaching. Make sure that you are practicing at least 20-30 min. a day (outside of band rehearsal). In order to best maximize your practice time, remember to use the practice strategies that we use in class (“air and valve”, count and clap, note name and finger, etc.), ALWAYS USE YOUR METRONOME, and ALWAYS PLAY WITH YOUR BEST SOUND!
In addition, students will have the option of performing solos and/or ensembles (no more than 3 for Level I, no more than 5 for Level II) with their friends (no matter what the instrument e.g. flute/trombone duet, trumpet/trombone/clarinet trio, etc.). If students have been practicing music outside of the book or would like to play something in the book (that is not a concert piece), they are free to do so at our concert. If you would like to do this, we need to hear your solo/ensemble by December 6th.
By now, beginners know all five notes and the basics of how to assemble and operate their instrument. Many students are proceeding very well and according to normal development, but it is also perfectly normal for many students to experience frustration and confusion right about now. Everybody progresses at their own level in their own time, and if you think that you should be making a certain sound or if you should be playing some notes that you hear others play, and for some reason you aren’t able to yet, YOU NEED TO FIND ONE OF US AND ASK US FOR HELP! Starting next week, we will combine our small groups, which will free up one of us for individual/small group work.
Going along with that, we are noticing fluctuations in attendance. Many of you have been very good about letting us know about absences and conflicts/appointments, and we would ask that you continue doing so. As the days get shorter and the weather gets drearier, it becomes harder and harder to wake up early on band days, but we need you at every rehearsal! Especially if you don’t understand something or need some help with your instrument, WE CANNOT HELP YOU IF YOU ARE NOT HERE.
Also, you are now to the point where it would be advisable to seek out private lessons to supplement your band education. As I’ve mentioned before, Ms. Fulton and I do our very best to help each and every one of our students, but there is no substitute for a teacher that is there JUST FOR YOU. A list of qualified instructors can be found at our website (in my signature).
Also at the website will be practice information, including “how to practice” guidelines and other helpful tips.
Speaking of helpful tips:
Brass: remember to practice buzzing your mouthpiece (especially those of you who have access to pianos or keyboards, play a note on the piano and practice matching the pitch on your mouthpiece. Play little songs on the piano and see if you can do that on your mouthpiece.). Also, a little “free buzzing” (w/o mouthpiece) can’t hurt (not too much or it will). Hot air = low notes and cold air = high notes. Another trick you can try is to “point your air down” as you go higher and higher. Don’t let the instrument do it for you; it doesn’t know what it wants to sound like: YOU DO!
Woodwinds: ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS have at least two extra reeds with you. You never know when something may happen to your primary reed (which is really why you should be alternating reeds to help them last longer, like we talked about in class) and you need your reed to play. Remember to take your time to assemble/disassemble. Practice moving quickly (play assembly games with yourself at home, see how fast you can do it safely), but not so quickly that you risk bending/breaking something. Remember: hand position is half the battle. Take the time to learn where your fingers go, and practice not letting your fingers “fly away” from your instrument when you don’t need them.
There’s a lot of information in here and I’m sure I left something out, but if you have any questions or concerns about anything, as always, you are free to contact either myself or Ms. Fulton and we will answer what we can. Tune in to the website for more information.
Thank you all for your hard work. Keep practicing! You get better every time I hear you!
Until next time,
Wilder Elementary/Timberline MS
November 9, 2019
I hope everyone enjoys their three-day Veteran’s Day weekend! I, for one, am currently enjoying a Penn State beatdown by Minnesota (for now at least) and am eagerly awaiting an actual football game (Alabama/LSU).
We’ve been making steady progress on our concert pieces (Tuesday, December 17th at 7p, at Timberline MS Gym). All students have been taught a variety of rehearsal techniques that will help them learn their pieces quicker (the specific techniques have been outlined in previous emails/blog updates). Stay tuned to the website for an exclusive section that will outline exactly “how to practice”.
Another practice strategy that we have mentioned (but not gotten into) is “the Mozart game”. This game, which was played by Mozart when he was a child, involves 10 of something (I think it was uncooked beans in his case) being placed on one side of the piano. Each time he played an excerpt correctly, in accordance to his goals, one bean was moved over to the other side of the piano, but if he made a mistake, all beans went back to where they started. The object of the game is to get all beans to the other side of the piano. I myself use pennies in my own practice and I strongly suggest that students use something similar (I’d start with 3-5 and work up to 10); it’s not enough to just play it once and call it done.
