Thursday, January 28, 2016

Jan/Feb Happenings

Good Morning - I am sitting in my office chair wondering exactly how I got lucky enough this morning to simply leave some tracks in the snow bank and not get stuck in the driveway at West as I approached school today...  It's slippery out there!  Anyway, I thought I would send a few brief notes your way to keep everyone caught up on what's going on the next 4-6 weeks.

SOLO AND ENSEMBLE festival is this Saturday, January 30, at East Kentwood HS.  Here is a link to the announcements page of the band website so students and parents can download their times, etc.  I also posted this on Google Classroom.  All the information that students and parents need has been handed to the students in class today as well as posted via the above link.

BLUE MAN GROUP tickets were distributed in class today.  Everyone should have their tickets at this time.  Please check with your children to make sure they get them to you if needed.  Individuals riding in the school van will need to be at the band room parking lot by 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday so we can leave by 6:15.  I don't know an ETA for a return time, but probably between 10:30 and 11:00 p.m. based on a 2-hour concert and getting everyone back to the van, etc. afterward.

We will be taking photos for another composite picture to be hung in the band hallway on Tuesday and Wednesday, February 2 and 3.  Students will be photographed in their uniforms during their class periods on those days.  There will be an opportunity for families to buy packages of these photos; a date will be established and publicized after next week.  Color guard members will need to bring their uniforms in from home on Tuesday to be prepared for the pictures.

On Thursday, February 4 the Grand Valley Faculty Brass Quintet will be performing for the band classes during second and third hours.  Students in Symphonic Band and Percussion Ensemble may attend one of those performances with permission from their second or third hour teacher.

The almost-annual winter JAZZ CONCERT is approaching.  On Thursday, February 11 the jazz band will present a concert of almost all newly-purchased pieces at Lokers Auditorium at 7:00 p.m.  Admission is free.

The WIND ENSEMBLE will also be performing this winter: on Sunday, February 21 the band will present "Music of the Movies and More" at 2:00 p.m. at Lokers Auditorium.  Again, admission is free.

As you can see, it will be a somewhat busy month.  Lots of activity, lots of good music-making.  Anything to chase the winter blahs away, right??


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

End of Semester Activities

Well, we've been back for a day and already things are returning to what passes for "normal" here in the band room.  Right back to work on the upcoming concert, prepping for Solo and Ensemble festival, and looking ahead to the HS musical in early March.  Here are some details on these and other events.

We do indeed have a concert approaching very quickly!  On Sunday, January 17 at 2:00 p.m. the Percussion Ensemble, Concert Band, Symphonic Band, and Wind Ensemble will present their annual winter performance in DeWitt Auditorium.  Admission is free, but a collection will be asked for donations to the Norma Sneller Memorial Scholarship fund.

Apparel for the concert:

  • Students in Percussion Ensemble will wear ALL BLACK.  This is usually black dress pants and a long-sleeve pullover shirt with black shoes and black socks.  The shirts may be short-sleeve or button-down if necessary.
  • Students in Concert Band will wear black slacks/skirts/dresses, black shoes and socks, and white blouses/shirts.  Ties are optional for the boys.
  • Symphonic Band and Wind Ensemble students have apparel provided by the school.  (It is our goal to be supplement the current tuxedo/dress inventory to allow Concert Band to be outfitted as well.)  SB/WE students provide black shoes/hosiery.
Students will be assigned a report time.  This is a required concert for all students.

Also coming up are final exams for first semester.  This concert will be the students' performance portion of the final exam grade.  There will also be a brief written portion of the exam on the official exam day.

At the end of January we have solo & ensemble festival.  This event takes place at East Kentwood HS on Saturday, January 30.  Students who are participating have already registered and paid; this year we are again sending every percussion student!  The schedule will be distributed as soon as I know it.

A new composite picture will be taken on Tuesday and Wednesday, February 2 and 3.  Band students will have their pictures taken in their marching uniforms (several different poses, etc.), which will be available at package pricing.  This company then produces the large composite pictures that hang in the hallway outside the band room.  Many people remark not only on the high quality and historical significance of these composites, but also on the evolution of hairstyles (one in particular...).  Further information regarding sign-ups, etc. will be given to students after semester break.

That should do for this one, I think.  I am almost recovered from the trip.  That was a long bus ride coming home!


Monday, January 4, 2016

Band Trip Final

Well, that went pretty great.  I am chuckling this morning as I look at all of the tired faces as the kids come dragging in to the building and band room after several days on very little sleep.  I, too, am struggling today; caffeine is on the way!  I need to make this somewhat brief, but figured I really should send a note about game day and the trip home.

