Monday, November 24, 2014

Marching Band (Almost) Final

As of this morning, November 24, we officially have one marching band performance remaining this fall - the Christmas parade is NEXT MONDAY, December 1, at 6:30 p.m.  Congratulations to John Shillito and the ZWHS football team on another great season that ended at the State semi-finals over the weekend.  Said season saw the ZHSMB march in pretty much every kind of weather one can think of...

Here are some details for next Monday:

  • Students need to report to CITYSIDE dressed and ready to go by 6:10 p.m.  
  • We will be in full uniform except for hats and shoes.  Students may wear weather-appropriate footwear as well as fun Christmas-themed hats.
  • Students may decorate instruments with festive items as long as the instruments are still in proper working order
  • There will NOT be a school vehicle to transport large equipment.  Students are responsible for getting drums, tubas, etc. to and from the parade.
  • We should be done with the performance by 7:00 p.m.
  • Following the parade will be the annual awards night in the auditorium.
Speaking of awards night, I hope you can all make it to this fun event!  We will start in the vicinity of 7:45 - there is a dance rehearsal on stage until 7:30, but we usually aren't ready much before then anyway.  We will do some fun awards and some serious awards and view the season highlights video.  Should be a grand time!  Plan on about an hour for the festivities.

Thanks for your support this season!  It was great seeing and meeting so many new parents at conferences a couple weeks ago.  Glad you and your kids are enjoying what we are about here.  let me know if I can do anything - kwalker@zps.org

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Transition Continues

Welcome to the second quarter!  (That's actually not a football joke...)  The second nine-week grading period officially begins today, and with it comes a little more emphasis on individual grades - playing tests, etc. - that sometimes affect a student's overall grade.  I thought I would use this time to explain some philosophies and reasons for grading things the way we do here in the band room.

First of all, you should probably know the grading policies, classroom procedures, etc. that are outlined in the syllabus in the unlikely event that you haven't seen it yet.  You can find it here.  

We have many discussions throughout the year as a faculty regarding the importance of homework, testing, and other elements that make up a student's grade in a particular class.  In band there is frequently the "show up and get an A" syndrome, especially due to the performance demands during the first quarter of the year.  In an effort to make sure that students do indeed improve their playing skills as individuals, playing tests are usually administered beginning in the second nine weeks.  An effort is made for them to be relevant to the curriculum, so frequently the test material is pulled from the concert program we are currently preparing.

Occasionally, though, we test using scales, etudes, or other unison exercises that are designed to make everyone a better player in general, though the material may not relate to the current curricular cycle of music.  This enables the tuba players, for instance, to improve their technical aspect of playing instead of playing what is quite often "easy" musical lines in the band.

I try to strike a balance among the various items that make up a student's final grade.  Since we are a performance-based class, performances do make up the heaviest weight in the grade book at 40% of the total.  Attendance at outside of school rehearsals is another 10%, bringing the "show up and get an A" possibility to 50% of the grade.  I don't necessarily mind this; it is very difficult for anyone to "evaluate" an individual student's performance at a concert.  The goal is for everyone to perform equally well, and it is obviously possible for performers to "hide" during some difficult parts that they may not know very well.  That is where playing tests would come in.

The playing tests make up 25% of the grade (the final 25% is their daily work in class, materials, preparedness, etc.).  This can become a problem in the event that only one or two tests are given and a child doesn't do well on them.  In general, though, a poor showing on a playing test doesn't affect a final grade in a significant way.  And students are always allowed to play a test over as many times as needed to get to an A (because that means they're practicing, and I'm certainly not going to discourage that).

What about "chairs"?  For some folks coming in from middle school, chairs will be a new-ish concept.  It has been customary for many decades for band members to be placed in "chairs" in order of their playing ability.  While I am not a firm believer in the success of this idea for everyone, it can help as we look at more difficult literature at the high school level.

I honestly don't like chairs.  The concept has a tendency to make some students work less, because they figure they're last chair anyway, so why bother.  A student assigned a part that will make him/her practice more will potentially work up to the expectations that are set for him/her.  BUT...  Not always.  It's hard to strike that balance in this instance, so I usually default to having "chairs."  There are many more paragraphs possible here, and perhaps in the future I will write some more on the topic.  I understand the ideas of "this kid worked the hardest and deserves it" to "why reward someone who hasn't worked as hard" to "maybe this will inspire that person to put in a lot more effort."  All are important concepts and all have a place here.

That should cover things for this post.  Be aware that Concert and Symphonic Band students will have playing tests assigned this week!!  

Monday, October 13, 2014

Transition Week

Wow...  What a whirlwind of performances and such the last six weeks.  As we head out of one season and into another, I thought I would keep you up to speed on how things work for the next few months.