Students should also be encouraged to listen to good examples of what their instrument is supposed to sound like. YouTube is a rich resource of free recordings of experienced players (many of them professional), and I would encourage that students begin a practice session by listening to at least one song played by their instrument. I will do what I can to recommend specific players and videos. Stay tuned to the website as it updates.
Also, by now, ALL STUDENTS NEED TO HAVE A BOOK! Students will need their book to practice at home and bring it to make notes in during rehearsal. We use Essential Elements Interactive for Band, Book 1. In addition, all students’ NAMES need to be in their book, in case it gets misplaced.
In your cases, all students should have:
- Their instrument
- Their mouthpiece and necessary accessories (ligature, etc.)
- Their book (for trumpet/trombone)
- At least two extra reeds (clarinet, number your reeds and alternate between them to extend their lives)
- Valve/slide/cork oil/grease
- At least two sharpened/mechanical pencils (one for them and one for their neighbor who will forget theirs)
This past week, we have been combining our smaller classes so that we can free up an instructor to help assist individuals, and I have found this time to be invaluable, as I get to meet each student and work with them and their own individual issues. I strongly suggest that, when we do this again, you take advantage of this and let us help you with what you need! It is also important to keep in mind that EVERY INSTRUMENT AND INDIVIDUAL PROCEEDS IN THEIR OWN TIME AND AT THEIR OWN SPEED. Flutes will have problems in the beginning that clarinets will not have until later and trumpets will have problems that trombones won’t have (and vice versa).
For example, the hardest part for each beginning instrument, in my experience, is:
Flute: making that first sound (LOTS AND LOTS OF AIR especially for those higher notes) and learning where your fingers go (hand position)
Clarinet: learning how to assemble correctly/safely, taking care of your reeds, and learning where your fingers go (hand position) (when you need to cover a hole, cover it up ALL THE WAY)
Trumpet: embouchure and learning how to use your air to go higher and lower (you can’t see it, it all happens inside your mouth, use your tongue to help you change vowels/air speed)
Trombone: Air management (like trumpets) and learning how to use the slide quickly and easily without jarring your embouchure
One other thing that student have been made aware of this past week is that one of their pieces (Lightly Row for Level I and March Militaire for Level II) will be used as a “test piece” for their semester evaluation. Students should know that, while this is a fairly low-stakes assessment (they won’t fail out of band if they do poorly), we would like for them to take it seriously, as it will provide Ms. Fulton and I with the best evidence on which we can base some good, constructive feedback designed to address as many individual issues as we can. A detailed report will be going out in conjunction with students’ semester report card before they leave for Winter Break.
5th grade beginners: in my experience, it doesn’t take 5th graders as much time to catch many of these beginning concepts and (with disciplined practice), they are often ready to move up to the Level II band sometimes within the first 3-4 months of playing. Continue to develop at your own speed, but know that when you reach a certain level, you will be asked to join the Level II band, where you will be with more experience players and will be learning more experienced concepts to prepare you for the rigors of middle school/high school band.
Let us know if you need some help outside of band and we will do what we can to help you and, as always, if there are any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to ask one of us!
Thank you for allowing me the privilege of being your band teacher. You are all so fun to work with and I can’t wait for you to hear what you’re going to sound like!
Music/Elementary Band Teacher
Wilder Elementary/Timberline MS
December 6, 2019
(Before I get started, some of you have let me know of some email changes you would like to make. Thank you for doing so. If it hasn’t shown up yet (going to a different email address, for example), I would appreciate a reminder so that I can fix it)
I hope everyone had a great week! Today, we met for the first time as one large beginning band (we normally split up into two rooms) and had a great first rehearsal with everyone getting a chance to hear what we all sound like together! This was great! Many elementary bands don’t get a chance to do that until the first concert, so we were fortunate to have the space available.
We are (starting next week) only a week away from our first concert! Thank you to those of you who have let me know about travel-related conflicts; I hope to see as many of you there as we can. Joining us will also be Timberline MS’s two bands and it will be great for everyone to see what the next level looks like.
