Sunday, October 18, 2015

Week of October 19

This post should be pretty brief!  It's a nice and easy week this week; our biggest events will be three fund raisers in addition to the final regular-season home football game.  Here's a timeline:

Monday, October 19 - Fuzzy Peach fund raiser, 7 - 9 p.m.  The Peach will be donating 20% of sales to the band during the evening, so make sure you call all your friends and let them know where to eat dessert!

Wednesday, October 21 - Band trip parent meeting, 7:00 p.m.  DeWitt Auditorium.  This should be considered a mandatory meeting for parents to attend to receive information regarding trip procedures and policies.  Students are not required to attend but are welcome.

Friday, October 23 - East home football - FULL BAND, required.  Report time 5:45 p.m.

Saturday, October 24 - Mattress sale and Home Expressions fund raisers, East cafeteria beginning at 10:00 a.m.  Look for a SignUp Genius email to sign up to assist with crew stuff that day (students and parents who assist will receive a bonus for the student's trip account).

Lots of great opportunities to raise money for the upcoming band trip!

Future planning...

Football playoff season is approaching.  As mentioned in a previous blog post, if the team(s) play at home, there will be a band involved somehow.  We usually "play it by ear" week-to-week as we look at what other events are happening around school, etc.  In general the first week is full band, full uniform.  And West, being thus far undefeated, will no doubt have home field advantage for the run of the playoffs.  The last couple of years the first round has seen West play East, so that is conceivable as well.  Basically at this point, double check your calendars for Oct 30 and add a marching band performance to them!  I understand that there are other things that may be scheduled already, so please let me know of serious conflicts as soon as possible.

The October 27 Jazz Band concert has been moved to Tuesday, November 10 - they will join forces with the Wind Ensemble that evening at DeWitt Auditorium.  The concert will begin at 7:30 to allow for the completion of parent/teacher conferences.

October 29 and 31 we will be hosting the regional auditions for the Michigan All-State bands and orchestras.  There may be an opportunity for folks to assist with some things like food, etc.  I will keep you posted.  Students who signed up to audition will receive their times Tuesday or Wednesday of this week.  Keep practicing!!

I believe that does it for this week, but as usual if something comes up I will send an email.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Week of October 12

What a great show Saturday!!  And honestly, they did great from beginning to end - good rehearsal, dinner, dressing, loading equipment, and doing what they needed to do before and after the performance ALL had a bearing on their overall accomplishments on Saturday.  But the performance itself was easily the best they've played and marched thus far this year.  It will be tough to top that one on Tuesday, but I think they can do it.

This week is pretty much the "official" end of marching season - festival is Tuesday night, to be followed by the final two home games of the season the next two Fridays.  Here is the info for this week; I have held it back until now to avoid confusion - the times for Tuesday are similar to what we had Saturday, and I didn't want anyone being in the wrong place at the wrong time!

Monday, October 12 - FINAL Monday night rehearsal - 6:30 - 9:00 p.m.  In this 2.5-hour period we need to put all of the final details together and make sure that we are ready for Tuesday's "district finals."  Please make sure your child is at rehearsal on time.

Tuesday, October 13 - MSBOA District 10 Marching Band Festival.  Zeeland Stadium.  Timeline:
 - 6:30 p.m.  Students arrive at school to dress and prepare to head to the stadium
 - 7:15 p.m.  proceed to stadium for warm-up
 - 7:45 p.m.  warm-up scheduled
 - 8:30 p.m.  Performance
 - 9:00 p.m.  Ratings announced

Please remember that this performance is the only performance all year that I expect EVERY student to "drop everything" and be here.  Athletes need to adjust their game and practice schedules, etc.  There will not be the usual "we will meet you there when the game is done" kind of things - the coaches and athletic directors know of this, and hopefully your children have been communicating this to their coaches; I know they are always good at communicating with me when they have an athletic conflict, so I assume they have given their coaches the same courtesy regarding this.  Thanks for your cooperation.