First of all, we still have two regular-season football games - this Friday and next.  Both of those games will be covered by the track band.  If your son or daughter has had an absence due to illness, etc., this would be a great opportunity to make it up.

Following the end of the season, the Dux will be in the MHSAA playoffs again, with the first game being on Halloween; I haven't yet decided what we are going to do with that game yet, but am leaning toward track band again.  On November 7 the fall production of Zeeland High Players will be in session, so that week will need to be a quiet one in the band room.  We have historically used the track band that weekend as well.  As I said, I will keep everyone posted as those dates get closer.

This week we will be making some transitions during class as well.  Today we begin with some general housekeeping and cleaning; the carpets were cleaned over the weekend, and today we will put a few things away until they 're needed again as well as making sure uniforms, instruments, etc. are where they belong at all times.  (This can be very difficult with 200 students; even when things are where they belong the room can look very cluttered.  I try to maintain my composure...)

I am also planning a "Freshman Day" this week, in which we do a lunch period switch so I can see the freshmen by themselves.  I think I have a pretty good handle on who everyone is, but I will admit that this is the hardest part of my job - getting to know over 60 new people while getting 200 to do 10-12 performances!  They get thrown to the lions, so to speak, and I don't get a chance to really meet everyone until we come inside for concert stuff.

Speaking of the split lunch period, here's how that works:
During the remainder of first semester the large 4th hour class is split into two bands - Concert and Symphonic.  The time block that includes lunch and 4th hour is split, so that while one group is at lunch the other is at class.  Last year we alternated days with this plan and it worked very well.  I will let the students know how this works; you don't need all of the details!

Once first semester is done, those two bands split to different hours - Symphonic Band remains 4th hour and Concert Band becomes 3rd hour.  Your children's schedules already reflect this.

More on "sit-down" band in a future post.  For now, let's all take some time to breathe, relax, and enjoy some time without the pressure of performances for a while!

Thanks!

KW

Monday, October 6, 2014

October 6

I almost didn't get to this today!  Kind of an important week, too...

Here's what's up for the week:

TONIGHT is our final Monday night rehearsal.  I told the kids there's no reason we shouldn't be done early.  Feel free to come by the stadium by 8:15 or so and watch the final run-through.

TOMORROW is festival.  I sent a detailed email on Friday; here is the text of that in case you missed it - 
DATE:  Tuesday, October 7

TIME:  Begins at 6:30 p.m. with Saugatuck HS.  ZHS performs at 8:30.  Come for the whole evening and enjoy some great bands!

PLACE:  Zeeland Stadium

ADMISSION:  $5.00 per adult, $3.00 for students grades 6-12.  K-5 students free

STUDENT DETAILS:

 - Students must report to the band room by 7:00 p.m. to dress and prepare to walk to the stadium
 - Parents who are assisting with percussion equipment should report at this time as well
 - We warm up at 7:45 p.m.
 - Move to stadium at 8:15
 - Performance at 8:30.
 - There is only one band after we are done.  We will move to our end zone bleachers and WAIT for the ratings announcements after we perform
 - We should be done by 9:15
 - Students are not dismissed until ratings are announced - it will only be about 20 minutes after our performance is done.

This performance is the ONE AND ONLY TIME that I make no exceptions for athletic events.  Students are expected to be here at the times listed.  Arrangements must be made with the coaching staff to make sure this happens.

FRIDAY is our last "official" full-uniformed, full band required football performance.  This will also be Senior Night, and all of the seniors will be introduced after our halftime show.

A brief word about MHSAA football playoffs...  The way it looks now, West will again be playing deep into the annual tournament.  If there is a game, there will be some type of band there.  We usually do Track Band for a couple, etc.  I will keep everyone posted.  For the post-season games I am very lenient on attendance (I actually missed the very first playoff game West ever did because I had tickets to something that night), but not to the point that marching is voluntary.  There WILL be some full-band, full-uniform nights; it won't all be pep band stuff.  When that becomes a more pertinent item to deal with I will send more specific details.  But at this point?  I'd double-check the Thanksgiving weekend travel plans...  (Don't worry, Ford Field isn't required, either.  But it's a lot of fun and we hope everyone can participate.)

KW

Monday, September 29, 2014

September 29

What a great result from Saturday!  Our score of 80.8 was the highest we've scored at the Kenowa Hills competition, and the kids did a nice job.  HUGE congratulations to the color guard for winning the guard caption in Class AA.  That felt pretty good, and they have worked very hard to achieve that - an extra rehearsal night each week plus extra time in the summer as well.  The drumline also stepped up, narrowly missing victory; they were only .5 pts behind EK.  Nice job!!  We still have lots to clean up in the next eight days, but we are well on the way to a very successful performance at MSBOA next week.