Concert details are as follows:
What: Timberline MS Bands Winter Concert
When: Tuesday, December 17 at 7p (band students please arrive beginning at 6:25p and be seated with instrument and book by 6:50p)
Where: Timberline MS Gym
What to wear: Something nice. Feel free to dress nice (Picture Day-ish), maybe a step above normal school wear (no jeans/t-shirt/secular hats,etc.). TMS band uniforms I believe are white on top (dress shirt/top) and black pants or skirt/dress on bottom. Black shoes and black socks. We don’t have to do this yet, but when you get to middle school, that’s the sort of uniform that is expected.
Also, as is (will be) tradition, there is NO BAND on Wednesday, December 18 (Level II Cadet). After a concert, we’ve earned a day of rest. Beginners, we will see you Thursday, but NOT ON FRIDAY. NO BAND on Friday, December 20th. I am anticipating a high volume of absences so that, combined with some work that I will need to do at my home school (Wilder), Band will be cancelled for that Friday, with the expectation that we will resume upon returning from Winter Break (Monday, January 6).
Beginning next week, we will begin our semester playing assessment process. Students from both Levels will be assessed on basic areas of band performance, including instrument proficiency and rehearsal management and will receive reports that should be in conjunction with the Winter Report Card. It is important to note that the assessment has no bearing on their music grade, nor will it impact their ability to continue in the band program; it merely serves as a feedback tool that we can use, as teachers, to communicate some feedback on areas of strength and weakness that students can choose to focus on, as they continue developing.
5th grade musicians: My goal is to move as many of you up to the Cadet Band (Monday and Wednesday) as soon as you are ready, but I can’t do that before then. Some of you have been practicing (and it shows), but I am looking to begin moving up 5th graders who are ready as soon as we get back from Winter Break. Do make sure you continue practicing! You will need it if you want to be playing at the level of the Cadet Band.
Trumpets: I notice that a common problem is an issue with higher notes. This is totally normal and there are a number of things you can try doing to get out of the basement, including “pointing your air down” as you go up, practicing sirens/rollercoasters on the mouthpiece, practicing matching pitches with a piano/keyboard on the mouthpiece, etc. Basically: faster air = higher notes, slower air = lower notes. Another way to think about it is “colder air” and “warmer air” (be careful not to confuse it with “more air” (louder) and “less air” (softer)). If you find that it is too frustrating, let me know so that I can work with you; it’s very possible that you might fit well on a baritone (a similar instrument to the trumpet that plays lower notes (and is in very high demand at the middle school/high school level)).
Flutes: You’ve all gotten a lot better since I first heard you. The fingerings are half the battle. Spend some time just working out the fingers with note names, then slowly start teaching your ear that X fingering = Y sound. Practice connecting one note to the next. If you find that it is too frustrating, let us know so that we can help you. Remember, we will be having percussion and saxophone auditions in February and this sort of finger training is great for saxophone prep)
Trombones: Practice lightning-fast slide moving and, like I advise the trumpets, faster air = higher notes (5th grade: I REALLY need more of you in Cadet Band so keep practicing!)
Clarinets: ALWAYS have at least two extra reeds with you! You can’t play if you don’t have a reed. If you want to audition for saxophone, you will need that habit ingrained, as saxophone also uses reeds. Remember not to slouch in your chair when you play and keep your corners firm against the mouthpiece.
I’m sure I forgot something, but keep checking out the website for all important information.
Thank you all!
Wilder Elementary/Timberline MS
A heartfelt congratulations and thank you to everyone for tonight! I hope everyone had a great time and I already can’t wait for the next one! We will debrief more about it in coming emails (and when band returns), but in the meantime, I just wanted to reiterate the band schedule for this week:
Wednesday (12/18): NO BAND (Cadet Band)
Thursday (12/19): BAND (1st year WW)
Friday (12/20): NO BAND (1st year beginners)
Thank you all again. I am truly fortunate to work in such a supportive community with such wonderful students and parents!
Wilder Elementary/Timberline MS
January 5, 2020
Welcome back and welcome to 2020! I hope everyone had a great holiday and a nice, relaxing, stress-reduced two weeks off. I’m currently enjoying NFL Wild Card weekend; my native Houston Texans have made it to the Divisional round and my adopted home team Seattle Seahawks are handling a tough situation in Philadelphia (though it’s mystifying that Philly is still in this with only their backup QB not named Nick Foles, but that’s neither here nor there).
