Close this search box.

Tips from the Clinicians

compiled by editors | December 2018

The Shifting Third on the Blues
Jim Snidero
Wednesday, 4:30 p.m.

    A basic goal when improvising on the blues is to go beyond the blues scale sound, creating a greater sense of harmonic movement and emotion. Yes, the blues scale can be played over the entire blues form, invoking a kind of blues trance. Many strict blues musicians use this concept, but there are simple techniques developed by jazz musicians that potentially provide more interest.
    One technique is what I describe as the shifting third, which in the key of  Bb would be either the major third, D, or minor third, Db. The D is the note that is not in the Bb blues scale (Bb, Db, Eb, E, F, Ab). The classic technique is to use the major third on the I chord (Bb7) and the minor third on the IV chord (Eb7). On the V chord (F7), the minor third is actually used. That is because the blues sound is so strong that it overrides what might appear to be a chord/scale conflict of Db on an F7. So with the most basic 12-measure blues form: major third on measures 1-4, minor third on measures 5-6, major third on measures 7-8, minor third on measures 9-10, and finally back to the major third on measures 11-12.
    The effect is melodic content that implies harmonic movement (e.g. playing the changes). Also, the shifting third provides an emotional shift from joy (major third) to sorrow (minor third). The best way to use this technique is to learn vocabulary using the shifting third, and great recordings provide the best sources for vocabulary, with those by Charlie Parker being a prime example. Combined with blues vocabulary, the shifting third adds a greater sense of harmony and emotional depth.

Levels of Musicality
Brian Balmages
Wednesday, 10:30 a.m.

    As a composer and conductor, I am hyper-aware of the emotional disconnect that occurs during an uninspired performance. Many performances that people believe are in­spired suffer from the same set of issues. Victor Woot­en summarizes the problem beautifully: “It’s rare that I ever meet a musician who doesn’t agree that music is a language. But it’s very rare to meet a musician that really treats it like one.” We spend so much important time analyzing scores, but when was the last time you created an emotional analysis of a work? Where are its brightest and darkest moments. Where does the melody feel hopeful (perhaps resulting in the peak of a phrase), or desolate (perhaps clarifying the need for a soft ritardando)? These emotional connections with the terms in the music and conveying them to the ensemble go a long way toward understanding how to make these critical connections between notation and musicality. The goal is not choreographed musicality, but engaged musicality.

Percussion 101 Refresher
Jim Catalano
Wednesday, 10:30 a.m.

    Directors who are not percussionists are often mystified by teaching students how to play percussion accessories like cymbals, tambourine, wood block, and triangle. The best tip is to teach your students about tone quality, just as with other band and orchestral instruments. My clinic will show simple ways to teach your percussionists the techniques that can produce good tone quality and articulation on these overlooked percussion accessories. Remember, it’s not all about playing the instrument; it’s about controlling the instrument for musical expressions.

Effective Use of Social Media
Sean Smith
Wednesday, 1:30 p.m.

    Music programs have increasingly used social media to reach new audiences and build followers. However, musicians are gen­erally bad at marketing. We market like we want to be marketed to, which is not your average follower. To be successful, think a­bout what parents want to see on Facebook and Twitter and what your students’ friends want to see on Snapchat.  Posting full-length concert videos will not gain followers. Be fun and inventive. Build audiences by telling stories using as few words as possible and including pictures and video in every post. Engaging social media efforts can lead to increased audiences, more donations, and easier recruiting and retention.

Jazz Guitar Tips
Michael Christiansen
Wednesday, 1:30 p.m.

