We've all heard the phrase "practice makes perfect." A more accurate statement would be "practice makes permanent." In whatever skill an individual is acquiring, repetition leads to creating habits. Therefore, practicing creates a permanence in any given skill. For us, practicing is a mastery of an instrument and musical competency. If we practice properly, we climb the ladder to higher levels of performance, to a deeper understanding of music. Once we get beyond the mechanics of playing the instrument, we're able to do more than just push down fingers and play pitches--we're able to create art.
"But I'm too busy to practice......"
Practicing doesn't have to consume your life. It's more about practicing consistently than putting in a lot of hours. For example, it is better to practice 10 minutes a day than to practice for an hour once a week. Just like studying for a test, the more often you revisit information, the better your brain will retain it.
Again, it's all about consistency. Practice a little each day to make a big difference.
No, not on an iPhone. Play your instrument. You use a specific set of muscles to play your instrument. Whether it be brass, woodwinds, or percussion, you must fine tune your muscles. You also must "stretch" and "exercise" your muscles! Think about how it feels to pay after holiday where you didn't play very much. It takes a while to regain your strength. Also, think about how tired your muscles are after a long rehearsal.
Think about how finely tuned a professional golfer's swing is...we must fine tune as well. And then create music. Golfers spend a lot of time at the driving range, we need to spend a lot of time in the practice room...which could actually be anywhere. You could even practice at the driving range, though I don't think the golfers would like that very much.
Just get more FaceTime..
Practice More to Enjoy Band More
Students that practice their instruments enjoy band more. I don't need to quote some official music education study to know this fact, I've seen it with my own eyes every year since I started teaching.
Students that practice tend to enjoy band.
The students that don't practice, don't typically enjoy band as much and often end up quitting :(
WHY IS THIS???
The answer is simple. It comes down to engagement. To illustrate this point, let's make an analogy.
Story Time with McAllister
Let's say there's a really tall mountain and your group of friends is hiking to the top. You know that the view will be extraordinary! Well, you set out and realize that this is a really tough hike. You get tired. You get fatigued. You're thirsty. Your legs hurt. You sit down to rest for a second. You catch your breath and look up only to realize all of your friends are gone! They literally left you behind. Suddenly a difficult hike is made worse because you didn't keep up. Disheartened, you wait for your friends to come back down. They talk about how awesome the view was and show you pictures. You're faced with the fact that you just didn't make it. And you decided to never go hiking again. Because hiking is not fun. Because you're out of shape. And your friends are not.
** BUT WHAT IF YOU DECIDED TO GET IN SHAPE AND HIKE THE MOUNTAIN AGAIN?? **
Instead of giving up, you decide to be determined. You exercise every day, walking/hiking/running just a little bit further each time. You're smart about it too. You know it's all up hill, so you find the steepest hill around and hike it 2, 3, 4....10 times. You build your stamina. Then you go to that group of friends and say let's hike that mountain again. This time you're ready. You are at the front of the pack. In fact, you're so in shape, it's easy. And when you get to the top, the view is even better that you ever could have imagined. It looks just like the pictures... but it FEELS like accomplishment. And suddenly you realize that quitting band would be ridiculous... worst decision ever. Because you pushed past your limits and got something glorious in return. And then you decide to hike a taller mountain. And play a more difficult piece.
A great piece of music is like a beautiful landscape. Maybe you like mountains. Maybe you like valleys. Maybe you like the city skyline. Maybe you like the countryside. Music comes in all forms. But in order to FULLY experience it, you have to make it to the top.
Playing an instrument requires tenacity. So be tenacious. Go after it. Get good at this. Really good. You may not play your instrument forever, but you can certainly take your determination with you. You can take the practice skills learned and apply them to your next passion. Who knows, maybe you'll be the next Edmund Hillary.
Band Kids are the BEST
What an excellent week. The kids have worked diligently day after day, with great attitudes and work ethics throughout. I'm so pleased with the willingness to jump in and get things done. I don't really need to teach the meaning of initiative, it already happens in every situation. Our band students are such great workers.
