Saturday, December 03, 2016

Kids Practice in the Darnedest Places

The Cleverness Award for the day so far goes to a couple of high school percussionists practicing in an equipment truck on a rainy day of All-Region tryouts. (I would have gotten a couple seconds of video if not for said rain.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

(College) Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Their Instructors

A few people missed my once-a-week class recently, and they wanted to catch up...especially when they heard there would be a quiz.

KID: So will you have mercy on the people who were out sick last week?

ME: Well...I will for the people who emailed me and said they weren't going to be here.

KID: (hesitating, looks embarrassed): I didn't know your name.

(I reminded her that, like many things, "it's on the syllabus." I also pointed out to the class that, even though my last name might be hard to remember, we'd have a completely different problem if I were Professor Jones, since they'd have to figure out which of the 29 Professor Joneses I was).

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

(College) Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Music Theory

In a recent Fundamentals class, we were introducing the circle of fifths, which has a lot in common with a clock. Once we established that there were twelve possible keys, I asked the following...

ME: So what is another object that can be divided into twelve equal parts?

KID: A pizza?

(Those would be really skinny slices! And the funny thing was that I asked the class to try again, and nobody got it until I pointed at the clock on the wall. I then surveyed the class and found out that, besides myself, there were only two watch-wearers in there...)

Sunday, September 11, 2016

A Decade and a Half Later...and May We Still Never Forget

Fifteen years ago today (published annually here since 2004, and only mildly edited throughout the years):
I was on a break from teaching, like every Tuesday, and actually spent the time of the attacks in blissful ignorance at the Rockwall Starbucks. I had CD's on in my car instead of the radio, so I totally missed the news on both the way over and the way back. I did hear someone listening to a radio on the patio and they were talking about "the second plane," but it didn't register with me at all. (It amazed me later that nobody walked inside and told us about it.)

When I got back to the school, the flute teacher stopped me in the hallway and asked me if all my students were being pulled out of school (evidently hers were). I said, "No, why?" and she told me what had happened. I spent the rest of the day like everyone else, in shocked, depressed amazement, catching the news when I could. There I was, not even two weeks into being a homeowner, and the world suddenly felt so different. It added to the pall cast over everything when I found out that the sister of a girl I graduated from high school with was on Flight 93, the one that crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. (Since it's common on this day to have roll calls of the people who were lost, I'll state her name here, with a link to her foundation: Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas.)

The whole thing felt so surreal; how could anyone hate us that much? The concept of the suicide hijacking was unprecedented as well (before that, hijackers just usually wanted to go to Cuba, and that's why airline personnel were taught to cooperate with them rather than try to subdue them).

I know there are still terrorist plots being hatched, and people capable of carrying them out...but I hope nothing like this ever happens on U.S. soil again. Or anywhere, for that matter.
As I repost this in 2016, we know that the evil in our world is far from being eradicated (indeed, the past few years have seen evil showing its face even more, so it would seem). But I say once more, may we never forget, and may something of this nature never happen here again.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Their Marching Music

A high schooler who had a lesson today noted that "they gave us a copy of this thing called the Woodwind Feature. I think it's supposed to be an oboe and euphonium duet." Never mind the fact that a euphonium isn't a woodwind; has anyone ever heard of a duet between those two instruments...on the field? I'm thinking the kid misheard something. (On an only slightly related note, I'm amused that my new[ish] computer's spell check doesn't recognize "euphonium" as a word.)

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Kids Say the Darnedest Things at State Solo & Ensemble

A room monitor called out for the next performer, whose name happened to be Marco. Another kid replied by yelling "Polo!"

Friday, May 13, 2016

Kids Do the Darnedest Things

I'm not sure which was more strange: A gaggle of choir kids walking down the hall playing kazoos, or--just a few steps ahead of them--a band kid walking down the hall carrying a live chicken. (I don't think the two occurrences were connected, but you never know...)