Thursday, October 15 - Band Boosters meeting, 7:00 p.m. followed by the Mattress Sale fund raiser info meeting at 7:45.  Both will be held in the band room.  *We will need to give the orchestra students some room/leeway before 7 p.m. to begin their concert.  They will be using the band room until 6:50 or so for their warm-up and tuning.  Please arrive quietly for the 7 p.m. meeting.  All parents are invited to be a part of the boosters!  Thursday's discussion will center around a festival logistics recap as well as upcoming fund raisers.

Friday, October 16 - East Homecoming - This will actually be the first game that the full band (required) will be performing at an East home game!  Their first two home contests were basically  before school even started, so their fans haven't seen us play!  What a great opportunity to show off what we've been up to so far this year.

General Stuff:
 - T-shirts are IN.  Lots of students picked them up on Saturday; please send in your money ASAP and pick them up so we can reclaim the floor space outside my office!  If you did a pre-order then you have a shirt waiting.  If you did not pre-order, you're still in luck: we ordered several extras in each size.  $10.00 per shirt.  (Checks made out to ZHS Bands)
 - Jackets, sweatshirts, etc.  We are ordering cool weather gear again this year and adding sweatshirts to the mix.  Hoodies or crew necks in charcoal grey with the ZHS Marching Band logo embroidered on the left chest.  Use this link to order:  Please note: in order to get to the sweatshirt orders, you need to go to pages 2 and 3 of the form.  Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click "next page."  Orders will not be processed without payment.  Please send in your payment by next Monday, October 19.
 - Band Trip Parent Meeting -Scheduled for Wednesday, October 21 at 7 p.m. in the auditorium.  Some final details, etc. will be discussed, as will expectations of students on the trip.  I will make it brief and hold it to one hour or less.
 - Playoff games.  West is 7-0 and ranked #1 in the state, and East can easily make the playoffs by winning their final two games.  Playoffs begin on Friday, October 30.  If the team(s) is/are playing at home, there will be a band in attendance (the exception to this will be Friday, November 6 - the fall play is being performed in the auditorium, and we would not want to have the band disturbing that important performance).  I realize that plans have been made prior to these dates, etc., and will say that, while attendance is still expected, I am much more understanding of absences during playoffs.  The big reminder is that when a team has gone to State Finals in the past, the band is always invited along - we need to support the team prior to that as well by playing at Districts, etc.  Some weeks we do Track Band, some weeks full band.  I will keep everyone posted when that time arrives.

I am in the process of uploading the video from Saturday to YouTube.  It looks really good!  As I said on Saturday night, now that I know they can do that I can push them harder :)  We still have some cleaning to do tonight, mostly spacing issues, but I think we are in pretty good shape.

Thanks for a great week.  Hope to see you all on Tuesday as we perform at festival.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Band Placement

Spring is the time of year where I get to agonize over lots of decisions regarding the following year: Drum Major auditions, section leader interviews, and especially who gets placed in which band for concert season.

It is the last one that gives me the most trouble sleeping, and for a variety of reasons.  It's my hope that by writing this post I'll be able to share with you some of the things that go into planning for who goes where, because in a few short weeks our 4th hour giant ensemble will split into Concert Band and Symphonic Band.

Students in grades 9-11 are required to perform an audition in the spring, which is submitted as their final playing exam.  All students must complete two of the three sections of the exam; the third is optional for students wishing to place into the Wind Ensemble, our top performing group.  Eighth graders are given the material as an option to audition, but are not required.  Mr. Good, Mrs. Bier, and I sit and discuss placement for those students who choose not to audition, but they are generally placed into Concert Band.  (It is very rare that a freshman will be placed into Wind Ensemble - last year we had four, and this year only one.  Usually the literature is too advanced for freshman musicians, so unless instrumentation needs require it, they are generally not placed here, and they must complete the audition successfully.)

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

In actuality there are some crossovers for various reasons: some students "self place" and ask to be put where they are most comfortable.  Sometimes this is due to the demands of practicing that a higher group may put on them; sometimes it is for reasons known more to the student.  Other crossovers happen for instrumentation concerns (we absolutely cannot live without two oboes in Wind Ensemble, for instance), and still others simply due to the fact that this or that young student is advanced in playing beyond his or her year in school (like the trumpet player six years ago who made All-State Orchestra as a freshman).

