Thank you!

To: All OCHS band parents and students
From: Brad Rogers
Date: June 4, 2021
Subj: Thanks!
 
As we put the finishing touches on a most unusual year for the OCHS Band, I would like to take a moment to thank each of you for the many incredible opportunities you have provided me through our work together.  The tradition of excellence that is at the heart of the OCHS band program has always been the direct result of all of those who have contributed their talent, time, and treasure to its musical mission—each and every one of you are part of that tradition.  We have made substantial progress as an ensemble this year in spite of what seemed to be insurmountable obstacles, and many of you are already in a position to do some very special things musically as you turn the page into the coming summer.
 
If you are graduating from our program, I owe you more than I can possibly repay.  My wish for each of you is that you have all the success and happiness possible, whatever you may be doing in the future, and that you find some way to keep music important in your life.
 
There are a number of items that should be mentioned as we approach the end of this year —things that will make what happens next in your musical experience mean even more to you and will maximize your continued efforts as a band program.
  

  1. Keep playing your instrument through the summer.  You’ll be in MUCH better shape when camp begins and will hit the ground running on your seating audition music once school opens.  Don’t neglect the fundamentals of tone production and scales; without making those areas solid in your playing, not much else truly great can happen.
  2. Summer lessons are a great idea!  We have a superb staff of folks who work our sectionals every year; these people also offer individual lessons.  Private lessons are an investment in your musicianship—the better you play, the more you want to play.  If you are already taking lessons, continue; if you’re not, please consider starting.  Ask Mr. Centers or your section coach about this possibility!
  3. Collabra Music technology is a wonderful “practice buddy” during the summer.  Our current subscriptions run through the end of July and will likely be renewed at band camp time.  Students who make this effort will arrive on the first day of school ready to move forward immediately.
  4. Commit to taking advantage of all of the musical opportunities available to you through band membership.  If you haven’t auditioned for all district band, try it this year.  Ask to be nominated for participation in honors band clinics.  Put together a student-led trio or quartet or jazz combo.  Learn a doubling instrument.  Assist an incoming freshman in your section.  Commit to giving your individual best effort every single day, whatever level of experience or proficiency you bring to the group.
  5. SUMMER PACKET!  Check the band website: www.ochs.band
  6. Each of you CHOOSES to accept the responsibilities of band membership.  Be true to that commitment.  Whether you like it or not, your experience puts you in a position of leadership.  Provide the correct example for those who will soon be here, and they will follow your lead.  They should want to “be like you” for all the right reasons.

 
Summer band begins July 5th.  Each of you should be very excited about everything the coming year will bring to our band program.  While 2021-2022 will mark the first change of director in over 30 years, Mr. Centers is uniquely qualified to take the OCHS Band program to even greater levels of musicianship and success.  Follow his lead, support each other and the incoming class, and make OCHS the example of how a program can come out of a pandemic and flourish!   
 
Now that I’m finally graduating from high school myself, I will become your new “biggest fan”…
Brad Rogers

Wholehearted Attention by NAfME Member Walter Bitner

By NAfME Member Walter Bitner

Article Originally Posted on Off The Podium

Music teachers in school settings often feel a sense of isolation from the activities happening in other classrooms, and a lack of understanding on the part of other teachers and administrators about what it is, exactly, that music teachers teach. There are striking differences in the way teaching and learning happens in the music classroom when compared to the activities happening in other classes. In the current standards-obsessed education climate, appropriate musical activity in the classroom faces real obstacles in being appreciated, understood, and ultimately funded, because it resists being reduced to a checklist of objectives.

Which is not to say that there are not discrete objectives for a music teacher to impart to his or her students – quite the opposite, in fact.  Music-making is such a complex activity that the act of separating all the components that go into it into easily assessed bytes of information ultimately leaves out essential aspects of what it is really about, presenting an incomplete picture at best, and at worst, a distorted view of the purpose and value of musical activity.

And it’s true that there is a vast amount of both knowledge and skills for a music student to assimilate.  An accomplished musician is expected to have a systematic knowledge and set of abilities in regards to music generally and to their chosen discipline specifically (i.e. technical proficiency on an instrument/voice and mastery of a complex notation system, working knowledge of music theory, history, repertoire, etc.) as well as the ability to apply these skills to varying social circumstances. To be successful, a musician must develop a secure understanding of the rehearsal and performance process both in regards to their own abilities and psychology and in the context of the conventions of making music with others.

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Much of the content a musician must master is traditionally presented sequentially out of necessity – as in other academic disciplines like mathematics, many musical concepts build upon previous knowledge, and these are the aspects which lend themselves most easily to academic means of assessment, and to codification as standards.

But this is only part of what a music teacher does in the classroom, in rehearsal, and what music students learn and experience.

Music plays a unique and important place in our culture and an understanding and appreciation of music is a hallmark of the educated person. Beyond the content of the music curriculum however, there is something fundamentally different about the process of music-making from the way most other subjects are taught in school that is of immense value to the successful education of dynamic, flexible, and responsive individuals. Students who sing in choir or play in band or orchestra must simultaneously perform a complex set of operations that call on more aspects of the human being than any other activity they face in school. All at once, they must:

  • Maintain awareness of the physical body, holding a specific posture(s) and performing precise physical techniques to produce sound either with the voice (the breath) or on an instrument (the breath and/or hands and in some cases other parts of the body).
  • Listen: not just to a single object of the attention (e.g. a teacher’s or classmate’s voice), but to the sound they are producing themselves and what those in the ensemble around them are doing (often many different parts or sections of the ensemble doing different things all at once) – constantly adjusting their performance in response to what they hear.
  • With the eyes, interpret visual cues from the director to align their efforts with those of everyone else in the ensemble – constantly adjusting their performance in response to what they see.
  • With the eyes, read and interpret a complex notation system (that they are in the process of learning to understand) that describes what they are to play in real time.
  • Negotiate their own emotional responses to the experience – this can be complex in itself, consisting of multiple layers including response to social experience (subordinating ego to the needs of the ensemble), artistic/intellectual/spiritual response to the music itself, and emotions provoked by the constant process of evaluation, criticism, and the attempt to improve performance that is the daily grind of the rehearsal process.

