Sunday, December 13, 2009


Everything you need to know so you can conduct is in this video. Would make a great lesson!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Quote of the Year

From Will Richardson workshop:

"I don't know any kids or teachers that have SmartBoards in their bedroom; why aren't we focusing on the technologies that our kids have in hand?"

Concert Program

SHS Band
1. St. Thomas………………….Sonny Rollins, arr. Berry
2. All About The Blues………….Peter Blair
3. Sidewinder………………….Lee Morgan, arr. Berry

SHS Choir:
1. Adoramus Te…….……………..…Giovanni Pierluigi Da Palestrina
2. Ave Maria…………………………………..………..Jacob Arcadelt
3. The Little Drummer Boy…………....................… arr. Jay Althouse
5. Dirait-On…………...….. Morten Lauridsen
6. Lollipop………………...………..Beverly Ross, arr. Raugh/Dixon
7. One Fine Day……………………………Carole King, arr. Sharon/Raugh
8. Carol of the Bells……………...…..Leontovich, arr. Peter Wilhousky

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


What is a grade? Is it a measure of competence or is it an average of test scores? How does behavior enter your grades?

Attendance and promptness are part of our standards and of our grades. That is an essential quality of performance and being a musician. I also ensure that all nine music standards are reflected somewhere in each quarter. Major concert time obviously favors Standard 1, 2 (Sing, Play).

I work hard to get everyone an A in the class. The bell curve does not make for a quality ensemble sound (and where did that idea come from that it is sound educational practice anyway??).

I'd love some comments or suggestions on how to ensure the grade at the end of the year means something.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Where are we?

I have been seeing marked progress in the ensembles the past few weeks. A number of things happened:
  • We had regional auditions and did very well.
  • Both 4th grade bands really stepped up and can play the basic songs now (Mary Had a Little Lamb, etc...).
  • HS Choir is rehearsing well. We make progress in each rehearsal. Some kids who were hardly singing at all are now really shining.
But, some kids are being left behind. They are absent a lot. They don't practice. They don't give the effort. Now they are looking around, seeing the other kids excel and they have a decision to make. Do I stay where I am or do I get on the bus? Lets hope they get on the bus because we are starting to go places!

Thursday, November 12, 2009


If you teach arranging or any type of music this is a great example to play to demonstrate Rule #1. Keep it simple.

Still writing

Today I have spent a few hours in curriculum. For the most part this is just formatting, putting stuff in the right slot. Soon the real thinking and debating has to begin.

There currently isn't a curriculum for the classes I teach. There may have been one back in the day, but its not here now. This is my job for the year. If I can do that then we can start tracking data and measuring progress.

I thought Google Sites was the best place to put it. Wiki environment, able to be edited, commented on, etc... All other curriculums are printed out, which I just don't see as a viable option.

I hope to start attaching examples of student work soon as well as data and assessments. Then it will become more of a living document and be much more useful.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


We have to learn how to crawl before we can walk. We have to walk before we can jump.

I'm definitely having an interesting week. So much is going right:
  • HS Choir is starting to get it.
  • My 4th grade saxophones at Lopresti sound amazing.
  • Developmental band clarinets accomplished ten weeks of work in two weeks. They are learning!
  • My trombones at both schools are improving fast.
And we have to do a lot:
  • We have to show up and show up on time. Nothing matters more.
  • We have to build culture. We must establish and maintain a standard of excellence.
  • We will be relentless in our pursuit of results. We take no days off.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Highs and Lows

Having a rough week. Kids are not leading like I need them to. Too many issues with lost music, practicing, etc...

So....lets remember what elite looks like.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


I use Pandora a fair amount. Pandora uses algorithms to create your own personal stations. You can have a Pat Methany station, or a Trombone station. The computer will find music and play it. Occasionally you click "I like it" and the algoritihm improves.

Now, you can't go back and play a specific song. This is a huge disadvantage. Also, as the algorithm improves I am sure there are less surprises. If you like diversity in your listening (ala college or nonprofit radio) this can be challenging.

The article in todays NYTimes about Pandora raises interesting questions about how we teach listening skills. Do you like artists or minor chords? Do you like jazz or just acoustic music? Do you like one chord tunes or complex harmony? How do you know you like it?