I will try to keep this as brief as possible, since there will be plenty of stuff that is the same from the last couple weeks, so here goes:

TONIGHT:  Rehearsal at the stadium, 6:30 - 9:00 p.m.  There should be nothing keeping us from starting and ending on time tonight!

Tuesday:  Color guard 7:00 - 9:00 p.m.

Friday: No pep assembly!!  Game report time 5:45 (a bit later than the last couple weeks - we have had ample time to rehearse).

Saturday:  Pumpkin Fest parade.  The parade begins at 3 p.m.  The original calendar has a report time of 1:30, which assumed a 2 p.m. step-off.  We will report to Cityside at 2:30 p.m.  The equipment trailer will be in the back parking lot.  The parade will take about a half hour.  Students will be dismissed from Cityside after we are done.  There will NOT be school transportation from the HS to Cityside; students must meet us there.

NEXT WEEK!!!  We are wrapping up the "regular" season next week with our biggest adjudicated performance.  MSBOA District Festival is TUESDAY, OCTOBER 7.  Once again ZHS is hosting this event.  We perform at 8:30 p.m.  Following that evening, Friday, October 10 is the last regular-season home game in which the entire band will perform.  The last couple will be Track Band only.  That means that October 10 is "Senior Night," where we will recognize seniors and their accomplishments.  Following that, things will calm down considerably (whew!!), and we will begin the transition into "sit down band."  More details to follow!

That is all for now, BUT:  look for another email from me asking for volunteers for MSBOA Festival.  We need about 30-40 people to make the event a success, from band guides to folks providing some meals to parking lot attendants, etc.  Please help us put on another successful event by signing up!  We are usually able to work it out so that all parents are able to see ZHS perform, so no worries about that one.  A sign-up form will follow in an email from me momentarily.

Thanks so much for your support so far.  Here is what I told the kids on Saturday; I thought I would share it with you - as we were entering the stadium for our performance there was a break on the field between Class A and AA.  A couple of bands were using this time to go back to their buses to load equipment, etc. before the awards presentation.  I heard students from BOTH of those bands saying, as we came in, "wait, we can't leave now.  We want to see Zeeland."  Scores don't matter when you hear that from another group of kids!!

Questions?  let me know - kwalker@zps.org

Monday, September 22, 2014

Week of September 22

It finally looks like a great week of weather for the marching band!  Things brightened up considerably by the end of last week, and the forecast for the next eight days or so looks perfect.  Let's do some marching band...

First of all, last Monday's damp rehearsal accomplished a lot of things.  I told the kids that except for one 20-minute period of short attention span issues that I was pretty happy with the way they handled the sloppy conditions.  As you saw on Friday night, we managed to re-set the final number and get the whole show back on the field.

This week things start getting a little more intense.  We perform in front of judges for the first time on Saturday at Kenowa Hills, we are only just over two weeks away from MSBOA Festival, and the show needs LOTS of cleaning.  I think we can do pretty well the next couple weeks, but it will require much concentration and attention to detail from every member.

Here's what's going on this week:

TONIGHT's rehearsal (6:30 - 9:00) will start here at the band room/practice field area.  We need to do some smaller section work as well as some music cleaning.  We will move to the stadium and begin there by 7:30.
     ***equipment crew: please plan on meeting us at the stadium by 8:15.  I would like to do a couple re-sets at the end of the second song so we open up more space for you to travel through.  We will do a run of the entire show at 8:35/40-ish to end the rehearsal.

Tuesday - Color guard 7:00 - 9:00

Friday: West Homecoming assembly (same deal as last week), followed by the West Homecoming game (report time Friday night @ 5:45). 

Saturday:  The Kenowa Hills Knight Time Classic.  (I occasionally get questions about the fact that this happens during the day, but it's a play on the mascot name, so now you know!)

  • Students arrive at school between 11:30 and noon to dress and load equipment
  • Buses will depart by 12:15
  • Warm-up is at 2:00 p.m.
  • Performance is at 2:30 p.m.
  • Re-load equipment after we perform (drumline, tubas, etc. - not everyone needs to do this), then head back to watch the final group
  • Depart for home ca. 3:30
  • Arrive ZHS ca. 4:30
  • There IS an admission fee, since this is a fund raiser for Kenowa's band.  I believe it's $5.00 for adults
Sometimes the question arises about our departure time - "why do we need to get there so early?"  The easy answer is that it takes a remarkable amount of time to get 200 people from one place to another!  Last Friday as we left the band room for the assembly I clocked the actual time to get the whole band out the doors and into the hallway at nearly three minutes.  Getting them out of buses, instruments out, and moving to the warm-up area is about a 15-20 minute process; I would much rather be there early so we can stay relaxed before we perform.

