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2009 Midwest Clinic

Editor | December 2009

    After decades in residence at the Chicago Hilton, the Midwest Clinic will move this December to a new location at McCormick Place West. Convention organizers note that for the first time in 15 years all parts of the clinic will be held under one roof, saving directors from repeated trips outside in the Chicago cold to attend sessions down the street. While the venue has changed, many elements of the Midwest will remain the same, including the chance to hear some of the best school groups in the country and listen to clinics by leaders in the field. There are too many terrific concerts and clinics to list here, so we have highlighted a just a few.

Tuesday, December 15

1:30 p.m. – Clinics
Musical Problem Solving as the Ultimate Motivator
Martin Norgaard
     We have all had that exceptional student who comes to class and says, “I figured out ‘Smoke on the Water.’” Although that will inevitably lead to numerous unwanted interludes featuring the beginning notes of the famous song by Deep Purple, chances are that same student learns regular repertoire faster and are able to play songs without looking at the book. In many cases, that same student finds beginning instrumental class easy and appears more motivated than other students.
     I will outline the skills this exceptional (though sometimes disruptive) student appears to possess innately and demonstrate ways to teach them in a classroom setting. One example of such a skill is the willingness to experiment and make mistakes. Teachers have a natural tendency to supply easy answers. If you see a frustrated student get stuck while trying to figure out a tune, you are likely to show him the next couple of notes. This may not always be the best course of action as long as the student has the necessary tools to figure out the tune on his own. To modify an old saying: If you teach a student a tune, he will know one tune. If you teach a student how to figure out tunes, he will know a million.
(This clinic repeats Thursday at 10:00 a.m.)

Technology on a Dime
Mike Fedyszyn
     Never let creativity be hindered by financial concerns. This session will focus on ways to include technology in any music classroom on a budget. Attendees will learn numerous practical methods to use, such as creating an interactive white board for less than $100 and discovering how to locate potential grant donors using online grant services. Don’t be left behind because of a lack of funds.
(This clinic repeats Wednesday at 4:00 p.m.)

4:00 p.m. – Clinic
Using the Alexander Technique
Cody Gifford
     How often do you get to lie down and refresh in the afternoon at the Midwest Clinic? Clinic attendees will experience “constructive rest,” an efficient 10-15 minute procedure you can use for yourself and your students at any time to regain poise, to get centered, and to increase self-awareness.
     Frederick Matthais Alexander developed principles and procedures to regain the use of his voice when he lost it at a critical point in his career as a Shakespearean actor. The loss of his voice was not from disease or injury but from misuse and patterns of excessive muscular tension, conditions frequently experienced by instrumental musicians. Alexander Technique is particularly useful for musicians who want to eliminate performance-related pain or who want to enhance their artistry and technique.
(This clinic repeats Thursday at 4:00 p.m.)

5:15 p.m. – Clinic
The Anatomy of Instrumental Conducting
Eugene Corporon
     Performers relate to sound in time. Conductors relate to sound in space. If a conductor is going to present the music proportionately in space he must place himself evenly in the viewing frame of reference. I call this space-forming.
     Conducting is a diverse and highly individual art. No matter how different, their method of presentation all great conductors share the ability to swim in the sound. The designs they draw in the nowhere must convince viewers that they are connected to the sound. The goal is to maintain individuality while showing commonality.
The session will explore these and other topics that help conductors to make a difference in the music making and make it possible for them to create a unique and honest version of the work while making the players’ job easier.
(This clinic repeats Wednesday at 2:30 p.m.)

Wednesday, December 16

8:30 a.m. – Clinic
Creating Interactive Concerts that Engage, Entertain, and Educate
Lawrence Stoffel
     Since 2003 Lawrence Stoffel has produced a concert series titled “Discovery: Music!” These annual interactive concerts for concert band introduce students of all ages, parents, and even seasoned concert goers to the joys of music. In the tradition of Leonard Bernstein’s “Young People’s Concerts” and Wynton Marsalis’s “Marsalis on Music,” these discovery concerts illustrate universal themes in music and focus on the music-making process, from composing and performing to the joys of listening. This clinic session will discuss how these entertaining and educational concerts are constructed. Examples from actual “Discovery: Music!” concerts will be shared, including suggestions as how to select themes and concepts, develop appropriate repertoire, design a captivating printed program, write a script, and other production details.
(This clinic repeats Thursday at 10:00 a.m.)

