Thursday, December 31, 2015

Band Trip Day 1

Good morning!  I will not make any promises as to this type of post happening every day over the next few days, but I will give it a try.  Here's a rundown of Memphis Trip Day 1...

Much to the credit of the students and their families, everyone arrived punctually and with all of their equipment on Wednesday morning.  No one was at the door to greet me when I arrived at 5:20 a.m., but within a half hour there were chaperones and their children arriving.  We managed to pull out about 12 minutes early with everyone on board and having lost only one Visa gift card between the building and the buses (a 20-minute life cycle, which may be a new record, but the good news is that the card was found by the student's diligent dad searching the snow after the sun rose...)

Alas, we were not destined to have a trouble-free trip!  About a half hour (or less!) later we received word that bus #2 was experiencing some engine troubles.  We pulled over at the rest area near Saugatuck (another new record for brevity) and waited for a replacement coach from Holland.  After a 40-minute delay or so we were back on the road and headed for Memphis!  (It's actually a good thing we were that close to Holland, where the Cardinal terminal is located.  Had we been much farther away the wait would have been far more serious.  Kudos to the Cardinal folks for expressing a new bus at 7 in the morning.)

Nothing much happened in the excitement department the rest of the trip except for changing drivers in Indiana somewhere, where we got our favorite lead driver, Charlie Bengtson, on board bus 1 and all became traditional  Charlie has driven this band more than any driver we've had; he's taken us to Washington, DC, Detroit, Jacksonville, and places in between.  I tell you this because it says something about our kids that he keeps agreeing to drive for us - he is Cardinal's most senior driver in the area, and he could easily turn down my request.  For the record, I have threatened this year's group to not mess up our good relationship with him :)

Upon arrival in Memphis about an hour late, the kids got checked into the hotel and re-boarded the buses for the rodeo.  I can't speak to their experience, as Andy W and I had a directors' meeting at the venue next door, but most seemed to have at least a decent time.  We did find out, unfortunately, that the arena didn't accept credit cards at the concession stands, so we loaded everyone back into the buses a little early and had Domino's deliver 40 pies to the hotel!

After a 20-hour day everyone was pretty worn out and went to bed (well, I did, anyway).  After a brief discussion with the all-night security guard explaining my stated goal of not wanting to see her again until the next day (and I didn't!  Yes!), I got at least several hours of sleep.  Now I'm waiting until the breakfast area opens so we can scope out how to feed 165 people in the lobby of the Hampton!  (Hey, it's free breakfast - we'll make it happen!)

Have a great day.  Check out the Twitter feed (@zhsband) and the band's Facebook page ( for further updates and pictures.  Happy New Year!

*Disclaimer: I have NOT given this post my usual 2-3 proofreads.  Or even one...  I hope it looks good.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Various Updates - Trip, Calendar, Etc

I know everyone is looking forward to the upcoming break, and lots of folks will be joining us on the trip to Memphis over the New Year's holiday.  When we return from break we will have a couple weeks until the winter concert and then finals week.  This post will talk about updates for all of these things.  

We have four more days this week before break, and we will be rehearsing daily.  I will be going to the Midwest Clinic ( on Thursday and Friday; Mr. Hall will be subbing for me.  He will have detailed plans of things to rehearse.

When we return from break on January 4 we will have two school weeks to review and finish preparing for the January 17 concert.  That concert will take place at 2:00 p.m. in DeWitt Auditorium.  Concert Band, Symphonic Band, Wind Ensemble, and Percussion Ensemble will all be performing. 

Students will be submitting a video playing test prior to their final exam period the week of January 18; this assignment will be made immediately after break.  It will be music from the concert that the students already know, so it should be something relatively easy for them to do.

The TRIP TO MEMPHIS is just about completely settled and in place.  Cathy Lugten is making a few final additions to the student/parent information packet and will send that out Tuesday or Wednesday of this week via email.  Students should print a copy if desired, or have the email on their phone or iPad or other device to bring to Memphis.  It's important for them to have access to this document while on the trip.  The packet contains the itinerary, rooming list, chaperone list with phone numbers, a suggested packing list, meal choices that students made, etc.  

We will be REHEARSING on Monday, December 28 from 7-9 p.m. here at school with the Memphis group.  This will be a great opportunity to get everything together and make a parade line-up and rehearse all the music.  Several chaperones for the trip will be available that evening as well, and students will begin to get things ready for our Wednesday, December 30 departure.

Students need to PRINT THEIR MUSIC so they can have it while we are on the trip.  There will be a couple of long rehearsals in Memphis, and it will be much easier to rehearse if the music is with them (though our goal is to have it well on the way to memorized).

