Pope alumni Sheila Cullen and Dan Pendley found themselves performing together for Alfred Music/Belwin Mills Publishing as members of the band that recorded the promotional tracks for new concert band music for 2016! Sheila plays clarinet, Dan plays euphonium and trombone. Good to see them still making music!!!
One of my favorite (and more humorous) conversations with parents at this time of year usually starts out with the parent asking:
"So what will you do with all that free time now that marching band is ending?" (I try to maintain my composure instead of bursting out laughing...)
We have 3 bands and a percussion ensemble preparing for our Winter Concerts. We have over 100 students preparing for Honor Band and All State tryouts. Fine Arts Showcase is looming. Auditions for second semester start in a couple of weeks. We have sectional coaches coming in to work with the kids. Symphonic Camp is in January. Jazz Band has begun. Percussion Ensembles will begin rehearsals soon. We have a community pep band performance today. Immediately following the winter break, LGPE preparation mode is in full swing with after school sectionals and a pre-LGPE Concert. We are already planning acts for the X-PLOSION! Show in May. And believe it or not, we will have to start designing the show and confirming staff (and a rehearsal schedule around construction) for the 2016 version of the marching band(s). On top of that, the directors get invited to be adjudicators and clinicians for other schools and other band events...so even when Pope has nothing on the schedule, one or both of the teachers are working on "band stuff" somewhere.
WHEW. It never really slows down, we are just involved with other groups and performances. While some of the kids won't be here as often after school, most will be involved in some sort of different music activity or ensemble. That's what it takes to maintain a balanced program that offers opportunities for all areas of musical growth and development!
So...we might not be here until 9:00 quite as often, but we will be here nearly every day after school working on something new or different for your student. Then we will have that 3 month long summer break that teachers enjoy.... (HAHAHAHAHA!!!!)
Now that our competition season has concluded, let's share a few thoughts about the process (which is where the bulk of actual learning occurs):
1) Scores and placements at competitions can be very close...within mere tenths of a point. We were in 2nd place at our final two contests by margins of only .65 and .55 of a point. What makes the difference and how do you add those small increments to your score?
There are a variety of factors.
First, is our style and our fundamental approach to playing and moving well defined? According to the evaluators, yes on both counts.
Second, does the design of the show fit together, flow logically, and pace itself so that the viewer is engaged? Again, yes from all of our evaluators.
Third, are the performers delivering appropriate levels of achievement in all areas of movement and playing? According to our judges, not always. The occasional student starting early or ending late on a musical passage, the occasional student just a half step away from alignment of a form, spaces that are not uniform throughout a move, some notes out of tune, dropping out of your music when movement gets demanding...it can take on a variety of forms.
2) How do you fix these individual concerns? Appropriate instruction (which we have been assured by our evaluators is apparent) and TIME. The hours necessary to develop each individual student into a confident performer vary from student to student. Some "get it" within the first several attempts. Some take weeks to develop the physical and mental stamina. Based on other bands schedules, we rehearse less than many of our competitors. Our one week summer band camp is 2-3 weeks for other schools. Our one 9-9 Saturday practice and our one 9-5 Saturday practice might be four 9-9 Saturdays at other schools. Fall break at many competitive schools is another band camp week.
You also have to have students IN ATTENDANCE at rehearsals. Even when they have homework. Even when the family wants to hang out together. Even when their grades weren't as good as you wanted. We had kids missing at almost every rehearsal this season...and they were not injured or ill every time. Your commitment to the activity must allow you the time to learn and perfect the material...and to develop the stamina and consistency to perform it.
3) Don't panic. We are not going to add all of these hours to our schedule. Our philosophy is not based on winning or beating other bands...we strive to improve our best performance. We do, however, need to understand that if we are not willing to do the things that other bands do in order to perform at those levels, we can't expect to go out and be named "champions". We have to decide as a community how good we want the band to be...and act accordingly.
4) If we, as a group, decide that we want to raise our levels of achievement, then we need to be willing to do more than the minimum necessary to sustain our current levels of performance. Two of our neighboring bands that we saw this year have purchased matching sets of professional trumpets for their marching bands. Our kids predominantly play their old student horns from middle school (they won't take their professional horns outside). Obviously, the pro horns will sound better. Some of the band we saw this year hire top level consultants and designers from DCI to pick their show and create all of the effects. Rumor has it that they spend around $20,000 for this service. We did all of this ourselves, with a basic conceptual idea from one of our former instructors ($1000).
5) Are our kids still learning valuable lessons and improving, even when they are not "winning" contests? Yes. Is winning necessary ? No. In every contest, there is only one band deemed "the best". All of the students there have worked hard and have learned a lot during their journey. Is winning fun? Absolutely! It is not easy, however. The investment of time (and sadly more money) is often a factor.