10:00 a.m. – Clinic
Medical Problems Interfering With Students’ Practice and Performance
Dr. William Dawson
     It’s a rare school orchestra or band rehearsal that finds all musicians in 100% physical shape for playing the music planned by the director. It’s a challenge to continue with scheduled rehearsal and lesson plans, while at the same time avoiding the pitfalls of interfering with a student’s rehabilitation or making a condition worse by demanding more than a student can produce. Practice techniques are most important to serious musicians, and Dawson recommends play-ing or practicing 25 minutes out of every half-hour, resting the other 5 – an accepted technique to minimize or prevent musical overuse. Methods of instrument support to minimize strain are equally important, as well as strategies to produce effective seating and sound and noise control; both topics will be covered in the clinic.

1:00 p.m. – Concert
Clarksville Middle School Wind Ensemble
David Smith
     Conductor David Smith says the hardest thing about preparing for the Midwest has been the amount of music (about 10 pieces) he has had to teach for a 45-minute concert. “The Wind En­semble usually performs three pieces for an adjudication in December, and later I add two seasonal pieces to the program for Hanukkah and Christ­mas. Now, when we get to the fifth piece, it would normally be the last work we play; instead it is only half way through the concert.”
     This Maryland middle school instrumental music program includes some 100 students who play in the wind ensemble, concert band, and a jazz band, which meets before school. Some 80 students take part in orchestra, and several hundred are in choir.
     “Once a band’s name goes up on the Midwest web site, the director is inundated with hundreds of CDs and manuscripts from publishers. Up until October I was still receiving music. In June the school added five extra days to its calendar to make up for snow days from the previous winter, so I used this time to have students begin sightreading through volumes of literature. This helped me decide which selections to include on the Midwest program.” The program includes  saxophone soloist Chris Vadala, who is director of jazz studies and professor of saxophone at the University of Maryland.

4:00 p.m. – Clinic

The Seven Deadly Sins of Low Brass
John Mueller
     Of the problems I correct in college low brass students, 70% began during the students’ earliest band training. The most common problem is bad posture or instrument position. The easiest way to improve the intonation and tone quality of your marching band’s baritone section is to swap marching baritones for bell-front baritone horns.

Thursday, December 17

8:30 a.m. – Clinics
Piccolo Can Make or Break Your Band
Leonard Garrison
     The piccolo is not just a small flute; it has its own tricks of the trade, including special fingerings and a different approach to em-bouchure, tone, and vibrato. Fast air is the key, as airspeed doubles in each octave. Gar-rison will demonstrate some of the high points of the band literature, with solos from pieces by Goldman, Grainger, Persichetti, and Sousa.

Technology in the Practice Room
John Best
     A beginning wind student can practice maintaining a consistent pitch by using a delay effect on the sound. When a student plays, it will sound as if he is playing as a member of his section; however, any intonation fluctuations will be immediately perceived as beats the same way that he would hear himself being out of tune with an ensemble. This allows students to learn both the critical listening required to accurately tune as well as the breath and embouchure control necessary to accomplish maintaining a steady pitch. This can also easily be applied to tuning intervals, because the delay allows for stacking pitches.

The Care and Feeding of the Emerging School Jazz Program
Glenn Williams
     This clinic will include repertoire ideas, curriculum ideas, and logistical tips, including a list of 40 guaranteed repertoire choices. It also offers an assessment practice that leads your students toward mastery of 48 scales and a tip to eliminate conflicts with before-school rehearsals.

10:00 a.m. – Concert
Neuqua Valley H.S. Wind Ensemble
Charles Staley
     The Wind Ensemble read through the music for its Midwest program for the first time on a summer evening in August, then director Charles Staley waited to begin work on the more difficult pieces five weeks later. “The reason we didn’t start immediately is that I used the rehearsal time on the music of Bach to center the ensemble’s sound. Through Bach students develop an ability to understand how their balance and tone issues change based on register and volume, because the higher or the lower the register, depending on the instrument, the tone color changes and that is not good. We are trying to even that out to keep control of the instrument. Bach forces musicians to do all kinds of mental gymnastics to get the balance and the tone colors right. I’m a huge fan of Pablo Casals, and if Bach was good enough for him to study for a lifetime, then it’s good enough for my students to study for a month.” The Neu­qua Valley (Naperville, Illinois) band program includes 11 instructors who teach over 500 students in eight curricular bands; the 200-member marching band is extracurricular.

