April 13, 2015

Ten Tips for the New (or soon to be new) Music Teacher

AUTHOR: Jennifer Grenus

On March 26-28, 2015 I went to the PMEA State conference in Hershey, PA.  There were so many wonderful workshops and it was a great experience.  One workshop I went to was Ten Tips for the New (or soon to be new) Music Teacher.  The presenter was Dr. Michael Panza who is the superintendent at West Jefferson Hills School District.  What I find interesting is that he was a music teacher before becoming superintendent.  He still continues to play his instrument today which is exciting.

His ten tips were very thoughtful.  The first tip was to get off of social media. In my opinion you should to an extent but not necessarily the whole way if you are being careful.  He presented three cases of teachers who got fired because of inappropriate pictures that were posted on social media either of them at a party (drinking alcohol), or they had an inappropriate relationship with a student.  The second point was always maintain a positive attitude.  If you get mad at your students, take thirty seconds to just breath and just let it go.  You should be in a pleasant mood towards your students or they’re not going to want to be around you.

Number three was volunteer now.  It is good to get your foot in the door, whether it is working for a school committee, or you could volunteer for your local high school marching band, orchestra, church choir, etc.  This will help you prepare for the interview.  You should know your district, whether it is reading the local papers, or looking through old yearbooks.  You need to let your students and the parents know by your actions that you are interested in them, their school, and their community.

One big thing is to be a teacher, not a friend.  We need to get to know our students but we need to keep it on a professional level.  We should be role models for our students.  We should also be a good classroom manager, not a good classroom disciplinarian.  It is important to have good classroom management skills and not just discipline students every time they do something wrong. We need to plan ahead, and we need to keep parents informed.

The number eight tip was to embrace change and accept new assignments.  We should be taking on roles other than the music teacher. If you are asked to do hall duty, lunch duty, run a study hall, whatever it is we should take the role with a positive attitude.  It is also very important to get to know the building secretaries and custodians and be nice to them.  If you are willing to work with them and talk to them, then they are willing to help you.

The last tip he mentioned which I didn’t even think of was to invite the principal or the superintendent of the school to perform with the ensemble.  It will give administration the hands-on experience.  I’m not sure if the administration in every school will agree to this, but this could open their eyes to the arts.  I know that in my high school that the administration was invited to every concert.  Usually someone came, but they did not stay for the entire thing, which was sad.

These tips are things we might already know, but are good things to be reminded of when we go out into the field of student teaching or when we get a job.  These are things that we should be aware of even now.  Personally, I would love to have this superintendent come to Clarion and give another workshop.  He gave some great ideas, and I’m glad there are administrators that are still passionate about music today.

April 9, 2015

Music Advocacy Within the Classroom

AUTHOR: Marcy Rose Sallack

Music advocacy is a topic that has really hit home in the last few years and the importance of it is more necessary now than ever. I think that it is a topic we normally don’t think about when in the classroom. However, in the classroom we can advocate for music the most. As teachers, it is important that we consistently fight for our program when teaching our students. By using best practices and encouraging our students to reach their full potential we are doing just that. By being a fun, encouraging, yet strict teacher we earn the respect of our students and they return that by being enthusiastic about the program. If students enjoy band or choir then their friends want to join. More students in the classroom shows more interest in the program to those just concerned with numbers but it also allows for more opportunities as a large ensemble or for small chamber ensembles. Students who enjoy the program also earn support of the program through their parents. There is another way to advocate for music, the parents. As much as there will the parent or parents you can’t stand talking to you still need to be civil and friendly to keep them supportive of the program. Being cordial will be worth its weight in gold. Not only do you need parents in support of their student being in band or choir but you also need parents in support of the entire program. They will be the ones to give support when dealing with the school board. They will be the ones to consistently call and annoy the board until the point that they realize that the program is really needed. You also need the town where you live to like you as well. If the band has played the same version of the Star Spangled Banner for the last fifty years and you live in a conservative community it is important that you uphold the tradition (you may be able to make a few unnoticeable tweaks). The same goes for a parade the band participates in every year or a competition you think you should compete in, the parade always wins. The parents and public will be the ones that come to the concerts and who buy cookie dough and hoagies for fundraisers. You need them on your side. Another way you advocate for your program is through you music selections. If you pick a field show or a piece for the spring concert that the students relate to and identify with. They will be more excited for band or choir and will stick with it the next year to see what new pieces they’ll get to perform. They’ll also probably be more likely to practice. The public will also enjoy your program more. One of the biggest ways you can advocate for program is being a nice, agreeable, non-confrontational person. You need to respect your students, their parents, and the general public to gain their respect. Their respect and support is the best advocacy you can get for your program.

