Sunday, December 1, 2013


Wow, it's December!!  I keep promising to ease up on these weekly blog posts, and this may be the one that is truly the last one for a while...  November is usually a calm month, but we clearly had some more excitement with football than we usually do.

So now that it's December, what does that mean for the band?

  • We are WELL into preparations for our January concert.
  • The annual Christmas Parade is Monday night (possibly tonight, depending on when I send out this link)
  • The ever-popular ZHS Marching Band Awards Night is also scheduled for Monday evening, right after the parade.  We should be started by 7:30 and done before 9.  There will be some fun, some serious, and some multi-media production of the season in review.  I hope ALL parents and students can make it to this event!  (It started almost ten years ago with about 50 or so kids in attendance in the band room.  Within a few short years we had to abandon the room, the potluck dinner format, and move to the auditorium!  It's totally a must-see event!)
A quick word on the past weekend:


See?  I told you it would be a quick word...  Everyone was here on time.  Everyone had all of their stuff.  Everyone did as they were told.  We had a ball.  The halftime show was really...  hey, we had a great time and got to perform on a Super Bowl NFL football field!  There were some rough edges and it was all a bit rushed and we hadn't really done it in a while.  Oh, and NFL hashmarks aren't the same as high school, which we knew, but didn't really talk much about.  So, yeah, we had a great time :)  It sounded great!

Thanks for ALL of your help.  I can't list everyone or everything here, mostly because when I start that I usually end up forgetting someone important!  Two very special shout-outs, though, to Cathy Lugten, who worked many extra hours Tuesday and Wednesday to get the Hard Rock dinner plans finalized (student count, meal count, find the credit card, the tax exempt number, blahblahblah...  all while I was in Wisconsin with family Wed-Fri), and to Ruth Hawley-Lowry, who came over to school Saturday night and shoveled and salted the sidewalks and somehow managed to get the parking lot lights turned on for our return (I always forget that one!!).  We had a nurse who missed the performance due to a student with a (non-threatening) medical issue, a field crew working to set up brand new podiums for the drum majors at record speed, a uniform crew who handles more emergencies than I even want to know about, and photographers, videographers, chaperones, siblings helping with flags, and tons of other people helping make us who we are.  THANK YOU ALL VERY MUCH!!!

  • Students need to report IN UNIFORM to Cityside (same as Pumpkin Fest) by 6:00 p.m.  Uniforms may be altered to include: a winter/Santa/fun hat, winter gloves or mittens, and boots/regular shoes that work in the slush and mud.  
  • Instruments may be decorated with lights, garland, etc., as long as they still play
  • THERE WILL BE NO EQUIPMENT VEHICLE TRAVELING TO CITYSIDE FOR THIS PERFORMANCE.  Students who usually rely on the trailer will need to make alternate arrangements - drums, tubas, color guard, etc.    
  • Once we are finished, we will return to school for our awards presentation as mentioned above :)

I think that will do for now.  Thanks for your support of the program and what we do here.  We couldn't do it without all of you.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

SCRIP, or "How I Learned to Pay for My Kid's Band Trip Without Buying Any Pizza Kits"

Since most of this information was already here, I decided to just update this post from a few years ago...  I will continue to update this post with dates, times, etc. to reflect this year's schedule.

Scrip is a program that is used by many school groups in the area (if your friends send kids to Holland Christian, they may have told you about TRIP, which is the same thing).  It allows you to buy gift cards for well over a hundred merchants, including restaurants, department stores, gas stations, etc., and receive a percentage of your gift card purchase back for your student's account.

Once per week from 5-6 p.m. there are two HS band parent reps here in the band room collecting money and distributing orders.  So, let's say you want to participate.  You show up at the band room next Monday and sign up and place an order.  You must pay in advance for the next week.  Your order arrives the following Monday, and you can place another order at that time.  You receive a percentage of your purchase credited to your child's account; depending on the merchant, that runs about 4% and up.  0.5% is kept by the band to cover expenses like shipping and handling, and your child's account is credited with the rest.

Some merchants, like Kohl's, allow you to pay your credit card balance with Scrip dollars/gift cards.  There are gas stations on the list as well, so if you travel a lot this would be a great way to build your account.

ALL YOU HAVE TO DO is show up next Monday and get signed up.  Amy Ransler and Jennifer Ritsema take it from there!  In the past, many families have paid for over half of their child's trip with Scrip dollars.  Family and friends may also participate, either through paying you to buy stuff for them or by signing up themselves and listing who gets the credit.

Need more answers?  Contact Amy Ransler at and she will help you out.

You can also go to the Scrip page on the band website here - - where you will find an order form and a pdf file of an introductory letter that says a lot of what you have just read above.

Thanks!  Please get started on this right away - it's the easiest way to raise money all year long.  We will be doing other fund raisers periodically, but this is a steady, consistent process that occurs all year long and really makes the most money.  See you Monday!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Chair Tests

This week's main topic will be chair tests, which I will get to in a moment...  But first:

  • This week TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 19, the ZHS Bands are proud to present the first concert of the year of the ZHS JAZZ ENSEMBLE!  This concert will take place at 7 p.m. at LOKERS Auditorium.  Admission is free!  Please come out and enjoy an evening of big band jazz spanning about 60 years' worth of time.  Though we don't always do "theme" concerts for jazz band, this one is all about birds and flight, and will include everything from Frank Sinatra vocals to 21st century funk.  These 18 boys wake up early every morning to start class at 6:45 a.m. and they are ready for an audience to hear what they've been working on.  Hope to see you there!
  • Solo and Ensemble forms have been available for several days now.  Money and forms are officially due today, but I can probably wait as long as Wednesday to start our entry process.  The form is attached to the email where you found this link.
  • FOOTBALL Semi-finals.  At this time it is looking like if we DO send a group it will be a pep band.  There is a large rehearsal for the ZHS Performing Arts Department's production of "The Nutcracker" on Saturday, and many of our band members are involved, including our soloists and section leaders.  I will keep everyone posted, but it is unlikely at this point that we will travel with the entire band.
Chair Tests...

