Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Calendar Updates and Reminders - Winter 2017

There have been a few minor calendar alterations, and I wanted to send a reminder of the January concert date as well, so I thought I'd write it here so everyone can have it easily accessible.

First of all, our annual winter band concert will take place on Sunday, January 15 at 2:00 p.m. in DeWitt Auditorium.  This concert will feature the Concert Band, Symphonic Band, Wind Ensemble, and Percussion Ensemble.  Admission is free, but we will be collecting a freewill donation toward the Performing Arts Summer Scholarship program.  

On the original band calendar the jazz band has a performance set for Feb 9.  Our theater teacher, Mr. Miller, has asked if we would be part of his Theater Tech class assignment, which includes a unit on sound a lighting for a live performance.  Since that class will end at the semester, we've moved up the jazz concert to MONDAY, JANUARY 16 at 7:00 p.m. in the Drama Room.  This will coincide with the jazz band's unit on combo (small ensemble) playing, and we are working together to set up a sort of jazz club idea for the evening.  More specific details soon!  

Solo and Ensemble is happening at West Ottawa HS this year, which is a convenient location, on Saturday, January 28.  There was some confusion earlier in November when we were doing entries, but the date is indeed January 28.  ALL PERCUSSION ENSEMBLE STUDENTS are participating on that day.

I think that should do it for this update - please let me know if you have any questions!


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

More Great Music - Concert Band Style

With the approach of the first concert of the year for Wind Ensemble and Jazz Band, I thought I would do another edition on great music that you should all listen to.  This time I am doing a preview of some of the material that the groups will be playing next week.  You should, of course, make sure to come to the concert and hear these tunes in real life, though!  It will happen on Thursday, November 17 at 7:00 p.m. in DeWitt Auditorium.

Though I am not one to always plan a concert around a certain theme, it turns out that the first couple of pieces I chose for the Wind Ensemble to sight read ended up fitting together well.  One of the coolest things about being here for a long time and having a music library that dates back some decades before even my time is that I can program music that I've done in the past that I know will be successful.  It also means we save a little budget money.  And the past few years I've been able to look at lots of the really old stuff and use it for sight-reading to see if it's worth playing at this point.  

So we ended up with a Sousa march, The Glory of the Yankee Navy, and an old, somewhat obscure piece called Tres Danzas de Mexico.  I had never done the Sousa, and never heard of the other.  Well, those two pieces kind of morphed into the theme of "World Tour," so we added an Irish piece by Grundman, an English piece by Grainger (surprise!), and one of my all-time favorites, Variations on a Korean Folk Song.  

Eventually we narrowed those down a bit and ended up with four pieces for next week.  The jazz band will add four of their own, including one with a vocalist from the Varsity Voices, that also fit the world tour idea.

The Wind Ensemble will open with American Overture by Joseph Willcox Jenkins.  This composition evokes the "old west" style of the 1950s and 60s western movies, and was written by Jenkins at the age of 25 for the US Army Band.  Written to feature virtually every section, it is considered a classic composition for French horn players, as it features them throughout.

Percy Grainger is one of my favorite composers for concert band.  His style is definitely old school classic, and he uses all of the colors of the instrument families very effectively.  Written in 1916, The Sussex Mummers' Christmas Carol was originally scored in two versions, one for piano and violin and the other for piano and cello.  There are several band transcriptions of this piece; Larry Clark chose the latter version for his transcription as he felt that setting more exemplified what the modern wind band could accomplish.  I've linked the Goldman version here; perhaps you can compare the two after next week.

Tres Danzas de Mexico by William Rhoads, uses dance music from three Mexican villages in a three-movement suite.  As is common in a suite of anything, the three movements are fast, slow, and fast again.  Each one represents a different folk dance from a particular village.

I usually tell the band the story of my first experience with Variations on a Korean Folk Song.  To this day I can see the middle school band room at West Ottawa, and remember when Mr. Lucas brought the high school band to perform for the middle school classes.  I was in the seventh grade and can see it like it was yesterday; this piece truly is one that helped shape my career.  As the title suggests, it is indeed variations on a theme.  Arirang, the folk song the piece is based on, is sung widely in South Korea.  The melody is introduced softly and calmly by the clarinets, followed by the rest of the woodwind family, and is followed by five distinct variations that feature all of the instrument families - woodwind, brass, and percussion - ending with the full band bringing all of the elements together.  John Barnes Chance did a great job utilizing western instruments and tone colors in this composition.

I've even included this link to the Sousa - we will be performing this in January.  Next time: some jazz favorites from Frank Sinatra!

Monday, November 7, 2016

"How Can I Help My Kid Get Better?" - 2.0 - New Instrument Purchase

The answer to the "how does my kid get better" question can also be applied to question number two: "what brand of new instrument should I buy?"  These questions fit together because sometimes a student simply ends up "outplaying" the instrument you bought several years ago.

Imagine, if you will, a tall man on a small bike.  Like this one, maybe:  
  Sure, he can ride it, but he's obviously too large for it.  The same can be said for musical instruments: the ones kids get in beginning band are made for beginning players.  Student model brass instruments are more free-blowing and have less resistance; woodwinds are set up slightly differently and are made with less expensive materials.  When students get bigger physically it's very possible that they are "overplaying" their instruments.  The instrument no longer responds well due to too much power from the larger, stronger player (think of a very large engine in a Mini Cooper).  This is especially true with trumpets and trombones.  

But...  How much does a new instrument cost?  Where should I buy it?  Are certain brands better than others?  Well:
 - A lot
 - Locally, if possible
 - Absolutely without question

The biggest issue here is obviously expense.  I will be blunt and forthright (I know, you're not used to that at all) and say that you really can't find any instrument of quality, with the exception of used name brands, for less than at least $1,000.00.  And that doesn't include saxophones or many trombones, both of which will cost you considerably more.  The thing to remember, though, is that you are quite literally making a long-term investment - the instrument that I just "replaced" (it's still around and will be forever) was new for me in 1978.  The $475 that my folks spent then obviously paid off.  (Also - be glad your child doesn't play double bass in orchestra.  Just saying...  #mortgagethehouse)

My personal recommendation for places to purchase instruments kind of depends on what you're looking for, but Meyer Music is a good place to start.  They carry many/most of the brands that are high quality and stand behind them with warranty and repair work, etc.  Marshall Music in Grand Rapids is great as well, and both of these stores specialize in school service so they know what students need.  