March 18, 2015

Fundraising Fundamentals: An Introduction to Fundraising for Your Music Program

AUTHOR: Katie Kohlenburg

As a future music educator, it’s important to understand that your program won’t have an unlimited, or even a substantial budget to help with things such as instrument repairs, repertoire, transportation to PMEA festivals, hosting festivals, etc… Therefore, it’s important to figure out ways to raise money without pulling funds out of your own pocket.

The Basics of Fundraising
  • Get started right. Hold a team meeting and set a goal that will challenge your team, class, or program.
  • Encourage everyone to do their part. Fundraising does not have to be boring. You can make it fun!
  • Involve your program in the fundraiser. Allow everyone to throw in their own ideas and give some input. Remember that students always have the best ideas.
  • Focus on the mission. Remember that fundraising is not about the money. It’s about the values and mission of the music program.
  • Remember to not just ask for money, but instead ask others to actually take part in the fundraising.
  • Work together and have fun!
  • Always say thank you to your donors. Write a letter expressing your gratitude. It’s always the best way to show how much you appreciate their support.

How to Fundraise Strategically
  • Always fundraise with a clear vision of your program’s development strategy. In other words, figure out how your program is going to develop its goals.
  • Fundraising should never be donor-led but rather linked to programs that can help make a lasting difference.
  • “Advocacy is vital to secure funding.”
  • Donors will donate to your music program not because the program has needs, but because you meet their needs.
  • Build relationships. Fundraising is about relationships. People want to give to other people. People will want to support a cause because they support you. This can include family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc…
  • Fundraising is an ongoing process. Once people have donated to your program, continue to build that relationship by sending them updates. Invite them to events. Ask for a donor’s feedback. Let them have some input.
  • Many “no’s” may come before a yes. If someone doesn’t want to donate, respect their decision. Ask if you can keep them informed of future fundraisers and events.
  • Develop your case first. Before your program starts asking for money, it’s important to understand why you are fundraising in the first place. People will be more likely to donate if they know it’s for a specific cause or event, rather than, “Oh, we just want to make money.”
  • Fundraising is a learning process. A program will become better at fundraising by reflecting on how they did and coming up with ways to do things better.

Fundraising Ideas
  • Host a Spaghetti Dinner
  • World’s Finest Chocolate
  • Canning outside Walmart (or another major store in your area)
  • Eat’n Park smiley cookies
    • Eat’n Park will design your cookies however you would like.
    • Pay $6.00 per dozen when you first buy the cookies.
    • So, you would make $12 per every dozen you sell.
    • For instance, if you sell 10 boxes of cookies, you’ll make a profit of $120.00.
  • Daffin’s Candy bars -  http://www.daffins.com/fundraisers.htm
  • Wristband Fundraiser - The bracelets can have a saying such as, “Music never dies” or something quirky/unique like that.
  • Jane’s Stromboli
    • Make 40% profit.
    • Sell each stromboli for $3.00 and you make a profit of $1.40 per stromboli
    • For instance, sell 40 strombolis and make $56.00.
  • Ask a restaurant, such as Applebee’s, to donate a portion of their profits on the night of your concert. Encourage students’ families to go for dinner before the concert or grab dessert after!
  • In your concert program, sell some advertising space to parents and local businesses.
  • Host a benefit concert and invite students, teachers, alumni, and community members to perform.
  • Host a karaoke night for friends and their families. Charge a small entrance fee and/or sell refreshments.