I think the first thing is that I can't stress enough how well the kids did all of the things that they were supposed to do.  We only had one or two instances of lack of morning timeliness (understandable, but we corrected that situation), and only one student misplaced for a brief time after leaving the field after the morning rehearsal (she followed the wrong line for a few minutes and ended up on the wrong side of the arena for a bit).  Otherwise they arrived on time, loaded and unloaded with speed and efficiency, and were overall good citizens.  

Game day required another early start and also included the bonus prize of having to be checked out of rooms and all equipment loaded by 7:30 a.m.  At that point we were out for the day and didn't stop til we arrived in Zeeland on Sunday morning.

It was a beautiful sunny day, and the stadium was all prepped for the game.  Craig Morgan arrived after a few brief runs of the band's portion of the show, and the rest of rehearsal went without a hitch.  

The color guard got to be a part of the pre-game festivities and be on the field assisting with the enormous American flag.  The Arkansas marching band also performed at pre-game, and the national anthem included a flyover by a FedEx 777 jet.  Lots of pageantry and excitement for the sellout crowd of over 60,000.

Lining up 1400 band students takes a fair amount of time, so at the end of the first quarter we pulled all of them and began the process.  Our return home delay actually began right around that point: one of the Arkansas players was quite badly injured near the end of the second quarter.  Reports were that by the end of the game he was back in the locker room with the team, but did suffer a head injury.

The halftime show itself went off without a hitch.  Most students got to see the 411-member Kansas State band, the 2015 winner of the Sudler Trophy, a prize awarded to the best college marching band.  The mass band took the field right after K-State, and things went according to plan.  Our snare line was featured pretty prominently on the Jumbotron due to their position right behind Craig Morgan's stage, and one of our cymbal players made the national ESPN broadcast during the approximately 15-second shot that happened on live TV.

Not much else to really report besides the vast underestimation of how long it would take us to get out of town and on the highway after a game that went longer than anticipated.  There was a bit of a further delay when we tried to stop for dinner - we ended up at four different locations (one of which had no working restroom facilities), but all ended up fine.  It was a quiet ride home and I had one more chance to be impressed with how well these kids do things; the unloading process took about five of the planned twenty minutes.

Everyone was out the doors by 9 a.m., and after a short period of resetting the room for today's classes I managed to be home by 9:45.  Great job, everyone!

Friday, January 1, 2016

The End is Near

Wow.  What a day it turned out to be.  A great start to the new year.  I hope you are all keeping up with the band's Facebook page, because Amy Busa has been putting up some really great pictures.  I will try to get some of them posted somewhere soon, but I am pretty whipped tonight and don't really have the energy to download and import them!  Here's the daily run-down:

EARLY start today.  Breakfast at 6.  Even I needed an alarm to make it on time...  We headed off to the first of two mass band rehearsals for tomorrow's halftime performance.  Some of us expected the worst (it's just who I am...) - imagine nearly 1500 band students who have never met each other, rehearsed in 14 different states with many different directors, and we all have to play these two pieces together at the same time!  It sounded great.  Right from the start.  So that went well.

After rehearsal we ate some lunch and got to relax for a little while before the parade.  Kids are starting to wear out.  Adults have boundless energy.  

We arrived at the parade route and were happily surprised to discover that we could park and leave the buses right where they were for the duration of the afternoon.  This is very cool from a logistics standpoint as well as being able to keep the kids warm on the buses for a while before the parade started.

We had a really cool experience once we hit the parade staging area.  We were lined up next to a band from Durant, OK, and they were having some fun with their warmups.  Their drumline finished, so ours took over.  After we finished there was some applause, and then some heads got together in both groups, and before long there was a pretty cool session of "battle of the bands."  They danced, we danced, they played, we played.  This, my friends, is what music is all about.  Sharing the fun and excitement, showing off a little here and there, but overall just appreciating the hard work that everyone knows that everyone else has put into their show and music.  We had a great time!  Ask your kids.

{There is also rumored to be video footage of an adult male staff member being taught to "whip" and "nae-nae" and even some other weird thing that looks like sneezing into your elbow.  Should said video evidence surface, the perpetrators of such video-making will be dealt with severely...  Though the guy DID look pretty fly (is that still a word?)}

So then we did the parade down Beale Street.  Great street, great crowd, had a blast.  Oh, and we won "Best Music" in Class AAA and came in second place in our class for the competition as well.  A nice bonus to our day after having so much fun before the parade :)

The other day I mentioned how well the kids are doing and that the hotel staff was complimentary.  This continued today; I just read an email from a band mom whose family is here for the week and staying at a nearby hotel.  When their staff heard they were from Zeeland, she said "my friend works at the Hampton, and she says they're the best kids..."  Nice.