    With little background in playing guitar, many directors struggle to help their jazz band guitarist. A good place to start is helping the guitarist get a good sound. Often the jazz band guitarist arrives with an instrument set up more for playing rock and pop than jazz. To help those guitarists get an acceptable sound, it is unnecessary to buy a new guitar and amp. Most often, an electric guitar can be modified by changing the strings to get a jazz tone. Knowing what pick to use and how to adjust the settings on the guitar and the amp can also help achieve a jazz quality in the sound of the guitar. For example, many young electric guitarists have a solid body electric guitar with light gauge strings on it. Changing those strings to a heavier gauge will go a long way in helping to achieve a jazz tone. Rock, pop, and blues guitarists often use strings that begin with a .09 to .010 first string (this is the thickness of the string). To produce a jazz tone, the string set should begin with an .011 or .012 first string. The heavier string gives a richer tone and stays in tune. Some jazz guitarists use a flat wound set of strings. These strings feel smooth and are mellow compared to round wound strings. However, they lack the brilliance and ring of a round wound string. Even if your jazz guitarist has a solid body electric guitar, heavier strings will give it a better jazz tone.

Excellence and the Inclusive Ensemble
Rachel Maxwell
Thursday, 3:00 p.m.

    Start with the End in Mind. When creating rules, policies, and calendars, envision your goal for every student. If you want students to be long-term members, with independent musical growth, then keep that the focus. Do not get tied up in chasing trophies, creating burdensome schedules, or setting unrealistic practice goals. The program will never be more important to anyone than it is to you. Furthermore, your priorities will not be shared by every family. Decide on reasonable expectations to meet your goals and live with the consequences.
    Communication. Make it easy for students, parents, and administrators to find information. Update websites and social media often so your band community has a reason to check in with these sites. Frustration in finding information often causes families to give up on a program. It is critical when communicating with families that you work toward solutions to issues or conflicts. Ultimatums end relationships. Keep in mind that reasonable flexibility helps students know that they are important to you and the program.
    Consistency. Consistency in daily rehearsals, assessment procedures, routines, and expectations will build a foundation of trust. That trust leads to strong relationships with students and families. Be sure to set a consistent calendar of rehearsals and performances. The earlier this is set and the less it changes, the easier it will be for families to keep their children in your program.

Woodwind Repair Emergencies
Miles DeCastro
Friday, 1:30 p.m.

    Bent keys are a fact of life in the band room, but not every bent key requires a trip to the repair shop. There is a good chance that you have the proper tools to repair certain bent keys in your band room right now. One of the more common bent keys I see in the repair shop is the Eb/Bb key on a clarinet (the bottom side key on the upper joint). In a perfect world, I recommend straightening this key (and most bent keys) using a precision pair of parallel, smooth-jaw pliers, such as the 7" Knipex Plier Wrench. If you don’t have an extra $65 for a nice pair of pliers, I bet that you do have a tool in that could straighten a bent Eb/Bb key. The shank of a trumpet mouthpiece fits perfectly around most Eb/Bb keys. Simply place the shank around the key’s touchpiece and flex it back into position. If the touchpiece is too large, use a trombone mouthpiece. Your key will be back in position without adding scratches or plier marks to the finish of the instrument. There is no need to stop at clarinets and trumpet mouthpieces. Try a tuba mouthpiece on saxophone side keys or a trombone mouthpiece on a flute G# key. There are many possibilities.

Communicating with Your Double Basses
Jason Heath
Wednesday, 3:00 p.m.

    Double basses can be a head-scratcher for many directors. Tech­niques that work for getting other instruments to play with good sound, pitch, and timing can often be lost on the bass section. This clinic demystifies the bass section and provide tactics for section placement, pitch and timing issues, and better tone and articulation.
    One of the best ways to get bass sound quickly is to make sure that there’s fresh rosin for bassists. Get your bassists in the habit of putting two or three good swipes of sticky bass rosin on their bows before each re­hearsal, and make sure that they put the rosin back in its case when done rosining. Bass rosin dries out incredibly quickly if left out of the container. The results on tone and articulation will be immediate and remarkable. Because bass rosin dries out so quickly, order fresh rosin every three to four months. It is best to order individual fresh cakes of rosin throughout the year rather than several at the beginning of the year. This ensures that the students will be using fresh rosin for maximum grab on the string.

Bassoon Fundamentals with the Bocalphone
Doug Spaniol
Friday, 3:00 p.m.

