Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Hastings Details

As promised yesterday, here are final details for this Saturday's competition at Hastings HS.  Parents, friends, neighbors, etc. are all welcome to come to this public event.  Admission is $6.00 for adults and $5.00 for students and senior citizens.  The whole day begins at 1:00 p.m., and your admission is good for all 20+ bands, so if you want a full day of marching band, get there early and enjoy yourself!

REHEARSAL will begin at 3:10 p.m. at the stadium.  The band room will be open by 2:45.  We need a good hour or so to review Friday night and get focused for the evening show.

DINNER will be served at about 4:30 p.m. by the band room.  Hot dogs, etc. will be served.  (There are a few folks following a gluten-free diet; I ordered GF pizza for you for Friday, but you should plan on bringing something for the dinner on Saturday.)

We will GET DRESSED and LOAD THE TRAILER AND BUSES after dinner and plan to leave campus at 5:20 p.m.  This will give us slightly over an hour to get to Hastings.  We are planning a time cushion in the travel time here, because it has been many years since we've performed at Hastings; unloading 200+ people and getting them from point A to point B sometimes takes a while, especially in unfamiliar territory.

Our warm-up time is 7:15 p.m.  We get 30 minutes to prepare on site (music only - no marching).

We perform at 8:00 p.m.  There are two bands after us (Grandville and Hastings), so we will wait for them to finish.  Awards are announced at 8:45.  After announcements we will head back to the buses and pack up drumline and tubas, etc. and head for home.  

We should ARRIVE back at ZHS between 10 and 10:30 p.m.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Week of September 26

Hello from the band room.  This week should have been our second or even third full uniformed performance, but it will only be the first!  Friday we are in front of the West crowd, and Saturday in front of judges at Hastings.  We will be ramping up the intensity a little bit this week as we get closer to our goal of MSBOA festival on October 11 (two weeks away...).  Here's what's up for the week:

TONIGHT - Monday, September 26 - Rehearsal at the stadium 6:30 - 9:00 p.m.  Only one weather forecast says we might get some rain; the other three channels say no.  I am telling the kids to bring rain gear - we can't skip rehearsal tonight.  In the event of rain woodwinds will case instruments to avoid damage, but we will be rehearsing providing it's not a deluge.  (Apparently this year's freshman class has been plagued by weather issues for years now - snow days for festival, rain on parades, etc.  I believe Mrs. Bier used the word "cursed."  Cool...)

Tuesday, September 27 - Color Guard 7:00 - 9:00 p.m. Band room/dance studio

Friday, September 30 - FULL BAND REQUIRED PERFORMANCE for the West vs. Holland HS game.  The HHS band will be joining us for pre-game and we are sharing halftime.  Thanks to all of you who signed up for assisting with the pizza, etc., for after halftime.

Saturday, October 1 - FULL BAND REQUIRED PERFORMANCE for the Hastings Marching Band Invitational.  I will send out a separate blog post detailing the final information for this.  We will be rehearsing for about 90 minutes in the afternoon, feeding the students some dinner, and performing in Hastings at 8:00 p.m.  Look for a SignUp Genius later today to do some donations and provide assistance.

PUMPKIN FEST is coming up on October 8.

I have decided to CANCEL the October 15th performance at Grandville.  That is a great place to play and would be a good opportunity to wrap up our season on a high note, but the week is simply too busy, so you can clear that date from your calendars.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Another Edition Regarding Some Great Music

I'm sitting in my office on a Friday after school, putting off a few things that I really should get finished (like cleaning my desk and other fun stuff like that...), waiting for the game crowd to arrive in an hour or so, and thought I would give another listen to a great tune.  Which reminded me that I had planned to share another blog post of my music appreciation thoughts.  Problem solved!  I can sit at my desk, listen to music, and put stuff off til Monday!