"Violinists"

cyano66/iStock/Thinkstock

The concentration required to do all of this at once is formidable, and the only other activities a child participates in in school that come close to this level of complexity are in other performing arts: dance and theatre. At its best, musical performance demands a wholehearted attention from the participant, a complete absorption in the moment in which all other thoughts and concerns disappear. The development of the ability to sustain this wholehearted attention takes time and effort for students, and careful cultivation of the learning environment on the part of the teacher. Repertoire must be chosen carefully to present the right challenges for the ever-changing capacities of students, and be artistically worthy of this kind of effort. And the teacher must exhibit this wholehearted attention herself in her work in the classroom, consistently modeling a kind of behavior with which the students may not be familiar, as it is not required of them in the other learning environments they are exposed to. Ultimately, as any fine musician learns, this is the way – the only way to do this difficult work well is to do it with wholehearted attention.

My experience as a teacher taught me that – for the vast majority of my students – this kind of effort was something they valued tremendously. Children wish for the opportunity to rise to the demand placed on them in a musical ensemble, to put forth their very best effort right now, in this moment, in making something special happen that is beyond what any one of them could accomplish individually. Participating daily in an activity that required their wholehearted attention brought them a respite from the worries of the day, and the music classroom became a place of refuge and renewal.

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Musical considerations aside, teaching a child to make a consistent effort to put everything she has into what she is doing right now has the potential for great impact on the kind of people our students will become. In our ever more distracted world, with so many stimuli vying for our attention, the ability to concentrate completely on the present moment seems to be in danger of becoming a scarce commodity. Yet the implications of teaching a child to do this in even one facet of their lives sets an example for how one could live differently.

A child who has learned to apply wholehearted attention to one part of life may be able to apply it to other moments when the practice of this kind of attention can have a great impact on themselves and others – when she is faced with difficult emotional or social circumstances, the death of a loved one, or the needs of her own child someday. But even in small ways, this practice of attending to the present moment with all of one’s faculties can bring an experience of freedom, wholeness, and connection to others and the world that is vitally different from the stressed, distracted, multi-tasking state many of us find ourselves in too much of the time.

We have all heard and used the common expression “pay attention” but in fact, attention is not a payment, it is a gift. Teaching students to give this gift to their own lives may in the end be the music teacher’s greatest legacy, and the most important thing that students learn in rehearsal and performance, regardless of whether or not they continue to make music as adults.

Go to the companion article, Trust

Visit Walter Bitner’s Facebook and the Nashville Symphony Facebook page.

About the Author

"WalterBitner"

Photo Courtesy Walter Bitner

NAfME Member and Veteran music educator Walter Bitner is the Director of Education & Community Engagement at the Nashville Symphony. He has led a multi-faceted career as a teacher and performer: a multi-instrumentalist and singer, he is also a master teacher, composer, and conductor conversant with a wide variety of musical styles and traditions. Walter has been a performing musician since childhood; he began his career as a boy soprano singing in school and church choirs and began to study piano at the age of seven. His work as a choral singer continued for many years into his twenties, and he has sung in symphony choruses under many directors including Michael Deane Lamkin, Robert Summer, Julius Rudel, and Robert Shaw.

Moving It Forward in a COVID World

Moving it forward in a COVID world

It should be obvious by now that these are challenging times for music programs at every level and in every corner of our country.  In fact, that may be the biggest possible understatement of the situation. 

It is fairly obvious the standard for public education in general has shifted to put safety into a position of primary emphasis.  I’m not going to argue that safety isn’t important for students and teachers alike.  I do think all involved in the business of educating our population have to stay focused on building structures within the current climate of constantly shifting and often contradictory restrictions—structures that have a chance of actually producing long-term, positive outcomes for our programs.

I won’t claim to have figured out any of this to my satisfaction after eight months of NTI, the most unusual summer and band camp I’ve ever experienced (resulting in a marching band that performed but didn’t march), and a late NTI school opening that was followed by several weeks of a hybrid A/B schedule and then back to NTI until mid-January.  Of course, we have now returned to the A/B hybrid and will be there for a while.  This constant shifting has never allowed a rehearsal situation involving an entire ensemble, an appropriately balanced instrumentation, or consistent daily contact with students—other than on a computer screen, and we all know what that has been like.  

My wife tells me “you’ll just have to lower your expectations.”

I say “no” to that statement.  For me, high standards are what make music programs special in our schools and provide the reason for their very existence.  Reconciling my attitude about this, the situation at hand, and the needs of my program are the reasons I continue to show up for work. 

I have not found teaching virtually or on a hybrid schedule to be an adequate replacement for a traditional, in-person rehearsal format based on a full ensemble model.  I have also not found virtual individual instruction to be somehow ‘better’ than private instruction in-person. There are aspects of virtual instruction that I think will be of benefit as an extension of in-person teaching and learning once we are back to a regular routine.  We can’t afford to have virtual instruction replace what we all know has to happen for our programs and students to thrive! 

