Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Early Spring Updates

We are about four weeks away from spring break, which is hard enough to believe, but I am also counting down into the 50s for the number of days left in my teaching career!  So many memories over 31 years of teaching, but those will have to wait for another day...  I thought I would send a quick update of all of the things to expect over the next few weeks before and right after break.

MONDAY, March 12 - Chamber Music Night in the DeWitt lobby.  We will be performing a brief concert of chamber music as a preview for State Solo and Ensemble Festival, which happens on March 17.  We will start at 7:00 p.m. and the evening will include several solos and small ensembles who will be performing at State on Saturday.  Coffee and cookies will be served.  All are invited.

SATURDAY, March 17 - State S&E at Portage Northern HS.  Times are posted on Google Classroom so far; a hard copy of the schedule, maps, etc. will be handed out as soon as we receive the final info from PNHS.

SATURDAY, March 24 - The ZHS Jazz Ensemble Guest Artist Series Concert.  This is always a very popular concert in the year, and this year several guests will be joining the band on stage.  Chris Vadala, the saxophone player for the Chuck Mangione group back in the day, and Vince DiMartino, trumpet virtuoso, will both be back this year, along with Chris Janowiak on piano.  ZHS alum Jordan VanHemert has written a special arrangement for the band for this concert.  $10.00 all seats.  7:00 p.m. start time in DeWitt.

TUESDAY, March 27 - ZHS Percussion Ensemble spring concert.  See the percussion in all of their musical glory without the band in front of them.  7:00 p.m. in DeWitt, admission is free.  Several selections featuring dozens of instruments will be presented, including solos, small ensembles, and large ensembles.  

SUNDAY, APRIL 15 - ZHS Bands Spring Concert.  The Concert Band, Symphonic Band, and Wind Ensemble will present a concert featuring video game music at 2:00 p.m. in DeWitt Auditorium.  We will also take some time to recognize our graduating seniors at this performance.  (There will most likely be an after-school rehearsal with the percussion the week before this concert to ensure that it all comes together.  Details TBA.)

A quick update on retirement things:

Next Tuesday, March 13, we will be interviewing five potential replacements for me.  These are all highly-qualified individuals, with a wide range of teaching experience.  I am very confident that we will find a person who is the right fit from this pool of applicants.  Following Tuesday's interview, we will most likely bring a couple of finalists in for a second round of interviews, which will include some podium time in front of Concert Band and Wind Ensemble.  It may also include a student/parent representative on the interview team; more details will follow as needed.  

It's been a great 26 years here, and I have many great memories.  I am looking forward to the next chapter in my life!

Monday, February 19, 2018

February Concert Details

At last year's annual calendar meeting we thought about trying to get the HS concert bands to be able to perform at three concerts instead of the usual two, and things worked out basically OK for that.  "Basically" because the February 25 concert will be at Lokers Auditorium at Cityside instead of DeWitt due to scheduling issues.

This brings up a few logistics issues that I am hoping to work out by the 25th...  These are mostly audience capacity issues, since Lokers only holds about 450 people.  I think we will be OK with seating capacity as long as the band kids are actually not in the seats watching each other, though, so we are going to see what happens!

This concert will be for Concert and Symphonic bands only; Wind Ensemble will be doing a different performance venue at our elementary schools next week.

SYMPHONIC BAND should report to the stage at Lokers at 1:25 on Sunday afternoon.  We will do a brief warmup on stage and then move to the band room prior to the concert.

CONCERT BAND should be on stage at Lokers at 1:40 p.m.  We will warm up and tune on stage and be set for the concert at 2:00.

There are five percussionists performing with us this weekend; they know who they are and what time to be where they need to be.

The logistics are coming together - the only thing that needs to be worked out is transportation for a few shared school instruments.  We will work that out as the week goes on, and your children will let you know if you need to carry a tuba or something.

We look forward to seeing you Sunday afternoon!  

Friday, December 22, 2017

Post-Break Calendar Items

Good Morning!  It's the final day of school before break, so I thought I would give everyone a heads up regarding some calendar things that are coming up in January and early February...

But before I do that, allow me to encourage you to make sure your kids bring their instruments home TODAY and PRACTICE a few times over break, please.  I know that some of you will be traveling, but the vast majority will be at home, I think, and kids will be complaining about boredom any minute now, so make them do a little woodshedding!  We have a concert ten days after we return, and they need to keep up with the material.

SUNDAY, JANUARY 14, 2:00 p.m. - 
 - Winter band concert in DeWitt Auditorium
This performance includes four of our five performing ensembles - Percussion Ensemble, Concert Band, Symphonic Band, and Wind Ensemble - and takes place on the main stage at DeWitt Auditorium.  There is no admission charge, but we will do our annual passing of the hat for our summer scholarship funds.  It is a required performance for all students enrolled in the classes listed above.