Last winter when the band traveled to Memphis we stopped at the Stax Records Museum.  Some of my earliest childhood memories are rooted in the Stax library; my older brother and oldest sister would listen to "Soul Man" by Sam and Dave on the Stax label, Arthur Conley's "Sweet Soul Music," countless Motown artists, and many others.  (We moved to west Michigan when I was about 7; the older siblings spent their music-formative years in the Detroit suburbs, and I'm glad they taught me how to read the labels on the 45 rpm records, forming not only my literacy education but also my musical tastes!)

Because it's a studio and not a record label, I don't recall seeing anything specifically from the Muscle Shoals studio as a youngster, but I picked up a DVD at the Stax museum about this small town in Alabama that was home to two of the most influential recording studios in the country.  I showed it in class at the end of the year, and I was excited to learn some new things myself.

The Muscle Shoals sound started in the early 60s at FAME (Florence Alabama Music Enterprises) Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.  A few years later, the house band, calling themselves "The Swampers," left FAME and formed Muscle Shoals Sound Studio.  These four influential session players would go on to back up countless top recording artists on several different labels.  Fun fact: you've all heard Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home, Alabama," right?  The line that goes, "now Muscle Shoals, they had the Swampers"?  Well, there you go.  A reference to this studio and its awesome house band.  House bands were a big thing back then; Motown had one (it was a session bass player with the Funk Brothers that came up with the famous bass intros for "My Girl" and "I Heard it Through the Grapevine," for instance) .  So did several other studios.  These house musicians were featured on dozens of recordings and were a big reason artists sought to record at Muscle Shoals.

First of all, the scope of style of artists and music recorded at Muscle Shoals is almost second to none: everyone from Wilson Pickett in the early 60s to the Rolling Stones in 1971 ("Brown Sugar" and "Wild Horses") to Lynyrd Skynyrd (yep, "southern rock" was born at this studio), to Cher, Bob Seger, Paul Simon, and dozens of others.  You really should check out the documentary we watched - Muscle Shoals: the Incredible True Story of a Small Town with a Big Sound.
This was also the studio that brought together an unlikely pair to record a cover tune: Wilson Pickett, an African American born in Alabama but raised in Detroit (where he developed his music), and Duane Allman, a white southerner, got together in 1966 to do an amazing cover of the Beatles' "Hey Jude."  (In my opinion, Pickett's soaring vocals, Allman's screaming guitar riffs, and the Muscle Shoals Horns' background licks far outshine the original Beatles recording , though admittedly I've never been a huge Beatles fan.)  This version peaked at #13 on the Billboard charts.  According to an interview in the documentary, it was shortly after this that the Allman Brothers got going, followed soon after by Lynyrd Skynyrd, and "southern rock" was born.

Check it out sometime!  A quick Google search brings you lots of hits for Muscle Shoals.  Here are a few of my favorites from way back, including the Allman/Pickett version of "Hey Jude."  Pay some special attention to the horns, the Hammond B3 organ, and the great guitar stuff.  I've also included the Allman Brothers' "Soulshine," which I heard this past summer for the first time in some many years, and what a great tune to make the connection between gospel music and rhythm and blues/rock styles.


Monday, September 19, 2016

Week of September 19

Looking back on Friday night, I've decided to try to see at least some humor in the situation, since if I didn't I would probably just continue to shake my head in wonder...  What a night.  The kids did a great job getting here on time, had all their stuff, pre-game went well, and then, well, let's just say it went downhill very fast.  I've spoken with several parents who had uniforms hanging in the garage dripping for hours; we just moved a sousaphone from point A to point B in the room, and several ounces of water poured out of the bell as it was picked up.  There is a famous saying:"It's not raining until I say it's raining."  Wow.  It was definitely raining Friday night...

Anyway, here is the weekly update.  Not too much to report - another almost relaxing week before things ramp up in a serious way.

TONIGHT - Monday, September 19 - FULL BAND rehearsal at the stadium, 6:30 - 9:00 p.m.  Goal of the night is to have the entire show back on the field by the end of the rehearsal.  We need to review and remember "Fly by Night."  Again, extremely important for all students to attend on Monday nights; we only have three more after tonight and it's festival time.  Not sure if it is still early in the season or if I am seeing the results of only rehearsing full band one night per week, but we have some very rough spots that need to be cleaned.  Very soon...