6) Where do we go from here? That depends. As a community, are we willing to support a more active marching band schedule? Are we willing to do more fundraising or pay higher fees? Are we willing to give up more weekends during the Fall...or maybe a few days of Fall Break? Or are we satisfied to be a really good band who is near the top in our contests, but maybe not winning the show? Tough decisions to be sure. We will be discussing options as we look to the future.
Rest assured that we want the best experiences for your students. The learning process remains more important to us than a specific award. We do, however, realize how much fun it can be to be called "the best"!
Hopefully, you have clicked on the link and read over our band program philosophy. For the past 28 years, we have stressed the value of continued improvement and competition only against our own previous levels of performance. We never talk about "beating anyone" or "winning it all". Those boasts often result in disappointment when things don't go your way. We have learned that the true value of having a competitive show is in the process of learning and growing.
Yes, it feels fantastic to be named "the best" at what you do....but that isn't the sole motivator. If you do what you do at the highest levels, the rewards (and awards) will come. The secret is discovering how to embrace the work ethic and commitment needed to get a near perfect performance.
No matter the outcome this evening, the members of the 2015 Pope Competition Band can hold their heads high. The improvement since July has been amazing. The levels of performance have been strong, and the growth among members has been life-changing. Students have set and achieved goals, surpassed their initial belief of their ability limits, and pushed themselves physically harder than some of them thought possible.
The lessons learned will last long after the momentary celebration of an award or placement...and will serve the students in more than just band. Good....Better....Best.
Monday evening after our county marching exhibition. We are herding kids out of the band room to go home after yet another extremely long day. Apparently, there are no other teachers here at this hour...looking around and the school is deserted (except for the custodians). 12 hour, 13 hour, 14 hour days are not unusual for band directors. Every Fall, we work late multiple days per week and give up nearly every weekend from September through November to judge, clinic, or take our group to perform. We spend hundreds of extra hours planning, preparing, and reviewing the routines. We collaborate with the staff and figure out what needs to happen in order to make the show more complete. We go far beyond the "normal" workday.
Because we see the kids growing as people. Gaining confidence. Surpassing their self-imposed limits. Setting higher goals and achieving them. Working as a part of a team. Learning to appreciate the hard work. Figuring out that they can perform at levels they never realized. Learning to prioritize time. Learning how to schedule multiple activities and meet all the obligations. Becoming better musicians.
Are these things easy? Never. Are they always convenient? Nope. Are the long hours of work enjoyable? Not always.
But some of life's most valuable lessons are learned through this type of immersion in a worthwhile activity. The things that stick with you for the next 10, 20, or 30 years are not likely to be the answers to a quiz or the homework paper you turned in. They will be the experiences you had as a part of the band.
At exhibition tonight, I was approached by a gentleman in a North Cobb shirt. He said, "You don't remember me, but I was in the band your first year of teaching...at Redan HS 1984..." We caught up on memories from decades gone by...and he told me that his kid was enjoying the band experience. Shortly after, a former Pope student who now teaches at North Cobb stopped by and told me that all of her four kids were either in band or planning to be. We reminisced on some of the "olden days".
The lessons last. Celebrate your time in band and create some great memories. You'll be glad you did!
Seems like we say this over and over...and over...and over...
When we have important events/performances scheduled, we need members at practice.
One would assume that we understand the need to prepare before going into an event like a band competition...that the other groups are working hard to achieve results...that we want to be our best...that we finish what we started.
We get to the critical time, and not only are people missing, we have some who ask if missing is "OK". Absolutely not!
We are sensitive to emergency situations... you can't do anything about those... but "my kid didn't do their homework" or "we wanted to do a family activity"... these are not emergencies. We all work around various activities and situations.
When you commit to a spot in a performing ensemble, you commit not just to the spot, but to the entire group. We depend on EVERY member to do their part. We teach new material or make alterations at EVERY rehearsal. We are never finished until the final performance is complete.
Please be courteous and committed to the activity you signed up for. We need all members of the band performing in order to achieve excellence. Help us attain our goals. Make sure you or your student are attending all functions.
This is just a quick note to keep you up-to-date with weather plans for this weekend in Powder Springs. While we will remain optimistic for the planned schedule and logistics (or continuing on the field with delays if needed), alternate plans are in place for indoor warmup and performance in the gym if necessary. We will continue to monitor the weather, and pass along more finalized plans as soon as a decision is made.
Our primary goal is to give you and your students the best performance experience possible, while keeping everyone in a safe environment.
Thank you for being part of the Fall Championships, and we will see you soon.
MFA Powder Springs Event Manger