But I already wrote about the kids.  Today I heard something as cool as that.  Standing in the press box this morning as we discussed events of the day with the Bowl staff, I mentioned that I could have a parent take care of the issue at hand.  Greg, the event coordinator, looked at me and said, " you know, you're pretty spoiled.  Other directors don't have parents that do what yours do."  I was pretty surprised to hear this; I figured everyone had this!  Sure enough, a few minutes later as we planned how to get the box lunches to the kids, I heard a couple directors talking about which kids to put on a crew to do the job.  One group text to the parents later and the issue was taken care of for ZHS, along with how the uniforms were organized by the buses, where the hats were, and how we were going to make it all happen.  The kids got to relax and I didn't have to worry that things wouldn't go as planned.  There are a dozen or so parents along with us: head chaperone LoriJo Schepers; chief logistics operator (former USAF Tech Sgt) Andy Watson; handler of all things money and bills and that sort of thing Cathy Lugten; medical staff Dr. Becky VanValkenburg and Kaylynn Beltman; senior photographer Amy Busa; and chaperones and kid wranglers Bill Lugten, Tom Beltman, Tom Busa, Mike VanKampen, Jeff and Sherry Costello, and Meri Carpenter.  Several are ZPS staffers; the rest are parents taking time away from their regular jobs.  If you get a moment to send a thank you, I know it would be very much appreciated!  What a great staff!  And yes, I am spoiled.  But, as I told a couple folks today, I pride myself on surrounding myself with good people who help me look good.  Who knows where stuff would end up if Cathy, for instance, didn't chase down all the checks and purchase orders?  Everyone contributed to the final outcome, and it was all good.

Game day tomorrow/later today.  1500 band students will back up country star Craig Morgan at halftime.  Our color guard will be assisting at pre-game with the giant American flag on the field.  And at some point we'll be heading home to maybe get some sleep!

I'm off to bed - I doubt there will be a post tomorrow, but I will try to do a wrap-up on Sunday or Monday when we return.


Memphis Day 2

What a great day of learning.  Started the day at the Stax Records museum, which made a great segue to the Civil Rights museum as we learned how the music made at Stax was connected to the Memphis scene and the civil rights movement.  

Everyone had a good breakfast, and once again we heard from an employee about how great the kids are.  Best he's seen in the eight years he's worked at this hotel, and lots of student groups stay here.  So rest assured that the upbringing at home and the threats at school have paid off!  I can also report that they are punctual and in the right places at the right times.  Very cool.

We started the day at the Stax Museum.  SO MANY things to see that shaped the sound of rock and roll music (and plenty of ideas for a 2016 halftime show, just sayin'...).  
Known as a "Motown of the South," the Memphis sound had a little more edge than Motown.  Stax artists included Booker T. and the MGs (Green Onions), Sam & Dave (Hold On, I'm Comin'; Soul Man), Otis Redding (Try a Little Tenderness; Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay), and Isaac Hayes (Theme from "Shaft") and many others.  My oldest sister and brother were big Motown and Soul fans and had many 45's from the Stax, Motown, and Atlantic labels, which made their way to my playlist when I was pretty young.  I even bought a Stax/Atco retrospective CD to relive those days, since I no longer have any 45's...

Lunch happened at the Hard Rock Cafe' after the students had some time to wander Beale Street and see some sights of downtown Memphis.  Mr. VanKampen and I popped into a local eatery because he was SO excited to see the sign in the window advertising oysters on the half-shell.  
Let's just say I haven't developed the appreciation for this delicacy that he has...  For future reference, if you can get past the texture, you can seriously taste the ocean.  It was a quick trip (oysters slide down pretty fast, after all), and we caught up to the gang in time for more land-based fare at Hard Rock.

In my not-so-humble teacher's opinion, the highlight of the day was the National Civil Rights Museum.  Set in the actual Lorraine Motel, visitors proceed on a self-guided tour that includes exhibits beginning with the slave trade through Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination.  
Video highlights supplement standing exhibits where students can experience the lunch counter at Woolworth's where non-violent protesters demonstrated.  A replica of the bus where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat.  Many exhibits are featured along a path that rises almost imperceptibly to the third floor of the hotel and culminates at room 306, where Dr. King was murdered.

The best part of this is the idea that it's not a replica or something moved from one place to another.  Visitors are standing in the very room where Dr. King stayed, and are able to view the window across the street from which James Earl Ray fired his deadly shot (and even visit that room itself).  I am hoping that the things they saw give them all lots of things to think about!

Alas, bus trouble found us again, and we boarded three out of four buses for the trip to America's Incredible Pizza Co., where the kids had dinner, played tons of games, road go-carts, and watched MSU get humiliated...  We rang in the new year back at the hotel so that the bus drivers could get their required time off between trips, and then it was off to bed.  A very early morning awaited us...

*Same disclaimer as yesterday - no proofreading.  I am hitting the "publish" button right after this sentence.