11:30 a.m. – Clinics
Encouraging Oboists: Tips for Directors
Nora Lewis
     A properly working oboe reed is an essential starting point for development of all fundamentals such as tone, intonation, embouchure, articulation, dynamics, and vibrato. To determine if an oboe reed is suitable for playing, try this quick reed test. Put all of the cane in your mouth, so that the lips touch only the thread. Take a slow and deep breath through the mouth and then blow strongly to produce a robust sound. The reed should respond immediately, vibrate freely, and have the pitch of C in two octaves. If the reed is flat in pitch or if the sound is wobbly and unstable, then the reed should be adjusted or discarded. This process is called crowing the reed, and it gives oboists important information about how well the reed is working. Once placed in the oboe, the qualities of the reed are magnified, so if the reed does not play well on its own, it will not be possible to play the oboe well either. Crow a variety of reeds until you find one that easily crows octave Cs, and then you are ready to sound great.

Repertoire for High School Band
Paul Cummings and Brian Cardany
     The idea of incorporating the wind band’s core repertoire into a high school music curriculum does not have to be a daunting task. Many band directors have addressed the problem by adapting a core repertoire list from an existing source, such as Frank Battisti’s book, The Winds of Change, in which several repertoire lists appear in appendices. Selected works from the list may then be systematically rotated into concert programs so that, over a four-year span, students will rehearse and perform about 12-16 masterworks. The session will also show directors how to complete a grid that maps out the rotation cycle while ensuring that a wide variety of styles and musical challenges are represented.
(This clinic repeats Friday at 1:00 p.m.)

Lessons from the First Two Years of Teaching
Stephen Meyer and Nicholas Conner
     Little did we know there were many experiences and incidents we were unprepared to handle, such as driving a U-Haul Box Truck. This clinic offers insight to future music educators about the things completely unrelated to music education that are apart of the job.

2:30 p.m. – Concert
Kimmel Intermediate School Symphonic Band
Sharon Kalisek
     Director Sharon Kalisek and her assistant Joel Wren never expected their ensemble would be accepted for the Midwest because the band program is so young. Kimmel has been open for only three years. “The first year the band was made up of nearly all seventh graders,” Kalisek says, “so this year we kept working with the students and building their skills in sectionals and rehearsals, held before and after school. Of the 1,500 students at this school in Spring, Texas, 285 are in band, 140 are in chorus, and another 140 are in orchestra.
The band program on the school’s website includes a section titled “How to Practice” that includes the ideas and suggestions of several area music teachers about how to divide up a practice session to make it simpler for students, says Joel. “The majority of beginners come to us in sixth grade and have had no experience in music. A few may have had some piano study or learned about music on the elementary level, but we develop their skills from the ground up.”
     Of the music on the Midwest program, students like Whale Warriors by Brian Balmages (FJH), which is based on the Animal Planet series Whale Wars. The music sets the mood, describing how the ship sails out to open waters with a crew that tries to protect whales from being killed for the Japanese restaurant industry.

Friday, December 18

8:30 a.m. – Concert
Valdosta Middle School Percussion Ensemble
Travis Downs
Director Travis Downs knew he would have a strong percussion ensemble this year. “The most difficult part about teaching beginning percussion is getting students to develop rhythmic skills and internalize a pulse. Both the current seventh- and eighth-grade percussionists progressed extremely quickly as sixth-grade beginners.”
The ensemble commissioned composer Brian Bondari to write a lyrical piece called Inscription to Athena. “Percussionists often hear directors talk to brass and woodwinds about keeping notes connected and smooth. To finally work on sustaining rolls and connecting phrases and playing over the barline, now the percussionists understand what we’re telling the brass and woodwinds about shaping.”
     There are 300 students in band at Valdosta  (Georgia) Middle School, with two bands each for sixth, seventh, and eighth grade. Percussion ensemble is combined seventh and eighth grade.
     Downs believes in including percussion on all warm-up exercises. “Growing up as a percussionist, I was always in the back of the room, and we got the least attention. When I became a band director, I found myself doing the same thing, so I started including percussion in the daily warm-up; while wind players breathe, percussionists work on technique. Students can play rudiments on snare or melodic lines on mallets. I even include timpani. Many middle school timpani parts are simply tonic and dominant, so students spend warm-ups practicing tuning.

8:30 a.m. – Clinic
iPod Use in the Classroom
Kathleen Kerstetter
     There is a concert in a few weeks, and students are reminding you that re-seating challenges are long overdue. Although it may seem that there is not enough time to do both, take a look at that iPod in your pocket – or in your students’ pockets – and think again. You don’t have to have an iPhone or iPod Touch to access recording features of the iPod. Many people overlook the full potential of Apple’s ubiquitous music playback device. Every iPod produced since 2005 that has a screen has some features hidden to average consumers.
Given that one third of teenagers report owning an iPod, wouldn’t it be nice to take full advantage of its uses without adding to your technology budget? And for those of you who are – or are interested in – using an iPod Touch for iPhone in your classrooms, there are many useful music and non-musical apps that can make the iPod an all-in-one musician’s aide.