    This clinic will include techniques for teaching, learning, and practicing fundamentals of tone production using only the reed and bocal. One of the best to start with is having students play the bocalphone without using the embouchure at all. Insert the reed far enough into the mouth that the lips are on the wrapping of the reed and the blades are entirely inside the mouth with nothing touching them. (Be careful. The ends of the wires on the reed can be sharp. File them smooth or rotate the reed 90 degrees so the blades are vertical to avoid poking lips with the wires.) With the reed in this position have the student play a long tone on the bocalphone. They are now supporting the tone with the air only and with zero chance of pinching the blades shut with the lips. With good air support (and a good reed and bocal) the pitch should be right around C4. Most young students will be flat or may not be able to sustain a tone at all because they are used to playing the bassoon with too little air support and pinching the reed shut to compensate. If they can play the bocalphone in tune with air only and no embouchure, you can feel confident that the air support is sufficient. Once that is established, play the bocalphone with that same air support but adding their regular embouchure. If that pitch is significantly sharper, it is likely that the student is pinching the blades shut with the embouchure. Keep working until the bocalphone plays right around middle C with and without the embouchure. When they can do that, you know the air support is sufficient and the embouchure is not pinching the blades shut.

How to Succeed in Your Next Job
Col. Thomas Palmatier
Thursday, 8:30 a.m.

    Whether a new or veteran music educator, your most valuable possession is your reputation. My high school band director once said, “Big people talk about ideas, medium people talk about things, and small people talk about people.” If you can start each day vowing to be a big person, you will earn the respect from colleagues, parents, and students. By the way, my band director said it only once 48 years ago and it stuck with me for all of these years. Don’t underestimate the impact that your words and actions have on students.

Make Your Program Indispensable
Milt Allen
Friday, 12:00 p.m.

As educators, we are constantly proving the importance and value of what we do. While everyone agrees that music is important, the real key is staying relevant. The ability of music to create connections helps make our programs indispensable. Connections come in many ways: learning new material in the rehearsal room, building a larger and wider demographic for concerts, and show­ing students a bigger connected musical world. Humans are hard­wired to connect. We con­nect in four basic ways: physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual. This clinic will explore ways to move beyond tried and true approaches and build deeper connections with your students, community, and the wider world.

Unlocking Student Musicianship
Jonathan Caldwell, Patricia Cornett
Thursday, 8:30 a.m.

    Our session explores the musical conversation between the teacher and the student. This can be an excellent pedagogical model for a mu­sic classroom: an environment where students are actively en­gaged and able to make musical de­cisions independent of the teacher, rather than passively responding to instructions.
    One strategy for allowing students make active musical decisions is to help them better un­derstand their role within the ensemble at any given time. U­sing technology, it is easier than ever to show students the score quickly and frequently.
    Take a piece we all know and love: Holst’s Second Suite in F. If you are the first horn player and look at rehearsal E in the first movement, you see quarter notes and quarter rests marked at piano. What does that tell you about your role within the ensemble? It’s difficult to know just from looking at the part. Sometimes students only understand a fraction of the music because they are only seeing a fraction of the information. If we show them the score using an iPad or another technological tool, they can easily see that the solo euphonium has the melody. The role of the horn section as accompanists quickly comes into focus, and many potential balance problems resolve themselves.

Hidden Gems for Chamber Winds
Lt. Kelly L. Cartwright, Lcdr. Robert J. Coats
Wednesday, 12:00

    The primary takeaways from this clinic are twofold: regardless of instrumentation or program size, the countless benefits of chamber music are accessible to student musicians, and many lesser-known works offer op­por­tunities to ex­plore diverse topics. For instance, you may not have any double reeds, but with some intuitive instrumentation swaps, students can experience Haydn’s Harmoniemusik. The requirements of Lincolnshire Posy may exceed your instrumentation, but Grainger’s The Merry King can introduce his rich treatment of English folksong on a much smaller scale. Chamber music can also expose students to myriad composers be­yond standard band repertoire, such as Arthur Bird and Alec Wilder. A small school can idio­matically replicate the march music of Alton Adams while exploring the works of African-American composers. The possibilities and benefits are infinite.