What We Learned
This first week was about setting a foundation. The main goal was to get our basics down and understand the process about how we do everything. From how we stand at attention to how we set drill. All sections pushed forward with learning and memorizing the first "Fire" movement of the show. We will continue next week and hopefully have the first movement ready for the Community Preview on Friday, August 12th!
Aside from learning how to work hard and focus during rehearsal, we had several guided lessons throughout the week. I believe that developing students' character is as important as anything we do in band...and life lessons are amplified in marching band!
Words of the Week
Day 1 - Excellence
Excellence is the word of the season. Throughout the first day and the week, we always came back to excellence. This word drives all of our decisions in and around rehearsal. It helps the directors, staff, and students realize that there's a driving force behind all that we do. It also helps steer us to our end goal of being the best we can possibly be. Regardless of how any results ever turn out, if we have pushed ourselves to excellence, then we can always be proud of the outcome.
Day 2 - Tenacity
Tenacity is essential in marching band. Marching band doesn't happen at the snap of the fingers and sometimes it takes a while to get it correct. We must have done some drill moves 20 times to get 80 people to do it correctly...but we did get it correct. We will be tenacious and we will accomplish our goals.
(Note: tenacity is an SAT word, so we're also increasing our vocabulary)
Day 3 - Integrity
Our main focus with integrity is doing the right thing. There are so many situations in which students are present with several options of actions. Doing what we should do is not always what we want to do. We spoke at length about how to navigate situations to better ourselves and have integrity.
We also discussed taking responsibility for one's actions. When you make a mistake...own up to it! I was AMAZED at how this took hold. When in rehearsal, if someone played something incorrectly, the student would often raise their hand, take responsibility and we'd move on. What and incredible amount of maturity in high school students (this situation happened multiple times in every rehearsal). So proud of these kids!
It was truly a wonder to watch these students make selfless decisions for the betterment of the group, time and time again.
Day 4 - Patience
There's not a lot to write about patience other than we are constantly working on being patient in these times of instant gratification. Marching band is the antithesis of instant gratification!!!! We have to put in long hours of hard work that almost never pays off immediately. Sometimes you have to stand still and wait patiently for 10 to 15 minutes at a time! Yet again, our students do so well with this concept and it really is amazing to watch them rehearse.
Day 5 - Community
I started speaking about community a lot last year. I continued this word after a week of band camp where we really worked on getting to know one another while working together. As I told the students, the band room is home. Students should always feel that they belong, with endless possibilities of friends and people who are there when needed. In the years (high school) of one's life that can sometimes be hard to find sincerity in all the people they meet, I hope we can break that mold in our band community. I hope that we can create a place where all students feel welcome at all times. I hope that students, directors, and parents are able to make great memories that will last a lifetime.
The band is a good place to be and I'm excited to see where we go. I'm excited for week tw0 of band camp.
As band members, we fall under the umbrella of "performing arts." This refers to anything associated with live performance/performers. Performing arts groups come in all types; from bands and orchestras, to choirs and musicals. So in band, not only are we learning the nuts & bolts of music, but also how to use those tools. We want to be proficient (or better) at our respective instruments, then use those skills to put on an exciting, entertaining performance.
I recently took a quick trip to Disney World and found myself in awe (as I always am) of the performances that take place within the park. The production value of everything is so high! The glamorous costumes, the sets, everything. Obviously, Disney spares no expense on the customer experience, but the colors and costumes weren't what I found myself focusing on..
I was enamored with the performers. The performers were convincing in all aspects. When watching the various shows, all I could think about was how much I wish all my students were there to see them!
Watch a little bit of the video below, specifically the dancers that are not in costume. They're all in. People are excited because they're excited (and exciting). We need to remember how important it is to be convincing with our performance-being all in.