This process is sometimes grueling for all involved!  I have just finished a couple days of marathon listening sessions and am only halfway through the group.  I know that the students stress about this sometimes as well, and frequently even parents get concerned about how these tests will turn out.  Here are some of my thoughts on the system:
  • I don't always like chair tests.  I don't always dislike them, either.  Part of me says that kids don't need to know who is "the best" and who is "the worst" in their section.  The other part says that the stuff I choose for them to play should be playable equally well by all HS-level musicians and that if they don't want to be "the worst" then they should practice more.  That side usually wins out, and we do chairs.
  • Sometimes the results are very close.  In the event of a tie, the chair will go to the older student.  If the tied students are in the same grade, I choose based on the "tone quality" and "intonation" scores on their evaluation.  (Based on things that I consider in the "other" type of category, like leadership, experience, etc., it is very unlikely that a freshman will be placed as a First Chair player in Symphonic Band.)
  • Some sections don't need chairs.  Tubas, tenor saxophones, baritones, bassoons, bass clarinets, and bari saxes all play the same music within their sections.  Flutes, oboes, clarinets, alto saxes, trumpets, horns, and trombones all play parts that are often related to instrument ranges and technique; a trumpet player who cannot play high notes well, for instance, will most likely not be placed on a "first trumpet" part.  (However, we run the risk of students being "stuck" on lower parts if they're not careful.  Playing in only the low register of your instrument in band may cause your upper register to stagnate.  This is why we work on scale exercises.)
  • I don't generally do "challenges," in which a student can move up from one chair to a higher chair by having a playoff with another student.  We will leave the chairs where they end up for the winter concert, and have another chair test for the spring performance.  Students wishing to move up must practice!
  • It is also very unusual for students to change from one band to the other, though I have done this and do consider it on an individual basis.
Full results should be finished by the end of this week.  Flutes, Clarinets, and Trumpets are basically done; Alto Saxes and Trombones will be next.

Questions?  Let me know -

That should do it for now.  Thanks for listening.  See you tomorrow night at the jazz band concert!!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Band Trip 2014-15

It is time we make a decision regarding the scheduled band trip for the next school year; fund raising and money-saving needs to get under way as soon as possible to give everyone a good chance to get things in order.

In the past, we have tried to keep the cost of the trip below $1,000.00.  As you can imagine, this is becoming more and more difficult, but we will still do our best.  My goal is for a family's trip "budget" to be no more than a $100.00 payment per month, much of which can be raised via our Scrip program that is offered every week throughout the year.

Here are the possibilities, in no particular order.  At the end of this post will be a survey for you to fill out and return so I can gather and compute parental input with all of the student input.

 - Disney World in Orlando, FL.  We would spend several days at the three parks, march in a parade, and attend a music performance seminar as well.

 - The National Memorial Day Parade in Washington, DC.  We have a standing invitation to this prestigious parade based on our performance there in 2009.  We would travel from Wednesday night to Monday, with the trip culminating with the parade.

 - A trip to a college bowl game, most likely in Florida, most likely over New Year's Day.  In the past we have marched at the Gator Bowl and the Sugar Bowl.  Some of these involve a parade, but most are a mass band halftime show with literally thousands of band students on the field at halftime.

Each trip comes with pros and cons; Disney would be the most expensive, while DC would be the least.  Travel would be by deluxe motor coach to save money, but Florida is a very long bus trip!

Some general details:
  • We operate on a 12:1 student to chaperon ratio
  • A deposit will be required to hold a spot 
  • There will be a date past which no refunds will be possible AND the entire cost of the trip would still have to be paid if a family cancels.
  • Unfortunately we cannot offer multi-child discounts or scholarships.  Students and families would be responsible for all costs.
  • Please do not volunteer (or even express interest in) to be a chaperon at this time.  The selection process will be discussed at a later date. 
 Please take a few minutes to fill out this survey.  I would like to get these responses tabulated and finished up by next Friday, November 15.

Monday, October 21, 2013

"Sit-Down Band"

Whew...  Friday's performance capped off about 8 weeks of intense work which saw the ZHS Marching Band (in some shape or form) perform 11 (ELEVEN) times.  These performances began even before school started!  This does not include band camp (or its Friday performance) or the additional 5 Monday rehearsals during school or the 2 before school started.  That's a LOT of work!  Thank you to all of the parents who made it possible, which is pretty much every one of you - driving your kids to and from school for all of this stuff, transporting them from an athletic event to a band show, helping out with uniforms, schlepping equipment around the fields, etc.  

This week begins what the kids refer to as "Sit-Down Band," which gives us a much less strenuous schedule.  Here are some details regarding what is going on there:

  1. During the 4th hour band period we split the large marching group into two different bands.  These bands function as completely separate ensembles from one another and play different music, though they perform at the same concerts.  Students were given the lunch/rehearsal schedule on Friday via email; we will be alternating which group meets first on a M-W-F/T-Th basis.
  2. Students in grades 10-12 were given a playing test at the end of last school year that functioned as both a final exam and a placement test for Symphonic and Concert band.  Ninth grade students were given the opportunity to audition if they chose; if they chose to not audition they were placed in Concert Band, but not all who did audition were placed in Symphonic Band.
  3. We group the students in this manner to assure that they will be placed at a level where they will be successful.  
  4. Our first concert, which will also function as part of the first semester exam, will be Sunday, January 12 at 2 p.m. in DeWitt Auditorium.
Students in both groups will be learning new music as well as rehearsing technical exercises and chorales (used for balance/blend and tuning).  There will be periodic playing tests, and both groups will be auditioning for chair placement very soon.

