First Term Project- Junior High Band Festival : LUSENET : M.Ed./International Falls : One Thread

First Term Project

Junior High Honor Band Festival

Submitted by:

Paul Brownlow

Our school hosted a junior high band festival this past Monday in our Backus Auditorium. Indus, St. Thomas, Littlefork-Big Falls, Falls Elementary, and Falls Junior High all participated in the one day regional event. We started the day with seat assignments for each student. We intermixed the students so that they could make new friendships while making music. After we had seated the 100 students, we began our first full rehearsal at 9 A.M. Larry Schroth, our guest conductor from Deer River, MN, ran through all the pieces to see which ones would need the most work. It was a nice to hear all those kids playing on one stage. The first rehearsal ended at 10:30, and we started instrumental sectionals at 10:45.

I was responsible for the percussion sectional. I began the sectional by learning everyones name, and explained that the day was designed for them to have fun with each other. I did this because I noticed the students gathered and only talked to students from their own school groups. I lead them through two pieces that had some difficult parts, which we improved after some hard work. At 11:30 everyone convened again for the second full rehearsal. At this rehearsal, Mr. Schroth was able to see the improvements that each section had made at their section rehearsal.

Lunch was from 12:30 until 1:00 on the backstage of the auditorium. Again, I noticed that the students sat in their respective school groups and did not converse with students from other schools like I had hoped. In the afternoon, we had one final 45 minute rehearsal. During this rehearsal, Mr. Schroth decided which tunes would be played at the afternoon concert. The concert started at 2 P.M. and lasted for 30 minutes because most of the schools had to be back for other sporting events.

As the festival went on, I gathered some interesting insights. For me the biggest insight I noticed was student interaction. It was my hope to get the students to know each other better. I thought this would happen naturally because these students live in close relationship with each other. Many of them compete together in sporting events and other activities that occur during the school year. The only real solution I have for this is to make the festival last longer, and give more time for students to interact without playing their instruments. The problem with that is students already miss too much school and this would exacerbate the situation.

Students behavior also shocked me, and is a concern I need to address with the other directors before we put on next years festival. We had some students playing their instruments while the director was trying to explain what he wanted the students to do with the music. We also had students complaining when Larry stopped to fix some problem spots in the music. For example, a student sitting in the front row stomped her foot when he stopped the band to fix another part in the flute section. This was very rude and cannot be tolerated next year if we are going to have a successful festival.

My last insight dealt with our concert attendance. I was surprised that many parents did not show up to the concert. We had 100 kids on stage and approximately 75 parents in the audience. I got frustrated by this because it affects the kids. How can the kids feel good about what they do when their parents do not even show up to watch them? I sent out letters and bulletins were put in the newspaper and on the radio, so they knew to plan ahead for this yearly event. I am not sure if this problem is only prevalent in northern Minnesota, or if it is because of the age of the students. Hopefully I can come up with some way to get more parents actively involved in their childs music education.

Although the festival needs some improvements, there were many positive things that happened during the course of the day. For me, student recruitment and retention are important factors in making my program successful. Often times, students quit band when they come from the elementary to the junior high school band. A big reason for this is because students are not quite sure what to expect of the junior high band. I believe some of these agonies were relieved because of the festival. I saw many of the elementary kids making friendships with the older students. Hopefully, this mentorship between the junior high and elementary kids will keep the students interested in continuing with band. This will be evident in next years junior high band enrollment.

The size of the group was also helpful for the students. It was great to have all the instruments of every section being played. Because of that full instrumentation, students could hear what a full band sounds like, and I think that got them very excited about the music. Many of our local schools do not have bands larger than 20, and if they are that big it is usually a combination of junior high and high school students. When kids think they sound good, they are more apt to be excited about performing.

The concert was the end result for our day. It was a success because the students did a nice job of putting all the music together in one day. I was a little skeptical of how things would work out, but the kids took to the challenge and played wonderfully. Music is great in that way because students hear the immediate results. They know how they are doing right away and get the direct benefits of reward and pleasure.

This is the first year of our band festival, and I see many ways it can be improved. The first major improvement is student behavior. We need to convey to the students that they are representing the very best of their schools, and that their behavior needs to reflect that belief. Secondly, some more preliminary organization could be done. For example, when the students come to Backus, it would be nice to have their seat assignments already decided so they can sit down quickly and be ready to play. Our first rehearsal was shortened because of the time it took to get everyone situated on stage.

A few things that are going to take more work are student interaction with other school students and parent attendance at the afternoon concert. A student mixer of some kind needs to be developed so students will talk more frequently with others and at the same time will not be too time consuming. It needs to be a quick game of some sort that will take off the pressure of meeting other students. I feel our biggest struggle could be getting the parents to come to this afternoon concert. Because of distance and after school activities, it is tough to hold an evening concert. Littlefork-Big Falls and Indus are about 20 to 40 miles away, so what do you do with them between the hours of 4 and 7 P.M.? More rehearsals would be too tough on the kids, and their final concert would not sound as good because their lips would be tired. Personal contact or some type of incentive might have to be established, so they feel their attendance is important. Maybe a reminder phone call a few days before the concert or student parent activity during the concert could be established to ensure more parents would attend.

The junior high band festival is important enough for me to continue it. I feel it brought many students together who had fun. I can only see it getting better because we are committed to making it the best experience for everyone. I have never heard of any event like this that has caused a program to suffer. In a couple of years, I hope to see all local music programs thriving because of this one day experience that was available to their students.

-- Anonymous, January 31, 1999

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