Meaningful Score Study
Matt Temple, Josh Chodoroff
Wednesday, 1:30 p.m.

    In this hands-on session, directors will analyze a score together using the Comprehensive Musicianship through Performance (CMP) model. Created in 1977, CMP is a framework for teaching music in a way that intentionally deepens student understanding within the context of performance-based ensembles. There are five points to the CMP model, including music selection, analysis, outcomes, teaching strategies, and assessment. While a traditional approach to score study certainly reveals much needed information for the conductor, a CMP analysis fo­cuses more spe­cifically on speculation. For example, in what unique ways did composers exercise their craft? How did this compositional decision affect the overall piece? By thoroughly examining the background information of the piece and then analyzing the seven elements of music, the director can develop a teaching plan that connects with students on a deeper level. This approach to analysis yields a far greater understanding of a given score and the composer’s in­tent. Most im­portantly, the director will be able to teach transferable concepts and musical knowledge to students that goes beyond simply playing the piece well.

Creative Rehearsal Techniques from Around the Country
Gary Stith
Friday, 8:30 a.m.

    Have you ever watched your students listening to their own music? With ear buds in or music cranked up in their cars, they tend to move and almost dance to it. However, when they come into rehearsals, they usually pick up their instruments and sit like statues. Scott Boerma, Director of Bands at Western Michigan Uni­ver­sity, believes that if we can get our students to move to the music around them in rehearsal, two benefits will result: Their rhythm will become more accurate and their internal pulse will become steadier. Boerma suggests the following: When faced with a passage that lacks rhythmic clarity, in part due to a lack of steady pulse, try this. Ask a percussionist to play steady eighth notes in the given tempo while all those without the problem passage clap on beats two and four, establishing somewhat of a 1960s pop/rock groove. Then, further encourage those students to move and groove to the newly created beat. You should do this, too.
    Next, have students with the problem passage play it again, this time over the top of the ongoing rock beat. Almost magically, students will begin to line up their rhythms with the beat around them resulting instantly in improved rhythmic precision. Finally, ask students with the passage to play it one last time without the rock beat accompaniment, but while still moving to the music. The improvement will be astonishing. This and many more video-recorded rehearsal techniques will be shared in this practical session.

Moving from Band to Orchestra
Bobbi Mauldin
Friday, 12:00 p.m.

    Making the move from band to orchestra, whether voluntary or not, can be a satisfying change with an adjustment to your think­ing. This hands-on clinic presents the ba­sic skills needed to teach beginning or­ches­tra students or to be a beginner yourself. You will learn how to size the instruments, set up students with the correct instrument and bow hold, shoulder rest fitting and placement, and end pin length for cello and bass. We will also talk about what to do if you are a new high school orchestra director and how to get students off on the right foot.

Small School Strategies
Cindy Swan-Eagan, Mike Eagan
Wednesday, 10:30 a.m.

    Small schools are often located in communities where music teachers are much more visible to the general population than in larger schools. Your reputation will depend on more than just musicianship. It also comes from your presence in the community, especially in the early years. Getting involved in local projects, being a courteous neighbor, and shopping in local businesses are appreciated by residents. Of course, your en­sembles need to sound good. That is where your teaching skills need to be constantly refined and practiced.
    Develop a natural progression of skills, literature, and traditions to serve each level of your program and keep looking to the future. Re­mem­ber, in their first year, students take band or orchestra; after that, they are taking you. Out of the classroom, ask questions of colleagues and clinicians throughout your career. Successful small school directors also take the time to re-score music to fit their group’s instrumentation. A good-sounding ensemble in a small community, directed by a teacher with strong reputation, becomes a point of pride for your new hometown. It helps immunize your program from philosophical or financial cuts, and you will be fondly remembered in that area for many decades after you retire.

