Band programs...are you satisfied with?

madgolfer

Senior Member
Hello. Need some inspiration for an upcoming paper. For those of you who are in band programs (at any level, middle school through college/university) are you satisfied with what you are learning in your program?

To clarify, I used to be a music teacher in the public schools. I got really tired of teaching the same kind of music (of old or dead white men) to my students who seemed less interested year in and out. I felt like I was serving the expectations of the community (X-Mas concert, Memorial Day parades, football games...blah, blah) and not the needs or interests of my students. So I quit and went back for a Ph.D...hence this post.

So my questions are:

1) Do you like the music you play in band? Why or why not?

2) Do you like the ensembles your program offers? Why or why not?

3) What would you change about your program to make it better?

AND

4) If you are not part of a band program...please tell me why! I am not necessarily advocating that band should be the primary musical experience for everyone. What DIDN'T appeal to you about joining a band or other music program? Did something keep you out?

Even if you are no longer part of a music program or were one of the people that pursued music outside of school, feel free to comment.

Thanks in advance.
 

maddrummr

Platinum Member
1) Yes. My director always takes the time to explain the story behind the peice and explain the composer. He also requires us to do research about the composer and the peice itself. Thus, the band as a whole has the same idea of what is going on behind te music. We learn alot about all types of music and enjoy learning. When it comes to playing, I personally love venturing into different time periods, composers, and styles of music all within one rehearsal.

2) Yes. I am involved in : Marching band, symphonic band, pep band, jazz band, and a small percussion ensemble. There is always something to look forward to music wise. The atmosphere in each program is great too.

3) I would not change anything really. My school has a wonderful program that is successful and fun. Unfotunatly our middle school is suffering from debt. If a referendum does not pass, the middle school will have to cut all extra-curriculars and extra programs such as band. If it doesn't pass, we won't have a band in a few years.
 

jeffwj

Platinum Member
I work closely with a few band directors and also teach students from a number of school districts. So I will use that experience, along with my own band program experience to give some insight. I will come at it from more of a percussion based angle.

I do see a wide variety of music played in the schools. The one middle school that I work with has a jazz band (which students really like) while other high schools
do not. Directors often will cancel the jazz program because there "is not enough interest" but how can someone become interested in an ensemble that does not exist?

Some schools have percussion ensembles (which the students also like) while other schools do not. Some high school percussion classes are working on 4 mallet marimba technique while other high schools would be lucky to have kids that play two mallets.

The school bands around here start in 6th grade (middle school) while many band programs in other counties start in 4th grade. It's a shame to see my young private students have to wait so long to join band.

Some band directors do not participate in outside events such as district festivals. This is a shame since it would really benefit the students.

Some band directors suggest private lessons while others do not. All of my students (high school and middle school) who auditioned for district band this year made it. The last two years, the first middle school snare drummer was from my studio (different person each year since one went to high school. So yes, private lessons do pay off, make the band teacher's job easier, and make the band sound better. I don't understand why some band directors don't state the importance of private lessons.

My own school experience.
Pros
It started in 4th grade
It had jazz band (for a while)
I got to audition for outside groups and make PA's district, regional, and state ensembles.

Cons
Too much emphasis placed on marching band
No percussion ensemble (though we did a percussion piece at a concert once)
The drummers did not have to play mallets

Jeff
 

madgolfer

Senior Member
Mads and Jeff, thank you for your responses. Seems that Jazz Band, Perc. Ensemble, private lessons, festivals and the like are desirable commodities? What if there were opportunities to study rock, rap, Afro-Cuban, Pop, etc. styles of music? Does this hold some appeal or no? What if there was a heavier tech side thrown in, like audio recording, composing software, SmartMusic practice software, etc.?

What about playing at sporting events, holiday concerts and graduations? "Heroes and Holidays" music curriculum. Ya or blah?
 

BillBachman

Gold Member
There are a lot of great music programs in certain parts of country. TX is just amazing. There's a lot of great marching percussion (indoor and fall marching season) going on in many parts of the country as well as really good well rounded percussion opportunities. It really depends on where you live, the director's vision and funding I think.
 

maddrummr

Platinum Member
What if there were opportunities to study rock, rap, Afro-Cuban, Pop, etc. styles of music? Does this hold some appeal or no? What if there was a heavier tech side thrown in, like audio recording, composing software, SmartMusic practice software, etc.?


Well To a point my high school offers this. We have a music unlimited type of class where the student is welcome to play and practice songs and styles of their choice (usually guitar players that play rock and such) They are required to also compose a song and record it as their final project. So they do get some basic training in recording and using that kind of equipment. Studying specific genres of music would catch the minds of few...but not enough to make it a class. But then again, my high school allows students to take "independent studies" with a sponsored teacher. This can allow the student to study whatever they please (if it holds some merit).

For me playing at school events is not terrible. Our band gets great support for most of our fellow classmates and a vast majority of the rest of the people in our town. We are appreciated greatly when we show up and that is much nicer than getting pennies thrown at us (which was [to my understanding] the case 12 or so years ago). It does get redundant after four years. But lucky for me, I don't have to play pomp and circumstance this year...I just get to listen.
 

jeffwj

Platinum Member
What if there were opportunities to study rock, rap, Afro-Cuban, Pop, etc. styles of music? Does this hold some appeal or no? What if there was a heavier tech side thrown in, like audio recording, composing software, SmartMusic practice software, etc.?
I would think that the school would have to have the classical and jazz side down first. Second, they would need to have the smaller ensembles such as percussion ensemble. Some schools offer class piano or class guitar.