Another question that I get is "why do we do these contests?" First, I like the kids to get some experience in front of more than one "appreciative" audience.  It is also beneficial for them to receive feedback from judges and audience members prior to the MSBOA festival.  And finally, it's a fun show into which we've put lots of hours and effort; it's nice to perform as much as we can!

Athletic conflicts on Saturday - please let me know ASAP.  I have received at least one email so far regarding Cross Country.  In most cases students are able to complete their athletic responsibilities and then make it to the afternoon band event.  Parents end up driving, which is greatly appreciated!

Homecoming - if your child needs to be released immediately after we perform to make it to a hair/nails/whatever appointment, please plan on meeting us by the track/stadium gate on the way out of the stadium after we perform. 

I believe that covers it for this week.  Feel free to stop by rehearsal tonight and watch things improve.  No need for an umbrella this time!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Week of September 15

"It's not raining 'til I SAY it's raining..."  Some of you with older students have probably heard of my famous (infamous?) saying; the last two Friday nights have certainly tested that.  Well, we're 1-1 as far as band vs. Mother Nature, though she may have won the battle this past Friday, throwing wind, rain, and cold at us all night.  For the record, your kids did a great job in adverse conditions.  And as I told them, this week is when we get down to serious business.  We are four weeks out from MSBOA Festival, and that time will fly by!  Please make sure your kids are here for Monday nights as well as any scheduled performances.  And here's a list of what's coming up:

TONIGHT: Rehearsal at the stadium, 6:30 - 9:00 p.m.  Last week we had a great rehearsal, and the parking lot one-way situation seemed to work out extremely well.  (You can imagine the disaster I am waiting for tonight based on my pessimistic outlook...)
    Parents are always welcome at these rehearsals, and you may come and go as you please.  Some people enjoy watching things develop as we work, and it's always helpful for folks to see and understand the process of learning and cleaning drill.  We hope that after tonight's rehearsal that the entire show is back on the field and ready to perform on Friday night!

Tuesday, Sept. 16: Color guard practice, band room, 7 - 9:00 p.m.  I always marvel at the amount of work that goes into the color guard portion of the show.  Each year, between the pre-game and half-time shows, we use about 100 flags for 20+ guard members (the school color flags - one set for each team - are only used for pre-game, and we usually change equipment after each piece in the half-time show).  Each person is responsible for his/her equipment making it to the right place before each show as well as taking care of it afterward.  As you can imagine, with 20 teenagers and 100 pieces of equipment, that can be quite a challenge.  Jill Landes and Laura McCranner do a great job keeping track of all things guard, and I can't imagine doing this without them!  Our section leaders are always a big help as well, and this year Lydia Kamps and Hanna Raynak have stepped up to the task admirably.

Friday, September 19: 
 - Homecoming pep assembly during the day - ALL students should be participating.  There is a senior meeting for West students, so they have the option of staying out of the assembly detail.  PM Tech Center students have that option as well.
 - EAST Homecoming game.  Report time 5:45 p.m.  Things went very well this past week.  As I said above, we are planning on performing the entire show.  I will be in touch with the several folks who have volunteered to assist with moving the auxiliary carts onto the field during the show.  Shaun Macomber will be finishing up some stuff on the carts tonight (more on that later).

FUTURE dates to be aware of:
 - Saturday, September 27 - Kenowa Hills Invitational.  No official time for our performance yet, but I anticipate around 3 p.m.  Students needing to leave immediately after the performance may do so - parents may pick them up after we are done performing.  I am indeed aware that it is West's Homecoming dance that night, but students will be done in plenty of time to get all ready for the big shindig.
 - Saturday, October 4 - Pumpkin Fest parade.  Pretty sure it starts at 2 p.m., but it might be 3.  I will keep you posted.
 - Tuesday, October 7 - MSBOA District Festival, Zeeland Stadium.  This is the ONE event for which I make NO EXCEPTIONS for athletics or other activities.  Students are expected to contact their coaches well in advance to make sure they are aware of the situation.  This is our "District Final" performance, and takes precedence over almost everything.  Please contact me if there are questions.  Our coaching staffs are very understanding of this situation.

Last Thursday evening I had the pleasure of working with three dads and one student on building the five carts for our final part of the show.  Shaun and Caleb Macomber, Dale VanValkenburg, and Paul Dumbleton put in a couple hours of hard labor while I looked on appreciatively and occasionally lifted something.  We have grand plans for how these carts will be loaded, transported, and eventually pulled onto the field for the grand finale.  We'll see how that goes...  Thanks so much to the crew of builders and the crew of volunteers who will assist with them at shows.  The drummers are very excited (Sarah probably is, too, but we may never know) to get to that part of the show!