That should do for this week, I believe.  We DO have a game this week Friday - TRACK BAND week.  If your child has missed a performance due to a family vacation, illness, etc., this would be a good opportunity to make up that absence.  Absences created due to conflicting athletic events that were pre-arranged with coaches need not be made up.

Have a great week!

Monday, October 14, 2013

MB Wrap-up

Wow!  What a week...  Thank you, thank you, thank you for all of your support and getting your kids where they needed to be and all of the stuff required to have a 3-performance (and one evening rehearsal) week!  

This post will serve as a wrap-up of the general marching band activities and help you navigate as we move into concert band preparations.

First of all, we did a GREAT job at Grandville on Saturday!  We won the Class AA portion of the show (tough competition...), but most importantly?  Of all of the bands that performed at both Kenowa and Grandville, ours was the only score that went UP.  Every other band that played both of those shows ended up with a lower score than they had two weeks ago.  And with the Grand Champion (Portage Central) receiving an 89, our 82.4 looks very good.  (Two weeks ago our score of 80.7 was well below the high score of 95.0.)  So it was a great end to a fun season of competition.

My apologies for the delay in returning on Saturday.  The process for re-loading our equipment was not well thought-out (the equipment vehicle was far away from the buses, so the travel to and from the trailer was excessive), and we ended up about a half hour behind schedule by the time we fought traffic out of the single driveway exit.  In the event that we perform there again in the future I will have a different plan.

THANK YOU also to the nearly three dozen parents and students who helped out with hosting marching festival last Tuesday.  We couldn't have done it without you!  We received many compliments about our facilities and our volunteers.

This week will be much more relaxed; we have a game Friday night for West and that is about it!

"NOT A FUND RAISER" update:  so far we have collected over $1,000 in our fall "Not a Fund Raiser" campaign.  While we would like to get this wrapped up as soon as possible, I believe in the motto of "we'll take your money any time."  Our goal this fall is $6,000.00, and we'd like to have it done by the end of this week if at all possible.  Thank you in advance for your generous contributions. 

"What happens next?"
 - Well, this week begins our transition period to what some of the kids like to call "sit-down" band.  By the end of the week we will have the list of Symphonic Band students posted, and we will begin as early as next week meeting as two separate concert organizations.  (Students were offered the opportunity last spring to audition for Symphonic Band; those who chose not to will be placed in Concert Band.  Not all who auditioned will be guaranteed placement in Symphonic Band.)
 - Students will be learning/reinforcing concepts of tone quality, intonation, and technique that may be different from our marching unit.  We will be utilizing the iPad to download and read scale and technique exercises as well as warm-up chorales, etc.  Our first concert performance is Sunday, January 12 at 2 p.m. in DeWitt Auditorium.
  - The two groups will split the 4th hour/lunch period time between 11:02 and 12:31, with each band rehearsing about 43 minutes per day.  This year we will be alternating some of the days the groups meet so we can accommodate rehearsals for the HS orchestra, which uses some members of the Symphonic Band.  The new schedule will take some getting used to, but the kids always manage.
 - FOOTBALL playoffs are also on the horizon...  West has qualified already (with a 6-1 record), and East needs one more win to make it to post-season play.  Sometimes we do track band, sometimes full band, depending on the schedule.  In general the band does not travel to away playoff games, but we do provide something for the home ones.  In the event that a team makes it to Ford Field, we get to play there as well!  
 - EXTRA OPPORTUNITIES are also available.  MSBOA Solo and Ensemble Festival is in February.  Solos and small groups perform for a judge for a rating.  Also coming up later in the semester is a chance to play in the pit orchestra for the March musical "The Wizard of Oz."  This group begins meeting in January and works through early March providing live music for our stage production.  A very taxing musical experience, but one that is unforgettable as students perform a fully-produced Broadway musical.  

That should take care of things for this week.  This post may be the last official "weekly" one now that things are slowing down.  I will use it to post details of whatever we're doing for the post-season games, or if I find an interesting article or link for you to peruse.  As usual, if you need to contact me please use and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

District Marching Festival

Wow!  What a great night to march and a great crowd to see it!  I hope everyone got out to see the show last night.  The kids did a very nice job and things went quite smoothly with our hosting duties at the stadium.

More on all of this later, but for now here's a link to the YouTube video of our show:

For our nearly 30 volunteers who helped with the logistics of th evening a heartfelt THANK YOU for all you do to keep things running!  LOTS of compliments from other schools about our facilities and the friendliness of our parents and kids.  That's always great to hear.

See you Saturday at Grandville.  We perform at 3:30, remember!!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

October 7

I actually had to correct the official title of this post!  I started typing "September"...

How did we get to this place so fast??  As I write this we are about two months since the END of band camp.  The older I get the faster the time goes.

Anyway, this week marks the last big week of events for the ZHS Marching Band.  We have one more regular-season game after this weekend, but this week gives us festival, a home game, and our final competition.  After that we'll be in a more relaxed mode of thinking.  Here's what's up for this week:

MONDAY, October 7 - Our FINAL Monday rehearsal - 6:30 - 9:00 p.m. at the stadium.

TUESDAY, October 8 - MSBOA Festival - Zeeland Stadium

FRIDAY, October 11 - Home game (in which we get to see WEST play again!)

SATURDAY, October 12 - Grandville Invitational


Tuesday - Festival.  Kids need to be DRESSED AND READY TO GO at 7:30 p.m.  We warm up at 8:00 and PERFORM at 8:45.
***This is the only date for which I will accept NO athletic conflicts.  Students are with the BAND at the TIME EXPECTED regardless of their scheduled game time.  Coaches and ADs are aware of this and support the decision.***
 Following our performance we will wait in the end zone area for Grandville to perform before our ratings are announced.  Students should be done by 9:30 p.m. after changing out of uniforms.

Friday - Regular game situation.  Rehearsal will begin at 6 p.m.

