A Formal Invitation to All!

This blog was originally intended to be a compendium of knowledge and experience. In order to accomplish this, I would like to formally invite those that are interested in becoming authors of this blog to let us know. All you need to do is sign up for an account on WordPress, and then I can add you as an author. Mike and I would remain administrators, but you would be able to add to the chaos whenever you wanted.

In order to ensure the safety of our blog, we would review your request, and if you are known to us or are already a credible blogger then you are golden!!! If we do not know you or you are new to this crazy blog stuff, tell us a little about yourself and let us know what you plan on contributing!

We look forward to hearing from you, and benefiting from your experiences and exploits!

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Time is a fickle friend

Sorry for the lack of posts.  The band room has been a crazy place!!!  I realized that I am the reason for my stress.  At the beginning of the year, I scheduled all of my concerts, trips, and assemblies.  Since this game is still new to me, I didn’t account for how much time each would take.  For example, a couple of weeks ago, I scheduled a trip on Thursday and a trip on Saturday.  Now, I know that seems crazy, but the group of kids going on Thursday was small, and it wasn’t that far away.  But I didn’t account for the fact that I would need to be a school by 5 a.m. on BOTH days!!  UGH!!

This week, I have a chamber music concert I scheduled, but didn’t think that a giant upcoming event in April would conflict.  Well….it has.  I am not able to practice what I need to practice for the April event, because I am stuck doing music and listening to soloists for the March event next week.  STOOPID!

Oh well.  Back to the drawing board for next year I suppose.

The last ill-panned event of the year is my recruiting trips.  I did not take into account how or when I was going to recruit.  I planned on taking a group or two down to the middle school, but that has not yet materialized.  I believe that the eighth graders register soon, and I have only made one appearance!!!  My program is DOOMED!!!  Hopefully, a great feeling of excitement for band will sweep over all of the eighth graders and propel them into my band room….um…..yeah, that’s it.

Sibelius…Make the switch!

One thing I have found to be an absolute asset to my teaching so far is my skills using Sibelius.  For those of you who don’t already know, Sibelius is a musical notation software.  It it incredibly easy to use, and you can compose orginal compositions that look professional.  As a matter of fact, Sibelius is becoming increasingly more popular on the musical publishing front.  I have done quite a bit of engraving work (preparing music for publication) for various publishers nationally, and they all used Sibelius.

For those of you who are members of the Finale Faithful, you have a great program there as well.  Early on, I could see the differences in terms of flexibility and in some advanced features in Finale being more useful, but since then Sibelius has turned things around quite a bit.   Some composers have told me they think of Sibelius as being a program for people who just want a quick and dirt score to put out.  Well, I have created some pretty incredible looking scores, and if I don’t say so myself, better than those of the people who complain the most.

I am currently working on a post dedicated to taking a novice through a step by step process in Sibelius, using screen shots and easy to follow steps.  By the end of it, you will be well on your way to become a Sibelius Guru.

More soon.

Recording your band…where to start?

After going through the hectic and trying times of recording some applicants to the All-State Band, only to find out that none of them made it, I decided to purchase some recording equipment to get ashigh quality as I can. I am convinced that the reason that some students did not make the cut was because of the recording quality. The fact that this factors in is for another blog-rant, so I will spare you.

Where do I start? What do other directors use? I have been looking online for something affordable and I have found a few items:

1. Zoom H2 Handy Two-Track Recorder: $185.21 (Amazon). This device is an all in one set up. It has a left-right-mid mic set up, so you supposedly get a stereo recording. The nice thing about it is that it is all self-contained. The recording controls are on this device, as are the mics. Also, it comes with a USB output so you can dump the recording onto your Mac or PC (more on this in a minute).

2. Samson CO1U USB Condenser Mic: $87.95 (Amazon). This is just a microphone. You would have to lug it into your laptop or desktop computer, but it would deliver a decent sound. I hesitate at its price. I have purchased microphones before, and this price seems a bit low. I would not want to buy it, wait for it to be delivered, then regret it. This is just one of two pages of results I found when I searched for “microphones USB”.

3. Audacity: (FREEWARE). I have been using this program for years. It is easy to use, and it includes powerful editing features. Sure, you can buy other programs to edit (Peak, Cakewalk, etc.) but those programs have a ton of other stuff you really don’t need when it comes to making a decent all state or audition recording of your band. Audacity will record your track, display a sound wave, and allow you to fade in, fade out, splice out bad clicks or pops, record multiple layers, and a bunch of other stuff. It is a free download from audacity.sourceforge.net. Keep in mind that you will need to download something called the “lame lib” if you want to convert your recording to an .mp3. If you guys want me to, I will do a post on how to use Audacity later.

That is all I have found that has made it on my potential shopping list. There is a ton of crap out there, so be careful.

Time to reflect…

Now that I have had some time to reflect on the conference and state of my own program, it seems that getting back to work can’t come soon enough! I found myself wanting to leave each session early to get started on all of the ideas I had while sitting there. Here are some of the things that I have started already:

1. Written warm ups and tuning exercises that help the students not only tune, but play intervals in tune (tuning by interval numbers – more on this later)

2. Putting together an “Activity Packet” to send the kids during the school year, consisting of warm ups, rhythmic activities, composition lessons, and other things they will need to have on the first day of school next year;

3. Revising the Band Handbook to reflect changes in grading policies and expectations;

4. Coming up with a plan for recruiting at the middles school

Fortunately for me, I have a week off to try and get this all done. Some of you had to go back to work today or maybe tomorrow! I assure you that there will not be much time for me to just sit around. I also plan to get back to school a day early to re-inventory all of my instruments…e still my beating heart!

