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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000360.txt from 2003/10

From: Audrey Travis <>
Subj: Re: [kl] [clarinet] reeds for beginners?
Date: Sun, 12 Oct 2003 12:39:19 -0400

Here in Vancouver (at the elementary school level) we itinerant band teachers
must take as many students as want to sign up to learn an instrument and play
in a homogenius band from day one. We no longer have any "language" in our
teachers' contracts about limiting class size for any teacher at any level. My
largest class ever was 56! The previous teacher at that school recruited them,
not me, but I had to teach them. Try teaching a band containing 56 kids who
know nothing, and who may have chosen flute, oboe, clarinet, bass clarinet,
alto or tenor sax, french horn, trumpet, trombone, baritone horn, tuba or bells
and untuned percussion all in a two - 40 minute lessons a week! Some read
music, some do not, so I have to teach to the lowest common denominator. After
my class at one school, I then race off to teach at 5 others during the week.
There is no time to teach students privately if they're falling behind. I do
make time in the class for faltering students, but while I teach one, everyone
else is doing virtually nothing, so it's tough to do a thorough job. Needless
to say, things sometimes go slowly, but I'm a stickler for teaching as
thoroughly as I can to each instrumental group, and so far, my students have
been quite understanding - they see there's only one teacher in the class and
that I'm going as fast as I can, and that they'll be thoroughly taught when
it's their turn. Most of my classes started late in September and it takes
several lessons to teach them how to safely put their instruments together,
read music, care for their instruments, etc in such homogenius group settings.
I'd love to teach one or even 8 'like' instruments at a time!! Other class
schedules don't allow for this. This is why students don't hear a lot about
choices in reeds, mouthpieces and equipment - I do tell them what reed strength
to begin on (#2) and I recommend better quality mouthpieces than what comes in
the box - I suggested Clarke Fobes' 'Debut' this year (one of our local stores
agreed to order them), but at the beginning, there's no time to do any more
than that ( I have about 150 beginners this year).

Quite honestly, while there surely are 'insane' band directors around who know
very little about some instruments, most of us are just trying to help as many
kids as want to learn to play and love music. Most times, the shortcomings in
what is taught and what is not is simply due to a lack of time! Now I know I'm
combining two separate threads here, but :

I'm really getting quite tired of reading so many attacks on band directors.
The job of the band director and the private teacher are different, yet the
goal is similar - teach the kids how to play and to hopefully love doing it,
and love music. Believe me it is a luxury to teach one student at a time (I
didn't say it's not difficult, but it is a luxury). Yet some private teachers
on this list are making themselves feel better by slamming band directors - I
do wish you would show a bit more respect for the job we do....


> 27 beginning students at a time?! I think the most I've ever done was
> perhaps 7 or 8 in one class during band camps. Where on earth do you work,
> if you don't mind my asking? Someone needs to talk to your administrators
> and school board about that. Yikes! What I find interesting is the fact
> that the school can even schedule 27 at a time for a band lesson like this.
> Our kids here have so many different class schedules it would be impossible.
> Individual band lessons are scheduled during the kids' study halls and they
> have a full band rehearsal every other day at 7th grade level and every day
> at 8th grade level.
> Our 2 elementary instrumental music teachers are split between the
> district's 5 elementary schools with usually about 8 kids in a band lesson
> for 45 minutes about once a week. The 5th and 6th graders have a full band
> rehearsal after school once a week at our junior high.
> Do your kids rent their instruments or do they purchase them? How do
> you manage to have them all using the same mouthpiece?

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