Retaining the Tech-Savvy Generation
John Mlynczak
Thursday, 10:00 a.m.

    Our students are growing up in a much different world than we did; they are consumed by technology and constantly connected with social media. Students also consume music much differently than we did. A few taps on a phone now creates a playlist that used to take hours. When teaching this tech-savvy generation, remember that our lens is not their lens, and students need to prepare for success in a future that may be considerably different from today.
    Technology can be used in music classes to engage students to learn and create music in the world in which they consume music. Whether recording or composing on a device, the products produced using technology can easily be shared with peers, parents, or principals. Having students use their technology to create and share music engages them by colliding their world with ours, and it empowers them to promote the music they are making. Lessons and performance exams should include a component of using technology to share a composition or recording.

Successful Assessment
Patrick Erwin
Thursday, 3:00 p.m.

    On the subject of auditions, I would recommend assessing the whole musician once a semester. This can easily be done through scales and etudes. A suggestion on your etudes: pick one etude you like, and write it out for all instruments. I usually choose oboe or trumpet etudes, because these have ranges that work for all the instruments. That way, I can rehearse them in class when necessary, and the kids can get in small groups of heterogeneous instruments and work together. We make things so difficult on ourselves trying to find etudes that are specific to each instrument. I highly recommend the Goldman Articulation Exercises for Trumpet for technical etudes. For lyrical phrasing etudes, the Barret Oboe Method and the Blazhevich Studies for Trumpet work well. How­ever, any etude that works is worth sharing with students.

Choral Techniques in Band Rehearsals
Rickey Badua, Alyssa Cossey
Wednesday, 10:30

    Most band directors understand the value of singing in rehearsals. They find that singing helps the band in man­y ways, most no­tably by im­pro­ving intonation. While this technique can be useful, as a choral conductor I argue that simply sing­ing is not enough. Directors also must model and teach good vocal technique to ensure the desired result.
    Many teachers – both choral and instrumental – dedicate a good portion of their rehearsal time to developing basic technique in their ensembles. This often includes breathing exercises. One quick tip that anyone can use to improve the quality and strength of their players’ breath is simply to begin with an exhale. Before students can take a good breath or breathe deeply, they must fully empty their body of air. Once empty, instruct players to open their mouths and let the air drop in. As their body naturally expands and fills with air, players experience the sensation of a full, tension-free breath and can then replicate that expansion – down and out – in their playing. This is a simple but often overlooked step that will not only improve the quality of the breath but also will improve intonation and ensure a more unified onset.
    Another essential step in developing good vocal technique, especially with non-singers, is to incorporate phonation – producing vocal sounds through vibration – as an intermediate step between breathing exercises and vocalization. This can be done in a variety of ways. Students can mimic sounds you make, or you can provide them with descriptors such as, “bark like a chihuahua,” “laugh like Santa,” or “hum like I have warm chocolate chip cookies right out of the oven.” These simple phonation exercises allow players to explore different vocal colors and ranges, and they can serve as bridge between speaking and singing.
    Once players are comfortable phonating, you can elongate sounds and eventually tie them to specific pitches. Humming or sustaining the word hello is a good option for this. For the most novice singers, start by asking them to say hello. Then, have them speak the word slowly and more drawn out: heeelllloooo. Finally, sing the stretched-out word on a single pitch near the bottom of you range, and ask the students to match the pitch. These simple steps will ensure that even the most timid players have the foundation for good vocal technique.

Big Ideas for Small Schools
Samuel Minge, Laura Nichols
Thursday, 1:00 p.m.