Tuesday, Sept 20 - Color Guard rehearsal in the dance studio 7 - 9:00 p.m.  The Holland Symphony will be rehearsing in the band room, so if you come in that way please be very quiet and respectful.

Friday, Sept. 23 - East home football - TRACK BAND.  

Upcoming events:

  • Friday, Sept. 30 - West Football vs. Holland - ALL
    • HHS band will be joining us for pre-game and halftime that night!
  • Saturday, Oct 1 - Hastings Invitational
    • Most likely a late afternoon performance
    • I will publish times when I know them
That should do for this week.  There is probably more, but I decided to spend some family time yesterday rather than come in and straighten the room, so I need to do that right now!

Have a great week - 


Monday, September 12, 2016

Week of 9-12-16

As promised, here is the first of several probably weekly blog posts dealing with all things ZHS Band.  You can tell by the catchy title that I spend a lot of time with creative thought on these...

Here are some things for parents to be aware of for the upcoming week:

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 12  Monday night rehearsal, 6:30 - 9:00 p.m. - Stadium
Mission critical.  Vital to our success.  Absolutely necessary.  Can't live without it.  These and many other similar phrases have been going through my head (and out of my mouth toward your children's ears) the past several days.  We meet in FOUR SEPARATE class hours, meaning that our Monday rehearsals are literally the ONLY CHANCE we get to rehearse and fix things as a group.  Our Friday night time together before the game is not really a rehearsal as much as it is a review.  Please help me and the band out by making sure your child is in attendance at the stadium for these sessions.  As a new procedure this year, I reserve the right to "pull" a student from the performance if he/she misses Monday night rehearsal.  I realize that there are a few athletic events that take kids away from this, and that is different (I am working with some West coaches regarding tonight and the conflict with Meet the Teachers Night).  Students who need rides need to ask around; jobs, babysitting, etc, etc. need to be rescheduled.  We cannot afford absences.

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 13   Color Guard rehearsal, 7:00 - 9:00 p.m.  This session will once again be in the dance studio.  The Holland Symphony will be rehearsing in the band room.

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 16  East Homecoming Football
Report time to the band room will be 5:45 p.m.  Students need to locate uniform parts, get dressed, etc., and we will have a show review time before marching to the stadium at 6:30.  This performance is REQUIRED for ALL students.

Other items of interest for you:
 - I have started using the Remind app for marching band.  I am easing into this idea and will eventually expand it to either include a parent "class" or simply add parents to the band class that their child is in.  For those who don't know what Remind is, it's basically a one-way texting app that allows me to send a message to all students at once regarding reminders, schedule changes, etc.  Several of my colleagues use it and are very excited about it.  I hope to make good use of it as well.
 - If you're reading this you are already on the parent email list.  If this was forwarded to you, email me at kwalker@zps.org and I will add you to my list.
 - There is a band Facebook page.  This is more of a "see what's happening" sort of page rather than information or similar items.  I do not use that page as a communication tool except for emergency cancellations, etc.  It's a public page, so you do not need a Facebook account - https://www.facebook.com/Zeeland-High-School-Marching-Band-339133719554320/
 - We also have a Twitter account - @zhsband - that I use periodically.  Nothing terribly special to follow, but occasionally I will tweet pictures or video of class or performances.  Like Facebook, I also use Twitter for emergency schedule changes.  

