Adventures at Band Camp

How and what to teach and learn.
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Mikebmiller
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Adventures at Band Camp

Post by Mikebmiller » Mon Jul 30, 2018 4:41 pm

So today I had my second day of teaching at a local HS band camp. I have to say that I am developing a lot more respect for you folks that do this for a living. I am not a full time trombone teacher by trade and this is my first band camp since I was in HS 40 years ago..

I have about 16 kids, all playing marching baritone. Out of that group, only about 4-5 can make what I would call a good characteristic trombone sound.

I guess the thing that surprises me the most is the lack of dedication to the horn. This is a band that was in the top 5 in the state last year in marching and yet I don't see the kids going out of their way to improve personally. The first day, I asked how many had played their horn since school got out. I got a 25% response rate on that one. So we are starting band camp with 75% of a section that hasn't played in 2 months. Then today I asked who wanted to make All State band. 1 kid raised his hand. The others acted like it was too much trouble to even audition.

Today I made them play all 12 major scales. I'm pretty sure it was the first time most of them had ever done so.

What can I do to get these kids motivated and excited about trombone? Today I played a Christopher Bill video and one from Mnozil Brass. They seemed to enjoy the videos. I have 5 sessions left to try to teach them something.
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Burgerbob
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Re: Adventures at Band Camp

Post by Burgerbob » Mon Jul 30, 2018 7:31 pm

Is it a volunteer band? Or one required to participate in the rest of the year?
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Re: Adventures at Band Camp

Post by Bach5G » Mon Jul 30, 2018 10:03 pm

Ages?
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BGuttman
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Re: Adventures at Band Camp

Post by BGuttman » Tue Jul 31, 2018 12:16 am

These would be American High Schoolers, ages 14 to 18.

As to generating interest, maybe some popular tunes made into trios or quartets. Something other than the [often boring] parts they have to play for the Marching Band show.
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ghmerrill
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Re: Adventures at Band Camp

Post by ghmerrill » Tue Jul 31, 2018 6:19 am

I see this as a kind of "You can lead a horse to water, but ..." kind of problem. You definitely can't inspire them by showing them videos of other people playing (plus, that's providing entertainment, and not teaching).

They'll be inspired BY YOU if you give them something they can use and will remember. The best thing any teacher can do is to teach the student how to learn, and by doing that, demonstrate that the student CAN learn and CAN get better and CAN get good. Doesn't matter whether it's physics or tennis or music.

I'd leave off having a major goal being "inspiring" them, and make your goal (in the limited time you have with them) teaching them whatever you can that will allow them to go forward and improve when they leave you. They'll remember you and this band camp forever if you give them something like that -- even if it's just some of the very basics that they may have missed at this point. Inspiration is great, but can be very fleeting. Skill and method lasts forever.

Otherwise, you're just trying to babysit and provide entertainment for a few days. Maybe that's what they expect. But I'd give them something else. And if this works for just ONE student, then you win.

Also, have reasonable targets and expectations. Who cares if any of them want to make all state band? You can still teach them something fundamentally valuable, and they can benefit from it and appreciate it.
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Mikebmiller
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Re: Adventures at Band Camp

Post by Mikebmiller » Tue Jul 31, 2018 7:56 am

BGuttman wrote:
Tue Jul 31, 2018 12:16 am
These would be American High Schoolers, ages 14 to 18.

As to generating interest, maybe some popular tunes made into trios or quartets. Something other than the [often boring] parts they have to play for the Marching Band show.
That would be lovely if I had access to such tunes. I tried some chorales. Unfortunately, a few kids only read treble clef and I did not have any treble parts. I have done all kinds of searches for free pdfs that are in bass and treble, without much luck. I have no budget to buy anything.

Their show music is not terrible. There are a few pretty good licks, especially in the 3rd part.
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Re: Adventures at Band Camp

Post by Mikebmiller » Thu Aug 02, 2018 3:36 pm

ghmerrill wrote:
Tue Jul 31, 2018 6:19 am

Also, have reasonable targets and expectations. Who cares if any of them want to make all state band?
I guess it's hard for me to relate to a kid who is not in it to win it. From the first time I picked up a horn in 7th grade, I wanted to be first chair. I battled it out with another guy for a year to be the 1st chair trombone in the Evans Junior High band. Fortunately for me, he gave up after a year (and went on to become a great athlete and get all the girls) and I got to be the best junior high player in the school district for 2 years. Then I spent my sophomore year of HS battling a senior for 1st chair in the HS band. Along the way, I made all state band 4 years in a row, but never achieved my my goal of being 1st in the state. 3rd was the best I did in my senior year.