What about playing at sporting events, holiday concerts and graduations? "Heroes and Holidays" music curriculum. Ya or blah?
Most school bands do already perform at events such as these.

*Also there is the fact that many programs are not getting the funding that they need to even exist. In Fairfax County, they are thinking about getting rid of elementary band and strings. Just take a look at this site (and sign the petition to keep music in our schools).
http://www.thepetitionsite.com/2/save-our-fairfax-county-public-schools-band-and-strings-programs

Jeff
 
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rogue_drummer

Gold Member
Interesting post!

I got interested in the middle school band program because my older brother played Alto Sax in the concert bands, orchestra, and jazz band. The middle school would "tour" the school district's elementary schools to get kids interested. I saw an outstanding drummer in middle school jazz band and told my parents I wanted to do THAT. That was after failed attempts at the French Horn and Guitar.

My education:
Beginning in 6th grade band and continuing through 8th grade. I was in beginning concert band, intermediate concert band, and "varsity" concert band, orchestra, and jazz band. We put on regular shows throughout the year to showcase our bands. And played musicals. All in all it was a decent middle school band program. We went to all the city and district contests we could.

In high school I was in marching band all 4 years and one concert band or another all 4 years. It was a decent program, but my gripes are....

A lot of emphasis placed on marching and concert bands, not enough emphasis placed on jazz band. Our high school only had 1 jazz band and it was all by tryout. So if you didn't make that particular jazz band, too bad - you weren't in.

It would have been soooo much better if they had muttiple jazz bands: beginning, intermediate, and advanced. The kids were interested, but after trying out and not making the one and only jazz band, they never pushed and tried out again. And the ones who did make it were treated like gods by the one and only director.

And no percussion ensemble - ever. No mallet training - ever.

In university a friend from my high school band encouraged me to join the marching band's drum line for a season. I did and loved it. But music wasn't my major. I only played one season but learned a ton.

And I took private lessons from the time I was in 6th grade through 9th grade, so that helped a bunch.
 

secondXheartbeat

Silver Member
1.) I liked some of the music depending on the percussion parts. I played drumset on arrangements of "Classical Gas" and "MacArthur Park," and had lots of cool 4-mallet parts and hand percussion as well. they required every percussionist to play 4-mallets at some point. I hated it at first but now I feel it really broadened my understanding of percussion and of music as a whole.

2.)The ensembles were great, we had marching band, competitive standstill drumlines, small percussion ensemble, larger percussion ensembles, as well as solo contests every year. I just wish they didn't cut the jazz band after my freshman year, I think it was cut due to emphasis on marching and lack of student interest.

3.)I would've liked to have seen more jazz education and our own indoor drumline. (Even though we had opportunities to audition for WGI indoor lines in the area as well as camps from DCI top ten corps such as the Cavaliers and Phantom Regiment.

Overall I see my band experience in high school as invaluable. during drumline our percussion director hired techs from Phantom, the Cavies, and from schools like University of North Texas and UT Austin. Private lessons were also a big deal, I had a lesson teacher from 6th-12th grade. I know for sure that I wouldn't be where I am in my playing without what I learned in band.
 

madgolfer

Senior Member
Great replies. It sounds like there is a preference for more jazz and percussion ensembles? Does everyone like playing for sporting/community events or is it just something you do? That's one of the controversial issues I want to address in the paper. I know that most programs do this already, but does anyone like doing this or is it just an opportunity to play?

Why does there need to be an established classical or jazz program before branching into others areas? I don't have an opinion on this, I am just interested in the reasoning. Do students need to start in traditional programs or just jump into rock, rap, etc.

Are classical and jazz programs appropriate starting places for every student interested in music?
 

jeffwj

Platinum Member
Why does there need to be an established classical or jazz program before branching into others areas? I don't have an opinion on this, I am just interested in the reasoning. Do students need to start in traditional programs or just jump into rock, rap, etc.

Are classical and jazz programs appropriate starting places for every student interested in music?
Classical and jazz programs give students the foundation and theory. As I said in my previous post, the funding many times is not even there for these core classes. Many schools wish that they had enough of a budget to do something more like you mentioned.

As far as playing for sports events, this helps the band to be funded. Sports (in the eyes of many) are more important than music. So the band is a "cheerleader" for the sports team. If it were not, it would probably not get as much funding. It's sad, but many times true.

Jeff
 

madgolfer

Senior Member
Classical and jazz programs give students the foundation and theory. As I said in my previous post, the funding many times is not even there for these core classes. Many schools wish that they had enough of a budget to do something more like you mentioned.

As far as playing for sports events, this helps the band to be funded. Sports (in the eyes of many) are more important than music. So the band is a "cheerleader" for the sports team. If it were not, it would probably not get as much funding. It's sad, but many times true.

Jeff
Thanks for the info! I agree that many programs live and die by their association with the sports program. A good point!
 

jeffwj

Platinum Member
One thing that is nice in this area is that you don't have to be in marching band to be in concert band. For a while it was mandatory, so the students that did sports or other activities could not be in band at all. Now the ones that are too busy for marching band can still take concert band class during the school day.

Jeff
 
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