Saturday - We perform at 3:30 p.m.  Students will report to the band room by 1:15 for a scheduled departure time of 1:45.  Students may be dismissed, if necessary, immediately after our performance.  Parents should meet us down by the track/end zone to check out their students with me.  We will be back at ZHS around 4:30 p.m.

That might actually do it for this post.  It's been a FAST season!!  This week is the 7th week of football season, a game at which BOTH Zeeland teams can officially qualify for the post-season.  I'll keep everyone posted as to that schedule when it comes up.  In the next couple of weeks we will be breaking the large 4th hour class into two separate concert groups and begin what some call "Sit-down Band" season.  More on that later as well; for now, let's enjoy the prospect of a busy week!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Week of September 30

Hard to believe it's the end of September already!!!  Only two more Monday night practices before MSBOA Festival, and then things start to slow down a bit as we change gears toward indoor band and concert preparation in a few weeks.

First of all, the band did a FINE job on Saturday at Kenowa Hills.  For many of our younger members it was an eye-opener to experience that an entire side of bleachers was present just to see marching bands, and still others began to realize the amount of hard work and preparation that had gotten us to that moment.  We scored an 80.7, which is a pretty decent score for this time of the season as well as a PR for our band.  We are usually around 77-79 or so at this event, so we are definitely on the right track.  Final push this week and on to Festival next Tuesday!  Our performance at Grandville on the 12th will be the icing on the cake for the season.

It was also great to see so many parents and family members come out to cheer for us at KH.  I hope you all enjoyed yourselves and got to see several other groups perform.  I do have one request, though:  through the years I have stressed to the kids that we are NOT the Chix or the Dux; we are ONE BAND.  While I can appreciate the "go, Chix" and "go, Dux" cheers, it's really better if maybe it goes something like "go, ZEELAND."  Thanks!

Here's what's coming up for this week.  Another busy-ish time, but there are only two more weeks in the "official" season!


Monday, September 30:  Rehearsal at the stadium 6:30 - 9 p.m.

Tuesday, October 1:  Color Guard practice 7-9 p.m.
                                   SCRIP fund raiser 5-6 p.m. band room
         (Email Jaci McKee for further info:

Friday, October 4:  We get to play for East again!  We will be participating in the student govt.'s "Pink Out" as far as I know, wearing pink bandannas for pre-game and wrapping our sousaphone bells with pink covers.  Report time 5:45 p.m.

Saturday, October 5:  Pumpkin Fest Parade
 - Parade begins at 3 p.m.
 - There will NOT be transportation to or from the parade.  Students need to meet at Cityside and be ready to go by 2:30 p.m. on Main Street in front of the middle school.
 - The equipment trailer WILL go to Cityside for large equipment 

Monday, October 7: our FINAL Monday rehearsal of the year!  6:30 - 9 p.m. at the stadium.

Tuesday, October 8:  MSBOA Festival performance at Zeeland Stadium.  We perform at 8:45 p.m.  Full and final details will go out in a separate email later this week.

Saturday, October 12:  Grandville Invitational.  We perform at 3:30 p.m.  THANK YOU so much for being flexible and letting me get this on the calendar.  The Grandville stadium is a terrific place to perform, and our show will look great there.

This article/link was forwarded to me by Jon Voss.  I'm not completely sure, but I think it sounds an awful lot like band...

Also, I saw this article that intrigued me.  This week we are going to work on some stamina and endurance with the band:

That should do it for this week.  Thanks again for joining us on Saturday.  Let me know if you have any questions: 

Friday, September 27, 2013

MSBOA Hosting Duties

Hello -

For our annual adventure hosting the MSBOA Marching Band Festival, we need a crew of about 30-40 volunteers for the event to run as smoothly as possible.  Some of these volunteers are strictly behind-the-scenes, providing food for the officials or working in the concession stand (from which we get a cut of the profits).  Others are front-line personnel and are responsible for taking a band from the entry area to their warm-up site and leading them back to perform, all while keeping track of time for the director.  More are needed as greeters and admission money takers at the spectator gate as folks arrive.  And we will also need one or two "administrator" types who would be willing to run the show and organize other folks, such as being the coordinator for the food in the press box or being the person in charge of ALL of the volunteers that evening.  

Check your calendars for TUESDAY, OCTOBER 8, and decide:

HOW YOU CAN HELP??  Here's a handy Google form to fill out which will get back to me so I can get folks organized for the night.  Please look it over and see what you might be available to do.  Thanks once again for all of the support you give to me and the kids.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Week of September 23

Hello Again...

This week the pace picks up quite a bit after a week or so of a more relaxed schedule.  Lots of stuff coming up in the next few weeks, with several performances both "home" and "away."

The Schedule:

Monday, Sept. 23 - Monday rehearsal at the stadium 6:30 - 9:00 p.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 24 - Color Guard practice in the band room 7 - 9 p.m.

Friday, September 27 - Pep Assembly performance during the day, East Homecoming game at night (report time 5:45 p.m.)

Saturday, September 28 - Kenowa Hills Invitational

The Details:
For Friday's assembly we will be performing in the East gym and doing stand cheers and school song-type stuff.  Students will be excused from part of their 6th hour (shortened schedule) class to prepare for the assembly.

Saturday - the schedule will look similar to the Hope game as far as time is concerned.  Students need to report to the band room to dress and load by 11:30 a.m.  Our plan is to leave by NOON.
 - Departure - Noon
 - Arrive @KHHS - 1:00 (there's some construction possible)
 - Warm-up - 1:30
 - Performance 2:15
 - Awards - 3:00
 - Return to school - 4:30 p.m.

 - There is NOT a plan for lunch, nor will students have an opportunity to visit the concession stand at the field - we will most likely wait on the track for the last couple of bands before awards.  Please make sure your kids have something to eat and drink before they come to school, and pack them a snack/water bottle if you feel it's necessary based on the schedule.