So I guess I assumed that every kid would want to make all state or at least make an effort to try out. Obviously, I was wrong in that assumption. I do understand that you can be a solid player without being the best in the state, but I think that just putting in the effort to audition will make any kid better.

That said, I think that the highly competitive marching band environment we have around here (I live in South Carolina) actually detracts from kids become great individual players. These kids will spend the next 3 months playing the same 10 minutes of music hundreds of times, and playing it on a valved instrument instead of a trombone. Some of the bands around here practice as late as 7 PM some days and go until at least 5 nearly every day.Then they go to some sort of contest just about every Saturday for 2 months. Combined with homework from other classes and the need to eat and sleep, that doesn't leave a lot of time to practice trombone. During this whole time, they don't get any exposure to any music outside of what they play on the football field or in the stands. Some schools have a separate class for concert band during the school day, but many do not.

On the other hand, the HS that almost always wins the state 5A marching contest also dominates the All-State band roster. Wando HS in Mt. Pleasant, SC typically takes up about 20% of the All-State Band. So I guess you can march well and play well if you do it right.

End of rant. Thank you.
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Burgerbob
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Re: Adventures at Band Camp

Post by Burgerbob » Thu Aug 02, 2018 4:37 pm

Look at it this way. What is the purpose of music education in high school (marching band included)?

Is it to produce a huge crop of amazing players that all go to college to study music?


Or is it to foster a love of music, camaraderie, and pursuing a goal?

I take it as a given that only a small percentage, typically expressed in maybe a couple of top students, actually are interested in their instrument as a career. And that's fine. It's not a numbers game, after all.
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Re: Adventures at Band Camp

Post by afugate » Fri Aug 03, 2018 6:06 am

Burgerbob wrote:
Thu Aug 02, 2018 4:37 pm
Look at it this way. What is the purpose of music education in high school (marching band included)?

Is it to produce a huge crop of amazing players that all go to college to study music?

Or is it to foster a love of music, camaraderie, and pursuing a goal?
I was told by an old band director that it's not about winning championships, performing awesome concerts, commissioning music, etc. It's about teaching them to be musicians. When you do that, everything else happens. When done properly, that also fosters a love of music, camaraderie, etc., also happens. :good:

In our daughter's band, we call that camaraderie "band family". Most of the kids refer to their classmates as band family. And they've started referring to kids from other bands "band cousins". :lol:

In response to OP's observations, one frequently sees bands so invested in performing a particular set of music that the students never have time to learn to be musicians. It's the equivalent of "teaching to the test".

--Andy in OKC
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Re: Adventures at Band Camp

Post by bimmerman » Fri Aug 03, 2018 4:37 pm

Also keep in mind that the kids may love some other kind of music and just aren't passionate about the genre the camp is in.

Personally I hated marching band, for a number of reasons. I did it for two years and was miserable. However, I loved playing in jazz band/symphony, and to a lesser extent enjoyed wind ensemble. I made a number of friends through marching band but as soon as I wasn't required to do it, I didn't.

I still enjoy playing music even all these years later, but I was absolutely one of those unmotivated screwoffs in marching band. I was very motivated and practiced my butt off for jazz and symphony to get into All-state and first chair, but I put zero effort beyond rehearsals into marching.

So....dont stress it I guess? Ask the kids if they enjoy some other genre, and try to relate camp to that?
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ghmerrill
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Re: Adventures at Band Camp

Post by ghmerrill » Sun Aug 05, 2018 10:44 am

Burgerbob wrote:
Thu Aug 02, 2018 4:37 pm
Is it to produce a huge crop of amazing players that all go to college to study music?
Or is it to foster a love of music, camaraderie, and pursuing a goal?
These are not incompatible by their nature. They're only incompatible if you decide to focus on one to the degree that you're essentially excluding the other -- and that would make you some sort of ideologue or fanatic, I think. There are people like that, and they can be excellent teachers of a relatively small population of students. They're usually the people who, themselves, are at the absolute top of their game -- research professors or high-demand performers, etc. On the other hand, I've known a bunch of people in those two groups who are just focused on teaching students at any level.

The music teacher who had the greatest influence on my musical life was my band director in high school for three years -- Bob LeBlanc (https://music.osu.edu/news/robert-lebla ... essor-tuba). A soft-spoken Texan who'd just collected a master's from Eastman in tuba performance, he somehow ended up at the high school in the little city in central N.Y. where I lived. He never really liked marching band, but taught it extremely well nonetheless. And he spent quality time with every student. We also got highest marks in the NY State concert band competitions we entered every year.