Recruiting and retention are critical in a small school. Success depends on creating a band culture where students want to be and feel invested in what is happening. The other part of that equation is less obvious: creating a culture of excellence without pandering to the students. Set high standards of excellence and do not shortchange students just because a school is small, rural, or not as financially well-off as your favorite band from B.O.A. finals.
     When I started at ECHS I had 25 students, and it was a challenge to find meaningful grade 2 music that they could tackle, but the time and energy combing through catalogs and scores and finding new ways to raise their skill level was worth it. This past school year our Wind Ensemble performed Chorale Prelude: Be Thou My Vision by Jack Stamp. It was an incredibly rewarding experience that challenged them every rehearsal. We went from essentially easy middle school music and using fingering charts for a  Bb scale to dissecting chord structure and timing in two 58 bars over multiple rehearsals because we have the time to do that now.

Engaging Online Concerts
Tiffany Galus
Friday, 12:00 p.m.

     Your concert audience is no longer limited to only those sitting in the hall. Using the tools in the palm of your hand, you can reach new viewers around the world. To increase the awareness of your event, you can use social media algorithms to push out your content to as many people as possible.
Set up a sharing schedule with your students: if your concert takes place on Wednesday, create a Facebook Event no later than two weeks before the event. Then, stagger groups of students to share and post about the concert. For example, have the woodwind section share the event on the Wednesday prior to the event at 12:00 p.m., brass at 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, and percussion at 1:00 p.m. on Friday. Research has proven that these are the most effective times to post information and this staggered release will trigger Facebook to push it out to more timelines.
     Feel free to expand this to the week of the event and include your booster organizations and faculty colleagues. More timelines lead to more people. To take it further, go live on Facebook during the week the concert and show your ensemble in action. This will notify all those people who have engaged with your Facebook event thus far.

From Fundamentals to Fun
Steve Giovanoni
Friday, 12:00 p.m.

     Know your why. We all know why we teach the concrete things like lines and spaces, notes, and rhythms, but we need to understand our intrinsic motivation and how it affects our teaching. Why I chose music and how I perceive music in my life and career are important to what I do every day. I love music. I think music is important and want people to have a great musical experience whether I am performing or teaching. Creating a high level of music is my why. When I teach I try to rehearse with that purpose. I want to find the music and get students to experience the music. When I perform I’m playing to create a musical experience that I conceive. We create an experience for ourselves first, then we share it with others. The audience experiences the musicians giving birth to the music.
     What are the keys to this experience? The fundamentals are the keys to any performance: notes, rhythms, tone, tuning, articulations, and dynamics. I want students addicted to fundamentals and to see them as the life of music. Bringing music to life makes the music fun and exciting. Make them crave these things. Students also need words like creepy, sad, longing, and patiently, not just faster or slower. Our ensembles are the first audience. Then they become the musicians for another audience. If the students are lacking a musical experience, how can they share music with the audience? They can only share what they have. If they lack the skills to perform musically, their performance will lack any musical content.
     Without musicality, band is just an activity that can be thrown aside. Musical expression is the value that makes music a necessary subject to be treated with importance. If we just learn notes, then it’s just fine motor calisthenics.
     We make fundamentals fun when kids experience making music with them. That’s why I do this.

Teaching Globally: International Opportunities in Music Education
Joseph Scheivert
Friday, 2:00 p.m.

     Walk through the door. When I describe my experiences as a band director at international schools in Thailand and Japan, colleagues in the U.S. typically exhibit equal parts wonder and skepticism. “That sounds really great, but . . .” “I never even knew that was an option, but . . .” “I would love to do that, but . . .” There are indeed many perfectly valid concerns that can get in the way of your international teaching ambition.
     My best advice from the other side is to walk through the door. Walk through the conference center door at an ISS-Schrole or Search Associates job fair to learn what opportunities await. Walk through the consulate door to obtain your visa and make your trip official. Walk through the airplane door to take off on a new and exciting adventure. Walk through the door of your new home and relax after a day of exploring the local culture and environs. Walk through the door of your classroom and greet the children who are excited to learn a new instrument, start a jazz ensemble, rehearse for a concert tour, or audition for an international honor band.
     Administrators and colleagues who are already overseas would be more than happy to help you become comfortable with the idea of running a music program in another country, and my session at The Midwest Clinic will help answer some pressing questions. All you have to do is walk through the door.