MONDAY, JANUARY 15, 7:00 p.m. - 
 - Jazz Band combo performance
We did this performance for the first time last year, and although I didn't add it to the performance calendar for this year, the students wanted to do it again.  We will be performing in either the drama classroom or the new theater lobby space; details will be determined after break.  It will be an informal performance and include refreshments.  Since we added this to the calendar, we will cancel the February 8 jazz date.

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 7:00 p.m. - 
 - The ZHS Performing Arts Department presents A Broadway Revue, featuring band, choir, orchestra, and dance
This performance will be for Jazz Band and Wind Ensemble and will feature most of the ensembles in the ZHS Performing Arts Department in a mass collaborative effort!  Details regarding tickets, etc. will be made public in January.

We hope to see all of you at these performances, and best wishes for the holiday season and the approaching new year!


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Band Camp Dates!

It seems as though we think about band camp dates earlier and earlier each year, and even though I will not be here next year I wanted to make sure everything stays in place.

I wanted to make it official that Band Camp 2018 will be held at school beginning July 30 - August 3 next summer.

Short story: It's based on the date of Thanksgiving because of athletics.

Long story: The MHSAA always holds football finals on Thanksgiving weekend.  Thanksgiving is the 4th Thursday of November, and in 2018 November 1 is a Thursday, making Thanksgiving November 22 (very early).  The MHSAA counts back from there for 13 weeks for football season, including playoffs and finals, and comes up with the first day that football can be in pads, etc. for full practices.  For 2018 that date is August 6 - which would traditionally be the date we start band camp.  So...  Band camp moves to July 30 to avoid conflict with athletics, which means that a fairly large percentage of our kids in band will be able to do their band camp and then their sports week without conflict.

It also means vacation plans, summer camps, jobs, etc. need to be figured out soon, and I heard from a few people that they were already booking stuff!  I made the official date change on the band website, I put it on Facebook, and this past Monday I placed it on the 2018-19 Performing Arts Department calendar along with tentative concert dates, etc.  


Thursday, November 16, 2017

DETAILS for the rest of November

Good Morning -

I was going to make this three different emails, then decided to go the blog post route, figuring that everything in one place might be a better idea.  Over the next couple of weeks we have a few fun things going on, and the following details will be important to some or all of you, depending on the event!

LES MISERABLES at Broadway Grand Rapids - Tuesday, November 21
 - If you are taking SCHOOL TRANSPORTATION, we will be meeting at the band room parking lot at 6:00 p.m. and LEAVING at 6:15.  We have three school vans for the 24 people that paid for transportation.
 - If you are driving yourself/your family to DeVos Hall, please plan to meet me in the lobby between 7:00 and 7:15 to pick up your tickets. (The show starts at 7:30, and I really enjoy my time in the theater before curtain, reading the program, checking out the pit orchestra, etc - please don't be late.) If you will need to get your tickets before Tuesday, please call Cathy Lugten at 748-3111 so she can make arrangements for you.
 - Student apparel for the evening should be at least somewhat nice - please leave the ripped jeans, etc. at home for this. 

TUBACHRISTMAS happens near the Splash Pad in downtown Zeeland on Monday, November 27, right before the Christmas parade.
 - ALL tuba and baritone/euphonium students from ZHS are "expected" to perform - please let me know if this is not possible.
 - Registration begins at 4:30 p.m. at the Cityside band room, and will be followed by a rehearsal at 5:00 - 5:30.  
 - There is a $10.00 registration fee per participant.  This is a national event and we are an official site, and we are required to collect this fee from all participants.
 - Students may choose to purchase the TubaChristmas book of carols for an additional $20.00 - this is not required.  It is good at all TC events in the country (future ones, too), and a few students have expressed an interest.
 - Do YOU play euphonium or tuba??  Then you may join us!
Further information for all can be found here: https://docs.google.com/a/zps.org/document/d/1pVeSD_fTxN1NM6hm8elV5vrzsNs4udYFZXelWcJF7wg/edit?usp=sharing

ZEELAND'S DOWNTOWN MAGICAL CHRISTMAS PARADE - also Monday, November 27, at 6:30 p.m.  Tuba and euphonium players will hustle back to the beginning of the parade route by Cityside after TubaChristmas happens.
 - UNIFORMS will be street clothes with marching band parkas, festive holiday headwear, and whatever decor will work on band instruments.  Color guard will be in "Ugly Christmas Sweaters" or other festive apparel for the evening.