  •  You may be interested in these past blog entries
    • Track Band http://zhsbands.blogspot.com/2015/08/track-band.html
    • Communication http://zhsbands.blogspot.com/2015/08/communication.html
    • I am working on one regarding band and athletics and how we resolve conflicts, etc.
That will have to do for this week.  As always, please direct questions or concerns to kwalker@zps.org

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Band Camp Reduix, T-Shirts, and Assorted Other News

Band camp was a pretty huge success!  We changed a few things around to accommodate construction, scheduling, and other things, but we did camp, dispensed uniforms, and had a great time without really ever using the band room during the day.  Friday it was a little sad that we didn't make it to the beach, but when we had to make the call there were red swim flags flying at Tunnel Park, and I just couldn't imagine four busloads of kids not being allowed to go in the water at the beach...  It ended up saving some money since we didn't have to pay for buses, so that's good.

Thank you to all of the volunteers for the week, whether you assisted with uniforms, "medical" staff, cooking Friday's lunch, or handing out popsicles or otherwise.  We really appreciate your help!  (I just spent about an hour organizing uniform money checks and accounting for which kids have paid how much money, and I grew even more appreciative of the folks who come in to help out with that sort of thing.)

T-SHIRTS will be ordered next week!  This year they are truly "charcoal" in color - a dark grey edging toward black.  They will have the Rush logo on the front (included in a design by a ZWHS student) and everyone's names on the back.  Parents, students, friends, and neighbors may all purchase as many shirts as they'd like.  No one is required to purchase, but we do ask that you return check or cash by next Monday, August 22 (at Monday night rehearsal).  If this presents a problem, let me know.  It is difficult to do more than one order due to the temporary nature of the screens for printing.  

Speaking of things that cost you money - can we do something that will help (I hope) on both sides of the equation:
 - There are several items that need some sort of payment or other.  For MY convenience, it would be very helpful if you could write separate checks for the separate items (like a check for uniform fees AND a check for T-shirts) so I can keep track of what money went where.
 - For YOUR convenience, if you have more than one child or are ordering more than on shirt or paying two uniform fees, etc., you may write a single check for as many kids as you have.  Make sense?  That way you're not writing six checks for T-shirts and uniform money.

 - For the convenience of everyone, especially to make sure things get properly credited, please fill out a DIFFERENT form for each item and child, but you may include one check for payment.  So if you're ordering seven shirts for seven different people in seven different sizes, fill out seven different order forms, but feel free to write one check for all of them.

HOPE COLLEGE game on Saturday, September 3.  
At this point you know as many details as I do - there is a Hope game on that Saturday and the band is performing.  I don't know when the game starts, etc.  I hope to find this information out very soon; if Hope doesn't contact me by Friday, I will be in touch with them.  This of course brings up the reality of family vacations, etc. on Labor Day weekend.  Totally understandable, so please let me know if that weekend is a problem.  Community Day at Hope is traditionally their first home game.  We rotate in every third year with Holland and West Ottawa; when the state of Michigan passed the law requiring a post-Labor Day start of school, this game became a bit of a problem!  If you're in town, I expect that kids will be in attendance.  I will get you further details as soon as possible.

Monday night rehearsals have started up as of last night; 6:30 - 9:00 at the stadium (usually - last night there was a scheduling snafu due to last Friday's weather).  We will rehearse next Monday at the stadium.  The band room will be open for students to get equipment before rehearsal begins.

Our first home football game is on Friday, August 26.  This is a game handled by Track Band, which is a voluntary organization.  All students are welcome and encouraged to attend, but it is not required.  We will play the school song, national anthem, etc. for pre-game, and some cheers and assorted noise-making during the game, and some sort of performance at the half.  This early in the year it is pretty tough to play much, though!  It's a fun time and much less formal than a uniformed football game with the full band.

That should do it for now.  Please feel free to email me if you have any questions - kwalker@zps.org.


Thursday, August 4, 2016

So... Rush??

I thought I'd take a minute and write a little about the original artists of our fall show.  Rush is a Canadian "prog rock" band that has been around for several decades now, and it seems that people have either never heard of them or they totally love them; no middle ground here!  So for those of you who are on the "never heard of them" end of the spectrum, I give you the following...