February 24, 2015

Music Philosophy

AUTHOR: Brian Miller

Throughout the world there are many different ways people think about music. For some it’s a means of escape from the harshness of the real world. Others it is a means of expression unlike any other. Here I will be talking about a few general music philosophies that are common throughout the minds of music advocates and hobbyists.

For some music is a means of escape from a not so pleasant world. Some one might have a situation in their place of work that is tough to deal with. Others might have a bad home life and wish to find peace in a chaotic home. Life can be hard to handle sometimes, and people have different ways of cooping with this. For the musically inclined, the sanctuary they find is in playing music. Music to these individuals represents a light at the end of a tunnel. Things might be bad, but no matter how bad they get, they can always rely on music to be there to aid them in their time of need. 

For others, music is a means of expression. While anyone who peruses music must have a passion for the art, the people who use music as a tool of expression or creativity seem the most driven from my experiences. It’s not about just strumming along on a guitar, but it’s about what kind of feelings can I provoke from my listeners. What kind of expression or emotion am I portraying with this song? Others see music at a spiritual level, relating it to a connection with the divine. This kind of music appreciation gives music a whole new purpose and meaning. To the music educator music can mean a multitude of different things. To some it’s a language of expression, or a tool to be used to help students. For others it is a way of connecting with various cultures and history from all over the world. It is important for the music educator to not only teach his students the fundamentals of music, but to also share the passion, history, and beauty that music possesses.

Music is a cornerstone in the culture of many people from around the world. With each nation, country, state, or even person, music has a different meaning. For some, music is an escape from the troubles of real life. For others it is a means of emotional expression and
passion. These are but a few of the many ideas about what music is to people. Though everyone might have a different view about what music is, it is important that we all realize that music gives excitement and beauty to life and is something that has a huge impact on the lives that it touches.

December 11, 2014

How-To Write for the Euphonium

AUTHOR: Daniel J. Conrad

In the modern era of music there is an instrument that is becoming ever common and popular in America, and that instrument is the euphonium. It is also ever apparent that composers and arrangers often have issues when it come to writing for the euphonium. Here I will be discussing a few key guidelines to keep in mind when scoring for the euphonium.

To begin one must understand the range of the euphonium. Typically a safe usable range for the euphonium falls between Bb in the staff (bass clef) or Bb 2, and F above the staff or F4. This range is really where the euphonium will function the best in. Going above and below these notes are best reserved for professional euphoniumists, as it is difficult to be able to play these notes at different dynamics with consistency and clarity. The range is also limited to the kind of instrument students have. A four valve horn is necessary to play the notes from E2 to C2. A compensating horn would be necessary to produce the B following that C. Now the last thing to consider when regarding the range is the tone quality. Tone quality above F4 tend to thin out and be bright. While notes below the staff will have an inconsistent quality in tone and have a bit of a “bite”.  Euphoniums also have the ability to read Bass, Bb Treble, and Tenor clef. Tenor is no longer a common sight today as it was in the 60s to 80s, but it can still be used to eliminate excessive ledger lines.

Now that we know the range of the instrument let’s get into how it can be used in bands. Often times orchestrators are unaware of what to do with the euphonium. This leads to often doubling with either a trombone two or three part or a double of the tuba. This is acceptable and certainly adds to the bass line and chords produced from the trombone section, the euphonium can be added to much more. One section that is often never thought of is combining the euphonium with the french horn. Now the horn often has rhythmic passages to aid with harmonies or is used for counter melodies. The euphonium makes a fine addition to any horn section. It can add a lovely bass voice to any horn section and when written in the upper tessitura, the euphonium can even produce a similar tone quality to that of the horn. The euphonium also has the ability to add to the clarinet section. Its mellow sound and form a firm foundation to maintain any light texture that they may be producing. Going along with light textures, it may sometimes be difficult to create a bass line that may be overbearing for a lighter section. Here is where the euphonium can be used best. The euphonium will allow for a light but present bass line to be made but in a dark mellow matter. Additionally using the euphonium for melodic passages in lighter section will add to any piece. It will allow for a lower mellow voice to be used without the need for dynamics. Understanding these options, we must also look into special effects the euphonium is capable of.