In any case, I can’t wait to see everyone again. Our regular schedule will start up again tomorrow with Cadet Band (Level II) expected at 7:30a and beginners (Level I) continuing to attend on their regular days. I would advise all band students to get reacquainted with their instrument BEFORE their band day to make the morning go more smoothly. This means making sure that all valves/slides/corks are oiled and greased and we remember which end of the instrument to blow into. The plan for all classes is to continue where we left off in the book and keep going! Cadet Band also has a new piece of music (Adventure in India) that they should be looking at; we will start it in earnest next week.
Information regarding percussion and saxophone auditions has been posted in the “Documents” section of our website, including a timeline of deadlines. Basically, by the end of this month, I will need to know whether or not students are interested in auditioning for these instruments, because beginning in the first week of February, we will be auditioning with the intention of informing those selected of the results so that they can make the appropriate switches over the Mid-Winter Break (Feb. 12-17). Instruction for these instruments will begin the following week with me taking the percussion and Ms. Fulton (being a former saxophonist) taking the alto saxophones. For this year, we will also be including Cadet Band members, as there are currently none of each of these instruments in either band. More information regarding this process can be found at the website and you can certainly ask me about any questions or concerns.
The timeline for the remainder of the year will be (more or less) as follows:
Jan 6 – Band resumes
Jan 30 – Deadline for perc./sax audition inquiry
Week of Feb 3 – Auditions for Perc/Sax
Feb. 12 – Results of Audition made public (selectees notified)
Week of Feb 18 – Instruction begins
March 18 – Redmond LC (Timberline) Region Concert (Cadet Band only), Timberline MS at 7p
Following SB – Split into “mini-bands” (Beginners)
May 26 – Spring Concert (all bands), Timberline MS at 7p
Week of June 1 – Last week of band
A number of students have expressed to me frustration with their current instrument. Such frustration is normal, but this is about the time of year in their development where we may start exploring other, better fits for them based on a number of factors. If you are one of these students, PLEASE let us know so that we can work with you and help you with your current instrument or help you find something that better fits you. I have already talked to a few students about switching to the baritone (a low brass instrument that uses valves instead of slides). This is a viable option, especially for trumpet players that already have experience with valves, but we need to listen to you first. Baritone players are extremely valuable to middle school/high school band directors as they add depth to a brass section and are a logical step towards tuba (which is met in middle school).
I believe that is it for now. If I think of anything else, I’ll let you know via the “Weekly” Blog.
Thanks again! Go Hawks!
Wilder Elementary/Timberline MS
January 20, 2020
I hope this email finds everyone well and that you’ve enjoyed a restful three-day weekend. What a crazy past week! I look forward to a return to normalcy as we settle into the remainder of January and into February.
Beginners have met a few new notes (concert G and low concert A) and we have also begun learning songs with eighth notes! Even though, it may seem easy, as they have known about eighth notes since 1st grade, it’s a bit different when trying to use them with a different instrument! Beginners would do well to practice pages 8-10 (at least 15-30 min. a day).
Thanks to our snow days, Cadet Band hasn’t met in a bit, but members should have notes and rhythms for Adventure in India prepared, as well as songs in the upper 90s/lower 100s (clarinets be looking at the Grenadilla Gorillas (#110 or so); the “break” is coming!). We will begin work in the book on Wednesday of this week and (maybe) take a stab at the introduction of India. A recording (as well as parts) are available at our website in the “Documents” link.
Cadet Band is advised that our next concert is the Timberline Region Concert on March 17 at 7p, at Timberline MS. At this concert will be the Timberline Cadet Band (us), both Timberline MS bands (Concert and Symphonic Winds), and a band from Redmond HS, brought by director Andy Robertson. This concert is presented as a way for students and families to see the vertical alignment of the band program that begins in elementary school and culminates in high school. As you will hear, the range and development is astonishing and I am excited to be a part of the first edition of the Timberline portion of this concert (each middle school gets their own and I believe the jazz bands will also be having their own concert at some point).