 - Our "standing around" time will be relaxed as we wait in the stadium for the last two bands.  Students will be able to stand in a normal teenage fashion as well as take off their hats and gloves (and possibly unzip their coats if it's warm enough) while we wait.  Plus there is the added attraction of actually watching two bands perform, which is far more exciting and interesting than "listening" to speeches...

 - Parents needing to pick up their kids and drive them home early may meet us at the north gate by the field entrance after we perform to check them out with me.

 - YES!!  Parents are indeed welcome and encouraged to attend and cheer us on as we perform.  I believe that tickets are $5.00 each; most bands use these competitions as a fund raiser for their programs, so they are not free.  Get there as early as you'd like - the day starts at 9:45 a.m. with the Class D groups.  Some folks even combine a trip to ArtPrize on the way to Kenowa.

I think that takes care of everything.  Please let me know if you have any questions!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Attendance, Planning, and Time, Oh, My!

Parents - 

Though this post doesn't apply to all of you, I hope that many will find it to be in the helpful spirit in which it is intended.

This first issue applies to more folks than the second, and is something that may become more important as our Monday rehearsals move to the stadium this week.  Please make it a point to pick up your child after a rehearsal or performance at the time listed for the event.  We frequently end up with students waiting here well after 9 p.m. on Monday after rehearsal, and I don't like to leave them locked out of the building at night.  The same is true for when the band returns from events away from school - I usually publish an expected time of arrival back at school, and it's very cool if everyone gets picked up right around then.  As far as pickup points go, please plan on using the band room parking lot rather than the stadium or the front lot at East.  This allows me to shut down the stadium lights and return to school without leaving unsupervised kids, and also makes it easier to keep track of who is where in the building when they are not waiting in the front lobby for a ride.  Thanks!!

The rest of this post is mostly for parents of athletes, but it also applies in the event that you take your kids out of school for vacations or other family events, so you may want to at least skim through it.

Attendance at band performances is obviously very important for many reasons.  It gives the students a chance to show what they know, assess and evaluate their product, and work together for a common goal among other valuable learning experiences.  It is considered part of the class expectations; a performance is similar to a unit test at the end of a chapter of math, for instance.  Performing also gives students a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction as they watch themselves continue to improve over the course of the season.

As the band has grown over the years, more and more students are participating in more and more activities.  This is great!  High school should be a time of getting the most out of your experiences, and being on the Cross Country team, in the band, and part of US FIRST or whatever else kids do should be a priority.  Sometimes, though, as the student, family, sports, and band calendars all fill up, we run into trouble.  I hope to help clear things up as far as procedures in the next few paragraphs to help avoid tough situations.

First I would like to explain my reasoning for asking for two weeks' notice for excused absences (those that do NOT involve illness or emergency).  When I know people are going to miss a performance it enables me to either cover a spot, find a sub (for a soloist, for instance), or do some "horse trading" to make sure we don't have people missing from the same area and making large open spots.

There are many Saturdays where almost all sports have invitationals - XC, tennis, volleyball, soccer, etc.  I honestly have very little idea who is in what sport, and I don't think the coaches really know who is in band, either.  So if I have several athletes in many sports (which I do, every year), there may be a situation in which I have many people missing from the same section!  When I know two weeks in advance, the coaches and I are able to make some deals: "I'll give you this trumpet player, but I need my horn soloist."  "Fine, but for Pumpkin Fest we have the Conference meet; may they all miss the parade?"  "Works for me."  And that sort of thing.  That way I'm not missing seven trumpet players and the coach can field a team of runners.

The same goes for family vacations, etc.  Knowing well in advance helps me make sure everything is covered.  It is more critical during concert season, when (especially in the percussion section) there are more specialized parts for 3-4 different groups.

In the instance of sporting events, the responsibility should fall on the STUDENT to notify the coach and director of conflicts.  This is certainly part of growing, setting priorities, and communication, all of which I consider valid outcomes for my class and being a student athlete.  My goal, however, is not to have a schedule for each sport, but rather a notification (via email or a face-to-face conversation) that someone has a conflict with the time of two events.  Having the schedule for ten fall sports does not really make it any easier for me; I don't know who plays what.  So if the kids check their schedules (my daughter's Cross Country calendar is on the fridge right next to her Orchestra one) and see a conflict, they should be talking to at least two adults - me and the coach - about that specific date.  If the communication comes from the parents, that works, too.

We also have a pretty good understanding between the arts and athletics of a sort of "hierarchy" system of determining where kids go if there is a problem.  Our goal is to keep the students and families OUT of the decision-making process so that we avoid anyone feeling pressured or coerced into making a choice one way or the other.  Here's how that works:
  • Students are expected to be automatically at the "higher" event - when the band has a performance and the team has a practice, the student attends the band performance without penalty.  The reverse is true as well, which happens on Monday nights quite a bit - kids go to their games on Mondays and miss the band's rehearsal.  Coaches know and understand that we have these Monday nights, and are very flexible about letting athletes leave when they are done to head back to band.
  • If there is a conference-level event vs. an invitational-style event, the conference wins out.  On Pumpkin Fest parade day, all Varsity tennis players are automatically excused from the parade for Conference, for instance.
  • In the fall the ONLY event that I consider sacred is our District marching festival.  This event has been held on the second Tuesday in October since I was in high school and had been left free from athletic contests for many years.  Since the realignment of athletic conferences happens far more than MSBOA districts, this is no longer possible.  I still require athletes to participate in the MSBOA event on this Tuesday.  (Though for a few years the District soccer tournament was that day as well, so we were back to the trading thing...)
  • Most students, thanks to their understanding parents, are almost always able to participate in both activities on the same day.  There is lots of uniform changing in parking lots and back seats of cars, but parents manage to get kids where they need to be and the coaches and I appreciate that!!
 I think that covers the issues pretty well.  If you see something that you think needs more clarification, please send me an email - - and let me know!