Rips are a common feature of horns that are never thought of when working with euphoniums. Due to the nature of the instrument though, the ability to perform rips are quite easy and should be taken advantage of by modern composers. Along with rips, any half-valving techniques can be utilized as well. This is often used in jazz for trumpets, and when writing band arrangements of jazz pieces, this technique should also be considered. This technique also allows for euphoniums to perform glisses. The valves being pressed down puts the horn in between partials and allows for easy glisses between notes in a manner similar to a trombone gliss. Finally the option to use a mute with the euphonium is under used. It allows for a color that is vaguely metallic and nasally, but is similar in to that of the bassoon. This allows for use with the double reeds to aid in light sections with them. This tone quality also allows for the euphonium to produce a stopped quality similar to that of the horn. The euphonium is an instrument that is understood but is becoming ever more prominent. Every high school band director should consider these traits of writing for the euphonium when performing their own arrangements of pieces or for encouraging students to study euphonium.

How-To Replace the Cork on a Clarinet

AUTHOR: Katie Kohlenburg

When realizing that a cork is rotting or has gone bad, it can be difficult to repair yourself. However, it can be done. Just be aware that if the cork is too thick for the clarinet, and you have to force the corked part into the tenon, the joint can possibly crack. There are a series of steps to take to ensure that the cork is being replaced correctly and with the right thickness.

Remove the old, rotting cork from its bed completely, preferably in one piece. Then carefully measure the old piece of cork’s exact width and length. Also be sure to check the strength of the cork. Use a pencil to mark the exact size you will need on the new sheet of cork. If it just so happens to be that the old cork is not in one piece for you to measure it correctly, simply cut the new cork a bit bigger. This will allow you to always cut it to size later. The new cork should fit right into the bed of the joint where the old cork was. Keep in mind that cork is elastic and will stretch a bit. Before applying the glue, check to make sure the cork fits well. There can be a little bit of space because, and again, the cork will stretch out a bit. Before gluing the cork onto the joint, also be sure that it is the correct thickness (or strength). If it is too thin, depending on which cork you are fixing, the mouthpiece or the joint will not fit correctly. If the cork is too thick, the joints will not fit together, and the bore could potentially crack if you use too much force to try and put the pieces together. However, it is an easy fix if the cork is too thick. Simply sand away the excess cork. When the cork is finally just right, glue it on the joint. Do not forget to glue both ends of the cork together! Once the cork is glued, it is in place, however, it may still be a bit strong, and you may still have to sand off some excess cork. Make sure to sand the cork down so that the mouthpiece, or the joint, is still sitting exactly centered. In other words, make sure it is concentrical. Once you are sure the cork is glued on correctly, with the right amount of thickness and strength, apply cork grease to the cork. It is important to note that since the cork is new, it will expand a little due to humidity, but it should eventually compress itself because of the tenon’s pressure.

Ho-To Care for Your Reeds

AUTHOR: Sarah Butler

Reeds are a vital part of a single reed player’s life.  Reeds can be tricky little monsters, and I do mean monsters.  If you have a bad reed, it can affect your tone and pitch accuracy.  There are several ways to make sure you get the most life out of your reed(s).  As a single reed player, you will need the following: reed trimmer, reed knife (or a pocket knife), and sandpaper.  A reed trimmer looks like a giant fingernail clipper. To use a reed trimmer, you need to have a flat surface near you to set the reed trimmer on. On the reed trimmer, there is a safety latch, for the reed, and a little knob. The little knob is to adjust the space between the safety latch and the trimmer to accommodate your reed. You must be VERY careful when using a reed trimmer.  Once you place your reed in the trimmer, pick the trimmer up and check the back to see how much of your reed you are about to cut off.  This part is the most important reason of why you need to be careful.  If you cut off too much of the reed, the reed will be “dead”.  The reed knife and sandpaper serve for the same purpose. The reed knife/pocket knife and sandpaper are to thin out the reed.  This makes the reed easier to play.  You shave little slivers of reed off your reed to get your reed to your liking.  The same goes for the sandpaper.  You can also use the sand paper to smooth out your reed.