As we work through all of this, administrators may look to ‘technology’ as a way to redefine how music performance opportunities are presented to students.  A snazzy virtual “ensemble” performance on YouTube is interesting to watch, but I doubt producing it was nearly as engaging for the performers as an actual live performance for an audience. 

And that is the point.

I have been blessed to have a long career working in several different school systems and feel especially fortunate to have worked in my current band room for well over thirty years.  Each of my teaching opportunities has been a situation in which a band program could be directed toward a high level of excellence—another blessing.  All of these experiences have put me in a position to deal with a wide range of challenges over the years. 

So, I’ve seen a few things—good and bad—that have helped me form an opinion about how to approach digging out of the current mess we’re in.  We can’t afford to look backward but must focus on the way forward.

Most importantly, music educators at the school level must come together and take the long view of things.  It is a fact: a truly viable, successful music program is not built in a year.  It takes consistent effort on the part of all involved to develop the culture, support structure, school and community buy-in, instrumentation, and musical proficiency that are present in programs that project excellence as their core value.  In my experience, seven to ten years consistently directed toward this end product is necessary to build a program in which the expectation is to be excellent year after year.  Once that is achieved, I think it is even more challenging to maintain what has been developed over time.

Unfortunately, many have discovered that you can significantly lose a traditionally excellent band program in just a couple of months.  Even those fortunate enough to have weathered the COVID storm relatively intact will likely find that proficiency levels, ensemble cohesiveness, and even student interest in band have fallen away over the last calendar year.  Consider the band student who has never marched and played at the same time, has not performed a live concert since Christmas 2019, or hasn’t attended a concert assessment for the last two years—not to mention those who did not have an opportunity to even start on an instrument in beginning band!  Students who have a choice to make about band membership between middle and high school are especially vulnerable.  The choice they make will have an immediate impact on the viability of high school programs.

We all feel it: NTI or virtual lessons completely remove the most important aspect of performance ensembles—in-person, real time collaboration.  Beginning and intermediate bands at the elementary and middle school level are where this all starts.  It is this area I believe all of us will need to focus on and invest in if we are to achieve long-term success with our programs.

High school directors may need to rethink program priorities as they put things back together.  Middle school directors may need to step up into assistant roles on a daily basis if they aren’t already doing so, and high school directors should invest themselves fully in the middle school feeder(s) that provide their prospective band students.  Superintendents, principals, counseling staff, and faculty colleagues at the building level must also be part of the overall recovery plan.  

Restructuring staff allocations for band classes between feeder and high schools through enabling daily team-teaching scenarios could accelerate the recovery process.  Creating itinerant teaching or “board-level” director assignments, rather than assigning teachers to a specific school faculty, may provide some flexibility in scheduling and staffing level concerns.  Any of these will require a commitment by all involved to make such a commitment work as a long-term strategy (remember, 7-10 years…).  One or two years will not achieve the end result—only a long-term vision consistently implemented will result in a lasting and sustainable result.

At the university level, teachers of methods courses, student teaching advisors, and ensemble conductors should include at the very least a discussion of strategies for program building in their instructional model.  After all, if that kid doesn’t start on an instrument in beginning band, there probably won’t be clarinetists on the stage in the university wind ensemble or trumpets and trombones on the field at halftime.  

We really are all in this together.  Let’s help each other move forward.

 

 

Brad Rogers has been the director of bands at Oldham County High School in Buckner, Kentucky since 1989.  Prior to his appointment at OCHS in 1987 as assistant director, he held positions at Oakland High School (Murfreesboro, TN), Central High School (Columbia, TN), and Christian County High School (KY).  His opinions are his own, and he is getting too old to change his mind about most of them.

He can be contacted at bradford.rogers@oldham.kyschools.us 

For the time being, anyway.

Wash your hands.

Director’s Comments October 12, 2020

Director’s Comments
October 12, 2020

Friday (October 2nd) was another in a series of small steps toward putting our band back together.  The students are making slow progress—in every class, in every rehearsal together over the last three weeks, they have demonstrated incremental improvement in their cohesiveness and sound.  It should be noted that for our performance on October 2nd, the only time the band actually played together as a group was at 5:30 on Friday night—just before the game.  It was also the first time the entire band played a single note together since September 18th when our football team played SOHS—a full two weeks “apart”.

I continue to work with the students on how to be “in a band” through our in-person, A/B schedule.  Frankly, it is so difficult to make musical progress on concert or marching band selections with the instrumentation as wacky as it is on A/B that working through the re-building of the program is focused on building knowledge, fundamental training, and the right attitude.  I’m hopeful we will get the opportunity to actually rehearse together in our actual classes sooner rather than later.  Time will tell.

Our Snap! Raise project is off to a decent start, with the project scheduled to conclude on October 20th while we are on our fall break.  We are still not up to my expectations on participation level or completeness of student account information, but it is slowly improving.  I’ll keep after them to do so get things completed.  We need to see an improvement in participation level, or this effort will fall short of our budgeted result.  As easy as this project is to do successfully, I’m expecting our students to max out their effort by the end of this week—they certainly won’t be thinking of anything school related after this Friday!

Rehearsals while we are on current in-person format (A/B), the rehearsal day will continue to correspond with a day the students are already in the building at 3:45 p.m.  A-Day in-person students will meet on Wednesdays, and B-Day students will meet on Tuesdays.  These rehearsals will run from 4:00-5:15 p.m.; parents can pick up their student at 5:15.  In addition to these rehearsals, we will have a brief rehearsal on the evening of any home football performance (October 16th and October 30th).  I’m asking our coaches who teach individual lessons here to try and coordinate with the after-school rehearsal days until we’re back in-person/every day.  These folks will probably have a greater level of involvement than in previous years in an effort to recover the ground lost over the last six months. 

