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The First Concert

Trey Reely | August 2010

   One of the most critical but tricky times in teaching band is the first week or two that beginning brass and woodwind players have their instruments. This time is critical because of the important fundamentals that are being taught and tricky because of the patience required on the part of teachers and students. Students are extremely excited about having new instruments and want to take them home as soon as possible, but teachers know that moving too quickly only invites bad habits and damaged instruments.
   The box to the right includes a list of specific goals that my students must meet before they are allowed to take their instruments home. They learn the melodies by ear, using the easiest fingerings and ranges for their instrument. We spend the first two weeks of band working on these, and everyone in the class must meet these requirements before anyone can take an instrument home, although sometimes I fudge on this a little if there are only one or two struggling students left. Also, if the class is not homogeneous, I often let the woodwind players take their instruments home first since they frequently progress faster.
   When students are required to wait before taking their instruments home, the excitement builds as they prepare for their first performance, which will be for their parents. On the day students finally get to take their instruments home, they also take home a form that lists all of the fundamentals we have been working on. Students are to give a performance for their parents and have them mark the sheet accordingly. Students return the completed form the next day for their first band grade. Getting back paperwork from parents is usually quite difficult but the beginners are so excited that the return rate for this assignment generally hovers around 95%.
   The grade students receive is simply for returning the form, even if parents mark no on a few items. (Some students may stumble on melodies or rhythms, and flute and tuba players may be unable to hold a note for 10 seconds.) The form also shows parents the basics of practicing and clues them in on things their children should be attentive to every night, such as good posture and long tones.
I hope that this first concert will inspire parents to take a greater interest in the band student’s playing and also lead to other family performances as students learn new skills.         

Riverview Beginning Band Fundamentals Form

I am sitting up straight when I play.

I can play my head joint or mouthpiece for 4 seconds.

I can play my head joint or mouthpiece for 6 seconds.

I can play my head joint or mouthpiece for 8 seconds.

I can play my head joint or mouthpiece for 10 seconds.

What is your personal record for holding a note? _________ seconds.

I can tongue eight quarter notes on my head joint or mouthpiece.

I can play “Hot Cross Buns.”

I can play “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

I can play “Jaws.”

My name, address, and telephone number are on my instrument case.

Brass Players Only:
I can buzz a siren on my mouthpiece.