10:00 a.m. – Clinic
A Legal Primer for Music Teachers
Barry Morgan
     The Sheriff is at your door with a warrant for your arrest that you know contains false al-legations. What steps should you have taken to protect yourself? I’m certainly glad to know in my state that as long as one party to a recording consents, I of course, it is not illegal to tape contact with other people. I am also glad I never meet with a student alone in my office. I have the recordings and the witnesses to prove that the allegations are false. Legal issues relating to music teachers will be presented at this clinic.
(This clinic repeats Friday at 4:00 p.m.)

11:30 a.m. – Concert
Hebron High School Clarinet Choir
Andy Sealy
     Chamber music is becoming a year-round affair at this Carrollton, Texas, high school. The first chamber ensemble was a trombone choir started by the private lessons teacher; and in addition to an established clarinet choir and percussion ensemble, the school has a fledgling brass quintet as well a woodwind quintet that started at the end of marching season. There are also plans to start a jazz ensemble.
     Says director Andy Sealy, “One of our goals with the chamber groups is to do community outreach. The marching band and drum line play at some community events each year, and we want other groups to go to places these cannot. The clarinet choir started from a combination of a talented group of clarinet players that enjoyed performing and a request from a local nursing home for Christmas music.” One highlight of the group’s Midwest performance will be an arrangement of Greensleeves patterned after a large guitar ensemble.

11:30 a.m. – Clinic
Top Tips for Improved Timpani Tone
Mark Yancich
     One of the many aspects of timpani tone this session will explore is stick placement. One tip for good timpani tone is to focus on stick placement on the timpani head. The most common technical error students make is playing too close to the rim. Timpanists are afraid of sounding thuddy, dull, or too percussive, so they tend to shy as far away from the middle of the head as possible. This can result in less-than-ideal position too close to the rim, eliminating the potential for the greatest tone possible. At the rim the tone is thin, like a ponticello effect on a string instrument. Great players pay attention to their position and use a slightly deeper stick placement while using a lifting stroke to obtain a rich, characteristic timpani tone with plenty of ring. All it takes is a little attention to detail.

1:00 p.m. – Concert
Forbes Middle School Honors Band
Jackie Fullerton
     Conductor Jackie Fullerton is in her ninth year of teaching at Forbes, in Georgetown, Texas, and her second year as principal director. Of 650 students who attend the school, nearly half participate in some type of music class, including 140 in the band program. The students audition for the honor band each May, playing three etudes, eight major scales for two oct-aves, and the full chromatic scale.
     Weekly practice reports are an important part of band. “Every week I send the seventh- and eighth-grade students a practice-report log that lists the areas I will be concentrating on in rehearsals. Students check off what they’ve practiced each night, such as such as warm-ups from a warm-up book, passages of certain chorales, a piece of music from measure 13 to measure 36 at a certain tempo, or scales at a certain tempo. The practice sessions are not timed; it’s fine whether a student works for 20 minutes or an hour. A test date is included so everyone can be organized and prepared.”

1:00 p.m. – Clinic
The First 100 Days: What Every Teacher Should Know after Signing the Contract
Anthony Pursell

     Most first-year music teachers are inundated with many nonmusical decisions immediately after they interview and are hired for a position. From health care options, W-2 forms, beneficiary declarations, and retirement plans, the decisions and administrative tasks that are required of new graduates may seem daunting. The clinic offers a plan to implement soon after signing the contract. Divided in to two main components, A Time to Talk and A Time to Work Alone, the topics presented lend themselves to music teachers from all levels and across all disciplines.

Saturday, December 19

8:30 a.m. – Concert

Clear Lake H.S. Wind Ensemble
Joe Muñoz

     Twenty-five years ago to the day, the Clear Lake High School Band played at the Midwest, and this year director Joe Muñoz is returning with school’s Wind Ensemble for a second performance. Some  3,500 pupils attend this Houston school, with 240 participating in the instrumental music program. Students play an audition in May to determine which of four bands they will be in and the first-chair players for each ensemble.
     “It’s a little different this year because students are rotating parts for the Midwest performance to give everyone a chance to play important parts.” Muñoz says parents in the community are well educated and support the arts, and most of his students study privately. “There is a definite understanding of the correlation between academic achievement and participating in the fine arts. We have wonderful support from administrators, who always attend the band’s concerts and contests. At the beginning of the school year, the principal started talking about the Wind Ensemble’s anticipated Midwest performance at faculty meetings and to the entire campus.