Finally, an addition to last week's post: EMAIL!  I love email.  It is by far my favorite means of communication.  It is easy to organize, since gmail has the "conversation view" system; it keeps things in front of me, since if it's in my "inbox" it means I still need to deal with it; and it makes it easy to have a written record of what I'm doing.  Voicemail has virtually none of those features!

With all of that being said, here's my general email policy: I check my email dozens of times during the day.  (I found out what a habit I have during the first week of school when the network was down - I found myself reflexively looking at my dark computer screen each time I walked into my office!)  Because I check so many times during the day, I almost never check it at night.  If you send an email after about 4 p.m., I will get to it the next day.  I try to respond within 24 hours to every email sent to me, though some do get shuffled lower in the priority list and I get to those later. 

Thanks for your understanding as we get to know each other and you let me work with your kids!  It's a great bunch so far, and I am expecting some great things.

As usual, if you have any questions, let me know - kwalker@zps.org

KW

Monday, September 8, 2014

Week of September 8

Today begins the first full week of school, and with that comes the first Monday rehearsal as well as several other things on the horizon.  This page should take you through the week:

TONIGHT:
 - Rehearsal at the stadium beginning at 6:30.
**NEW IDEA REGARDING 9:00 p.m. PICK-UP**
With 200 people in the group plus staff members, parents, etc. all trying to be in the same place at the same time, it is necessary for us to change how we operate at the and of rehearsal.
 - My plan is always to release kids from the stadium by 8:55 p.m. so they can be back to the building by 9.
 - The band room lot needs to have a ONE-WAY DRIVEWAY to accommodate all of the traffic.
 - Beginning TONIGHT, all traffic entering the band room lot MUST enter from the BUS CIRCLE driveway entry (northwest corner of the lot).  The drive on the northeast corner will be EXIT ONLY.
 - It will work BEST if ALL TRAFFIC enters and exits in one big loop - from the bus drive to the band lot to the northeast exit and TURNS RIGHT to get out, but that may not be critical to the success of the plan.
 - This system obviously presents the problem of who is in line where, etc.  Please don't all try to jam into the parking lot as you wait and then try to exit all at once.  My suggestion (based on my discussions with the ZPD) is that you wait in the bus circle or by the cornfield across from the parking lot until your son/daughter is in the car with you and then make your exit.  This may mean that you do end up exiting left or right out of the bus circle on the way home, but my ZPD consultant didn't think this would be a huge problem.  We believe that the only thing completely necessary is the "exit only" status of the northeast drive.
 - Confused?  Try heading for the main lot in the front of the building, where the traffic is easier to deal with.  (This may end up being our best choice in the long run!)
THANKS in advance for your cooperation!!

Tuesday, September 9 - Color Guard rehearsal 7-9 p.m.

FRIDAY, September 12 - FULL BAND TAKE TWO...
 - West is the home team this week (I think the calendar says East, but it really doesn't matter - we just have to make sure we play the right school song!)
 - Same drill as last week - 5:45 in uniform, pre-game, half-time, dismissal.  NO RAIN!!

FUTURE dates:
 - Monday nights: Sept. 15, 22, 29, Oct. 6
 - KENOWA HILLS Knight Time Classic, Saturday, September 27 (this is now a firm date - time for our performance TBA)
 - Pumpkin Fest Parade - Saturday, Oct. 4
 - MSBOA Marching Band Festival - Tuesday, Oct. 7

Thanks for your efforts thus far - last Friday was certainly an exercise in frustration, but in the long run I believe it was the best decision we could have made under the circumstances.

KW

Welcome!

Welcome to the ZHS Band blog, your source of all the vital information you can think of!  At least that's the plan...  Here's the first installment for 2014-15.

So that I don't have to completely reinvent the wheel, I will direct you to LAST year's opening blog post so you can read the general ideas.


There have been a couple of minor changes from the above link: I did indeed end up doing a volunteer form and a few other things via the blog post, but otherwise most "immediate" communications are done via email with no link to the blog.  The biggest reason for a permanent blog site is so I can keep a more permanent record of information for people to check out.  If you lose an email, the blog is still here.  If you miss an email and ask me for the info again, I can just direct you here rather than finding the original, copying/pasting, etc.  You get the idea.


One thing I have decided to do much more with this year is Twitter.  Lots of people have it and use it.  I have it, but don't really use it.  So I figured I would do more this year.  One of the reasons I started the account several years ago was for emergency communications - we canceled the Memorial Day parade one year and it was very difficult to get in touch with everyone quickly.  Maybe Twitter can change that - I tried it Friday night when we canceled the band performance.  Please follow @zhsband if you would like to read my tweets.  I promise not to be terribly annoying!