All rehearsals and performances of the band are part of the grade in the course!  If a student is not in attendance, they will not receive credit for that event.  Per the course syllabus, exceptions to attendance at rehearsals are at the director’s discretion (athletes at games, verified illness, and unresolvable conflicts with other school-related functions).  There is no way to “make up” a missed performance.  I do not like publishing a schedule that has to be constantly adjusted; as a result, I’ve tried to communicate rehearsal and performance dates/times well in advance.  The situation we’re currently in makes publishing a long-range calendar at this point much harder to do with any degree of accuracy.  I encourage everyone to watch your email/Remind/Google Classroom/or Infinite Campus communications. 

Uniforms made a HUGE difference in how we presented ourselves on October 2nd.  Getting our concert uniforms fitted are the next step, and a good bit of progress has been made the last two weeks in getting this accomplished.  Let’s hope we are able to get our annual photo shoot and fall semester concerts to happen!  The dates for our upcoming concerts are: November 12th (Symphonic Bands); November 13th (Jazz Café I); and December 15th (Holiday concert).

Audition music was made available to all students in their Google Classroom/Classwork.  Auditions will be recorded the week of November 16-20, with the format (live or virtual) to be determined.  I’m still waiting on definitive word concerning All-District and All-State auditions (the same excerpts will be used as in the past).  I am confident this information will become available in the coming days.  Kids should NOT WAIT to begin working on these pieces; they will be graded on their performance and seated in chair order in November!

Thanks for everything you do in support of your band program!  Eight weeks after school finally started, we continue to revise schedules, how instruction is delivered, expectations of teachers and students, and even the makeup and duties of our faculty and staff.  Not a day goes by without a new twist to some aspect of how and what we are doing.

I am so blessed to be assisted in navigating these very unfamiliar waters by a group of band parents who “get it” and work so hard to see to it that their kids have the best musical and performance opportunities they can under the difficult current circumstances.  That is what has made our first quarter work as well as it has, and what will bring about our ultimate success going forward.

 

Director’s Comments September 21, 2020

Director’s Comments
September 21, 2020
 
Friday night was significant.  I could not have been happier with the result of our week of full band rehearsals.  The students made great progress—every time they played together, they showed improvement in their cohesiveness and sound.  And the result on Friday night (only the third time they have played as a full ensemble since July 31st, and their first performance of any kind since mid-March) was an outstanding example of how bands CAN still provide a musical performance opportunity in the face of stifling but necessary restrictions.  It was definitely something we can build upon.
 
However…our students missed out on all of the non-musical elements of building a band program due to our very different approach to summer rehearsals, band camp, and of course the NTI opening and resultant reduction in “together” time.  Summer rehearsals and band camp are when bands traditionally “come together” as a group, incorporating our incoming students into the habits and traditions that have been established in the program over many years.  That has not had the opportunity to happen with our group, and it especially shows when the students are not in “performance mode”.  I’m sharing a short article with you at the end of my comments that we actually read through during our first week of classes; it might be a good idea for all parents to read it as well, and do what you can to help your child become more of a “band kid” than a “kid in band”.  It really isn’t the kids’ fault—it is almost impossible to instill the “band” attitude in students you don’t see on a daily basis.  Nearly all students arrive here without any clue about how important their attitude is in creating a great experience for themselves and others they work with through our band program.  Our success depends on them learning how to change their attitude about what they are doing in band and who they are doing it for.
 
It is a fact, not an opinion.  Without developing a room full of true “band kids”, we won’t maintain the excellence this program has enjoyed for the past 30 or so years.
 
Snap! Raise kicks off tomorrow (Tuesday).  Unfortunately, we still have a sizeable percentage of students who have not completed their online account activation as of today.  My first “ask” on this came prior to the Labor Day weekend, and in spite of my persistent hounding, we’re still falling short of my expectations.  I’ll keep after them to do so, but without an improvement in participation level, we should expect this effort to fall short of our budgeted result.  (This is another indication of what I described above…)
 
Our “target” is still a moving one.  We have just completed our fourth week of NTI instruction, with one more week to go until we move to an A/B in-person schedule.  I don’t know that it will be better or worse than NTI, but at least we will be able to work together in-person on some level.  I might have a chance to learn the new kids by name/face (at least from the cheekbones up) better.  How well kids and the school handle all of this relative to the virus/masks/distancing, etc. will likely determine how things will go for the remainder of the semester, and possibly the rest of the school year.  Cheerful compliance will win the day.
 
For the next week, we will continue with our Monday and Thursday summer rehearsal schedule. Beginning with Sept. 28 and the A/B format, things will change…
 
In putting together reasonable rehearsal and performance alternatives for opening on an A/B in-person schedule, I’m still expecting to have an after-school, in-person rehearsal component (one rehearsal per week as usual) regardless of whether we’re NTI, A/B, or daily in-person.  If we are in-person (A/B or Full time), the rehearsal day will correspond with a day the students are already in the building at 3:45 p.m.  Those rehearsals will run from 4:00-5:15 p.m.; parents can pick up their student at 5:15.  In addition to these rehearsals, we will have a brief rehearsal on the evening of any home football performance, much like last Friday night.  I’m asking our coaches who teach individual lessons here to try and coordinate with the after-school rehearsal days until we’re back in-person/every day.  These folks will probably have a greater level of involvement than in previous years in an effort to recover the ground lost over the last six months. 
 
