Elementary Band FAQ

(click on question for answer)

Do I need to be able to read music?

Nope!  We'll teach you everything you need to know.

Can I choose any instrument that I want, or does the director choose for me?

You can choose any of the five "starter" instruments that you want (flute, clarinet, trumpet, trombone, and baritone).  We will do what we can to honor your choice and help you become successful at your new instrument, but if one isn't working out, we can talk about the possibility of switching to something that might be a better fit for you!

But I'm bored with this one....

We ask that you give your current instrument AT LEAST A FULL YEAR before deciding whether or not you want to switch.  Instruments can be tricky and nobody masters them in a few months (not even me), so give it time!

Either way, if you want to switch, you must talk with a director first.

What about Percussion and Alto Saxophone?

Both of these instruments are fantastic!  However, there is high demand and low supply for these instruments.  In middle school and high school, it is common to only have 4-5 saxophones and the same number of percussionists.  Consequently, we can only have a VERY small number of players at one time.  

We will select 4-5 alto saxophones and 4-5 percussionists via audition in or around Mid-Winter Break (February/March). 

As we approach the audition, you will be told exactly what to prepare on your instrument and exactly which rhythm exercises you need to practice (they will all be in your book).  We will also consider rehearsal conduct and behavior as part of the audition (this part will be an ongoing assessment); these instruments require a lot of patience and self-management and your current instrument will help to teach you these skills.

Percussion? Don't you mean drums?

Percussion is very different than "drums".  Drums is a drumset, which is great for rock bands and jazz band (which is indeed something that is met in Jazz Band in Middle School), but before that can be considered, the student must first show proficiency with the snare drum and the mallets, which comprise the core foundation of percussion.

Percussion can be a difficult instrument to wrap one's head around; in one sense, it is just hitting things, in another sense it is finding musical purpose in hitting things.  For this reason, it is an advanced instrument that will be chosen via audition in February/March.  Due to the number of percussionists demanded at any given time, only 4-5 percussionists will be chosen.  Further details regarding this audition will be made clear when we come closer to the date.

How do I get an instrument? Should I rent or buy?

RENT first!  DO NOT BUY an instrument just yet.  Wait until you are sure that it is a right fit for you before making that kind of financial commitment.

At or around the transition to middle school band, if you wish to continue on (which you absolutely should), you can talk to your rental company about turning your rental credit towards the purchase of a "step-up" instrument.  Those instruments are usually of intermediate to professional quality that you will enjoying much better than your beginner instrument, but you first must start with that one.

Is there a way that I can have more individual attention?

We will be at Timberline MS as early as 7a and can be available if you want some extra help with something (most of the time.  Sometimes, I will have things to do, but you can always use that time to practice, in the event that I'm busy).

I also recommend taking private lessons.  It is very common for older students to take lessons in addition to their band classes and the progress that these students make, compared to many of their peers that don't take lessons, is significant.  Private teachers are able to pay attention only to YOU and work with what YOU need to work on 100% of the time that you are with them.  We will, of course, do our best to give you as much attention as we can, but you will be best served by taking advantage of every opportunity afforded to you, including private lessons.

Private Lesson teachers can be found at your rental company, and I will also make available a list of reputable private teachers in the area on this website.

Can I join with some friends?


Friends are more fun to learn with.  They can help you be more successful, and are easier to carpool or ride the bus with. Another advantage is that you'll make friends from other schools who are also in band!

Also, when you get to middle school, as a 6th grader, you'll be the one who knows the school the best, since you've already been there. You'll have a better understanding of the layout of the school, you'll already know many of the students from other elementary schools, and some of the teachers.

Being in Elementary Band will REALLY reduce the stress of transitioning to Middle School!

Can I keep my instrument at school?

We discourage that because: 
-Your instrument is not insured at your school (if you own yours, get it covered under your parents' homeowner's insurance); 
-You can't play it at home, unless you have one checked out to you to keep at home (we do this with baritones, where you have an instrument at home, and all you have to bring to class is your mouthpiece and your book). 
-We don't recommend you share an instrument with an older sibling. That's just gross...

How do I get to Timberline MS in the morning?

Great question!  You have to get a ride from your parents or your friends or, if you are in walking distance, you can walk to TMS in the morning.  If you ride your bike, know that YOU CANNOT TAKE IT WITH YOU ON THE BUS.  All students must ride the bus to be dropped back at their home schools.  This is for your safety.  If you bring your bike, you will have to pick it up at TMS when your school day is over.

...so, how do I get to school?

Following rehearsal, you will be bussed back to your home school with plenty of time before the Flag Salute!  As mentioned before, for your safety, ALL BAND STUDENTS MUST RIDE THE BUS.  Individual cases can be considered on a case-by-case basis, but this is the official word from the District Transportation office. 

....but I go to Rosa Parks. Can't I just walk?

As mentioned before, all band students ride the bus.  This is for your safety.  Rosa Parks will have their own bus, and Ella Baker/Wilder will have a second bus.

What if my student misses a class or forgot their instrument/book?

We take roll each day, contact the elementary schools, and call home to confirm absences if a pattern emerges. Since we only meet a couple of times a week, each class is very importantPLEASE MAKE EVERY EFFORT TO ATTEND ON A CONSISTENT BASIS. It's the best way to learn and be successful (and also have fun!)