Percussion/alto saxophone auditions are scheduled for the first week of February (Feb. 4 for percussion and Feb. 6 for alto saxophone (Cadet Band will audition for both on Feb. 5)). Interested students should notify myself or Ms. Fulton via email or a signed copy of the bottom half of the second page, of the perc/sax letter at the website by January 31. This is so we can accurately plan for all auditioning and make sure that adequate time is allotted. I will listen to prospective percussionists (mallets and snare drum) and Ms. Fulton will listen to prospective alto saxophonists. A complete breakdown of the audition process is available at the website, as well as specific exercises (to be performed on your student’s current instrument). If there are any questions regarding this procedure, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Thank you to those who are contacting me if they are not receiving emails (and thank you to those who are contacting me who are receiving emails in error. If you still are, please continue to do so. I promise, I will update accordingly!). As winter continues, this is the most difficult period in a beginner’s development. I urge you to stay the course and do not be afraid to contact one of us if you are still having difficulty with your instrument! While it is true that you must put in the time to practice, it is frustrating to practice if some basic problems are occurring. In the coming weeks, we will be pulling individuals again and you will have the opportunity to voice any concerns. Please take advantage of this; we are here to help you!
Thank you all for your hard work and dedication! I look forward to seeing everybody soon.
Wilder Elementary/Timberline MS
February 2, 2020
Good morning, everyone!
I hope everyone's having a great weekend. Weather looks great and I don't think the groundhog has seen their shadow, so spring should come early this year (good, I don't want to make up any more snow days, haha!)
Beginners have been working on pages 9 and 10. Remember to practice with a metronome AND tap your foot to the steady beat while playing (as we found in class, it's not as easy as it sounds). Brass players should also practice buzzing on their mouthpiece using a pitch source (piano/keyboard/etc.) and trying to match it. Woodwind players should be practicing finger drills (flutes especially). Start slow and gradually speed up.
Cadet Band has been extending our range (we've reached #100!) and we have been practicing more advanced concepts, such as phrasing, pacing of dynamics, balance, etc. as well as plugging away at our concert piece: Adventure in India. Clarinets should be taking a look at "the break", right around #110 or so. Flutes would do well to work on finger drills (eighth notes/sixteenth notes), brass should start in on lip slurs/flow studies, exercises of which can be found at the website).
At this time, Cadet Band is scheduled for a performance on Tuesday, March 17 at Timberline MS, at 7p, as a part of the Redmond HS "alignment" concert. More details will follow as the event comes closer. Beginning 5th graders who were given copies of Adventure in India at the end of the semester last month are cleared to begin attending Cadet Band.
For all bands: thank you to those of you who have communicated your interest in auditioning for percussion or alto saxophone. A list has been populated and I look forward to hearing from the candidates this week during their normal band days (note that this is different than the letter. In the interest of trying not to confuse anyone's schedule any more than is needed, brass players will be heard on Tuesdays and woodwind players on Thursday. Cadet Band will be heard on Wednesday). I wish everyone the best of luck and if there are any further questions or concerns regarding this process, please let me know. It is important to remember that, in the event that you are not selected, you are still needed on your current instrument!
Thank you all for your hard work and dedication! This group sounds better every time I hear it.
Music/Elementary Band Teacher
Wilder Elementary, Timberline MS
February 12, 2020
I hope this email finds you all well. Hopefully, you're all settled in ready for a nice and relaxing Mid-Winter Break!
Beginners have been continuing our work in the book on pages 9 and 10, practicing eighth notes, pickup notes, and beginning to extend our range! We are getting to that point where we are comfortable enough with our instruments that we start to relax a bit, when it comes to basic things like posture, proper breathing, and hand position. It is SUPER important that you continue to practice these basic things every single time that you pick up your instrument. I'm noticing quite a few players that are missing these basic things in class and it is getting in the way of you being able to make your best sound, every time you play. Do remember to practice even these basic things.
One of the best pieces of advice that I received was from the principal trumpet of the Seattle Symphony: "The secret to success is simple things done perfectly". This is much easier said than done, but it is incredibly true. Every single note you play should be done with your intention of making the absolute best sound you can, and to do that, you need to practice great posture (I'm saying this to myself as I am to you. Whenever I am not playing well, sometimes the quickest fix is remembering to simply sit up straight so that the air can move efficiently from my body and through my instrument).
