Director’s Comments April 2, 2020
April 2, 2020
This is certainly an unprecedented situation we are currently living through. Our program was very well positioned to perform in our KMEA assessments, the Phi Beta Mu Festival and our Festival Concert scheduled for March 12, 14, and 20, but obviously those opportunities were taken from us by the Covid -19 shutdown. I will discuss a number of things that would classify as “fallout” from the decisions made necessary by the pandemic below; all of them will have an impact on our program going forward from here.
Since we are still in a situation where we really don’t know when we’ll be back in the normal classroom situation we left on March 12th (ifatall), many of the decisions made going forward will require adjustments if they are made prematurely. Much like the current state of information concerning the potential impact of Covid -19 on our health and economic situations (again, no one can predict or model a totally accurate picture), we’re going to need to be flexible—probably for quite a while.
I doubt that any of my colleagues are any more comfortable with their teaching situation than I am at this point. I tried to do the best I could with basically a weekend to plan prior to implementing NTI. I knew there was no possible way to have “band” without kids in the room together, and anything I asked of them would be completed or not based on their individual circumstances and access to equipment and resources at home. After burying myself in responses from students for the first two weeks of NTI (think potentially 140 playing responses, 140 written/theory responses, and 140 exit tickets per day!), I’ve recalibrated my thinking. While I believe what I had students doing was valuable, and shouldn’t have taken more than a normal class period to accomplish each day, the reality of the situation is that I will never get from their work the same level of progress or knowledge that they get from interacting together in rehearsals or sectionals when things are normal.
1) NTI and how it will “look” going forward: until we’re allowed to meet together again, I will assign a set of weekly goals to be completed by Thursday evening of each week. There will be playing components (SRF exercises, practice log on Practopus), written components (Master Theory online worksheets), and exit tickets. These will be graded on the basis of “participation” or “completion”, much like a composite “daily grade” in band classes. I will respond to any who obviously “don’t get it” on any of the work turned in.
The work can be completed in whatever order the students can get to it during the week; some may choose to do the SRF’s all at once, practice 20-30 minutes each day, and do the Master Theory pages one or two at a time, scattered over the week. Daily exit tickets need to be submitted so I can see the progress toward their weekly goal. I think this approach will give a little more flexibility.
EVERY FRIDAY should be treated as a MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLNESS DAY; try to find activities that get you away from the NTI grind, and tell me about them in your Exit Ticket for the day on Fridays.
2) Placement auditions for 2020-21: I will have a conversation with guidance about this; I’m not sure that posting audition materials to be performed live in May will be workable. If decisions about extending our time away from a normal school schedule are made, the time frame for completing this audition may become too constricted for results to be known in time for schedules (and any adjustments to same) to be done in time for the end of the year. It could well be that the Symphonic Band II class must become a 9th grade ONLY band for the coming year, with upperclassmen all assigned to Symphonic Band I. We would likely need to make additions from Symphonic I to balance instrumentation for performances (much like we did in our first year of Symphonic II in 2010). To do things this way, adjustments to the scope, sequence, and difficulty level of music for each group will likely be necessary. While that’s not ideal, it may be reality.
3) Fee structure and budget concerns: The impact of the pandemic on the ability of band families to afford our current fee structure in the coming months could have a serious negative impact on the scope of the program and the budget to support it. I have tried for the last several years to REDUCE the individual obligation in terms of our fee structure and the number of fundraising activities we have to be involved in without reducing the scope of what we offer through the OCHS Band experience—and we have had some imited success in doing so. I think we’ll have to be very careful and intentional about this, especially in planning for 2020-21.
One area in terms of budget that I believe we should avoid cutting at all costs is the support for sectional coaches that have given so much to the individual and collective success of our program—many for more than10 years. This support is the primary focus of our booster fundraising efforts, and goes directly into every student’s experience in our program. Just about anything else is negotiable in my opinion, and I’ll have to be very creative in my approach to soften the blow of whatever impact this situation will have on band families (budget is due on April 15th, whether we’re in school or not—including booster sponsored fundraising requests).
4) Recruitment: As of March 12, we had held beginning band testing at La Grange and Buckner Elementary schools, and had our first recruitment/instrument trial night at OCMS. That means that potential feeder schools to the EOMS, SOMS, and NOMS bands have NOT been tested, had instruments demonstrated, or recruitment meetings. This will likely have a tremendous long-term impact on all 3 high school band programs, because without a viable beginning band at each middle school, there will be a gap in the enrollment that will take the next 6 years to fully pass through each of the programs. Imagine what would have happened to our band if seven years ago, there were no 6th grade band classes—our current senior class would not be here (there were 51 9th graders in their class when they arrived here in the fall of 2016).
8th grade recruitment is a concern as well. My February meeting with 8th grade parents and students is rarely enough. Under current circumstances, I’m certain it won’t be.
When students aren’t actively engaged in rehearsals, when they have performance opportunities taken away from them, etc., many lose their connection to the things that make playing in a group special to them. All of our current players and parents are encouraged to reach out to the parents and students at EOMS and OCMS and make sure they have BAND in their plans for high school.
5) Upcoming performances: I won’t make any decisions concerning end of semester events until I get to actually rehearse the bands again. We will have lost so much time by that point (even if we’re back on the 4th), that all of it will have to be restructured anyway. One thing I’d really like to do is revive our Festival music and get it performed and recorded—the kids worked so hard on these pieces prior to March 12 . I think it would provide a bit of closure for everyone if we could show what that effort resulted in for our bands this spring. Beyond that, once we get back, I’ll devise a plan.
6) Summer Band: currently, I have no plans to change what is already in place; Summer rehearsals (Monday and Thursday, 6:00-8:30 p.m.) begin on Monday, July 6 and continue through the first day of school in August (other than band camp week). Band Camp is July 27-31 at OCHS, and is required of all in the program. Of course, any decisions made above my pay grade concerning student contact, group activities, etc. could have an impact on a ll of this.
7) Trip Spring 2021: I think all we can do at this point is submit a request for travel to the board in Spring 2021 and hope we’re going to be allowed. I’d hate to set something up (think KY Ambassadors or the NYC Choir Trip) and put a ton of money into places we can’t get refunds on. I do think that out of country travel (Toronto) will be a non -starter at the OCBE level, so we should consider places and events in the contiguous United States, and within 500-600 miles of here.
Thanks for all you do in support of this program. There is no way we could possibly succeed without your presence and contributions to the effort!