Here are some important links for your future reference:
 - The HS bands' main page: http://sites.zps.org/zhsband/  This page contains calendar links, parent and student info, such as:

  • the Parent Pages: announcements, contact information, future band camp dates, link to our Scrip fund raiser, etc.
  • Student Pages:  Specific information for each band, scales/exercises/other online music, fingering charts for all instruments.  Students will become very familiar with these pages as we post listening examples, download music, etc.
  • the Calendar.  Speaks for itself.  Google, Word, and PDF files available.  You can actually link the band calendar to your Google account, and it will show up on your device!  (When you are looking at the Google calendar online, click the "+ Calendar" button at the bottom right corner and it will add to your account.
  • Other ZPS Performing Arts links, music links for half time and pre-game, and tons of videos, pictures, etc.  Go explore!
  • My email address - kwalker@zps.org - is the best way to contact me.  
 - The ZPS district main page: zps.org  This is where you can find all sorts of handy links to district events.

That should cover most of the basics for now.  I will continue to update you as needed.




Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Memorial Day Information

Next MONDAY is our final full-band performance of the school year, so I thought you should know some of the details regarding the Memorial Day Parade downtown.

ALL STUDENTS are expected to attend unless they have made other arrangements with me.  The seniors know that I am expecting them there, even though it is not required, unless they have let me know that they won't be attending (they may elect to share the reason for this with you).

The band is to be IN PLACE, READY TO GO by 8:30 a.m. in front of Cityside.  There will be NO school transportation, but the equipment trailer WILL be available for drums and tubas.  The band room will be open by 7:45 a.m. to kids to get uniforms and instruments.

The parade begins at 9:00 a.m. and follows the route of the Pumpkin Fest parade from Cityside down Main Street and hooks around to Central and back to Cityside.

IMMEDIATELY after the parade is complete, the SYMPHONIC BAND and several drummers will report to the CEMETERY for the annual ceremony honoring our vets.  This should wrap up by 10:45 or so with "Taps" after the salute from the honor guard.

ALL UNIFORMS are to be turned in immediately following the performance.  Concert Band and color guard folks can get this started as soon as they are done marching; Symphonic Band can do it after the cemetery.  ALL STUDENTS MUST DO THIS ON MONDAY AS SOON AS THEY ARE DONE.  PLEASE DO NOT "WAIT UNTIL THERE'S LESS OF A CROWD," OR UNTIL YOU HAVE HAD SOME LUNCH, OR ANY OTHER REASON AT ALL.  When your child is done marching/playing, he/she is to report directly back to the band room to take care of this.  Our volunteer staff wants to get back to their families and celebrations as much as everyone else!

Hey!  Speaking of our volunteer staff, we need about 8-10 folks to help collect uniforms on Monday morning.  This is a relatively easy job - you simply make sure each student returns all parts of his/her uniform and place them in appropriate piles, etc.  Way easier than the band camp end of things, so if you've always wanted to try something in the volunteer department, this is your shot!  Let me or Carolyn Tummel (carly31072@hotmail.com) know of your willingness to serve.

Thanks!  See you at the parade on Monday morning!

Friday, May 9, 2014

A Word About Tradition

Well, we have made it through two parades so far this Tulip Time, each bringing its own challenges - from wind and somewhat cool to blistering heat and humidity - so here's hoping that the Saturday parade tomorrow is as cool and wonderful as they are predicting!

I'm sure by now you've either heard about or seen that for the first time in many years the band is not doing the "Zeeland Corner" for the spring parades.  This has been a tradition carried on for literally decades, dating back well before my tenure in ZPS; as near as I can tell, it may have begun as long as 60 years ago when Lee Brower first became the director.  (For those of you unfamiliar with the term, the "Zeeland Corner" is a nearly-patented method of turning a marching band in square, straight lines and avoiding alignment issues with the typical "gate turn," in which everyone just follows a curvilinear path around the corner.)

I wanted to take some time, as I did with the bands, and let you know how and why I came to this decision.  Most importantly, I want everyone to understand that I did not take this decision lightly.

Over the years the bands have changed, grown, and are otherwise different, and along with those changes have come others: the AP curriculum, dozens of athletic offerings, and other demands on students' time both during and after school.  In short, there are very few days in the spring in which every band member is in class and/or at a performance for one reason or another.  This makes it difficult to be consistent not only with teaching, but also with precisely where everyone will be placed in the parade lineup.

I also like to consider the phrase "getting the most bang for your buck."  This particular move takes some serious time to teach.  We can easily spend 30-40 minutes out of a 60- minute class period demonstrating, attempting, and finally (hopefully) mastering the move.  Until the next day, when the six kids who were absent the day before need to be put in the block, there are five other kids absent, this kid had a spot yesterday and now he doesn't, and this kid was a "two" yesterday and now she has to be a "one."  