*EVEN IF YOU DON'T HAVE YOUR INSTRUMENT (repairs, left at Grandma's, left in your room) Come anyway. While it's not as much fun as playing, you will still learn (and sing, because you brought your voice, and "air-play" because you brought your body with you)! 

*We NEVER CANCEL A BAND CLASSEither Mr. Sloan or Ms. Fulton OR Both will always be here. If school's open, we're teaching! Except for...

*SNOW DAYS or LATE STARTS: the DISTRICT will automatically cancel ALL before school activities, including Elementary Band and Orchestra.  If Timberline MS is affected, the Elementary Band program will also be affected.

Will band interfere with other morning activities?

Band is a great way to become a well-rounded person(this is something colleges recognize) and we often have kids involved in Quest, Choir, Debate, Patrol, Actors, Athletes, and we schedule our events with consideration for other events.
Try to get your schedule to avoid any conflicts, but if conflicts do occur, we can usually work those out as long as we know ahead of time: Make sure to keep us informed!

*Safety Patrol: Please try to schedule your shifts so they don't interfere with your Band days. We're willing to work with you as long as we plan ahead, but let us know.

Is band rehearsal ever cancelled?

Very rarely will rehearsal be cancelled.  The only times when there will not be band will be when Timberline MS is closed or will not have classes that day.

As an example, during elementary conference week, that schedule doesn't affect TMS.  Consequently, there will be band that week.  However, during district-wide training days (LEAP days) that result in no school for students, there will NOT be band.

Weather will also be a factor, especially in January/February.  If school is delayed/cancelled at TMS, expect it to affect the Elementary Band program.

How do I practice?

Great question!

Practice can be tricky (and frustrating if you don't know how to do it, trust me!).  

Practice is all about learning how YOU interact with your instrument.  It can be weird, it can be challenging, and you might want to throw your instrument against the wall sometimes (don't do that), but ultimately, it is extremely rewarding.

For beginners, we ask for a minimum of 20 minutes a day.  As you progress, the time will get longer, because you'll have more things to work on.  Professionals will typically practice 3-5 hours a day.

What I would do first is organize my practice.  Depending on what is being worked on, a practice schedule might look like:

Level II:

2 min - Breathing exercises (in for 4, out for 4, 2/2, 1/1) using a metronome (quarter = 70)

5 min - Long tones - just play each of your first five notes as beautifully and wonderfully as you can, always looking for a way to make it sound better and feel more easier (first few lines in the book)

2 min - REST!  It's important to rest after playing for a while, especially during the first few months of embouchure development.

5 min - Familiar songs - look for songs that you know, maybe you know the words or have sung them before.  See if you can't make it sound and feel just as effortless with your instrument as you can with your voice!  Also, practice rhythm counting for tricky rhythms!  Don't  just be satisfied with sort-of playing them; make them your best!

5 min - Assigned music - focus on saying note names/counting rhythms/singing on solfege/saying fingerings to help solidify certain passages in our music!  Play the Mozart game (5 times perfectly, have someone keep track for you!)

2 min - REST!

5 min - Fun music - music stores sell all sorts of fun music books like movie themes, Disney songs, pop songs, etc.  Have fun with your new instrument and practice some of the skills that you learn to help you learn how to play the songs that you like on your instrument!


If you're having issues with finding time to practice or are confused as to how to practice, let me know, and I can help you!



What about concerts?

We will absolutely have concerts!  The current concert schedule is:

Tuesday, December 17, March 18 (Level II only), and Tuesday, June 2.

All concerts will be at Timberline MS at 7p and will be in conjunction with the rest of the music programs of Timberline MS.  The March concert may be different, but as details become clear, I will update the page accordingly.

PLEASE ATTEND YOUR OWN CONCERT!  Don't go through all the hard work of practicing only to skip the only times that you'll get to perform!  If you have schedule conflicts, please resolve them or contact us and we will help you resolve them.

Is there a concert uniform?

Bands normally have a uniform when they perform together. 

Let's keep it simple: white on top (dress shirt, polo, blouse) and black (slacks, pants, socks, shoes) on the bottom.  Try to avoid everyday casual wear.  Think "picture day" or "Sunday best".

What kind of feedback and communications can I expect?

This website will be updated fairly regularly and my email address (dasloan@lwsd.org) is always open for questions or concerns.  

Once our roster is finalized, we will send out semi-regular emails with information regarding rehearsal progress, practice assignments, and other useful information.  IF YOU ARE NOT RECEIVING EMAILS, YOU NEED TO CONTACT US SO THAT WE CAN ADD YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS TO OUR CONTACT GROUP.  Make sure you check your "Spam" folder, in case the emails end up there accidentally.


GREAT! How can I sign up?

We would love to have you join us! 

The district has a brand new sign up system (https://www.lwsd.org/students-families/elementary-band-and-orchestra) that you can visit.  This is the preferred method.

If you don't have access to the online signup system, you can email me your information (found in the Recruiting Brochure link on the home page) and I can add you.


You have until September 27th.  Don't wait too late!