In case there is still some confusion…all rehearsals and performances of the band are part of the grade in the course!  If a student is not in attendance, they will not receive credit for that event.  Per the course syllabus, exceptions to attendance at rehearsals are at the director’s discretion (athletes at games, verified illness, and unresolvable conflicts with other school-related functions).  There is no way to “make up” a missed performance.  I do not like publishing a schedule that has to be constantly adjusted; as a result, I’ve tried to communicate rehearsal and performance dates/times well in advance.  The situation we’re currently in makes publishing a long range calendar at this point much harder to do with any degree of accuracy.  I encourage everyone to watch your email/Remind/Google Classroom/ or Infinite Campus communications.
 
Uniforms will be issued during the evening rehearsals this week in the hope of actually WEARING THEM at the next game (October 2; homecoming).  We will come up with some alternatives for ladies who didn’t order marching shoes to get us through the remainder of the season; since we won’t be actually marching a drill, some may wear extra shoes we have in our stock, others may need to wear a low heel, all black shoe they own already.  The uniform chairs (the Christensen’s) will advise what to do.  Concert uniforms will also be handled; tux shirts are purchased by those in tuxes, dresses are purchased by those in a dress.  You’ll receive information on all of this shortly—if you haven’t already taken care of it.
 
Audition music was made available to all students in their Google Classroom/Classwork.  Auditions will be recorded the week of November 17-21, with the format (live or virtual) to be determined.  I’m waiting on word concerning potential All-District and All-State auditions (the same excerpts will be used as in the past).  Kids should NOT WAIT to begin working on these pieces; they will be graded on their performance and seated in chair order in November!
 
Thanks for all you do in support of this program!  I could not have gotten through the last few weeks nor through last Friday’s inaugural performance without your assistance and support…and patience.  Things continue to evolve in terms of schedule, delivery of instruction, expectations of teachers and students, and even the makeup of our faculty and staff.  Senior Night in and of itself is a huge event to organize, and to get it all done so well with only a few short days to plan and implement…it takes a parent group that is truly “there for the kids” to make that happen.
 
And now, here’s the “article”:
 
Band directors would make good preachers.  All would agree that I probably talk too much, but I am hopeful I’ll say something occasionally that will have a positive impact, even if it’s only on one person.
 
I really have only one “sermon”; it just appears as though I have an unlimited supply of them.  I simply have the ability to move the words around each time I deliver a “message”.  Regardless of where my sermon starts, it always ends up being about the BAND—and I’m always passionate about that subject.
 
One of the topics I think makes a huge difference is about the characteristics that separate a “band kid” from a “kid in band”.  Possibly what follows will help you determine which you are.
 
Anybody can be a “kid in band”—all you have to do is show up with a horn.  You don’t need any particular musical knowledge or talent, or even try to develop or discover any.  It does help if you are physically sitting in your chair or standing in your spot during rehearsals, but to be a “kid in band” there is no requirement that you actually DO anything.  Their contribution to the identified musical goals of the group can be almost zero, but they will claim all privileges of band membership for themselves regardless.  Personal needs always come before any expectation the group might have of them.  Attendance at rehearsals and performances is optional depending upon their personal schedules.  Sending text messages behind their music stand, talking while instruction is being given (or even while the band is playing), leaving their seat at random intervals, eating or chewing gum while playing, and generally ignoring the group effort are all part of their “participation”. 
 
A kid in band often leaves their area of the room a shamble; articles of clothing and half-consumed food and drink are jumbled along with their music and instrument, usually in the floor.  They usually need multiple copies of assignments, music, and schedules.  If they are using school-owned equipment (read: fundraised for by the band), they never know how it gets broken and wouldn’t think of reporting that it is, even though they are the only one who touches it and have signed an agreement accepting responsibility for its care.  Showing up late, leaving early, and pointing a finger at others or making excuses for their inadequacies are all part of their game. 
 
Kids in band usually have great leadership skills, and work very hard to succeed in influencing others to “be like them”.  They are perfectly happy with a minimum grade (or even a failing one) as long as they can be identified with the group.  They generally think band should be an easy “A”, but can’t figure out why they don’t get one.
 
Conversely, a “band kid” is low-maintenance.  Their instrument almost always goes home in the evening, and their music folder is worn through from use.  These folks tend to be the first ones in the band room in the morning, would rather hang out there than go to class, and are the ones still around when the director has to leave several hours after school is out.  They set up chairs and stands if they aren’t already in place, and ask if they can help if someone else is doing it for them. They pick up after the folks who leave their area in a mess; if they move something, they put it back where they found it.  They are the folks who are already warmed up when the conductor steps on the podium to begin rehearsing. 
 
Even though band kids may not be the most naturally talented individuals, they spend time working on their skills because they don’t want to let the group down in rehearsals or performance.  They maintain their equipment in good working order, report problems, and accept responsibility if they had an accident.  They usually complete assignments on time and don’t make excuses if they miss a deadline.  They resolve schedule conflicts to meet the commitment they made to the group. 
 
Band kids make plenty of mistakes in rehearsal and performance, but try like crazy to not let them happen more than once.  They always have a pencil in rehearsals, and know why they need one.  They don’t complain; they get busy.  They respect the music they perform, the people they perform it with, and the organization enough to bring solid preparation and their very best effort every time the band is together. 
 