Should we use Pandora in class? Should we evaluate student choices? Could we use this as a tool?

Saturday, October 10, 2009


I have been spending a lot of time working on curriculum lately. There is not a well established curriculum here and it is sorely needed. We need scope and sequence. We need standard assessments. We need benchmarks to measure our success.

I believe community based decisions are central to any curriculum. What do you believe a high school graduate should be able to do? I have several ideas and would love to hear from you.

A high school graduate should be able to:
  • Sing in tune. When the birthday cake comes out the singing should sound good.
  • Have a coherent conversation about music. They should be able to go to a symphony concert and talk to the doctors, lawyers, and politicians about what they heard.
  • Sing songs to their children when they are born.
  • Choose appropriate music for weddings/funerals/etc...
  • Dance effectively. Understand the connection between dance and music.
  • Have fun. Stop worrying - get up and sing.
If this happens then I think the more music teacher specific language takes care of itself. Could we set up a curriculum that meets these goals?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Full Circle

I had a nice meeting today with a former student who is now a band director in New Haven. I can still picture her eager little face staring up at me the first day of 6th grade. She is experiencing all of the first year issues that band directors face. She is working way, way too hard.

Above all she needs to prioritize and manage her time. But that is so challenging. I worked 90-100 hours a week for many years. I know that work paid off. But I also know that work absolutely drained me. I have become much more efficient.

As this program grows, I can easily get sucked into the double shift again. Work 6am-2pm on the main job, then 2pm-10pm on the "after school" part. I'm spending tomorrow working on plans, curriculum, and budgets. I'm hoping this time allows me to cut out the "extras" so I can focus my efforts on time with students.


I watched Dudamel conduct the Berlin Philharmonic last night on Ovation TV. I would love to play under him. What a dynamic conductor!

The LA Philharmonic has an iPhone app that you can also play on their website. Kind of like Guitar Hero. Now I tried it and it doesn't quite make sense as the "cues" don't quite match the instruments but its a nice attempt. Its also a good way to get Berlioz into the classroom.

Check out this video of Dudamel with the Simon Bolivar Orchestra. A bunch of kids!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Music Research

Music improves your IQ, your test scores, and the amount of information you remember. Britain is pouring a ton of money into music education because of this.

Are there other interventions that work as well?

Monday, September 7, 2009


I have been writing and reading a lot about planning for the year. Planning requires the following:
  • Scope and sequence. What are you supposed to learn and in what order? There is not an existing scope and sequence. That's OK, it gives me something to do this year.
  • Data. Where are the students on the benchmarks? Again, there doesn't seem to be data or benchmarks. That's OK, it gives me something to do this year.
  • Rotation. Students can sit in choir for four years. I can't give the same introductory solfeg lesson each September. I have to scaffold each lesson for each group. This is incredibly time consuming and requires scope, sequence, and data. None of which we have.
So, now what? This is what I see so far:
  • Beginning band is pretty much straight-forward. We have the support of the general music teacher, which is sooo helpful. Lessons I'm ready for. There is much to do in creating culture and program.
  • Developmental band did very well on their reading. We have started their instruments (flute-clarinet-trumpet). I haven't figured out how to do this all at once (rather than flutes on Monday, Trumpets on Tuesday, etc...). They don't know enough to work independently yet. These are good kids.
  • Choir is moving much faster than expected. Half of them are freshman and they can all sing. I owe a lot of credit to the middle school director. Now I can do some hard core assessing and start selecting repertoire. We have done some solfeg but I haven't really tested their reading yet.
  • Band has a performance in 10 days!! This is what I was most worried about. But they will do fine. I want to get through the gauntlet of the football game and then settle into our reading and ear training. This band of ten (yes, ten) will have to be very versatile.
  • Plus I have to work on curriculum, coach cross country, and get home for dinner!
So, this week I will block off the year. I will start to plan concerts and work back from there. There are so many avenues to take. But I feel it is important to instill (and install) my basic music values:
  • You will read/play/write/sing in any key.
  • You will show up on time.
  • You will play/sing with great tone.
  • You will believe in yourself.
  • You will believe in your program.
I have to find the lessons that make that happen.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Pep Band

Here is the current instrumentation for our Pep Band:

Alto Sax
Bass Guitar
2 Bass Drum

We had our first rehearsal today and it went pretty well. We learned three cheers that I have used forever and started to work on the songs for the stands. I hope to have the cheers plus 3-4 songs ready for the first game. We also have the National Anthem to work on.