Thanks to ALL of you who have driven your kids, other kids, and equipment hither and yon to make sure everyone gets where they belong!

Hope College Game Issues

As I mentioned in the regular weekly post, here is more on the topic of the events at Hope College on Saturday the 14th.

As most of you already know, we had several students faint/get dizzy/feel ill during our pre-game performance.  Here are some details, observations, and a list of some FAQs for folks to consider:

As part of Hope's celebration of the recently-acquired stadium facility (it was purchased from the City of Holland over the last year), there was a pre-game ceremony on the field to dedicate and re-name the stadium after Ray and Sue Smith, Hope's long-time football coach and his wife.  The band was given the schedule of events last week, and we were asked to be on the field by 1:10 p.m. for things to flow smoothly.

We arrived at the stadium, traveled to a nearby field for a quick rehearsal (20 minutes or so in length), and then went to the stadium.  We were in full uniform this entire time, with temps in the mid-50s/low 60s.  After we entered the field the band went to parade rest to wait for the ceremony to conclude, at which time we were to play the National Anthem.  During the approximately 20 minute ceremony, several students began to feel woozy and a few eventually passed out and/or were removed from the field.  Medical personnel from both the Hope and Milliken teams, local paramedics already on scene for the game, and several parents quickly tended to the students who were feeling ill.  One student was transported to the hospital but was home by Saturday evening.  All of the students in question either left the game with parents immediately or were taken home after halftime (at their/their parents' choice).  None were allowed to march at halftime on recommendation of medical personnel.

That pretty much sums it up.  It was an unfortunate situation, but one that is somewhat familiar given the circumstances; it has happened as we stand at the cemetery during the Memorial Day tribute more than once.

Some thoughts and observations as I have pondered this situation over the last 30 hours or so:
  • The turf field, as we all know from band camp Thursday this year, reflects LOTS more heat than regular grass or even pavement.  60 degree air quickly radiates to 80+ in the sun.
  • Many students may have overdressed - with the chilly morning temperatures, several folks wore layers beneath their uniforms, which may have contributed to the heat.  (Though not all students who fell ill dressed in layers and not all who dressed in layers fell ill.)
  • When asked, it was discovered that many of the students in question had not eaten yet that day (though again, not all).
  • In my opinion, teenagers are almost never well-hydrated.
  • We stood for a very long time, even at parade rest...  Students may not have been standing with a relaxed enough posture (i.e. locked knees), which may have affected blood flow.
  • A couple of students have said that once others began to fall, they too felt a little woozy and consequently went down themselves.  Even I had to convince myself during the first half that I was not feeling ill, and I was definitely well-fed and -hydrated that day as I usually am.
All of these factors added up to some ill health, though any two or three alone would not be an issue.

Some FAQ's that I figure many of you may have at this point:
  • How can we prevent this from happening again? 
    • I don't think it really CAN happen again.  I cannot envision a situation in which all of the above factors come into play.  At football games, festivals, and parades we have slightly different procedures in place and are never standing for that length of time.  There is Red Cross staff on hand at all three Tulip Time parades.  During Memorial Day we are constantly reminding students to relax, and in the event of extreme heat we dismiss the band after our portion of the cemetery program.
  • What about staffing?
    • Based on the response of Mrs. Landes, Mr. VanDerMeulen, and the parent crew as well as that of the entire training staff of both benches, we had ample coverage.  Again, during our other performance situations things are not the same; we feel we have plenty of adult staff on each outing.  It would be nice, however, if there might be an RN or MD who would be able to volunteer services occasionally.  Please contact me if you would be interested.  We would not need you very often! 
  •  Could something else have been a cause of this?
    • I don't believe so.  The students in question were all standing in the same general area, possibly adding to the psychosomatic issue, and most were first-year students, un-used to standing that long in uniform (this is not at all to say that they are at any way at fault!!).
  • What can parents do to help?
    • The biggest thing is to make sure that your kids eat and drink before performing.  Many students never eat breakfast.  This may not be a problem if they are going to sit in a classroom desk until lunch time, but the amount of physical activity involved, combined with the heat, etc., on Saturday, made nutrition and hydration a very important thing.
  • What are YOUR plans to see that this doesn't occur again?
    • I indeed was unaware of how all of the factors would add up against us.  It was a cool morning, a beautiful fall day, the kids were theoretically well-rested, etc.  In the event that we will be standing for a similar length of time in the future (i.e. Memorial Day), I will make sure that they remember to keep moving at least a little so that they can avoid this, as well as reminding them about hydration and nutrition, which I usually do at Tulip Time, for instance. 
  • My son/daughter was very embarrassed by this...
    • And someday he/she will tell your grandchildren about it...  "I remember back in my day we were standing for so long in those hot uniforms (which 20 years from now will weigh about 50 lbs and be constructed of wool, iron, and rock) that 74 people fell over on the field."
    • If your child is being teased due to this, please let me know.  I guess I would tell them to expect some good-natured ribbing, but anything that goes beyond that should be brought to my attention. 
 Thanks for your understanding and a huge thanks to the Hope and Milliken medical staff as well as the Hope concessions folks for basically depleting their supply of bottled water for the rest of the band during the first half.  

Please send me an email if you have any questions or concerns regarding this situation -

Sunday, September 15, 2013

September 16

Greetings, parents!  This comes to you after a fun-filled weekend of track band and a beautiful, sunny (though somewhat action-packed) afternoon of Hope College football.  I'll probably do two or three posts today to cover all of the issues; that way you can choose to read which info you want.  THIS one will be about the usual Monday morning "what's up this week" kind of stuff...

First of all, again we had some great and fun performances over the weekend.  I'm glad to see so many kids involved with track band (nearly 50 both weeks so far), and the band continues to impress with their punctuality and "doing the right thing."  Now all we need to do is get them marching and playing better!  But that will come.