I will hopefully see more activity on this page. We told a bunch of people about it at the conference, and they all seemed pretty pumped. We are also learning more about what kind of formats will best serve our collaboration needs. One note on the name of the blog: Bandguys refers to Mike and I, as we are the moderators of the blog page. This is not an attempt to alienate female band directors! All directors are welcome!!!!

Thank You!

I just got home from the WMEA State convention.  Wow, what an amazing event.  I have learned so much!  Before I start blogging about individual sessions I attended, I wanted to say thank you to all those who I met at the conference.  Matt and I told many people about this blog and we got a very good response.  Also, as I sit on my couch I am already thinking about how I had so many questions I forgot to ask and so many people I wanted to connect with that I missed.  I hope this blog will provide some of the opportunities we have at the conference to all of us everyday! 

If you are interested in posting to this blog, please email us the post.  We will read it and put it here.  Also, feel free to “comment” on any entry that other people have posted.  Our email for this blog is bandies.unite@gmail.com . I am exhausted from the conference and am off to bed!  More about my favorite sessions soon!!! — Mike Lewis

OOPS, we forgot to mention something…

In the heated euphoria of getting this blog online, we didn’t think of introducing ourselves, officially.

We are Mike Lewis and Matthew Pelandini. We are instrumental music educators in the South Puget Sound area in Washington State. We attended Central Washington University together, and earned our Masters Degrees at around the same time. Mike has one more year of experience than I (Matthew), and I am currently working at my first job (although I am 32!). Mike has been a valuable resource to me, and I to him (or so he claims). We thought, if we can help each other, why not the rest of the blog-o-sphere?

As I stated before, this blog is intended to bring music educators from all creeds and disciplines together in an effort to 1)consolidate our community, 2)bring together a compendium of knowledge and experience, and 3)have a great time sharing stories and help defeat the “isolation” of working with young kids all day long. We also felt like we could bring the “conference” atmosphere to our daily lives. I am sure many of your feel rejuvenated, or refreshed, or just happy to be around colleagues during a conference, so consider this platform as a way to bring that feeling to your daily life.

Now…on to more pressing business.

The WMEA conference I am attending now has been a mixed bag. Although the sessions I have attended have been great, the exhibitions have been somewhat underwhelming. There are less free samples, and less booths altogether. However, I did pick up a few cool items: “The Music Director’s Cookbook: Creative Recipes for a Successful Program”, and “Teaching Instrumental Music: Developing the COMPLETE Band Program”.

I am looking forward to browsing the pages of these new buys. I will be sure to inform all of you about any insights I come across.

The good ol’ WMEA All State Conference!

Here we are at the good ol’ WMEA Conference in Yakima, WA. It was a great first day. Saw a session on reading and studying band scores from the Director of Bands at UPS (for those of you that are unfamiliar: the University of Puget Sound, located in Tacoma, WA). It was informative, inspiring and hopefully a sign of things to come this weekend.

The secret for my success at this conference, and my strategy for the weekend is to find at least one thing in EVERY session I go to that I can take back to my school. Even if it doesn’t seem at first that it pertains to my group, there must be something I can use. As I try to turn my group around, I am faced with having to deal with unexpected obstacles all of the time. It is my job to arm myself with as many weapons and approaches as I can.

As i sit here in my hotel room, I am looking forward to browsing the exhibits, trying to find something I can buy for my kids. I am looking forward to presiding over a session tomorrow, and in doing so bringing some small level of attention to my school.

Anyway, at this point, I have a lot of expectations for this conference. Let’s see if I find what I am looking for!

Learn to Love the Process…

Mike and I are both members of the Olympia Symphony. On our hour long trek to rehearsals we talk about our programs. One night, Mike said something that was so profound, it changed my whole approach to teaching music. He said [I am paraphrasing] “I am not going to worry about having the greatest group in the world anymore. I am just going to try and instill a love for the music making process. I want to make rehearsals fun and fulfilling.” I thought, “That is the healthiest way of looking at this whole thing!” I immediately put this philosophy into practice, and all of a sudden I was a happier and more effective band teacher. My rehearsals are more productive, and the kids smile a whole lot more. I know that but only a few of my students will go on and become professional musicians or music teachers, but I think I have effectively garnered an appreciation for music and music making. All along the way, I have promoted excellent musicianship. And most of my students now look at music as a privilege and not a chore.

All in all, I think this is the healthiest my band has been. Are they as precise, and as in tune as I want them to be? No. But that doesn’t matter right now. What matters is, is that they are happy to be in my room for the time that they are there. And they make good use of the time they have with me.

This is Great!

I am glad that you have made it!  Matt and I are so excited to use this as an opportunity to share our experiences, both good and bad, about working at a new band job.   I know that if we all use this site together, it will serve as a valuable learning tool for all of us!  ENJOY — Mike Lewis

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