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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000323.txt from 2000/04

From: Audrey Travis <>
Subj: Re: [kl] good beginner books
Date: Sat, 8 Apr 2000 20:33:42 -0400

"Dee D. Hays" wrote:

> I think part of the problem lies with how instrumental music is approached
> in most schools. Children sign up for band and are taught in one mass group
> playing as a band from the 5th grade with little instruction outside the
> band. Basically all elements are neglected (notes through aesthetics) just
> to keep the band moving along as a group. It is not entirely the teacher's
> fault. They must satisfy the parents and the administration. The parent
> wants to go to the concert and say "that's my Johnny right there in the
> flutes." The school administration wants to be able to show that they have
> a program. The most visible form is the band.
> I would like to see more schools adopt the approach that the school I
> attended had. Yes you started instrumental music in 5th grade but there was
> no band until the 7th grade. Students simply had like instrument lessons
> until they hit junior high. This allowed the teacher to focus on the
> requirements of that instrument. The students had a pretty good handle on
> both basic mechanics and basic musicianship before they had to try to put it
> together in a mixed instrument setting. It seemed to work pretty well.

I certainly can agree with most of what you say here from empirical evidence
since I am a band teacher at 6 elementary schools. Not only do the parents and
administrators want to hear results, so do the band students themselves. In my
school district, itinerant means 2 - 40 minute periods per week with each band
and no time for like sectionals, let alone private lessons for struggling or
advanced young musicians. Obviously, if you move too slowly, students who
catch on immediately become bored, yet struggling students find it too
difficult. I often recommend engaging a private instructor to go along with
the band lessons, and their work reinforces mine and vice-versa. When a
student comes to me and says "My teacher told me to do it this way, but you
said to do this a different way", I'm always happy to learn more from the pros
and will check with them. Obviously, the full band only situation is less than
ideal, and there are some students who do fall through the cracks and don't
learn very much.

But I'd have to take some exception to your statement ""Basically all elements
are neglected (notes through aesthetics) just to keep the band moving along as
a group".

I believe this is too general a claim, and doesn't apply to all, certainly not
to me. I work very hard to teach correct fingerings, rhythms, technique,
posture, breath support, etc. but also spend a great deal of time on phrasing,
style of music, emotional expression, and correct interpretation even at the
first year level.

What I believe would be ideal would be to have homogeneous band classes along
with sectional work every week. Kids are very excited about being able to play
in an ensemble with a variety of instrument colours. Over the years, I've
learned, that every child, despite their age or inexperience, can be taught to
play expressively at any level. It did take me awhile to realize how much kids
can learn, though. In that respect, perhaps some band teachers don't realize
what kids can do, and therefore don't try to work on style, expression and

Best wishes

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