I look back fondly on the days when my high school band director would actually write out on paper where each of us would be marching in the block; I tried that for a few years before giving up all hope!  As an example, yesterday was the OK Conference track meet in Mona Shores.  Due to the start time of the meet, there was no possibility of the track team members making it to both events, so I gave them up and had them go run Track.  I did this willingly, understanding that in the scope of life the Kinderparade really just isn't the same as running in the Conference meet.  There are also AP tests this week.  And Tennis, Baseball, Softball, etc.  (Though not everyone is automatically excused for their athletic events, it poses a problem of logistics as I plan nonetheless.)

In short, I decided to put my expectations of how well the tradition needed be upheld (the quality of the end product) against the idea of how many different students would be missing each parade and the amount of instructional time it takes to make it happen (the "bang for the buck" idea), and decided that maybe this was the year it had to end.  

The kids don't miss it, really.  It's fun, it's cool-looking, and it's different than anyone else, but it's kind of a pain to do.  Tulip Time really doesn't like it, because it does hold things up as we turn.  And I can easily live without it, as I have laid out in the above paragraphs.

Or at least I thought it would be easy.  Until I turned the corner Wednesday for the first time in 22 years and knew that things just weren't the same and that six decades of tradition were set aside.

Thanks for reading.  I ask you to share this post with friends/alumni if they ask (Memorial Day is coming up, and I know there will be comments), and I hope you've enjoyed watching your kids the last couple of days.  It's a great group, and they look and sound terrific.  If we could only figure out what to do to make those corners look better...

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

It's TULIP TIME!!!

Hard to believe, especially when you look outside, that next week is TULIP TIME already...  Here are some important details that you might want to have, in chronological order.

Tuesday, May 6 is TULIP TIME SALUTE.  On the original calendar sent to parents, it says that this date is for Jazz Band only.  We learned a couple weeks ago that the drumline will be performing at the opening of the show, starting a 4-school rotation of a slot that was previously exclusively HCHS.
 - The performance is at Central Wesleyan Church beginning at 8 p.m.  There is a pretty hefty admission fee ($15.00 for adults), so I will certainly understand if parents don't attend.  It IS a pretty cool show, though, featuring choirs, orchestras, jazz bands, and small groups from all four area high schools.  Tickets are available at the door.  (Drumline parents, your kids will be done by 8:03 p.m. and be free to go.  Jazz Band plays near the end of Act I.)
 - Jazz Band AND Perc students will miss some classes on Tuesday morning for the rehearsal at the church.
 - Students need to report to the church by 7:30 p.m. for the 8:00 p.m. performance.
 - There will not be school transportation to the performance.

Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday are the PARADES.
 - ALL parades begin at 2:00 p.m.
 - We are kind of near the back of the parades on Wednesday and Thursday.  You can see the lineups HERE.
 - Students should report to the band room by 12:20 p.m. and be ready to depart, in full uniform, by 12:45 each day.
 - We should return to school by 3:45 at the latest each day (this is based on past experience and may be affected by traffic conditions, etc.).
 - DUTCH DANCE students, unless they otherwise notify me, will not be riding the bus to or from the parades.  They need to have their instruments and all uniform parts and accessories before they leave school on Wednesday to dance.
 - Students NOT riding home on the bus (athletes, etc.):

  • If a parent/guardian is physically present at the end of the parade, he/she may take his/her child at that time with no formal written permission.
  • If a child is to meet his/her parents at a pre-determined point, will be riding home with another parent, etc., then please go HERE to print and fill out the necessary permission form for alternate transportation needs.  ONE form may be used for all three parade days if needed.
  • On Wednesday and Thursday we end the parades at Kollen Park by the fire station.  Parents can meet the band there.  Saturday we end in the vicinity of Holland HS, but I am not sure where - construction the last couple of years has caused them to adjust the end of the parade route for some groups.  Last year the local bands turned right onto 24th St and ended in the large parking lot behind HHS.
  • In order to save the district some money, we will be taking FOUR buses to the parades, but coming home with THREE due to the number of people that end up not riding back with us.
In the event that there is very bad weather, the only parade that is ever postponed is Thursday.  It will move to Friday at the same time, creating a host of other problems.  If it happens, we'll deal with it!  Wednesday and Saturday parades are only canceled in the event of lightning/thunderstorms.

I COULD USE A VOLUNTEER to drive the school van that will pull the equipment trailer.  This will also save the district some money if we don't have to pay a driver.  There is a person available if I don't get a volunteer, but if you'd like to drive a 24-foot trailer down the streets of downtown Holland during Tulip Time, be sure and let me know ASAP.

I think that covers it!  Thanks.  Now let's get some good weather!!!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Word About Grades

***This is somewhat lengthy, but I wanted to make sure my message was delivered as clearly as possible!***

Each year as we improve or change or whatever new thing we are doing happens, there comes with that certain things that we have to change or improve as well.