SOLO AND ENSEMBLE festival is on Saturday, January 30 at East Kentwood HS.  So far I believe that all soloists have selected (or been assigned) their music, but I am having some difficulty with a couple of duets.  I should have that done by Wednesday of this week.  Please make sure your child is PRACTICING this music - January 30 will be here faster than they can imagine!  Let me know if you have questions about this; Linda Hoekwater and I are working together to make sure everyone is up to speed this year.  Students should plan on making an appointment with me to spend some after-school time working on S&E literature in January.

That is all that comes to mind at this time; I will let you know further details as they come up.   

Friday, December 4, 2015

Band Boosters Updates

As promised a few weeks ago (though I did promise to send it "in a few days"...), here are some updates and such from the band boosters that we thought everyone should read about.  

First of all, for those who are unfamiliar with what the boosters do, it sort of goes like this: it's a group of parents who meet once a month to hear about things that are going on in the band world and to assist with things like fund raising, organization, and other things that might crop up.  We started the group about a year ago after a parent and I had a conversation about what kind of assistance I might need to get some of the more "non-teacher, non-classroom" stuff off my plate, which was VERY cool.  So we started doing some meetings, which turned into the idea that we should try to meet once a month, and went from there.  (You may have noticed that I did not capitalize "band boosters;" we decided that while it IS an organization that is going to meet regularly, etc., at this time it is NOT going to be a formal/official group that has officers, its own money, etc.  It's a group of parents who want to be involved and help out.  So we kept it lower case for now.)

On to the recent stuff that we think everyone should know, because we decided to not meet in November or December due to everyone's calendar.  Amy Ransler made a list, and I added a few things as well.  (Amy has been our de facto "president" this year.)

  • SCRIP.  This is a really great fund raiser that we have done for nearly 20 years.  We are considering several options:
    • -continue with the same day/time, but open to middle school families so they can start funding their accounts for the next band trip
    • -open the program to all of the performing arts (choir, orchestra, etc)
    • -suspend the program until we are closer to the next band trip
    • There are some groups that use this system for fund raising that use a debit/credit card system to purchase the gift cards.  So far ZPS is not a fan of this option, so we are not offering it yet.  We are hoping to have it available in the future to make it easier for parents to participate
    • We will keep everyone posted as to the program's future
  • Things to think about for next year that people might find fun/interesting/helpful:
    • A more formal parent/senior night for the final home football game for marching band
    • A booster-organized event (such as lunch for everyone) during band camp (this would be a great thing to do on Friday before we go to the beach)
    • Tailgate-style event before (after?) a Saturday competition or parade
    • Let us know what you're thinking!  We know that lots of you were in band back in the day - we've received lots of great ideas from other schools, alumni, etc. as to things that they remember from high school band.  What would you like to see?  Email Amy Ransler at and let her know.
  • A brief (hopefully) word about fund raising:  When the band travels or does other really expensive things, fund raising happens, but is very difficult - when 150 students are traveling, as happens at the end of this month, a fund raiser must be able to offer enough profit potential/motive to raise a lot of money per student.  In other words, selling candy bars, at a profit of about 50 cents per bar, would mean that students would have to sell 1500 bars to earn their trip cost.  Or 200 to earn one month's payment.  So it's difficult to do "successful" fund raisers that are also easy to do.  The mattress sale is one such fund raiser - we made a total of $10,000 between the two sales that we did last spring and in October.  Many students were able to earn several hundred dollars with relatively little effort.  Scrip is another such opportunity, though you build the amount slowly over time.  
Our recent fund raisers at the Fuzzy Peach, Vitale's, and Buffalo Wild Wings ended up netting a total of about $800 or so altogether.  That amount will be used to offset some trip costs for incidentals, and leftover funds will be added to the regular fund raising account.

The money raised each year from the patron drive fund raiser (usually in the neighborhood of $5000 per year) pays for marching band expenses such as drill writing, staff, and music arranging where the school budget needs supplementing, transportation costs to a few events like the band camp beach trip, the occasional pizza party, Jones Sodas for everyone, supplementing the music budget (so far we've used an additional $750 beyond my classroom music budget this year), instruments that go beyond the budget, etc.  It goes pretty fast!

Our next meeting will be on Thursday, January 28 at 7 p.m. in the band room.  We will get back to the "third Thursday of the month" in February, and have meetings in February, March, and April (and possibly May, depending on necessity).  We would love to have you join us!

Keith Walker and Amy Ransler