Frustration is perfectly natural and if you feel like you're stuck, and it is very hard to practice when you don't like what is coming out of your instrument (trust me, I know from experience). PLEASE come find one of us so we can help you!
That being said, I also understand that our winter schedule is somewhat wonky and inconsistent with weather and holidays, and so forth, but please make an effort to be on time and present for every band rehearsal. Thank you to those of you who let me know of sickness or conflicts. The sun is coming out earlier now; it's a lot easier to get up in the morning now (even for those of us who MAY hit the "snooze" button a little too much...) 🙂
I would also like to reiterate my pitch for private lessons. The quickest way for you to make vast improvements in your playing is by finding a private teacher that can best fit YOUR needs. You can visit the website for a list of reputable teachers in the area.
We have also concluded our percussion/alto saxophone auditions and the persons selected have, at this point, been notified (I haven't gotten any feedback, regarding a "failure to send", so this leads me to believe that the addresses that I have are indeed working).
Thank you to everyone who expressed an interest and for your hard work. There were a lot of strong candidates, but unfortunately, only so many slots that can be filled with those particular instruments. I can understand some frustration if you did not receive an email, but it is because it is my opinion that, for the good of the band, you are NEEDED exactly where you are. It may not seem like it from where you are sitting, but from the podium, I can hear some things that you cannot. Often times, players who had strong playing auditions are needed to provide leadership in their section (I wanted to be a drum major (student conductor) when I was in high school, but because I was a strong trumpet player, that's where I was needed in the band). If you have any questions or concerns about this process, please feel free to email me.
To those who will be moving to another instrument, please take this time to make the necessary adjustments, as per the email that was sent out, to be ready to receive instruction when we return on Tuesday.
Cadet Band has been working in the book in the #100s and, I believe, just reached #103 (Minuet) and Marche Militare. Among the elements being focused on are: phrasing, dynamics, and learning when to tongue and when to slur notes. I am impressed with our beginning 5th graders who are making the difficult adjustment to the second-year group. Keep putting the work in and you will catch up! It may not happen overnight, but Rome wasn't built in a day, as they say.
We also have a concert coming up on Wednesday, March 18th at TMS at 7p. Be advised, this is different than what was on the website (it has since been updated). This concert will be in conjunction with the middle school bands of Timberline MS, the Level II and middle school bands of Redmond MS, and the 9th grade band of Redmond HS. Our concert repertoire will include: Cardiff Castle, Wayfaring Stranger, and Adventure in India. Parts for Cardiff Castle will be on the website soon and Wayfaring Stranger can be found in the book (#180).
Also on the website are technique exercises that are highly recommended to supplement your practice (lip slurs/flow studies (GREAT for range building) for brass and finger drills (building dexterity while maintaining great hand position) for woodwinds). Try and work in at least 30 minutes/day of uninterrupted practice time (with a metronome). Clarinets would do well to start looking at #110-120 (Grenadilla Gorillas); the "break" involves your register key and is often times one of the most difficult things to handle as beginning players. We will start on that shortly after we return.
It is truly amazing how far you all have come in such a short amount of time, and I can't wait to hear what you will sound like when we have our final concert in May! If I can be of any help to you, please let me know. I am more than happy to help!
Thank you again. Have a great break, and I'll see you all next week.
Music/Elementary Band Teacher
Wilder Elementary, Timberline MS
March 12, 2020
I hope this email finds you all well, especially in this current situation. As you all are by now aware, Lake Washington SD has decided to close through March 27. As a result, band rehearsals and concerts between now and then are cancelled. However, once school resumes, band will also resume, and I look forward to seeing each and every one of you when we return.
Between now and then (in addition to taking care of yourselves/staying hydrated/hygienic/etc.), please remember to practice your instrument for at least 20-30 min/day. For a comparison, when band is part of the school day, students at the middle school level are expected to practice a minimum of 30 min/day, with some even going to 45/60 min/day.
I understand that not everybody may be in the position where you can practice regularly (if you are, let me know, so I might suggest some alternatives to help you stay productive), but I have found that, in uncertain times, it is helpful to maintain consistent habits and routines. Establishing and maintaining a consistent practice time can be very helpful and very calming in a time when things seem to be changing daily. Sample practice schedules can be found at the website, but if you need help with what to practice (and more importantly, HOW to practice), please let me know.
