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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000978.txt from 2001/02

From: Rhea Jacobs <>
Subj: Re: [kl] challenging (was: i'm new and i need help...FAST!)
Date: Sun, 25 Feb 2001 14:12:22 -0500

Challenging: I'm sorry to hear that band positions are still being assigned that

I suffered through that kind of regime from eighth through tenth grade. When I
entered the eleventh grade, our principal woodwind instructor had had enough
time to convince the music director of the validity of a new approach, to sell
it to the brass and percussion people and to prepare the materials.

At the start of the school year, each player was presented with a list of
"steps." Each "step" consisted either of a group of scales, one or more
technical exercises, or a passage for musical interpretation. "Steps" were
played at each student's weekly coaching, and the section instructor (or his
assistant) signed off as each one was "passed," or played to the instructor's
satisfaction. A minimum number of steps were to be passed each six-week grading
period in order for students to pass the course (and it was made very clear to
those of us taking band in our study period that the same standards applied to
us), with higher numbers required for higher grades. (Steps weren't the only
requirements for grades, but they were the objective "floor" on which everything
else rested.)

We were told that chair assignments would be made on the basis of number of
steps passed. I immediately put this declaration to the test. I started the year
in third chair (the highest-ranking junior). The first-chair player and I
loathed each other, and the second-chair player was her best friend. I knew that
the first-chair player was full of intellectual pretensions and would be
spending her first six weeks concentrating on polishing her college
applications, whereas I had a relatively light first grading-period schedule.
The minimum step requirement was six, with twelve required for an "A." At the
end of the first period, Adele had passed her twelve, and I'd done twenty-six.
Whereupon the director (who knew exactly what was going on -- he was a genius at
motivating teenagers and had dealt with the feud for years) overrode the results
and modified them, saying that he would still reserve the right to impose
soloist places on his subjective judgment of overall musicality and on a certain
amount of senior privilege. Below the soloist chairs, however, the step system
pretty much ruled.

I thought the system was a brilliant way of trying to use student
competitiveness to encourage development.

(BTW: the next year there were four seniors of approximately equal ability in
the section, and we all got along very well with one another, an alliance
cemented by the presence of a particularly obnoxious tenth-grader in fifth
chair. We were perfectly happy when the band director announced that assuming
that we all maintained our step progression and our concert music preparation,
first-chair would be on a revolving, concert-by-concert basis -- we had a
six-concert season -- and that solos would be assigned as deemed appropriate by
the director.)

My 2 cents worth,
Rhea Jacobs

Wildfire Coconut wrote:

> well, what happens is she'll tell our band dir. she wants to challenge me.
> we'll fill out a 'challenging form' and it will be held AFTER school a week
> from that day. if i win, she can challenge me again or if i lost, i can
> challenge back, and it will be held a week from that day. concert festival
> is going to be in mid-march so they'll probably make the deadline for
> challenging 2-3 weeks before that, that way everyone can get used to their
> new parts. when we challenge, one of us goes into a room with our band
> director facing the wall, that way he has no way of knowing who it is and
> won't be able to play favorites. we play 5 chromatically adjacent scales,
> chromatic scale and the piece they've chosen for us to play. then he'll come
> out and say if #1 or 2 was better. though, when my friend was challenged
> (she's a flute player) it wasn't blind like that. don't ask me why...
> oh, and the way we do chair auditions is over christmas break we make a tape
> (with code names) that has us on there playing 5 chromatically adjacent
> scales, chromatic scale and our jr./sr. clinic piece (i hope everyone knows
> what jr. and sr. clinics are so i don't have to explain them - hee hee hee).
> on my scales i played F#- Bb and i got all 5 (including Bb :) ) 3 octaves,
> which no one else in the band (clarinet-wise) could do. i was so proud of
> myself *tear drop* *sniffle*
> anyhoo, hope that answered your question.
> gnat
> >
> >Just out of curiosity, can she keep on challenging you every week, or is
> >there a limit to challenges? And do these contests happen in class or
> >after
> >class or what? I'm thinking if there's no limit and the rehearsal stops
> >for
> >each challenge, this could go on all year and eat up a lot of class time.
> >If
> >it's best two out of three or something, then that seems reasonable. My
> >kids
> >aren't old enough for band yet but I found out that in their school, the
> >second Monday of every semester they have a general seat assignment
> >competition where everybody has to try out. Anybody who transfers in from
> >another school automatically goes to last chair until the next challenge.
> >Anybody who wants to challenge does it on midterm Monday. That's it. I
> >think that's a good way to do it. It gives kids a chance to move up but
> >keeps the competitive thing from taking over too much importance.
> >
> >Cass Hill
> >
> >
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