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 - kwalker@zps.org

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