Speaking of the website, I will no doubt be adding more digital resources in the coming days and, beginning tomorrow, all LWSD staff will be exploring our remote learning possibilities. I'm not sure what this looks like for band yet, but I will let you know when substantial things are added. Right now, you are welcome to explore any of the links currently there including:
- Tonedear.com (an "ear training" site, designed to help build your "inner ear")
- Musicracer.com (a "flash card" site that is helpful for reviewing note names/fingerings/musical terms/etc.
Another thing that is helpful to do is to listen to great players. Youtube can be a fantastic resource and I will be compiling a listening list (with links) to help you listen for what you would like to sound like some day. Each one of those players started where you are right now, sometimes all you need is to be inspired by someone (mine was Louis Armstrong, the trumpet player).
That's it for now. We live in interesting times, and I wish everyone out there the best of health and peace of mind as we continue to go through this together. Thank you all for everything that you do, and I hope to see you all again sooner than later.
Music/Elementary Band Teacher
Wilder Elementary, Timberline MS
March 20, 2020
I hope this email finds you all well (in every sense of the word). I also hope the homeschooling adaptations have been going smoothly and that you all have had an easy enough time finding your “workplace” at home.
The district is working towards creating some helpful practice tools and aids that are designed to help keep you all practicing and some very interesting ideas are being shared. At our website (the Timberline cluster), you’ll find some technical exercises as well as a rudimentary guide for practicing. I will also be adding another file that includes some more strategies (much of this is what we do in class already), as well as a practice routine that can be used (I recommend setting aside at least 30 min/day for practice, if not for the sake of merely improving on your instrument, but also because it will feel good to be doing something, routinely, during this time, as I have found out in my own practice.)
Enclosed is this file, but look for it to appear on the website soon, as well as further communication regarding more widespread practice ideas.
My basic ideas can be broken down into: practicing your instrument, listening to great players that play your instrument, and listen to fun music that you enjoy! Remember why you started learning to play this instrument in the first place.
Also at the website are links to Musicracer (a note reading “flash card” style website) and Tonedear (great for ear training).
If you follow the routine enclosed in this file, your first assigned lines are as follows:
Beginning Band: Lines 35, 41, and 44. Start looking ahead to Lines: 52-58 (these are concert songs when we come back)
Cadet Band: (Warmup with 86, 87, and 89), Adventure in India, Wayfaring Stranger, Lines: 100, 101, 106
Thank you all for your flexibility, and I look forward to seeing every one sooner than later!
Wilder Elementary, Timberline MS Elementary Band
April 19, 2020
I hope everyone is staying safe (and sane) during this time. As I'm sure you're all aware by now, we will not meet in a physical space for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year, instead engaging in a kind of "distance learning". To say that I am disappointed by this outcome is an understatement, but I understand that we need to do what we can to be safe, responsible citizens during this time of uncertainty.
However, band is not yet over! As I mentioned before, practicing at a regular time can be very helpful, especially when we all finally come back to band (hopefully sooner than later). To that end, be sure to tune in to the Elementary Band Flipgrid (see previous emails/blogposts for user ID/password) for updated assignments; I have a fresh batch waiting everyone.
To aid your practicing, the band directors in the district have all gotten together and made "practice cards" for you with some ideas and suggestions that might help make your practice time go more smoothly and with more interest. These will be posted at the website later tonight.
Also, I'm wondering if anyone happened to get any "whole group" photos of our last concert that they would be willing to share. In addition to sprucing up the website, it would be nice to get a few band photos for the yearbooks that are soon to be finalized.
It really bugs me that I can't be there for you all, but if you have any questions or concerns (or maybe if something isn't working with your instrument and you don't know why), don't hesitate to let me know, and I'll do what I can to get back to you soon!
Flipgrid for the week: Beginning Band
Thank you all for your patience and understanding as we go through this thing together. This may be a frustrating time, but I have thoroughly enjoyed being the band teacher for this wonderful group of students this year, and I can't wait to see you all again!
Music/Elementary Band Teacher
Wilder Elementary, Timberline MS