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

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

Week of October 5

The unofficial end of marching season is suddenly just around the corner!  Next week Tuesday is MSBOA festival here at ZHS, and we are making the final push to get things together this week.  Here are some details for you and your kids.  I will also try to hit some of the highlights of how judging works, though the two panels we will see the next ten days will be judging us from different sets of rules.

The two upcoming performances are open to the public and I encourage ALL of you to attend!  They will cost you some ticket money, however, since these act as money makers for GHS and the MSBOA.  I hope you can all make it and see all of the other bands as well - these are fun events and you will enjoy seeing what other groups have to offer.

Schedule for the week first, though:

MONDAY, October 5 - evening rehearsal, 6:30 - 9:00 p.m.  We have two of these left.  Monday rehearsals are a required part of the class, and the only time the band gets to rehearse together during the week since we meet in three different class hours.  These Monday nights are our chance to make it all happen, and when students are missing it impacts everyone. Please make every effort to get your child to rehearsal on time.  There are only two more - tonight and Oct. 12.

Tuesday, October 6 - Color guard rehearsal - band room - 7-9 p.m.

Wednesday and Thursday - nothing again!

Friday, October 9 - Home football - ALL required - full uniform, full show, etc.  This is a great dress rehearsal opportunity for our show on Saturday at Grandville.

Saturday, October 10 - Grandville Invitational 
Schedule for the day:
 - arrive at school for afternoon rehearsal at 3:45 p.m.
 - rehearsal begins at the stadium at 4:00 p.m.
 - dinner served by some great parents at 6:00 p.m.
 - dress, load buses, etc.
 - depart for Grandville at 7:15 p.m.
 - performance at 9:30 p.m. (I have no idea why this has moved to late at night this year)
 - return home ca. 10:45 p.m.
This is a required performance for all students.  If it's necessary for you to drive your child home from the event before the rest of the band leaves, please notify me ASAP and we will make arrangements for you to meet us as we finish.  We are the last band to perform in the competition, so there won't be a lot of waiting when we are done.  Because of this, it is much easier and more efficient if all students ride the bus back to school.

Monday, October 12 - final Monday rehearsal of 2015!
Tuesday, October 13 - MSBOA marching band festival
Friday, October 16 - Home FB, full band, etc.
Monday, October 19 - Fuzzy Peach fund raiser
Saturday, October 24 - Mattress sale and Home Expressions fund raisers

* A word about adjudication...
Over the next ten days the ZHSMB will be judged in two different competitions.  And technically only one of those is a competition...
On Saturday at Grandville HS, our band will be judged in six different areas, four of which contribute to the final score and placement.  We will be judged in Music Performance, Music Effect, Marching Performance, and Visual Effect (which add up to our final score), and Color Guard and Percussion (where scores are used to determine awards for those areas but do not affect our total score).  Each judge awards points in each category, and the highest point total wins the day.  Pretty straightforward.  There are no "ratings" like we will have at MSBOA; it is a total score out of 100.  We do not compete at places like Grandville (or Kenowa Hills, etc., as in past years) to "win big."  We compete because I like the kids to have more than one opportunity to perform in front of a panel of judges so we can get some good feedback.  I like to do one show before MSBOA as a sort of tune-up; it helps the kids get the nerves taken care of before our final judged event.  

At MSBOA festival, the format is one in which "everyone can win."  The bands are judged against a set of standards and benchmarks in Music, Marching, and General Effect.  If your band meets the standards, you can receive the highest rating.  There is no overall winner, or placements of any kind.  The three judges each give the band a rating (I, II, III, IV, or V), and the ratings are "averaged" for a final overall rating.  The last several years the ZHSMB has received a I in all three categories, resulting in an overall I, or "First Division" rating.  I'm hoping we can continue that streak next Tuesday.

Thanks for your support so far this year - keep encouraging your kids!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Band Trip Special Edition

I thought I would write an "extra" version of the blog this week to keep everyone as up to date as possible regarding the December band trip to Memphis.  Here are some things that we think you need to know at this point; others will follow as needed.