Band kids are capable of leading a hundred of their peers without saying a word, often without realizing they are doing so.  They think band is an easy “A”, and don’t feel the least bit overwhelmed by the work involved in earning it.
 
Great bands are the product of great “band kids”.
 
For a band (or any group with a common purpose and goals) to be successful, the members must agree to hold themselves and each other accountable for meeting the highest standards for participation and performance.  They must also be willing to give up a portion of their “individuality” in order to embrace the expectations of the ensemble.  While it is possible to have a group with only a few members willing to uphold those standards, it is impossible to have a BAND.
 
Everyone involved in a truly great band possesses an “A” work ethic and an “A” commitment to the others in the band.  Talent and natural ability are a bonus, but quite honestly, the largest part of a director’s job should be identifying and developing those things.  If a lot of the director’s energy is expended dealing with poor attitude and effort, development of that talent is a lot harder to accomplish.  Most directors would rather work with “A” attitudes and “C” talent than with “A” talent and “C” attitudes—because the end result in performance is always better, and the journey there is much more enjoyable and rewarding.
 
“Kids in band” can become “band kids”—they are often closer to it than they can imagine.  They simply have to change their minds about themselves.  It is all about bringing the correct attitude and great effort to their band involvement every day. 
 
It is the distinction between good bands and truly great ones.
 
 
Brad Rogers

Director’s Comments August 17, 2020

Director’s Comments
August 17, 2020

The target keeps moving on us.  We will now open in NTI and remain there until at least September 28th before re-evaluating the situation and deciding the next steps.  When we are allowed to return to in-person instruction, it will begin with an A/B schedule of some sort (that keeps moving too).  More on this and how it might affect the band program follows below.

Band camp went extremely well!  I could not have been happier with the result of our week of rehearsals.  The staff and students made great progress, working on nearly all of the marching band selections in their split rehearsal sessions.  Our wonderful staff members have been attending rehearsals since July 13th and continue to come out and work with the kids as we resume the summer rehearsal schedule.  I’m attaching a report I was asked to put together by the superintendent concerning the summer rehearsal and camp experience here.  You may have already seen it in your booster email postings.

I still have not heard anything definitive from KHSAA concerning “fans in the stands” at games and may not for some time to come.  That group is to meet later this week to work out guidance for fall sports practice and the opening of seasons for football, soccer, and volleyball.  With the governor’s recommendation that all schools open in NTI until September 28th (what we’re doing), the reported increase in positive tests among young people (vacations…?), and the constantly shifting position on school opening locally, any previous guidance or season opening dates that are out there now are likely to be changed as well.  I’m not counting on doing any “football band” yet.

I continue to discuss with Mr. Roth and festival coordinators about spring travel, but until I hear definitively that field trips of any kind will be possible next year, it is not really time to do any more than simply think about possibilities.

Summer program activities continue with our Monday and Thursday summer rehearsal schedule. 

In putting together reasonable rehearsal and performance alternatives for the reopening of school, we have since moved from opening in-person, to opening on an A/B in-person schedule, to opening in NTI through the month of September—all in the span of a couple of weeks.  The NTI schedule for OCHS is not “every day”, but two days per week, and I’m not sure if it matches the A/B scheduling we will be using when/if we get to that point.  I’m fighting for an after-school, in-person rehearsal component (one rehearsal per week as usual) regardless of whether we’re NTI, A/B, or daily in-person.  By necessity, while on NTI, those rehearsal times will need to be adjusted to accommodate parent schedules and transportation issues until we return to the building for instruction.   Any viable alternative that will be of benefit will include our talented paraprofessional section coaches, probably at a greater level of involvement than in previous years.  I hope to have more definitive information to present at tonight’s meeting.  I’ve attached my latest proposal to administration at the end of this director’s report.

Thanks for all you do in support of this program!  Things seem to evolve by the hour in terms of schedule, delivery of instruction, expectations of teachers and students, and even the makeup of our faculty and staff.  The amount of stuff “flying around” is almost too much to keep straight!  We have to remain focused on things that really matter: that we plan ahead as best we can, concern ourselves with continuing the financial viability of the organization, and focus on making the future bright for the program.  This won’t last forever, and the students need for the band program to be ready when we come out of this.

Proposal for VLA/NTI/In-person Band classes-Oldham County High School (revision 8-17-2020)
Fall 2020
Brad Rogers

In an effort to provide a reasonable opportunity for students to remain connected to their band experience and for VLA students to potentially return at the end of the first or second trimester to in-person instruction, I’m proposing the following for students who will begin in NTI or intend to begin the 2020-2021 school year on VLA as a temporary method of instruction for their academic and elective classes.

Band students who elect to begin the year in VLA with the intention of returning to in-person instruction must be scheduled in Symphonic Band I (upperclassmen),  Symphonic Band II (freshmen) or Percussion Techniques (grades 9-12) as part of their course of study for the entire school year.  These students will begin the year earning their band credit through the Music Appreciation course offered in Edgenuity

Band students who intend to take their coursework in VLA for the entire 2020-2021 school year probably should not schedule a band course.  If they choose to take the Music Appreciation Edgenuity course as a substitute, these students should employ a private instructor on their instrument to enable them to continue their musical studies, and audition in May for placement in the band program if they desire to return in 2021-2022.

Now that we know we’ll be opening schools on NTI, we will continue our evening summer rehearsal schedule in the same groupings we used for those gatherings, and at the same time of evening (6:00 start) to facilitate parent transportation after work hours.  The only difference is that we will finish each rehearsal at 7:30 p.m., rather than going to 8:30.