2017 ZHSMB AWARDS NIGHT will happen as soon after the parade as possible on the 27th.  Parents are welcome and encouraged to attend as we look back on the season with some fun and serious awards and a season highlights video.  Start time ca. 7:30 p.m. in DeWitt Auditorium; should last about an hour.

Monday, November 6, 2017

November Happenings

Though things are farther apart and not as numerous as the first couple months of the school year, November does bring with it a few calendar items to bring to your attention and/or keep in mind.  Marching/football season is officially over as of last Friday night, but we still have the Christmas parade at the end of this month.  

Monday and Tuesday, November 5 and 6 - picture proof viewing in the band room.  North American Photo will have reps here today and tomorrow for you to come in and order picture packages, which should be ready for Christmas gifts, from 3-8 p.m. both days.

Parent/Teacher Conferences are also happening this week.  You've probably seen plenty about those, so I won't add to that.

Tuesday, November 14 - ZHS Jazz Band concert at 7:00 p.m. in DeWitt Auditorium.  Admission is free for this concert as the jazz band presents music from several different eras for their first performance of the year.

Tuesday, November 21 - Les Miserables at DeVos Hall.  If you've purchased tickets for this performance, we will have them for you at the theater that night.  If you need them earlier, you must contact me in advance in order to pick them up.  More information on bus travel time will be given out at a later date.

Monday, November 27 - this is a fairly busy evening!
 - TubaChristmas begins at 4:30 p.m. with registration at Cityside and a performance downtown at 5:45 (specific details will follow, but if you would like to join, it's open to tuba, euphonium, and baritone players of all ages!).  Our tuba and euph sections will be anchoring the ensemble, and we have heard from a few community members as well.
 - The Christmas parade begins at 6:30 p.m. through the streets of downtown
 - We have added back to the calendar, by popular demand, the marching band awards night after the parade in the auditorium.  This is not a required event, but is always a fun look back at the season from band camp through festival with pictures, videos, speeches, and awards.  We could probably even figure out a way to get cookies and hot chocolate afterward...

That takes you through November as far as I can tell.  I am looking forward to the Thanksgiving holiday - my favorite one of the year!


Monday, October 23, 2017

A Word About Band Placement

Now that marching season is coming to a close, it will soon be time to think about performing concerts on stage as we begin the time of year that several students refer to as "sit-down band."  There are frequently questions about how we go about placing students in each group and what the general expectations are regarding this.

Students in grades 9-11 are required to perform an audition in the spring, which is submitted as their final playing exam.  All students must complete two of the three sections of the exam; the third is optional for students wishing to place into the Wind Ensemble, our top performing group.  Eighth graders are given all of the materials as an option to audition, but are not required.  Mr. Good, Mrs. Bier, and I sit and discuss placement for those students who choose not to audition, but they are generally placed into Concert Band.  (It is very rare that a freshman will be placed into Wind Ensemble - the most we've had in that group is four.)

First and foremost, we want everyone to be successful and comfortable on their instruments, and the advantage of having three concert ensembles is that we can accomplish that to a much larger degree.  In theory the groups would progress by age: Concert Band would be largely populated by freshmen and sophomores, Symphonic Band would be sophomores and juniors, and Wind Ensemble would be made up mostly of juniors and seniors.

In actuality there are some crossovers for various reasons: some students "self place" and ask to be put where they are most comfortable.  Sometimes this is due to the demands of practicing that a higher group may put on them, sometimes it is for reasons known more to the student.  Other crossovers happen for instrumentation concerns (we need a certain amount of French horns in each group, for instance), and still others simply due to the fact that this or that young student is advanced in playing beyond his or her year in school.

Occasionally I do make placements based on seniority and work ethic.  This happens most frequently in Percussion Ensemble for assigning marching band instruments, but has also been a factor in bands as well.  Part of this system also includes a "best fit" kind of practice: sometimes it is better for a person, perhaps a year younger, to be a higher chair in Concert Band than one of the lower ones in Symphonic Band even if he or she is "better" than someone placed above.  This gives the student some leadership experience as well as placing him/her on a part that will bring out some strengths.  Speaking as a trumpet player, for instance, I more often need players who can blend and balance well on the inner parts - if I had all the power players in one group it wouldn't work well for any of the bands.  This is known in the business as "paying dues," and it is something that is rewarded in future years.

Which leads me to my final point, which is that part of the process is also to make sure that placement benefits all players and bands as well as considering individual strengths.  Will there be a person who can qualify for a higher band placement?  Yes.  And sometimes, for the benefit of the band over the student, that student is not placed as high as he/she could be.  As mentioned in the above paragraph, there are frequently many reasons for this, but first and foremost is ensuring that students can be successful, and that all three bands have balanced instrumentation and a good core sound on stage.