What about online?  Well, maybe.  I will say that I broke two of my own rules when I bought my new horn: buying online and not trying it before you buy it.  I bought a one-of-a-kind discontinued model (what was I thinking??) after seeing it on the factory's Facebook page.  I made a phone call and they shipped it that afternoon.  No return possible.  But:
 - I have another instrument that I love from that same manufacturer.
 - They are a reputable company and promised to stand behind the product.
 - At that level, there are very few poor instruments, though there are indeed some that work better than others for some players.

"They have a really great deal on new flutes at Costco."  No, they don't.  Seriously.  Not there or anywhere else that is a mass-marketer of all things.  Amazon included.  Reputable manufacturers do not allow their stuff to be sold at places like that.  End of discussion*.
Here are some basic thoughts on buying a new instrument:
  • Try it before you buy it.  If you can't, then don't buy it.  This is why online is risky.  I could have had a week-long trial on any of their stock instruments, with the option of sending it back and trying a different one.  Most reputable sellers will have a similar program - you give them a credit card number and they will ship you something to try.  Online auction sites may not have this option.
  • BEFORE YOU EVEN TRY IT, check with me.  Or Mr. Good.  Or Mrs. Bier.  Mr. Good and I are brass players; we can tell you a lot about brass, and especially trumpets.  Mrs. Bier is our woodwind expert, so questions about those go to her.  Any one of us is willing to help out and even go with you and your family to help you try instruments somewhere (Several years ago I spent a day in northern Indiana with a student and his family and tried out about ten trumpets with him).
    • Want to get really serious?  Try factory direct from the Conn-Selmer plant in Elkhart, IN.  Very cool experience and includes a factory tour, etc.
  • Buying local is ideal, but there is not always a huge selection.  As is the case with many expensive things, there is actually a fairly low mark-up on pro instruments.  Because of this and their relatively high price, the local music stores don't always have a dozen in stock.
    • Why does this matter?  The above-mentioned trumpet player tried out ten of the same model pro instruments.  The tenth one was the one that sounded the very best and felt the best to him.  The funny thing was that we could all tell right away.
    • There are many hand-finished processes in the manufacture of pro-line instruments, and each one is going to play slightly differently than another.
  • As with everything else in the world, there are many and various instrument manufacturers.  And as with everything else, there are tried and true brands that will deliver virtually every time.  My recommendations for brands are
    • Flutes: Yamaha, Gemeinhardt, Pearl
    • Clarinets: Yamaha, Buffet, Selmer
    • Saxophones: Yamaha, Selmer, Cannonball (a good medium horn and a good price)
    • Trumpets and trombones: Bach (Selmer), Yamaha, Getzen
(*Almost the end of the discussion...  BE VERY WARY of names that sound similar to those listed above - they are cheap knock-offs and cannot be trusted.  The names change periodically as well - several years ago SELMAN was selling woodwinds.  Not SELMER.  Be careful.)

What about buying used?  Same basic ideas as new, with the emphasis on trying it before you buy it.  There are some Selmer saxophones, for instance, that are reaching legendary status as the Holy Grail of instruments depending on the years they were made.  A former student bought a 30+ year-old Selmer Mark VI tenor a few years ago for $2000 (a steal), and sold it after college for closer to $3000.  Be wary of things on auction sites; I really like Craigslist, because it's local and you can easily visit the seller and try out the instrument.  

Meyer Music has a pretty sweet deal on step-up instruments that is worth mentioning here: if you have rented a beginning instrument from Meyer and have not paid it off yet, they will give you full credit on what you've paid for rental toward a step-up instrument.  Once it is paid off the trade-in price drops quite a bit, so check out their deals for new horns before you write that final check!

One final thought/caution for parents/purchasers: be aware that for pretty much everyone, a brand new, shiny, sweet-smelling instrument is going to "play better" than the one your child currently has.  Some student model trumpets come with silver plating.  They're still student model trumpets, they just look different.  Please do some research before you make the jump into the next level instrument!

Remember, this is a potentially very expensive lifetime investment.  Don't run out and buy the first thing you try.  And please let me know if you would like any assistance or advice!


    "How Can I Help My Kid Get Better?" - 1.0 - Private Lessons

    This entry goes into the category of "other information that may be helpful."  I decided to write it when I bought a new trumpet last month at the ripe old age of 52...

    I am asked by several parents each year about two things: "what is the best way to make my child a better player?" and "I'd like to buy my child a new instrument; what should I get?"  I will answer these questions, but the details will end up in two different posts due to length and subject matter...

    The number one answer to the first question is "PRIVATE LESSONS."  There is seriously nothing better than one-on-one sessions with an expert on the instrument the student plays; the experience and knowledge gained from this is unmatched in band. 

    It is often somewhat frustrating to hear a student say that he or she has quit taking piano lessons since "I'm in band now and I don't need them any more."  Piano lessons can be a huge supplement to what we do in band and can indeed form a foundation that is vitally important to a musician's overall success.  I often tell people that of all of the things in my life that I would change if given the chance, going back to 8th grade I would change my mind on quitting piano.  Almost daily in my job here at school I could put piano skills to good use.  So if you are paying for piano lessons and it's still in the budget, keep going!  And consider adding lessons on your child's main instrument as well.

    A private, one-on-one lesson situation with an expert on that instrument will really help a student to excel, or even catch up if he or she is behind for some reason.  As a musician I can teach your children musical elements and various ways to improve as a member of a band or orchestra.  As a trumpet player I can teach your child very specific techniques on my major instrument that will help him or her become a better trumpet player.  I cannot do the same thing, really, for any other instrument.  Yes, I "know how to play all the instruments;" I am an expert at one of them.

    And that is why you should consider private lessons.  There are several teachers in the area on most instruments; we are still trying to find a consistent tuba teacher, though!  

    So how do you start?  The easiest, though not necessarily the very best, option is to get in touch with Meyer Music.  They operate a studio right in the store and will take care of scheduling, payment, etc.  They have some fine teachers there, but there are others I'd recommend as well, especially depending on the instrument and/or level of student achievement.

    I can put you in touch with some very qualified instructors for flute, oboe, bassoon, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet (not just me), French horn, trombone, and percussion.  Baritone and tuba, as mentioned above, are a little more of a challenge, yet those instruments have some very specific needs and lessons would be great!  A trip out of the Holland/Zeeland area might be necessary for this to happen, though.