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Their Class Projects

A middle schooler was lamenting how the object he had created in his previous class had turned out... KID: We made flowers in my last period, and mine looks like a taco. ME (after thinking about it for a bit): Well, considering what day it is today, that's kind of appropriate, right? KID: Yes, you're right! I love my taco flower! (This same kid related a Darnedest Thing from one of his classmates, who said this today: "Now I know why it's called Cinco de Mayo--because it's the sixth of May!")

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

(College) Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Movie Titles

The discussion of films came up in a recent combo rehearsal... ME: I don't go to the movies all that often, but I do want to see the two new jazz movies that are out [meaning the Miles Davis and Chet Baker biopics] KID: Oh, are you talking about that "Drumlash" thing? (I assured him that it wasn't that, nor was I talking about the similar nonexistent movie called "Whipline.")

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Wisdom of Greeting Cards...

From one I just sent to my aunt: "Being one day older only matters if you're a banana."

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About History

Some of the duets in the books I use with younger students have no attributable composer, so they're listed as "18th Century" in the place where the composer's name usually goes. I try to turn this into a quick history lesson.... ME: When was the 18th century? KID: A long time ago. (The next kid answered that question the exact same way...)

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Harmony

A student was really excited about playing duets at a recent lesson... ME: Ok, it's time to make some nice harmony now. KID: I love harmony! It makes me happy. It reminds me of world peace and French onions.

Friday, February 19, 2016

(College) Kids Say the Darnedest Things About Their Musical Choices

I was helping my saxophone students select their recital pieces, and I made an attempt to have them not chose the same piece... ME. I'm trying to steer you away from this piece, because (another student) is playing it, and... KID: don't want us to wear the same dress to the prom? ME: Something like that, yeah. (It's even funnier when you realize that both of the students in question are guys...)

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Kids Continue to Say the Darnedest Things About Classical Composers

This one is playing "Menuett" by Friedrich Kuhlau, and his origin came up during s lesson... ME: Where is Kuhlau from? KID: France? ME: His first name was Friedrich, if that helps. Does that, or Kuhlau, sound like they're from anyplace in particular? KID: Hawaii? ME: No, that would be Luau. KID: Oh yeah!

Monday, February 01, 2016

Kids Continue to Say the Darnedest Things About Their Mistakes

During a quartet rehearsal, one of the players hit a glaringly wrong note in an area that had been problem-free up to that point... ME: Why did you hit a B instead of a D? KID: My eyes were fluctuating.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Funniest Thing in My Inbox All Day

Most of the time, spam is annoying, but sometimes it's funny. The subject of this one is "Instrument components." Dear Sir/Madam, Good morning. We are the trading company, and we offer instrument parts here, if you interested, please feel free to contact us to get price list. We wish we could coporate with you. Have a nice day. Best regards, Nick (Sorry, Nick--I don't "coporate" with strangers...)

Friday, January 15, 2016

One Friday Night Each January, We Band Together

I don't do a whole lot of long-form blogging these days; besides the usual "life got complicated" thing, most of my time is spent in places like Facebook and Twitter, where posts are much shorter. But one thing I do every year is write an extended post about the All-Region Bands concert in which some of my students play.

In the past few years, there's been a "cut and paste" element to this post;while every concert is different in terms of players, conductors and repertoire, there were certain thoughts that crossed my mind every year that I felt bore repeating. But this year, as I "scribbled" down my thoughts between bands on the notes feature of my phone, I realized that there were a lot of fresh things to say, so I'm not even referencing any of the previous posts this time.

So here are the things that came to mind at this year's concert:
  • Not all regions have the same setup in terms of number of bands, etc., so here's a quick overview. Our region has five bands: A ninth grade band and four high school bands (which the freshmen can make as well, since the tryouts are on different days, but they have to surrender their seat in the freshman band if they do). Each band starts at a set time, which is listed in the program, so there's usually plenty of stretch time in between.