    1. All Brass will rehearse on Monday evenings from 6:00-7:30
    2. All Woodwinds/Percussion will rehearse on Thursday evenings from 6:00-7:30

We will continue this rehearsal schedule until we are allowed to return to the building for A/B in-person instruction.  At that time, we will adjust to conform with the groups of students in the building and by class period.  Exactly how that will look is still unknown, as rosters for the A/B schedule have not been issued yet.

VLA students who plan to return to in-person instruction are encouraged to take advantage of these after-school opportunities to rehearse with their eventual classmates.  This will be on a strictly voluntary basis if parents and students are comfortable doing so. 

Band is co-curricular.  It has always involved a combination of daily, in-class work along with required after-school involvement in rehearsals and performances as the basis for grading and awarding academic credit in these elective courses.  I believe these suggested accommodations are congruent with the allowances currently being made for athletes, clubs, etc. for after-school participation by VLA students in those activities.  This will allow a level of accountability and familiarity for VLA/band students to not only have the opportunity to return at the trimester breaks, but also facilitate the scheduling of students returning to the in-person environment, as they will have already scheduled the courses they would be taking if they started the year with in-person instruction. 

Summer Rehearsal and Band Camp report
Oldham County High School Band
Brad Rogers

Summer Rehearsal and Band Camp Report

Summer Rehearsal and Band Camp report
Oldham County High School Band
Brad Rogers
 
I never dreamed I’d be obtaining PPE, hand sanitizing equipment, improvised instrument bell
covers, enforcing health checks, or creating socially distanced rehearsal environments both
inside and outside; these were not topics covered in any of the music school training, my
graduate work, or part of any experiences I’ve had over the last 40+ years in education. But,
I’m certainly doing them now!
 
I must express my appreciation to all at the board level of OCS, our building leadership,
health department officials and my band directing colleagues at SOHS and NOHS for working
through a viable plan to enable bands to have some semblance of a collaborative learning
experience through our summer rehearsal schedule and band camp weeks.
 
While those rehearsals and our camps at the three high schools varied in their scope, all were
very valuable for students as they began the long road to recovering what was lost in the last
ten weeks of the 2019-2020 school year.
 
Some academic disciplines might fare better than others when forced to an NTI or virtual
model, although there is no equal substitute for the classroom environment and in-person
instruction. Performance ensemble-based arts classes like band and choir simply can’t
replicate what they do in daily rehearsals and live performance on a Chromebook or a
smartphone. It is the collaborative nature of these activities that enable the actual learning,
and provide the motivation for students to achieve for each other at a high level. The missing
piece for these groups in a virtual world is collaboration.
 
And that’s why being together in a room working out common problems to achieve common
goals is the key element in motivating students and keeping them interested in these elective
courses—even without a pandemic to deal with.
 
In our particular situation, OCHS band students started summer rehearsals one week later
(July 13th) than originally planned due to the roof construction and related issues with
building access caused by the work being done. Students reported to evening meetings in
groups that did not involve the entire band; brass players met on Mondays, with woodwinds
and percussion rehearsing on Thursdays from 6:00-8:30 p.m. Each student completed a
health screening (temp and COVID contact questions) prior to leaving home for rehearsals,
and their temperatures were verified when they arrived. All rehearsals were held outdoors,
in the parking lot in front of our band room. Attendance at these rehearsals was voluntary,
but attendance was surprisingly strong considering the circumstances.
 
After two weeks of evening rehearsals, we held a one-week camp at OCHS, with the same
groups of students from the previous weeks arriving on campus at either 9:00 a.m. or 6:00
p.m. for three-hour sectional and full ensemble rehearsals. They worked with our staff of
para-professionals that also work with the students throughout the school year. To conclude
camp on Friday, a single rehearsal block was held from 9:00 a.m. to noon, with all students
attending.
 
My take-aways from all of this:
 
In-person instruction is the best and quickest way to get our schools and programs back to
what they were in March of 2020 before we went to NTI. Given all that’s happened and all
that will continue to frustrate the system, it will take years (not weeks or months) after a
return to consistent, collaborative in-person rehearsals to return our ensembles to their
former levels of performance proficiency. How do I know this? Previous experience!
Remember the opening of South Oldham High School?
 
There is no substitute for collaborative rehearsals in the band world. My students learn much
more from each other in daily rehearsals than they do from me—they are the people doing
the actual “work”, I’m only the guide. If we aren’t together, a vital component of our
learning process is missing.
 
The social nature of collaborative ensembles is the main reason why kids choose them and
stick with them for years. Music is simply the glue that provides the common goals for
ensembles.
 
The best example of these things struck me as we were completing our Friday band camp
rehearsal. My students all came together, socially-distanced in our outdoor “rehearsal lot” to
attempt to play some of the music they had worked on in their section groups for the
previous four days.
 
This was the first time these students had played together in FOUR MONTHS, and the first
time ever for nearly 50 incoming 9th grade students to play with their high school band. The
fact that the playing was not perfect, that some kids were still struggling to keep up, that the
intonation could have been better…none of that mattered, to me or to them.
 
The smiles and the obvious look of satisfaction on students’ faces said more about what that
45 minutes together really meant than I could express to them. I tried to do so but was so
overwhelmed by the moment that I probably would have ruined it if I made an attempt.
They realized that they will eventually be alright, as long as the opportunity to collaborate
and work toward common goals is there for them.
 
That last 45-minute long experience was the most valuable and significant for us since March
12th.

 
It makes all of the current struggle worth it, both for the teacher and the student. Keeping
kids’ needs first and understanding there is more to educating than learning facts alone will
be our best guide as we figure this out.