We definitely need to read a lot. If we can read better we can play a lot more music. My challenge now is to introduce those lessons while preparing for the game in two weeks (!!).

Monday, August 31, 2009

Beginning Band

This is how I am setting up 4th/5th grade band:

1. I spoke to each class for 5-10 minutes on Friday. I handed out an interest form.
2. Those forms started to come back today. I will meet with each student, evaluate them, and send information home for parents. Rental forms will be included.
3. I will work with teachers to get a schedule that works for everyone.
4. I will go after the stragglers. I hope to get everyone who should be in band on to an instrument.

Ideally this gets each kid on the correct instrument. We get a balanced and happy band.

Thoughts? Anything I should do differently?

Monday, August 24, 2009


I wrote this with my team a few years back and I can't find much to change. Thoughts?

The purpose of music education is to prepare students for a lifetime of active, satisfying involvement with music in a variety of forms. Each student needs to develop an appreciation for music and the arts through exposure to different styles and genres and to experience the use of a variety of media.

In this age of ever-changing technology, music remains a constant. It is our responsibility to ensure that students do not lose touch with both the historical and cultural traditions of society. Through a diverse musical education, students are not only able to express and communicate the aesthetics of their own culture; they are able to participate in traditions that are representative of a multitude of belief systems from around the globe.

Music develops higher-order thinking and creative problem solving. It fosters self-discipline and self esteem. Students of music learn to analyze, reflect upon, and constantly improve the quality of their work, resulting in a sense of achievement and success. Music offers these experiences not only on an individual level but also on a collective one. Leadership opportunities are presented, and the success of the collective goal is contingent upon the individual's responsibility. By developing musical skills, understanding, and appreciation, students are prepared to make both musical and non-musical contributions to society.

Music education allows students of varying abilities to explore the full potential of their creative talents and intelligences. Participation in music offers students opportunities to succeed and excel. A quality music education program increases learning in other subjects and creates a positive and inclusive school atmosphere.

Albert Einstein said that imagination is more important than knowledge. Through a quality music education we hope to foster independent, self-directed, and creative learners that will prepare students for developing and enjoying the new frontiers in our culture and society.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Now what?

I've been working hard this week to get equipment for the developmental band class at the high school. I'm hoping to purchase some instruments since we have really only two baritones and a tuba here. Makes it tough to share!

My idea is to do the following:

Sept: Recorder, basics, reading, etc...
Oct-Dec: Students learn instrument #1. I hope to have trumpets, clarinets, and flutes. They will perform on this instrument at the winter concert.
January-Feb: Rotate instrument. Student learns new instrument, but hopefully this moves faster since they can read at this point.
March: Student learns third instrument.
April-June: Student is assigned (or student chooses) their best instrument. Performs with full band at Spring Concert.

Now, we only have 8-10 kids in the regular band. So getting this right is a huge deal.

Thoughts? Suggestions?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Post #1

Here we go....

I have started a new job as band-choir director at Seymour High School in Connecticut. I have taught at this school for the past three years as a web design instructor and have transferred into this position. I will also teach elementary band in two elementary schools.

I'm not sure where I will go with the blog but above all I hope to make this about my experiences as I tackle this opportunity. I hope to share ideas and get feedback. I hope my students read this blog and work on communicating as well.

I will work on setting this up and getting the bells and whistles going. Some things I hope to write about shortly:
  • HS Developmental Band. I was handed this class, but we don't have any instruments. Its been the task for this week.
  • Discovering the culture of the department. What do the kids, parents, staff believe in? What should be the role of the department?
  • Pep Band with eight kids. I am not sure what we will be playing.
  • 20 teenage girls in choir vs. one "less-than-middle aged" man. I hope this is fun. It should be great.