    What will private lessons accomplish?  As I mentioned, the single most important thing is instrument -specific technique.  The things a private teacher can catch and correct in an individual setting are numerous.  Hand position (imagine, if you will, trying to teach 57 beginning clarinet players how to properly hold a clarinet; yet that is exactly what Mr. Good had to do when this year's sophomores were in 6th grade), embouchure, articulation, etc. are all very unique to each instrument.  Even across the brass section things are not exactly the same: what makes a person a good trumpet player can definitely make that same person a terrible French horn player, for instance.  The embouchure and power for one can have a very negative effect on the other.  

    Private teachers will also teach musicianship, but more through solo playing than the large ensemble setting like we do in band.  The cool thing is that the ideas they learn and work with in private lessons then also transfer to band, and the band as a whole will improve.  Bonus!  

    If you are interested in getting some names of teachers in the area, please let me know.  I do some lessons on an irregular basis, mostly at no charge, but based on my schedule they are very inconsistent.  (In other words, I might not be the trumpet teacher I'd recommend for your kid...)  Send me an email at and we can discuss what you're looking for and see what we can do.


    PTC Edition 11-7-16

    Welcome to Parent/Teacher Conference week!  I am looking forward to meeting new people and seeing those I've met before.  Here are a few things you can do to help streamline the process:

    • Please introduce yourself, even if I've met you a thousand times...  Sometimes my brain just doesn't compute faces and names when I am meeting with different people all day.  This will help me a lot.
    • My first question to parents is usually "what can I tell you about your child?"  Is there anything specific you would like to hear?  You might have something you want to know about, like how he/she is doing socially, or with reading music, or with more specific things.  Grades can be a topic of discussion, but the first nine weeks is based almost entirely on participation since we have so many performances.  But let me know what you want to know!
    • I will probably ask parents of freshmen how things are going overall with high school, and specifically in band, so check in with your children and see what they're thinking.
    • I will be in my office in the band room for all three conference days.  Feel free to come into the room and walk around and get a feel for where your child spends a significant amount of time.  I will try to have the place cleaned up so it looks good!  
    • Your children are more than welcome to attend with you.
    • If things are busy and crowded, feel free to leave me a note and we can set up a time to meet in the future if you feel the need for that.
    Remember that conference hours are Monday 4 - 7 p.m., Wednesday 2 - 5 p.m., and Thursday 2 - 8 p.m.  Looking forward to seeing you!


    Sunday, October 30, 2016

    Week of 10-31-16

    Hello again from the band room - 

    It is officially official - the marching band season is done and we have no more performances until the Christmas parade on Monday, November 28.  All of the concert organizations either have been or will begin preparing concert literature in earnest at this time; the Wind Ensemble and Jazz Band have a concert on Thursday, November 17, and the annual winter concert for Concert Band, Symphonic Band, Wind Ensemble, and Percussion Ensemble is on Sunday, January 15.

    Please consider a contribution to our annual fund raiser.  The fall patron drive is a little behind this year, and we are hoping it picks up this week.  If you would like to contribute online via credit or debit card, you can go to and scroll to the Zeeland High School Band link and enter the amount you would like to contribute.  Since the "quantity" is set at $1.00, you would enter the amount you'd like to give in that box.  So if you're giving $50.00, you would purchase 50 units of $1.00 each.  OR...  Send me a check :)

    The past few weeks have been very busy for all of us.  Thank you for getting your kids where they needed to be at the times they needed to be there.  Please use this few minutes of down time over the next week or two between sports seasons and such to get together as a family and see what your kids have been up to.  One of the things I miss about having my kids around the house is family dinners and other family time.  Dana and I had a great time with our son in East Lansing the past couple of weekends (day trips are fun!), so we should probably head to Chicago and see Erin soon as well.  As for me, my goal for this week is to recharge a little - I need to get home earlier in the afternoon because I need to do a few more things before my mountain bike race next weekend.  (Some day I will beat Mr. DeKuiper, but alas this is not going to be the year...)

    Have a great week.  Let me know if you have any questions or concerns -


    Monday, October 24, 2016

    Week of 10-24-16

    Well, the regular football season has come to an end.  As I start writing this on Sunday afternoon there is no word yet on where the teams will be playing for the first round of playoffs next Friday, but I will keep an eye out and keep everyone posted.
       ***EDIT: BOTH teams will be "away" on Friday, so we will all enjoy a well-earned weekend away from marching.

    I will keep this very brief, because it is truly the first week of the year where we have nothing at all on the schedule!

    We are hosting All-State auditions this Thursday and Saturday.  Information for the people auditioning has been emailed to them; please check with them regarding times, locations, etc.  I also sent out a student SignUp Genius page to get some extra hands setting up and tearing down, etc.

    Infinite Campus should be basically up-to-date now.  I do have to check a few absences, so one or two performance attendance grades may change, but I believe I have filled in all of the performances with grades now.

    The Wind Ensemble and Jazz Band have a concert coming up in a few weeks.  More word on that soon - the date is giving us some difficulty due to hunting season...

    The ANNUAL FUND DRIVE is happening!  Make sure you send in your donation so we can keep doing great things here.  We are a little behind our usual pace so far this year, so please consider giving to the fund.

    Monday, October 17, 2016

    Week of 10-17-16

    Here we are in mid-October and it seems like band camp just ended a couple weeks ago.  The time flies in the fall season; starting this week we begin to settle into a different routine for a few months.  There are still plenty of marching band details over the next couple of weeks, so I will keep this post to those items.

    This FRIDAY, OCTOBER 21 marks our last "official" full band performance of the season.  It's the East/West game, and always proves to be lots of fun for the whole community.  It is also the night we will recognize our seniors.

    Post-season play?  As I said above, this week is the last "official" game.  After this week's game the teams enter the playoff rounds, and we sort of play it by ear, as they say.  If the teams travel to an away site, the band does not travel.  If the teams are home, we at least have a pep band at the games.  If a visiting team brings their band to a ZHS game, then our band will be at the game in uniform as well.  I totally understand the schedule conflicts at this point, so just keep me posted as things come up if your son/daughter has to miss a show.