How to Clean Your Wind Instruments

A Message from the Director:
 
I’ve heard from several students and parents about this subject in the last few weeks.  I posted it early in our “experience” of NTI, and again tonight; very much worth a reminder as we close for the semester.  
 
This is a great reference for all of our woodwind and brass players; please post in email and on our website.
 
Even if you don’t have a personally owned band instrument, you really should clean what you play more than once a year!  Woodwind players should pay particular attention to how to clean the clarinet or saxophone mouthpiece properly–easy and effective.
 

I think we have a good band program. So…what are we REALLY doing here?

I think we have a good band program. 

I don’t know too much about the history of the program prior to 1980, but I can imagine that the OCHS band program has always been good.  It certainly was when I arrived in July of 1987, two years before the opening of SOHS.  I remember the large, talented bands who performed in three major national parades in two years, and were finalists in both the KMEA State Marching Band Championships and the MTSU Contest of Champions for the first time—after years of trying.  It is very possible that some of the families of current band students have been part of the history of the OCHS Band since the very beginning—and may not even know it.

Being a part of that history—for literally half of the time that OCHS has existed—is one of the blessings of my adult life.  Opportunities I could not have imagined as a first year teacher have become a reality.  Over the years, great people—students, parents, administrators, the community at large, and my teaching colleagues—are the reason for the existence of the program and its level of success.  They will also be the folks who will be largely responsible for its future.  I can only hope that they will continue to see the value in supporting what bands really do for the school, and the people who live, work, and learn in a community—especially Oldham County.

So…what are we REALLY doing here?

I’ve been an educator my entire adult life, working in what I consider one of the most important subjects a student can choose to undertake—the study and performance of music.  Music and its elements can be found in and connected to every academic discipline.  That students choose to become involved in actual musicmaking in our schools is but one of many factors that differentiates music from the so-called “core” or required subjects studied in our educational system.

Fortunately, this choice draws many bright young people to our music classrooms.  By any measure—academic, social, or talent potential—music kids are among the best students in any school.  Ensemble directors recognize that students under their tutelage have made a conscious decision to be in their classroom rather than elsewhere.

The influences affecting their decision will vary depending upon the student.  Some may be drawn to the music classroom because their friends are making the same choice.  Others may have had some prior music experience or a parent or sibling that had been involved in the past.  The rigor of musical study and performance may interest those who have a strong academic background.  The artistry involved in performance may lead the “creative” student into band, orchestra, or choir. 

Whatever the reason, once a student has made the choice to be in our classes, the real trick is in keeping them involved.

So, the initial question posed still stands.  What follows will attempt to move toward either an answer or possibly more questions.

For many students involved in music, it is a way to be a part of something bigger than themselves that includes a wide variety of personalities and abilities all striving for a common result.  There are other things that can provide a similar experience (like team sports, honor societies, and academic teams).  Music performance especially distinguishes itself in that every person is constantly contributing to the end result.  Performance ensembles don’t have a “bench” or a “second string” set of performers.  Ensembles never stop to substitute musicians in the middle of a concert to give the “starters” a rest–all members play an important role in the production of the overall product at every juncture in rehearsal and performance.  Music can be an unbelievably effective tool in developing great team members and collaborators—qualities that are highly valued and increasingly rare in today’s real world.

For some, doing something with friends or others with common interests is most important.  The social aspect of music ensembles is not to be overlooked.  Learning to work closely with others who are friends is relatively easy.  Learning to do so with those who you don’t always agree with or possibly not at all encourages empathy and acceptance of the kind of diversity our society is actually built upon.

For a small minority of students in any ensemble, music becomes who they are.  They can’t imagine a life without music playing a leading role in every aspect.  They are usually perfectionists who ultimately end up having to live with constant imperfection.  Every great performance has its flaws (unless you can edit or auto-tune them out).  No one will ever completely figure out how to play an instrument or compose a masterpiece, although the rare individuals the world calls masters of the craft come closest to that goal.  These students are willing to give enormous amounts of energy to both their own efforts and those of their fellow ensemble members through example and mentorship.  These individuals provide a picture of what passion, commitment to excellence, work ethic, and artistic fearlessness look and sound like for everyone else in the group—in short, they embody what leadership is.

Personally, music is what makes me who I am.  Decades into a career, rehearsing, teaching and performing music still excites me every day, and although I come home every day totally exhausted has never felt like work—unlike a lot of the other things happening in our school that certainly do.

Realistically, very few of my students will become professionals in the music field—and they shouldn’t.  For students who don’t necessarily feel that music is me connection, other means of creating value through their involvement must be developed.

What motivates a long-term commitment to music study on the part of students who are in this band program for an obviously diverse set of reasons?

As a music educator, I believe the most important things I must do for my students are:

1) expect excellence from everyone involved, regardless the level of experience

2) create a sense of family, each member knowing they have an important role

3) provide a rich, significant diet of repertoire in every aspect of the program

4) set incremental goals, each just out of reach of the current level of proficiency

5) provide a wide variety of performance opportunities

6) plan in such a way to put students in a position to be successful in their work

I doubt that you can leave any of the above out of your thinking and completely serve students in a music program.  For example, to achieve #1, you would need to achieve every one of the others.

With that in mind, if there is a single answer to my question it has to be a little bit of all of the things mentioned above.  Each member of our ensembles is there for a reason, and for some it is not the one we might think.  As a director, it is up to me to find ways to understand their motivation and provide the vehicle that validates their choice of music as part of their educational experience.

And that is what we’re doing here.