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.