    SATURDAY, OCTOBER 22 is our mattress sale in the East cafeteria.  We've done two of these over the past year and a half and raised over $10,000.00.  The money raised from this sale will go into the band trip account and be credited to individual students.  This is a great fund raiser because it is so easy and can make plenty of money.  Your child will be credited with a sale when a customer brings in the coupon that students were given last week.  We keep track of this and students are given credit via our accounting system.  It's SO simple.  Students and parents may even text or email the coupons to prospective customers.  We also have dozens of yard signs available if you would like to pick one up for your property.  This sale works best through word of mouth, so get the info out!  Here is a link to the Facebook event - - please join it and invite others as well.  Sheets and pillows will also be available; order sheets through the link on the Facebook page.  Another way to join the event is to text "Zeeland" to 616-201-2030.  You will receive an auto-reply message that you can forward to your contacts.  Mattresses will be delivered to people's homes; you do not have to worry about any delivery or other issues whatsoever.

    ALSO on October 22, Cindra Zwart will again be hosting a Life Expressions Decor sale.  Buy some great stuff for your house and paint it in the colors you want, and while the paint dries you can shop for a mattress.  These signs make great gifts and are reasonably priced.  The Facebook event is here for more information -

    We hope to see lots of you at these events on Saturday!  There will be a SignUp Genius email that outlines some opportunities for families to work a 1-2 hour shift assisting at the sale; students will earn extra money for working.

    Speaking of seeing lots of you, it was awesome to have such big crowds Monday and Tuesday evenings last week.  The kids really needed an audience on Monday night, and hundreds of people helped out.  Tuesday wasn't as successful as we had hoped, but it's been a very different season in many ways; we've discussed it at length and are ready to move on and make a few changes.  It's always fun to perform for a big crowd, and both nights were well attended.  Thanks for coming out.

    I will finish up a few other blog updates I've been working on and get them out soon.  They deal with topics like private lessons, new instruments, how we select students for various concert band groups, etc.  Each and every one is an exciting page-turner you're sure to read over and over again...

    Enjoy your week!  Things are definitely slowing down here for a bit: one fall athlete said to me on Friday that now that soccer and band are winding up he is getting a little bored and needs something to do!  I told him to go practice.


    Monday, October 10, 2016

    Week of 10-10-16

    Believe it or not, we've made it to the end of the competition season; tonight is our final Monday rehearsal and tomorrow is MSBOA festival.  Hard to believe that band camp ended two months ago.

    Only a few things for this week, but it's an important week!!

    TONIGHT is our final Monday rehearsal from 6:30 - 9:00 p.m. at the stadium.  I know that some sections are planning earlier times so they can work on things together before full band.  Don't forget that you and your friends and neighbors are all invited to view our final run-through at 8:30 or so as well.

    TOMORROW, Tuesday, October 11, is our festival performance.  Here is a link to the details that I sent out last week:

    We still need a couple volunteers for tomorrow night as well.  A few more band guides and we will be all set, I think.  Please go here to sign up.

    Things are sounding very good lately.  We still have a bit to go on our visual presentation, though!  Tonight's rehearsal will be vital to our success.  

    FRIDAY, October 14 - East home football.  THE EAST CROWD HAS NEVER SEEN OUR SHOW!!  Last time we were scheduled to perform for them with the full band we got rained out.  It will be nice to have a whole show ready for them this week!!

    Saturday's performance at Grandville that was on the original calendar has been canceled.

    Looking forward to a great week!  See you tonight.


    Thursday, October 6, 2016

    MSBOA Details

    Here are final details for Tuesday, October 11 MSBOA Marching Band Festival:

    We will be hosting festival here at Zeeland Stadium again.  Our band performs at 8:30 p.m. and is the last band of the evening.

    • REPORT TO SCHOOL to dress by 6:45 p.m.
    • We will walk over to the stadium together at 7:25
    • Our warm-up time is 7:45
    • Our performance time is 8:30 
    • After the ratings have been announced, students will return to the band room to change and put away equipment
    YOU should volunteer to help out!  Here is a link:


    Thanks - let me know if you have any questions.


    Monday, October 3, 2016

    Week of October 3

    I am not a superstitious person.  Seriously.  Not at all.  I promise.  But I AM beginning to wonder just a little...At least Friday night's rain was gentle and not a soaking deluge like Sept. 23.  And Saturday's rehearsal (in which we accomplished a lot of really good things) was just fine.  When the band left Zeeland for Hastings Saturday afternoon I even thought maybe we'd beaten the whole weather system, since it was raining behind us, and Hastings looked clear.  Until we arrived.  Of the 24 or so bands that performed on Saturday, only the last six were rained out.  The stadium was evacuated due to lightning and the crowd and the competition were moved inside.  It's almost like the storm found us and was angry that we tried to get away...

    Due to the competition being inside, all of the judges scored the bands for music only; we ended up with a 77.7, which is right about where I figured we would be.  I really wanted some marching scores, but more importantly a video of the performance so kids can see where things are going wrong and can be fixed.  We desperately need to perform in front of a dry, quiet audience at some point, but alas, that may be next Tuesday at festival!

    Anyway, this week we are putting the final touches on the show for next Tuesday, which is MSBOA Festival already, and we have plenty of things to do in order to make that a successful night.

    TONIGHT: Monday, October 3 - Rehearsal at the stadium 6:30 - 9:00 p.m.

    Tuesday, October 4 - Color Guard practice 7:00 - 9:00 p.m.

    Thursday, October 6 - West Homecoming pep assembly (daytime)

    Friday, October 7 - West Homecoming Football - FULL BAND required performance

    Saturday, October 8 - POSSIBLE rehearsal 12:00 - 2:00 p.m. at the practice field.  This may or may not happen - we definitely need the work, but there are many athletic events, etc.  I will make a concrete and final decision after tonight's rehearsal and let folks know.  (Please do not reply regarding schedules yet; I know there will be conflicts.)  If we do have a rehearsal, I will schedule a bus or two to take us to the parade route after we are done.

    Saturday, October 8 - Pumpkin Fest Parade - 3:00 p.m. - FULL BAND required performance


    Monday, October 10 - FINAL Monday rehearsal of the season

    Tuesday, October 11 - MSBOA District 10 Marching Band Festival at Zeeland Stadium
     - There will be plenty of opportunity for you to volunteer for this event.  Look for a SignUp Genius email in the next day or so.

    REMINDER...  The East/West football game on Friday, October 21 was originally INCORRECTLY scheduled as a track band night.  Several weeks ago I sent a calendar correction - that night will be FULL BAND - REQUIRED.