  • Thanks to traffic, I missed most of the freshman band this year (which was unfortunate, because I had a student in there). But I did hear of a more effective way to get to the venue for next year (heading east out of DFW to make a Friday 6:00 concert is always a challenge).

  • The conductor of the Wind Ensemble (the top band, and the last to play) and the Ninth Grade Band (the first to play) are husband and wife. I'm not sure that's ever happened in this region since I've been out here.

  • I'll briefly mention something that I say every year: I prefer the newer "wind ensemble" music (highly influenced by film scoring, in my opinion) to the older, more homogenized "band" music...but that being said, anything by John Philip Sousa or Percy Grainger is still sheer perfection.

  • And indeed, the newer music ruled the day this year, even from the older conductors (one of them noted that everything he programmed tonight was unknown to him five years ago!). Bravo to these folks for stretching a bit and staying current.

  • One upside to the new music: So many featured saxophones! Extended alto solos, sax sections used as choirs. It's obviously cool for the students (and for those of us in the audience who play saxophone) to actually hear our instruments, instead of always doubling the French horns like back in the day.

  • While the program featured many of the well-known modern composers (John Mackey, Jack Stamp, Eric Whitacre, Frank Ticheli, Brian Balmages), there were also some up-and-comers who had really enjoyable works performed tonight. I was especially impressed by these pieces: "Mekong" by Robert W. Smith; "Elixir" by Michael Markowski; "Oh! What a Morning" by Jess Langston Turner, and "Zing!" by Scott McAllister. Check 'em out; I'm sure they're on YouTube.

  • One request to the organizers: Please put first names of composers in the program instead of just last names. The composers deserve that recognition, and it just looks more professional.

  • I've mentioned in the past that this concert tends to run as efficiently as a Swiss train. While this didn't always happen this year, the time was made up by the end of the night, and the concert was still pretty much done by 10 PM. Squeezing five bands into four hours is still pretty impressive.

  • I was happy to see that all the conductors were very much engaged with the audience, which hasn't always happened in the past. When the programs (prepared well in advance) list the pieces in random order with a "to be selected from" at the top (and the lights are lowered for the performances), it's crucial to introduce every piece, so the audience knows what they're hearing.

  • Speaking of the audience, an amazing thing happened: A conductor announced in advance that the piece the band was about to play was in three movements, and nobody clapped between movements. Nobody! The conductor said afterwards that he and the band were a little thrown off by that (after all, there's always That One Guy who claps anyway).

  • But I do have to admonish certain audience members for one thing: Door etiquette. If you're going to enter or leave in the middle of a piece (despite signs on every door asking you not to do so), at least wait long enough to keep the door from slamming. While one piece (the aforementioned "Mekong") had some great antiphonal percussion, lots of other pieces had it as well, thanks to the doors.

  • But there was another positive audience note: For the first time, an announcement was made requesting that the concert not be recorded by audience members, as it would violate both copyright laws and TMEA regulations. And people obeyed this! It was nice to actually see the concert itself, not through the iPad of someone a few rows in front of me (watching the concert is superior to watching other people watch the concert).

  • I often use this space to brag on my studio (i.e. how many students of mine are in the band), but I'm teaching considerably fewer people this year due to expanded responsibilities elsewhere. Still, I had students in three of the five bands, and it's always nice to be able to stand up when the directors/private teachers of anyone onstage are requested to do so.

  • A parent asked me earlier today if I was just going to hear my students play and then leave. Not a chance! I'll stay for the top two bands no matter what; the elite college conductors who are selected to work with these bands always do a stellar job, and it's amazing to see what high school students can do in such a short time (the bands only rehearsed last night, this morning and this afternoon). This year's top groups didn't fail to impress me again.

I know what I'll be doing on a Friday night in January 2017, and I'll be sure to share my thoughts in this space once again.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Random People Say the Darnedest Things

Overheard at a convenience store this afternoon, while a group of people was discussing the ginormous Powerball jackpot for Saturday: "I don't know if I want to play the lottery. That seems like gambling to me." Umm, ya think?