The guy who played first trombone in the band during that period went on to get a performance/composition major at Eastman and then did graduate work at Cornell. He's won several composition prizes since then. So in a sense, that was one "big win" for Bob. But that wasn't his focus. His focus was just teaching instrumental music to the entire band, the good, the bad, and the lazy. If I'm a musician at all, it's because of Bob LeBlanc (well, and one other grad student at Eastman, but mostly because of Bob) -- and I played saxophone during those years!! He certainly did the fostering of a love of music, camaraderie, and pursuing a goal. I know he was focused on getting a university position, and doing some significant performing, but he did all he did for us for about 4 years before moving on.

Again, just to point out that those goals mentioned don't need to be incompatible. And maybe if you want predominantly one or the other, you should probably choose your teaching gigs with that in mind -- to avoid both your and your students' disappointment.

That isn't to say that I don't understand walking into a class of students who aren't prepared and aren't willing to do the work to at least learn what they can. But I only did that once. :roll:
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Re: Adventures at Band Camp

Post by JohnL » Sun Aug 05, 2018 11:07 am

Burgerbob wrote:
Thu Aug 02, 2018 4:37 pm
Look at it this way. What is the purpose of music education in high school (marching band included)?

Is it to produce a huge crop of amazing players that all go to college to study music?


Or is it to foster a love of music, camaraderie, and pursuing a goal?
For some bands, it's about neither. It's about collecting trophies to keep the parents and the school administration happy. Love of music, camaraderie, pursuit of a goal, and individual musical development are all sacrificed in the pursuit of hardware. It's a model that is surprisingly sustainable, I'm sorry to say.

I suppose the ultimate expression of this is the "plug"; a kid who is out there with an instrument that has literally been disabled. The equivalent for color guards is to put the kid's arm in a sling. :cry:
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Re: Adventures at Band Camp

Post by fsgazda » Sun Aug 05, 2018 11:14 am

BGuttman wrote:
Tue Jul 31, 2018 12:16 am
These would be American High Schoolers, ages 14 to 18.

As to generating interest, maybe some popular tunes made into trios or quartets. Something other than the [often boring] parts they have to play for the Marching Band show.
Try running a search for Tuba Peter. He has arranged a ton of stuff (movie music, video game music, pop songs) for various low brass ensembles, most are arranged for some variety of trombone ensemble. All free (no idea about the copyright issue).
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ghmerrill
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Re: Adventures at Band Camp

Post by ghmerrill » Sun Aug 05, 2018 11:15 am

JohnL wrote:
Sun Aug 05, 2018 11:07 am
For some bands, it's about neither. It's about collecting trophies to keep the parents and the school administration happy.
Overall, a fairly accurate comment on much of public education in this country at this point in time. The "keep the parents and the school administration happy" is independent of the subject being taught. My daughter taught middle school math (grades 6-8) for eight years in a variety of schools ranging from impoverished inner city to wealthy national golf community. All the same in fundamental respects. She finally left and got a real life. Her comment was "All I wanted to do was teach math to kids who had problems with it. I wasn't allowed to."

Guess that's a deviation from the thread. So I'll quit.
Gary Merrill
Wessex EEb Bass tuba
Mack Brass Compensating Euph
Amati Oval Euph
1924 Buescher 3-valve Eb tuba
Schiller American Heritage 7B clone bass trombone (DE LB K/K9/110 Lexan, Brass Ark MV50R)
1947 Olds "Standard" trombone (Olds #3)
Mikebmiller
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Re: Adventures at Band Camp

Post by Mikebmiller » Sun Aug 05, 2018 6:48 pm

I think Karma is actually out to get me. I was a smart-assed kid in HS and used to get regularly chewed out by the band director. My most memorable moment in HS was actually in the orchestra rather than the band. The director said the trombones were going too slow and I said maybe he was going too fast. That earned me a well-deserved personal ass chewing.

40 years later, I am finally on the other side of the podium.
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Re: Adventures at Band Camp

Post by Mikebmiller » Thu Aug 09, 2018 8:11 am

Well, with one day to go, I have to say that these kids have made a tremendous improvement, at least in their marching show music. Which I guess should be expected, given that they have played that music for 3 hours a day for almost two weeks. I have even forced them to play all 12 major scales, though I doubt if many will remember them after this week.
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