The last few years I have placed a larger emphasis on individual student performance; this year those playing test grades have been counted as part of the overall grade for class.  This is in keeping with the increased accountability that is expected of all of us recently, as well as the idea that if you're in band, you should be in motivated at least a little to become a better player.

I don't, however, want everyone to suddenly be failing band, or negate all of the other quality work that goes on in the classroom.  Here is how things work for grades, in case you need a refresher:

There are four main categories - Daily performance (how students prepare and perform on a daily basis in class; do they have instruments, are they collaborating and cooperating with the teacher and other band members, etc.), outside of class rehearsals (like Monday nights in the fall), performance attendance (concerts, etc.), and playing tests.

They are weighted  - 
    Daily - 25%
    Playing Tests - 25%
    Performances - 40%
    Outside rehearsals - 10%

For the period that just ended last week, there were NO performances!  This is the first time in just about forever that this has happened during any term of the school year.  This left two grade categories - playing tests and daily performance.  Since both are treated with equal weight, a student who may perform very well in class but not on individual assessments may have received a lower overall grade than would be "fair."

After THAT, we need to average the 3rd and 4th nine weeks' grades.  And that is where trouble would start due to the fact that there were no performances last term.  (A student receiving a "C" due to a botched playing test, which was then averaged with an "A" for fourth marking period due to lots of performances, may still end up receiving a "B" for the semester.)

SO...  I have reset the grade book to do what we call "running grades."  This means that, while there will be a grade given for the 3rd nine week period, the points will actually carry over from 3rd to 4th nine weeks and all be averaged together for a final semester grade.  This should help everyone who is in that area of having a low playing test grade that has affected his/her nine week grade.  

 - This MAY NOT help those students who simply have not turned in playing tests.  Those are marked as "missing," and that has brought students' grades down to a failing level.
 - Students MAY re-submit the same test for a higher grade.

Questions?  Let me know - kwalker@zps.org

KW

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Summertime!

Hard to believe that summer is actually going to happen, but I am pretty sure that it will...

It's around this time each year that I start receiving all kinds of flyers and promo stuff for summer music camps.  I thought I would use this communication tool to get the word out on some of my favorites as well as let you know what else may be out there.

For high school students in grades 10-12 next school year, I firmly believe that WMU runs the best high school music experience.  Their "Seminar" music camp is about two weeks long at the end of July, and kids get a college-style experience rather than an outdoor camp one.  Students are housed in dorms on Western's campus, and have many opportunities to study and perform with outstanding educators and students.  Here is a link to the website:
 - http://www.wmich.edu/music-camp/

Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp also offers a decent experience, but my opinion is that it is not geared toward advanced HS kids.  I've sent both of my own children there, and Erin really enjoyed it; Nathan kind of "maxed out" in 9th grade as far as playing, but also enjoyed the experience.  (Nathan also attended WMU's camp.)  You can learn more about BLFAC here: http://www.bluelake.org/  We have had several ZHS students attend, and last year and this year had students accepted into the Blue Lake International program, giving them a chance to tour Europe in the summer.

CMU also runs a couple of camps - their Summer Music Institute runs for about a week in June, and there are a few other opportunities available.  Their website is https://www.cmich.edu/colleges/CCFA/CCFASchoolofMusic/CCFASOMAbouttheSchool/SOMASNews/Pages/2013-Summer-Music-Institute.aspx, though I cannot at this point find specific application information.

PERCUSSION CAMPS:
Alma College is far and away the very best.  They run a one- or two-week camp, with each week focusing on a different aspect of percussion.  Week one is usually marching percussion; week two is concert.  Information is here: http://www.alma.edu/academics/music/camps-workshops.php

JAZZ CAMPS:
Several entries here...
Aquinas College, right in GR, runs a great jazz camp in June.  There are options for commuting or overnight camps.  They focus on all levels of jazz, placing emphasis on some theory and improvisation as well as ensemble playing.  Web address: http://www.aquinas.edu/music/jazz_camp.html

A new one that I'm not familiar with, though I have immense respect for its founder.  The Keith Hall Summer Drum Intensive takes place at WMU and focuses on jazz percussion.  Keith Hall is an outstanding performer and educator.  Check it out here: http://www.keithhallmusic.com/education/khsdi/

By far the king of jazz camps is the Jamey Aebersold Jazz Workshop, now held in Louisville at the university campus.  Focusing on developing improvisation skills with students at all levels, this camp provides students with exercises and experience that are second to none.  I actually attended this camp as a student about 15 years ago, and it was a huge help to me as an educator; students learn SO much here!  It's far away, but it's the best: http://workshops.jazzbooks.com/

That sums up my immediate knowledge and experience.  I would be glad to assist you/your children with negotiating the summer camp waters if you need!  Email me at kwalker@zps.org if you have questions.