    Tuesday, September 27, 2016

    Hastings Details

    As promised yesterday, here are final details for this Saturday's competition at Hastings HS.  Parents, friends, neighbors, etc. are all welcome to come to this public event.  Admission is $6.00 for adults and $5.00 for students and senior citizens.  The whole day begins at 1:00 p.m., and your admission is good for all 20+ bands, so if you want a full day of marching band, get there early and enjoy yourself!

    REHEARSAL will begin at 3:10 p.m. at the stadium.  The band room will be open by 2:45.  We need a good hour or so to review Friday night and get focused for the evening show.

    DINNER will be served at about 4:30 p.m. by the band room.  Hot dogs, etc. will be served.  (There are a few folks following a gluten-free diet; I ordered GF pizza for you for Friday, but you should plan on bringing something for the dinner on Saturday.)

    We will GET DRESSED and LOAD THE TRAILER AND BUSES after dinner and plan to leave campus at 5:20 p.m.  This will give us slightly over an hour to get to Hastings.  We are planning a time cushion in the travel time here, because it has been many years since we've performed at Hastings; unloading 200+ people and getting them from point A to point B sometimes takes a while, especially in unfamiliar territory.

    Our warm-up time is 7:15 p.m.  We get 30 minutes to prepare on site (music only - no marching).

    We perform at 8:00 p.m.  There are two bands after us (Grandville and Hastings), so we will wait for them to finish.  Awards are announced at 8:45.  After announcements we will head back to the buses and pack up drumline and tubas, etc. and head for home.  

    We should ARRIVE back at ZHS between 10 and 10:30 p.m.

    Monday, September 26, 2016

    Week of September 26

    Hello from the band room.  This week should have been our second or even third full uniformed performance, but it will only be the first!  Friday we are in front of the West crowd, and Saturday in front of judges at Hastings.  We will be ramping up the intensity a little bit this week as we get closer to our goal of MSBOA festival on October 11 (two weeks away...).  Here's what's up for the week:

    TONIGHT - Monday, September 26 - Rehearsal at the stadium 6:30 - 9:00 p.m.  Only one weather forecast says we might get some rain; the other three channels say no.  I am telling the kids to bring rain gear - we can't skip rehearsal tonight.  In the event of rain woodwinds will case instruments to avoid damage, but we will be rehearsing providing it's not a deluge.  (Apparently this year's freshman class has been plagued by weather issues for years now - snow days for festival, rain on parades, etc.  I believe Mrs. Bier used the word "cursed."  Cool...)

    Tuesday, September 27 - Color Guard 7:00 - 9:00 p.m. Band room/dance studio

    Friday, September 30 - FULL BAND REQUIRED PERFORMANCE for the West vs. Holland HS game.  The HHS band will be joining us for pre-game and we are sharing halftime.  Thanks to all of you who signed up for assisting with the pizza, etc., for after halftime.

    Saturday, October 1 - FULL BAND REQUIRED PERFORMANCE for the Hastings Marching Band Invitational.  I will send out a separate blog post detailing the final information for this.  We will be rehearsing for about 90 minutes in the afternoon, feeding the students some dinner, and performing in Hastings at 8:00 p.m.  Look for a SignUp Genius later today to do some donations and provide assistance.

    PUMPKIN FEST is coming up on October 8.

    I have decided to CANCEL the October 15th performance at Grandville.  That is a great place to play and would be a good opportunity to wrap up our season on a high note, but the week is simply too busy, so you can clear that date from your calendars.

    Friday, September 23, 2016

    Another Edition Regarding Some Great Music

    I'm sitting in my office on a Friday after school, putting off a few things that I really should get finished (like cleaning my desk and other fun stuff like that...), waiting for the game crowd to arrive in an hour or so, and thought I would give another listen to a great tune.  Which reminded me that I had planned to share another blog post of my music appreciation thoughts.  Problem solved!  I can sit at my desk, listen to music, and put stuff off til Monday!

    Last winter when the band traveled to Memphis we stopped at the Stax Records Museum.  Some of my earliest childhood memories are rooted in the Stax library; my older brother and oldest sister would listen to "Soul Man" by Sam and Dave on the Stax label, Arthur Conley's "Sweet Soul Music," countless Motown artists, and many others.  (We moved to west Michigan when I was about 7; the older siblings spent their music-formative years in the Detroit suburbs, and I'm glad they taught me how to read the labels on the 45 rpm records, forming not only my literacy education but also my musical tastes!)

    Because it's a studio and not a record label, I don't recall seeing anything specifically from the Muscle Shoals studio as a youngster, but I picked up a DVD at the Stax museum about this small town in Alabama that was home to two of the most influential recording studios in the country.  I showed it in class at the end of the year, and I was excited to learn some new things myself.

    The Muscle Shoals sound started in the early 60s at FAME (Florence Alabama Music Enterprises) Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.  A few years later, the house band, calling themselves "The Swampers," left FAME and formed Muscle Shoals Sound Studio.  These four influential session players would go on to back up countless top recording artists on several different labels.  Fun fact: you've all heard Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home, Alabama," right?  The line that goes, "now Muscle Shoals, they had the Swampers"?  Well, there you go.  A reference to this studio and its awesome house band.  House bands were a big thing back then; Motown had one (it was a session bass player with the Funk Brothers that came up with the famous bass intros for "My Girl" and "I Heard it Through the Grapevine," for instance) .  So did several other studios.  These house musicians were featured on dozens of recordings and were a big reason artists sought to record at Muscle Shoals.

    First of all, the scope of style of artists and music recorded at Muscle Shoals is almost second to none: everyone from Wilson Pickett in the early 60s to the Rolling Stones in 1971 ("Brown Sugar" and "Wild Horses") to Lynyrd Skynyrd (yep, "southern rock" was born at this studio), to Cher, Bob Seger, Paul Simon, and dozens of others.  You really should check out the documentary we watched - Muscle Shoals: the Incredible True Story of a Small Town with a Big Sound.
    This was also the studio that brought together an unlikely pair to record a cover tune: Wilson Pickett, an African American born in Alabama but raised in Detroit (where he developed his music), and Duane Allman, a white southerner, got together in 1966 to do an amazing cover of the Beatles' "Hey Jude."  (In my opinion, Pickett's soaring vocals, Allman's screaming guitar riffs, and the Muscle Shoals Horns' background licks far outshine the original Beatles recording , though admittedly I've never been a huge Beatles fan.)  This version peaked at #13 on the Billboard charts.  According to an interview in the documentary, it was shortly after this that the Allman Brothers got going, followed soon after by Lynyrd Skynyrd, and "southern rock" was born.