First of all - "prog (progressive) rock"?  Well, a simple explanation is that it's rock music taken to a more high-brow level - more intricate melodies, time signatures (Rush uses 7/4, 7/8, 5/8, 3/4, 3/8, etc., compared to most pop, rock, country, and CCM, which is mostly an easy 4/4 or 3/4), "deeper" lyrics, and more epic song lengths (check out Rush's 1976 album "2112," in which the entire first side of the record is a seven-movement story of the future and a young man who finds a guitar).  So the progressive rock movement was an effort to elevate the rock genre to appeal to a more poetic, artistic (snooty??) audience.

Rush is a trio of musicians all hailing from the great white north (if you remember the parody song of that name by Bob and Doug Mackenzie around 1980 or so, you will remember that Geddy Lee sang backup on it).  Geddy Lee (lead vocals, bass, bass pedals, synth, general awesomeness), Alex Lifeson (possibly rock's greatest guitarist of all time), and Neil Peart (if you can still see the drummer there aren't enough cymbals) are the second official iteration of the band, though really the only one everyone knows.  Peart and Lee were added to the group after two members left for various reasons quite early on.  

Starting with the self-titled "Rush" in 1974, which achieved gold record status in the US and Canada, they followed quickly with "Fly By Night" and "Caress of Steel" in 1975 and "2112" in 1976.  Several things happened between "2112" and 1981's "Moving Pictures," which is without a doubt their finest album (and also the first major rock concert I attended - Wings Stadium in Kalamazoo my junior year of HS...).  "Permanent Waves" is also pretty good, as is "Hemispheres," but in my opinion they had some pretty average output after that, though Sarah V may disagree with me.  And she is known to do that.

Speaking of Sarah, she is largely responsible for this year's show idea.  She is a great musician and a lover of great rock music (a tribute to her upbringing!), and she and I talked well over a year ago about the idea of bringing a Rush show to the football field.  Even had one almost ready to go last year, but I held off for no particular reason.  Audiences will remember Sarah from her role as bassist from the 2014 funk show as well as being one of the members of our snare line.

So the final pieces we decided on for the show:
 - The Spirit of Radio (from "Permanent Waves," 1980)
"Begin the day with a friendly voice,
companion unobtrusive;
plays the song that's so elusive
and the magic music makes your morning mood"

So begins the first verse of a song that lyricist Neil Peart wrote originally "as a tribute to all that was good about radio."  It turned into a parody-type anthem of all of the commercialism, programming, and other problems of the industry; ironically, it became popular on the radio.  The final chorus - "the words of the profits {not "prophets," as from Simon and Garfunkel's Sound of Silence, but "profits"} are written on the subway walls and echo with the sound of salesmen" - was written as a jab at the music industry.

 - Lakeside Park/YYZ ("Caress of Steel," 1976, and "Moving Pictures," 1981)
The only difficulty with a show like this is finding something easier on the ears and more down-tempo and relaxed.  Rush is not exactly known for their power ballads!  Lakeside is a celebration of a park on Lake Ontario, and May 24, referenced in the lyrics, is Victoria Day.  
I wanted to try some of YYZ in the show, but it's truly one of the most difficult ones to pin down.  It starts in a fast 5/4 time with what was originally Peart on a triangle solo, banging out the Morse Code for "YYZ," the call letters of Toronto's Pearson Int'l Airport.  From there it breaks into hard-driving instrumental, broken by solos on bass, guitar, and drums.  We've decided that the drumline will be featured in the solo sections instead; they are working hard!

 - Fly By Night ("Fly By Night," 1975)
Written by Neil Peart at age 18 about his desire to travel and explore the world.  One of their more mainstream tunes stylistically, it's a pretty good rocker and makes a great closing number for the marching band.

I put together a YouTube playlist as I was preparing and thinking about this show.  Here's a link for you to give a listen.  I included all the songs we talked about putting in the show, so there are a couple extras here that we aren't playing.  (I really love Freewill, but just didn't relish the idea of teaching the band to march in 7/4 time for most of the tune...)

Hope you enjoy the show this year!