PAPERWORK Your child should be handing you a form/letter/info sheet on Friday, October 2.  This page contains band "homework" - it involves registering your child on the tour company's website so they have the information they need for our group.  This registration will allow you to eventually be added to the room list.  It is required by the tour company - if you don't do the registration, your child will be unable to attend.  Please have this done by Monday, October 5.  This form is also available on our web page -

LATE ADDITIONS  If your child does not receive this paperwork tomorrow, it means we think he/she is not traveling with us.  If you would like to add your child, let me or Cathy Lugten know.  You will need to get completely caught up on the monthly payments that have occurred, but we can add people for about two more weeks before we have to have everything all set.

PAYMENTS  If you are up-to-date with your payments, you will have paid $550 of the $750 trip cost at this point.  A monthly statement is emailed to keep you apprised of your account balance.  Students whose accounts are not current will not be allowed to sign up for a room.  Please contact me or Cathy Lugten to arrange a method to get your account paid to the current level as soon as possible.

PARENT MEETING  We are planning a parent meeting for Thursday, October 15, probably in the band room, at 7:30 p.m.  Details will follow ASAP - there is a concert in the auditorium, but this is a perfect date to get everything taken care of.  Every student who is traveling must be represented by a parent or guardian at this meeting.  We are asking, though, that the kids stay home due to room constraints - it will be a little cozy that night!

ROOMING LIST  In about two weeks' time we will be putting together a rooming list.  Students will be writing down a list of friends with whom they would like to share a hotel room (four people per room).  We try to guarantee at least one of these friends will be in the room with them; we also include the option of letting us know if there is a person they absolutely could not be with for any length of time, and try to avoid placing those kids together.  We understand that not everyone gets along, and we want the trip to be as pleasant as possible for everyone.  Again, if your child's account is not current, he/she will not be allowed to sign up for a room.

CHAPERONES  I am still working on this.  I have about 4-5 spots to fill, and the next round of "choices" will be made based on the boy/girl ratio of students.  We try to keep male chaperones with boys' groups, and females with girls'.  I will finish this up as soon as possible.  As of now we have Tom and Amy Busa, Tom and KayLynn Beltman, Jeff and Sherry Costello, Andy Watson, Becky VanValkenburg, and LoriJo Schepers.  Please be aware that I am the director and not a chaperone.  There will be times when I am required to be away from the group for directors' meetings prior to rehearsals and performances; the chaperones will be in charge of your children during those times.  They are all well-trained and experienced in many different things from teaching to ministry to medicine to Air Force logistics, so we have everything well-contained!  Chaperones are assigned on a 1:12 ratio, with each adult having responsibility for 12 students.

FUND RAISERS  We have several fund raising opportunities coming up that you should be involved with.  On Saturday, October 24 you have the chance for TWO simultaneous fund raisers - another mattress sale and a Home Expressions party.  Information for both of these is on Facebook ( ( the mattress sale will be explained at the parent meeting on the 15th.  We are also hosting fund raisers at the Fuzzy Peach, Vitale's, and Buffalo Wild Wings.  Information regarding these will be sent out via email.  Your child has the chance to earn money toward his/her trip account with all of these, so please encourage participation!

MEDICAL FORMS, MEDICATIONS, ETC.  If you have not yet done so, please fill out the medical form and return it as soon as possible - it is found in the "Liberty Bowl Trip Packet" file on the band trip web page (  While there you can also download a PDF file of the information your child should give you on Friday.  Medications must be listed on this form, and they must be turned in and administered by a chaperone per school policy.  We will try to have our resident doctor/chaperone be in charge of this.

HOTEL POLICIES, ETC.  There will be much more specifically spelled out regarding the hotel expectations as we get closer to departure, but here are the basics: 
 - Room telephones, pay-per-service TV/gaming/wi-fi/movies will be turned of by the hotel (unless the wi-fi is already free).  This allows us to pay a flat, pre-paid rate without incurring extra costs.  Students will not be allowed to pay for these services to be turned on.
 - No boys in girls' rooms, no girls in boys' rooms.  EVER.  PERIOD.  Not to sit with the door open and play cards, not to chat, not ever.  Hallways will also be kept clear; there will be time for chatting and hanging out while we go about our daily activities.
 - Four students per room.
  - Chaperones do not room with students (that has been a question in the past).

That concludes the list that Cathy and I came up with today.  Please feel free to email her - - or me - - if you have any questions.