I also recently stumbled upon Disney's All-American College Marching Band. From what I understand, this is a summer job for all these musicians. Since this DIRECTLY applies to what we do as band performers, watch this and take notes. Just like before, these performers are all in. They're incredible musicians, and they give the movements/visuals just as much enthusiasm. The crowd goes wild because the entertainment value is so high.. and let's be honest, people are not excited about these performers because of the colorful uniforms!! Enjoy, but realize that this is exactly WHAT WE DO.
We live in a day and age that computers and machines can do a lot. Especially in the music world. However, stadiums, theme parks, and other venues can pump music in over the loud speakers as much as they want, but it'll never be like live performers giving it their best. Watching these videos excites me for the possibilities of what we can achieve here with the Viking Band.
Summer has arrived! What a great year it has been! Now it's time to refresh and recharge. This is also a great time to get some things done before we start next year. Here goes..
Firstly, it's best to play your instrument some over the summer. I'm not going to pretend that everyone will be practicing for several hours a day (if you do, awesome!), but it would be great to pick your instrument up and play every so often.
Just like we do Spring Cleaning on our homes and the band room and such, we need to do some on our instruments as well. Read the following for some things to consider:
Note: Woodwinds, DO NOT give your instruments a bath. You will ruin your instrument.
Brass have the most maintenance to do. This is a great time to give your instrument a bath!
Here's what to do:
After the bath is a great time to run your snake through the instrument to clean out any left-over residue.
Here are some things to do on woodwinds:
What to Play?
Summer is also a great time to work on some things you don't have as much time for during the school year. Here are some suggestions to explore:
THE KEY IS TO PLAY YOUR INSTRUMENT > MAKE. MUSIC.
Where this has less to do with playing, it has more to do with the marching band folks and just being active and healthy! We certainly want to be used to the sun come July.
Fun in the Sun Days
Every Tuesday we will have a planned activity from 9am to 12pm. This is about community and exercise. Come join us and have a good time! The goal is simple - fun.
Spartanburg has a lot of places to get out and walk/run/play/etc. Here's some suggestions:
HAPPY SUMMER! SEE YOU ON TUESDAYS!
As my colleagues keep asking how things are "winding down" for the year, I can only laugh. We still have so much going on!! It's all incredibly exciting though, what an amazing community we have here in D7!
Let's start with the banquet. What a special event! I had such a great time celebrating the year with everyone. I was particularly glad that the venue changed worked well. We have so many people that have accomplished so much this year, it was nice to be together to honor them. It was also nice to bid farewell to the seniors, they've done so much to make the band a special place. We'll definitely miss them (but look forward to seeing them find success beyond Spartanburg High School).
We start marching band this week and I'm SO excited. I've been working hard on planning for months now.. It's nice to be able to speak openly about all the plans. I am also thoroughly enjoying telling students about all the clues the missed :) Fire and Ice is going to be EPIC next year!
We also have more performing to do! On Friday (May 13), we're providing music for a memorial ceremony at the Spartanburg County Sheriff's Office, as well as providing music for Jazz on Main. That will be a big day for us as we continue to weave our music into the Spartanburg Community. I'm thankful for the invitation to perform at both events. The first will be a poignant experience for the students; it will mean a lot for us to be there. Jazz on the Square will be a lot of fun!
So AFTER this week, we can talk about winding down. Folks, what a year! It's been a whirlwind, but it's been fun.
Concert in the Park
The idea behind the Spring Concert this year was a throwback to what band concerts would have been a hundred years ago. Before amplification was common, people used to gather for outdoor band concerts to listen to all types of music. Much of the music consisted of popular marches (i.e. John Phillip Sousa), orchestral transcriptions, and other music of the day. These concerts were some of the first "pops" concerts.
In the same vein, our Spring Concert was very much a "pops" concert. And though we weren't able to have it outside, it was quite nice to do a more laid-back concert. The students performed tremendously and played a lot of wonderful music!
The Spring Concert was a great way to close out performances for the year. We're all looking forward to the banquet Thursday night. It will be a good time to celebrate all of our accomplishments!