Schedule for the week of September 16:

MONDAY - Rehearsal at the stadium as we begin to polish and clean and make things look tight.  There is MUCH work to do as we continue our quest for our 7th First Division rating in a row on October 8.  We begin at 6:30.  

TUESDAY - Color guard 7-9 p.m. in the band room (unless told otherwise by Mrs. Landes).

FRIDAY - Track band at the game again.  This will give us a nice relaxing couple of weeks (riiiigghht...) to rehearse and polish the show before our first competition.

So, kind of a slow week this week, but things will get busier very fast!  Please, as things tend to ALL get fast and crazy at once:
  • Make sure your kids are eating well (more on that in post #2)
  • Make sure that, even though they are very busy, they understand the importance of Monday night rehearsals.  It's important for EVERYONE to be there regardless of homework load, etc.
  • I would say to make sure they're getting enough sleep, but even I recognize the folly of that statement.  Just try to keep them as healthy as possible!

We have ADDED the date of Saturday, October 12 to the fall calendar to compete at the Grandville Invitational.  This is easily one of the best high school stadiums in the state, and they have a new turf field and many other improvements.  They are very excited that we will be performing, and this will give our audience the best view of all of our various formations as we march.
 - Conflict with this date?  Let me know so I can plan for absences (more on that in post #3 today!)

Other future dates to remember:
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 28 - We will still be performing, but instead of Otsego at night, we will be going to KENOWA HILLS in the afternoon.  We are scheduled to perform at 3:00 p.m. and will only need to wait for two other groups to finish before awards.  We should be back in plenty of time for everyone to do their hair before the dance...
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 5 - Pumpkin Fest Parade.  I believe it starts at 3:00 p.m., but it might be 2.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 8 - MSBOA District 10 Festival at Zeeland Stadium

Thanks!  Looking forward to a great week!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

September 9

Wow!  What a whirlwind start to the school year!  As I left the building Friday night I was kind of in awe of how it all managed to get done...

First of all, a HUGE thank you to all of the parents who stepped up and made things happen last week!!  The uniform crew made sure the kids were looking great for their first uniformed performance, the water bearers made sure we were hydrated, and the ladder crew made sure everyone could see the DM's.  LJ's voice again rang out from the PA, and we managed to get things done pretty well.

A couple of uniform notes:
 - The band was without gloves and the guard without shoes on Friday due to a mixup with the PO for those items (not to brag or anything, but this one wasn't MY fault...).  We thought that the best thing would be no gloves at all since none of the frosh had them and many older kids ordered new ones, and the guard made the decision for black socks when given several footwear choices.  So there you go.
 - We are working on making sure everyone's uniform fits as well as possible.  So some of them are pinned, hemmed, and taped to fit at this point and we will make more permanent alterations later.

A point that needs to be made:
 - The coolest thing about Friday night was not how sweet it looked to see the front of the band reach the south end zone while the back end was still leaving the tunnel, nor how they did a pretty decent job at halftime.  No, the coolest thing about Friday night was that pretty much everyone DID THE RIGHT THINGS.  They were on time, they were polite, they were cooperative, and all of the other things you hear that teenagers aren't.  So clearly the threats helped...  Anyway, I will make sure to commend them for that during class today.

Here's what's up for the week.  Please check  your calendars, work schedules, athletic plans, etc.....

MONDAY, Sept. 9
 - Holland Doctors of Audiology will be in both classes to discuss the proper use and care of the Musicians' Earplugs.  They will have more available for $10.00 a pair if your child still needs them.
 - Rehearsal 6:30 - 9:00 p.m.  Time to remember the third section of drill...

Tuesday, Sept. 10
 - Color Guard 7-9 p.m.

Friday, Sept 13
 - Track Band for the football game.  We will need more trumpets this week than we had last time!

Saturday, Sept. 14
 - Hope College Community Day performance.  We do this one every three years.  We are up again for 2013.  To re-cap the schedule:
  •  11:30 a.m. at school to dress and load buses
  • arrival at Hope ca. 12:30 p.m.
  • Pre-game begins at 1:10
  • We will leave after halftime, ca. 3:30 p.m.
Several folks have asked about picking kids up at the stadium, meeting us there, etc.  Here's how that works:
 - Let me know if you need to meet us there (at least two families live closer to Hope than school; no reason to drive to school to simply ride the bus back to Hope...).  YOUR CHILD IS RESPONSIBLE for making sure he/she has his/her instrument and uniform after school (or after the game) on Friday.  Meet us at Hope by 12:30.  All I ask is for an email letting me know what the situation is and that you will be doing that.
 - If you need to leave from the stadium, you must come and check out your child with me.  If your child is riding with another parent, I need a note explaining that.
 - I really DON'T like the idea of students driving to meet us there/leaving afterward.  Please contact me if that is an issue for you (i.e. Varsity soccer).
**Varsity soccer players are excused from pre-game if needed; JV/frosh should have no trouble arriving at Hope by 12:30.  Varsity will be expected by halftime.
Parents and family members receive FREE admission to the game!!  All you need to do is tell the gate folks you are ZHS Band families.  That's kind of cool...  Please take advantage of this and come out and see your kids!  There will also be concessions vouchers so the kids can get some food.

Future stuff:
 - I'm considering adding the date of October 12 to our calendar.  The Grandville marching band invitational is that day, and that is an awesome stadium in which to play and has been recently improved.  We will be discussing this in class on Monday.
 - If the Otsego competition goes the same as it did last year we will have no sports conflicts, but it could be a late night.  The AA bands last year performed at around 7-8 p.m.  This year's times have not been released yet, but I plan to make a contact this week to see if they are close.  The date for that is Sept. 28
 - Pumpkin parade Oct 5
 - MSBOA Festival Oct. 8 - we will be looking for MANY volunteers to help us host this awesome event.
 - ALL-STATE AUDITIONS happen in late October.  I will be preparing packets this week for students who I think should be auditioning.  If you would like to know if your child should audition, please let me know.