    Check it out sometime!  A quick Google search brings you lots of hits for Muscle Shoals.  Here are a few of my favorites from way back, including the Allman/Pickett version of "Hey Jude."  Pay some special attention to the horns, the Hammond B3 organ, and the great guitar stuff.  I've also included the Allman Brothers' "Soulshine," which I heard this past summer for the first time in some many years, and what a great tune to make the connection between gospel music and rhythm and blues/rock styles.


    Monday, September 19, 2016

    Week of September 19

    Looking back on Friday night, I've decided to try to see at least some humor in the situation, since if I didn't I would probably just continue to shake my head in wonder...  What a night.  The kids did a great job getting here on time, had all their stuff, pre-game went well, and then, well, let's just say it went downhill very fast.  I've spoken with several parents who had uniforms hanging in the garage dripping for hours; we just moved a sousaphone from point A to point B in the room, and several ounces of water poured out of the bell as it was picked up.  There is a famous saying:"It's not raining until I say it's raining."  Wow.  It was definitely raining Friday night...

    Anyway, here is the weekly update.  Not too much to report - another almost relaxing week before things ramp up in a serious way.

    TONIGHT - Monday, September 19 - FULL BAND rehearsal at the stadium, 6:30 - 9:00 p.m.  Goal of the night is to have the entire show back on the field by the end of the rehearsal.  We need to review and remember "Fly by Night."  Again, extremely important for all students to attend on Monday nights; we only have three more after tonight and it's festival time.  Not sure if it is still early in the season or if I am seeing the results of only rehearsing full band one night per week, but we have some very rough spots that need to be cleaned.  Very soon...

    Tuesday, Sept 20 - Color Guard rehearsal in the dance studio 7 - 9:00 p.m.  The Holland Symphony will be rehearsing in the band room, so if you come in that way please be very quiet and respectful.

    Friday, Sept. 23 - East home football - TRACK BAND.  

    Upcoming events:

    • Friday, Sept. 30 - West Football vs. Holland - ALL
      • HHS band will be joining us for pre-game and halftime that night!
    • Saturday, Oct 1 - Hastings Invitational
      • Most likely a late afternoon performance
      • I will publish times when I know them
    That should do for this week.  There is probably more, but I decided to spend some family time yesterday rather than come in and straighten the room, so I need to do that right now!

    Have a great week - 


    Monday, September 12, 2016

    Week of 9-12-16

    As promised, here is the first of several probably weekly blog posts dealing with all things ZHS Band.  You can tell by the catchy title that I spend a lot of time with creative thought on these...

    Here are some things for parents to be aware of for the upcoming week:

    MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 12  Monday night rehearsal, 6:30 - 9:00 p.m. - Stadium
    Mission critical.  Vital to our success.  Absolutely necessary.  Can't live without it.  These and many other similar phrases have been going through my head (and out of my mouth toward your children's ears) the past several days.  We meet in FOUR SEPARATE class hours, meaning that our Monday rehearsals are literally the ONLY CHANCE we get to rehearse and fix things as a group.  Our Friday night time together before the game is not really a rehearsal as much as it is a review.  Please help me and the band out by making sure your child is in attendance at the stadium for these sessions.  As a new procedure this year, I reserve the right to "pull" a student from the performance if he/she misses Monday night rehearsal.  I realize that there are a few athletic events that take kids away from this, and that is different (I am working with some West coaches regarding tonight and the conflict with Meet the Teachers Night).  Students who need rides need to ask around; jobs, babysitting, etc, etc. need to be rescheduled.  We cannot afford absences.

    TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 13   Color Guard rehearsal, 7:00 - 9:00 p.m.  This session will once again be in the dance studio.  The Holland Symphony will be rehearsing in the band room.

    FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 16  East Homecoming Football
    Report time to the band room will be 5:45 p.m.  Students need to locate uniform parts, get dressed, etc., and we will have a show review time before marching to the stadium at 6:30.  This performance is REQUIRED for ALL students.

    Other items of interest for you:
     - I have started using the Remind app for marching band.  I am easing into this idea and will eventually expand it to either include a parent "class" or simply add parents to the band class that their child is in.  For those who don't know what Remind is, it's basically a one-way texting app that allows me to send a message to all students at once regarding reminders, schedule changes, etc.  Several of my colleagues use it and are very excited about it.  I hope to make good use of it as well.
     - If you're reading this you are already on the parent email list.  If this was forwarded to you, email me at and I will add you to my list.
     - There is a band Facebook page.  This is more of a "see what's happening" sort of page rather than information or similar items.  I do not use that page as a communication tool except for emergency cancellations, etc.  It's a public page, so you do not need a Facebook account -
     - We also have a Twitter account - @zhsband - that I use periodically.  Nothing terribly special to follow, but occasionally I will tweet pictures or video of class or performances.  Like Facebook, I also use Twitter for emergency schedule changes.  

    •  You may be interested in these past blog entries
      • Track Band
      • Communication
      • I am working on one regarding band and athletics and how we resolve conflicts, etc.
    That will have to do for this week.  As always, please direct questions or concerns to

    Tuesday, August 16, 2016

    Band Camp Reduix, T-Shirts, and Assorted Other News

    Band camp was a pretty huge success!  We changed a few things around to accommodate construction, scheduling, and other things, but we did camp, dispensed uniforms, and had a great time without really ever using the band room during the day.  Friday it was a little sad that we didn't make it to the beach, but when we had to make the call there were red swim flags flying at Tunnel Park, and I just couldn't imagine four busloads of kids not being allowed to go in the water at the beach...  It ended up saving some money since we didn't have to pay for buses, so that's good.

    Thank you to all of the volunteers for the week, whether you assisted with uniforms, "medical" staff, cooking Friday's lunch, or handing out popsicles or otherwise.  We really appreciate your help!  (I just spent about an hour organizing uniform money checks and accounting for which kids have paid how much money, and I grew even more appreciative of the folks who come in to help out with that sort of thing.)