You have some great kids; we have a great band.  Thanks for allowing me to work with them.  Let me know if you need anything -

See you soon.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

September 4

Good Morning!
Welcome back to school and the official routine of the year.  Well, for the kids, anyway...  It struck me a while ago that we have a performance in TWO DAYS and I haven't communicated since last week.  So here you go.

The Track Band looked and sounded great last Thursday!  Lots of kids showed up (50 or so) to cheer on the East team as they battled HCHS.  What a great showing for a group, especially when school wasn't even in session yet.

THIS WEEK is well under way.  We'll be spending class time the next couple of days getting ready for Friday's performance; on Monday we will get around to the "first day of school business" kind of stuff.  That's the bonus of being in band - yesterday wasn't really the first day of school!  Here are details for events:

FRIDAY we will be performing IN UNIFORM with EVERY PERSON - this is a REQUIRED performance.  Here's how things will work:
 - Students will need to arrive around 5:30 p.m. to begin getting dressed.  (Freshmen uniforms should all be sorted out by now and be in garment bags in the uniform room.  The uniform crew will be here in full force that night as well to give assistance.)
 - Dressed and ready to go by 5:45 p.m.  We will head to the practice field and rehearse for a while.
 - We march to the stadium at about 6:35 for pre-game activities, which this week will be limited to the school songs and National Anthem.
 - The band will sit together in the band bleachers for the first half, then perform at halftime. 
 - We should be done ca. 8:15 p.m.

AFTER the game/halftime, students must return to the band room to put away their uniforms and instruments.  They may return to the game after that is done; they are admitted free during the second half.

Monday, September 9
Rehearsal 6:30 - 9:00 p.m.
Tuesday, September 10
Color Guard rehearsal 7:00 - 9:00 p.m.
Friday, September 13
Saturday, September 14
Hope College Community Day Football Game
 - Some specifics regarding Hope:

  • We will meet at school around 11:30 a.m. to dress and load buses
  • We plan to arrive at Hope Stadium (soon to be re-named the Ray and Sue Smith Stadium) at 12:30 p.m.
  • Pre-game begins at 1:10 p.m. (Hope fight song/National Anthem)
  • We will be leaving after our halftime performance - 3:30 p.m.?
The Hope fight song has been added to the webpage for students to download.  We will work on that next week.

That should do it for now.  Things are off to a fast and furious but great start!  As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to send me an email -


Monday, August 26, 2013

August 26

As you can see by the title of today's post, you shouldn't expect any serious creativity here.  Mostly we're dealing with information, so I don't usually paint in many colors...

Here's what's up for this week:

TONIGHT there will be rehearsal - rain or shine.  We have some things to learn before Thursday's Track Band performance and next week's full band performance, so we will be both inside and outside tonight.  
 - Remind your children to bring their lyres, to which they should now ADD
     - East fight song (NEW) - this is found on the website in its own .zip file called "East Fight Song"
     - West fight song (a separate file by instrument - also includes other music)

By this time, of course, everyone should have the halftime music!

Students may also feel free to read these files (they are all PDFs) in whatever their favorite PDF reader is on their iPads.  This may make life easier, though the iPads don't fit in lyres very well.

**Students ARE NOT required to memorize the pre-game music.**
Though we will end up playing the National Anthem and both school songs dozens of times, students may use lyres and flip folders at pre-game.  
At some point in mid-late September the halftime music WILL need to be memorized.  This date will be announced in class.

THURSDAY will be our first performance of the school year.  The Track Band will play for the East game on August 29.  Students should plan to be in the band room by 5:45 p.m. ready to rehearse.  We'll concentrate on the school song and National Anthem, and do whatever stand cheer and halftime stuff we can come up with.  Though this is NOT required, I encourage everyone to come out.  It's fun, less formal than a regular game night, and they get into the game for free along with getting the best seats in the house.  Section leaders are expected to be at these performances to give us a strong base of players.  All other players are volunteering their time.  The game begins at 7 p.m. and we will leave after the first half.

Coming up in the near-ish future:
 - Friday, September 6 - East vs. West football - ALL REQUIRED to perform
 - Friday, September 13 - East football - Track Band
 - Saturday, September 14 - Hope College football - ALL REQUIRED to perform
       *more details will be given as soon as I hear from Hope, which should be soon.

Hey, the first day of school is coming up, too!  On the first day we have a very abbreviated schedule; hopefully you are aware of the half-day agenda for class and assembly things.  For freshmen, the 2nd hour Percussion Ensemble class will meet from 8:28 - 8:48, and 4th hour Band will meet from 9:24 - 9:44.  10-12 folks will meet from 12:33 - 12:53 (perc) and 1:29 - 1:49 (band).  

Questions?  Let me know -

Helpful link to the calendar page:

Link for pre-game music:

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Welcome to 2013-14!!

Hello, parents and students!  Welcome to the 2013-14 school year and the ZHS Band Notes blog...

My goal here is to replace the weekly/periodic emails with something that is similar, but permanently located somewhere.  If someone misses a weekly email, it has to be copied/pasted/forwarded/whatever.  With this blog everything can remain here and I can just email folks a link.  Miss last week's email?  No worries - it's still on the blog site.  Need calendar or schedule info?  That's on the band website, which I will try to permanently link to and from this page.  I'll also try to add some pictures and maybe some graphics or something so it's less boring.  No promises there, though.

So look for updates about once per week, just like the former email system.  These pages will NOT include things that need to be communicated quickly, or things like requesting parent volunteers, etc.; those notifications will still come via email, so make sure you are on my parent email list!  Do this by sending me a test message including your name, your student's name, and some type of sentence about including you on my email list to

Well, that should do it for this installment.  I will write up another one shortly which will detail the upcoming schedule and other items of interest.  Thanks for reading!


Look below...  I have disabled comments on the blog site - if you have questions or comments after reading the installments, email is the best way to get in touch with me!