    T-SHIRTS will be ordered next week!  This year they are truly "charcoal" in color - a dark grey edging toward black.  They will have the Rush logo on the front (included in a design by a ZWHS student) and everyone's names on the back.  Parents, students, friends, and neighbors may all purchase as many shirts as they'd like.  No one is required to purchase, but we do ask that you return check or cash by next Monday, August 22 (at Monday night rehearsal).  If this presents a problem, let me know.  It is difficult to do more than one order due to the temporary nature of the screens for printing.  

    Speaking of things that cost you money - can we do something that will help (I hope) on both sides of the equation:
     - There are several items that need some sort of payment or other.  For MY convenience, it would be very helpful if you could write separate checks for the separate items (like a check for uniform fees AND a check for T-shirts) so I can keep track of what money went where.
     - For YOUR convenience, if you have more than one child or are ordering more than on shirt or paying two uniform fees, etc., you may write a single check for as many kids as you have.  Make sense?  That way you're not writing six checks for T-shirts and uniform money.

     - For the convenience of everyone, especially to make sure things get properly credited, please fill out a DIFFERENT form for each item and child, but you may include one check for payment.  So if you're ordering seven shirts for seven different people in seven different sizes, fill out seven different order forms, but feel free to write one check for all of them.

    HOPE COLLEGE game on Saturday, September 3.  
    At this point you know as many details as I do - there is a Hope game on that Saturday and the band is performing.  I don't know when the game starts, etc.  I hope to find this information out very soon; if Hope doesn't contact me by Friday, I will be in touch with them.  This of course brings up the reality of family vacations, etc. on Labor Day weekend.  Totally understandable, so please let me know if that weekend is a problem.  Community Day at Hope is traditionally their first home game.  We rotate in every third year with Holland and West Ottawa; when the state of Michigan passed the law requiring a post-Labor Day start of school, this game became a bit of a problem!  If you're in town, I expect that kids will be in attendance.  I will get you further details as soon as possible.

    Monday night rehearsals have started up as of last night; 6:30 - 9:00 at the stadium (usually - last night there was a scheduling snafu due to last Friday's weather).  We will rehearse next Monday at the stadium.  The band room will be open for students to get equipment before rehearsal begins.

    Our first home football game is on Friday, August 26.  This is a game handled by Track Band, which is a voluntary organization.  All students are welcome and encouraged to attend, but it is not required.  We will play the school song, national anthem, etc. for pre-game, and some cheers and assorted noise-making during the game, and some sort of performance at the half.  This early in the year it is pretty tough to play much, though!  It's a fun time and much less formal than a uniformed football game with the full band.

    That should do it for now.  Please feel free to email me if you have any questions -


    Thursday, August 4, 2016

    So... Rush??

    I thought I'd take a minute and write a little about the original artists of our fall show.  Rush is a Canadian "prog rock" band that has been around for several decades now, and it seems that people have either never heard of them or they totally love them; no middle ground here!  So for those of you who are on the "never heard of them" end of the spectrum, I give you the following...

    First of all - "prog (progressive) rock"?  Well, a simple explanation is that it's rock music taken to a more high-brow level - more intricate melodies, time signatures (Rush uses 7/4, 7/8, 5/8, 3/4, 3/8, etc., compared to most pop, rock, country, and CCM, which is mostly an easy 4/4 or 3/4), "deeper" lyrics, and more epic song lengths (check out Rush's 1976 album "2112," in which the entire first side of the record is a seven-movement story of the future and a young man who finds a guitar).  So the progressive rock movement was an effort to elevate the rock genre to appeal to a more poetic, artistic (snooty??) audience.

    Rush is a trio of musicians all hailing from the great white north (if you remember the parody song of that name by Bob and Doug Mackenzie around 1980 or so, you will remember that Geddy Lee sang backup on it).  Geddy Lee (lead vocals, bass, bass pedals, synth, general awesomeness), Alex Lifeson (possibly rock's greatest guitarist of all time), and Neil Peart (if you can still see the drummer there aren't enough cymbals) are the second official iteration of the band, though really the only one everyone knows.  Peart and Lee were added to the group after two members left for various reasons quite early on.  

    Starting with the self-titled "Rush" in 1974, which achieved gold record status in the US and Canada, they followed quickly with "Fly By Night" and "Caress of Steel" in 1975 and "2112" in 1976.  Several things happened between "2112" and 1981's "Moving Pictures," which is without a doubt their finest album (and also the first major rock concert I attended - Wings Stadium in Kalamazoo my junior year of HS...).  "Permanent Waves" is also pretty good, as is "Hemispheres," but in my opinion they had some pretty average output after that, though Sarah V may disagree with me.  And she is known to do that.

    Speaking of Sarah, she is largely responsible for this year's show idea.  She is a great musician and a lover of great rock music (a tribute to her upbringing!), and she and I talked well over a year ago about the idea of bringing a Rush show to the football field.  Even had one almost ready to go last year, but I held off for no particular reason.  Audiences will remember Sarah from her role as bassist from the 2014 funk show as well as being one of the members of our snare line.

    So the final pieces we decided on for the show:
     - The Spirit of Radio (from "Permanent Waves," 1980)
    "Begin the day with a friendly voice,
    companion unobtrusive;
    plays the song that's so elusive
    and the magic music makes your morning mood"

    So begins the first verse of a song that lyricist Neil Peart wrote originally "as a tribute to all that was good about radio."  It turned into a parody-type anthem of all of the commercialism, programming, and other problems of the industry; ironically, it became popular on the radio.  The final chorus - "the words of the profits {not "prophets," as from Simon and Garfunkel's Sound of Silence, but "profits"} are written on the subway walls and echo with the sound of salesmen" - was written as a jab at the music industry.

     - Lakeside Park/YYZ ("Caress of Steel," 1976, and "Moving Pictures," 1981)
    The only difficulty with a show like this is finding something easier on the ears and more down-tempo and relaxed.  Rush is not exactly known for their power ballads!  Lakeside is a celebration of a park on Lake Ontario, and May 24, referenced in the lyrics, is Victoria Day.  
    I wanted to try some of YYZ in the show, but it's truly one of the most difficult ones to pin down.  It starts in a fast 5/4 time with what was originally Peart on a triangle solo, banging out the Morse Code for "YYZ," the call letters of Toronto's Pearson Int'l Airport.  From there it breaks into hard-driving instrumental, broken by solos on bass, guitar, and drums.  We've decided that the drumline will be featured in the solo sections instead; they are working hard!

     - Fly By Night ("Fly By Night," 1975)
    Written by Neil Peart at age 18 about his desire to travel and explore the world.  One of their more mainstream tunes stylistically, it's a pretty good rocker and makes a great closing number for the marching band.

    I put together a YouTube playlist as I was preparing and thinking about this show.  Here's a link for you to give a listen.  I included all the songs we talked about putting in the show, so there are a couple extras here that we aren't playing.  (I really love Freewill, but just didn't relish the idea of teaching the band to march in 7/4 time for most of the tune...)

    Hope you enjoy the show this year!

    Friday, July 29, 2016

    Band Camp Details Clearinghouse

    I thought it would be a decent idea to post the last few emails here so people could refer to them as needed or as they get added to the parent email list.  So these are the emails I've sent out the week of July 25.


     - 8:00 a.m. ALL freshmen and new students - BAND ROOM
     - 11:00 a.m. ALL students - STADIUM

    8:00 a.m. drop-off for new students will be in the north lot by the band room - please plan on one-way traffic in a counterclockwise motion (we will have some directors), and remember to enter via 100th St. and take the far north drive into ZWHS.
    11:00 dropoff AND PICKUP FOR ALL will be at the stadium.  Students will need to take instruments HOME at night - the band room is far away.  (There will be storage for tubas, drumline)
    5:00 p.m. Done for the day

    The rest of the week will begin and end at the stadium

    Please send plenty of sunscreen with your student, and make sure that he/she has EATEN BREAKFAST and done some pre-hydrating.  It is everyone's goal (and everyone's responsibility) to ensure that all students remain healthy and hydrated all day every day!

    There will be a lunch break daily for an hour; students may choose to stay on campus (the band room will be available, but it's a walk) or will have time to travel to the various area establishments.

    Please make sure you fill out the beach permission slip for Friday and send it Monday or Tuesday.

    Emails to follow will include some signups for the Friday cookout and providing some water coolers, canopies, etc. for the week.


    As promised, here is email #2...  Should be the last one today.

    We are planning on providing lunch for the students on Friday and can use lots of assistance.  Here is a link to sign up to help:

    Use this link if you'd like to help out by providing water jugs or a tent canopy:

    We would definitely appreciate an adult or two to provide assistance with any students who may feel ill during the day so that the camp staff can be fully involved in teaching on the field.  Please consider signing up for a 2-hour shift to be available in case of illness:



    There always seems to be one more detail that escapes my attention, and indeed that was the case yesterday.


    The band has a year-long program for raising money for future trips that is a really simple and amazing deal for everyone involved.  You can get some BASIC details here - - but for now, we will offer the first Scrip session of the year at the STADIUM next Monday afternoon as you pick up your kids from camp at 5 p.m.

    There are still a few spots available for bringing a grill for our Friday cookout - everything else seems to be pretty well filled up -

    Medical monitors are all in place as well; I will be contacting a few folks to double check on the Friday shift.

    As far as water coolers and canopies, we look OK.  I also confirmed this morning that there are school-owned coolers at the stadium, so we will make use of those in addition to the ones that have been volunteered.

    Thanks!  Still wondering what happened to June and July...  See you Monday!!



    The uniform crew asked me to pass this along.  Information for fittings this week.  Please remember that it is VERY important that we get this finished by Thursday!  

    Good Morning - 

    Just want to remind everyone about the uniform fitting schedule.   Please adhere to the schedule as much as possible.  If your student(s), will not be able to make it during the designated times, PLEASE contact Myka Eckert at 231-670-1391/ or Kim Sprtel at 989-915-9510/ to set up a different time. 
    TUESDAY, AUGUST 2nd from 5-7:30 PM: SOPHOMORES
    WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 3rd from 5-7:30 PM: FRESHMEN A-M
    THURSDAY, AUGUST 4th from 5-7:30 PM: FRESHMEN N-Z & anyone else missed
    Your student will be coming home with a sheet indicating amount of fees that will be owed (new white shoes, gloves, marching uniform cleaning), please make sure to return this money by Friday 5, 2016. We need the money ASAP to order the needed supplies for your student. For returning students, the fees are $17 ($2 new white gloves/$15 cleaning fee). For new students, the fees are $47 ($30 shoes/$2 gloves/$15 cleaning fee).  

    If you have any time available (even 30 minutes), please help us during uniform fittings. It is not hard to do and we have others to show you the way. The sign-up link is below:

    Tuesday, April 19, 2016

    Something About April Showers Bringing Tulips...

    Here we are in mid-April, waiting for the annual celebration of the tulip as well as looking to the end of the school year and the start of next year.  Someone said the other day that there are only eight more Mondays in school...

    Several things approaching that parents should know about:

    This THURSDAY, April 21, we will be having our "almost-monthly" Boosters meeting in the band room at 7:00 p.m.  We will be discussing several business items for Tulip Time and upcoming events for next fall.  Hope to see you there!  The meeting should last less than one hour.

    Next TUESDAY, April 26, the Wind Ensemble and several Percussion Ensemble students will be performing at Woodbridge, Quincy, and Lincoln.  Students are excused from classes all day on Tuesday for these performances.  LUNCH may be purchased from Wolfie's for $6.00; students have been given an order form, which is due this Thursday.

    TULIP TIME performances will be here before we know it.  In case you've misplaced your calendar, the dates are Tuesday, May 10 (jazz band only), Wednesday, May 11, Thursday, May 12, and Saturday, May 14 (parades).  As usual there are plenty of athletic and AP test conflicts that we will work out.  (For instance, apparently 10/13 girls on the West JV softball team are in band!  Very cool, but obviously a problem for the team if the girls all march.  So we will get it all figured out and make as many people happy as possible.)  Additional Tulip Time details will be blogged later.

    WIND ENSEMBLE AND JAZZ BAND performances in May have been consolidated into ONE evening - Wednesday, May 18 st 8:00 p.m. at Lokers Auditorium.  This works out better for both groups for a variety of reasons, and it keeps kids and families (and directors) from being at band performances two nights in a row.

    LOTS of potential for fun as we plan band camp next August - there will be parking lot construction at East which will make for all kinds of adventures in pick-ups, drop-offs, and rehearsals.  I will keep you posted with details as we get closer.  DATES for band camp are August 1-5, which you already knew :)

    I was pretty sure that there was going to be more to this when I started it a while ago, but it's getting close to when I need to send it, and I can't really remember what else I was thinking, so I'm going to close and get this published.  If I think of anything else I will let you know!