Gotta rant

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by miles71, Mar 11, 2005.

  1. miles71

    miles71 Mezzo Piano User

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    Got a call the other day about filling in ofr a musical at a local high school. The money was ok and I was available so I said ok. I cant believe how poorly it is being run. I am the only trumpet and the pit is not even covering all of the parts.

    Why cant these directors fill out the pit? Of course the part I am playing is over the staff most of the time, but it sticks out like nuts with the absence of the other parts. Just sounds bad. Im not the only older guys playing, just seems like they could have had a full pit band with a little effort.

    Brings up another point. I left teaching last year after 8 years and having a great program full of great kids. I have been thinking about getting back into it, but after meeting these directors.......... Seems for ecery good band director there are 5 just doing the minimum to get by. Dont know if I want to be associated with them. But I digress............

    Anyone else ever been put into the "mini pits"? I think tonight I am just gonna play and stick out to see what happens. Thanks for the venting session.
     
  2. Tim McGinley

    Tim McGinley New Friend

    I can certainly appreciate your view point being in the situation that you are in. I am actually responding more to the digression that was made moreso than the initial post.

    Being a band director, I understand completely what you are saying. I am very fortunate to work in a situation where my colleagues are top notch and really care about their programs. It really burns me to see "professionals" in the business that simply babysit. There are far too many advances in music education to have check collectors running the majority of the programs. It is no wonder that arts education is often suffering and being cut from budgets.

    If you had a successful program in your prior teaching days and are contemplating a return to the profession, I say GO FOR IT!

    Music education needs more people who:
    A) Care about the kids and the programs.
    B) Are willing to share their craft in a way that opens up the minds and potential of their students.

    I am amazed when I interact with my kids. They are extremely bright, enthusiastic and overall, fun to work with. Whether I am conducting, playing or instructing a class, I can often SEE their intelligence and improvement.

    Just imagine, if the vast majority of our directors were as enthusiastic as their kids...what kind of programs we could have across the nation.

    As I said before, I consider myself extremely lucky to teach where I do. I have also taught in many lower income neighborhoods where the kids appreciate anything and everything you offer them.

    I encourage you to correct the injustices you see! Every now and then, somebody listens to what you (as a professional) have to say and it could mean the difference for the future of that program.

    Good luck with the remaining performances!!!
     
  3. miles71

    miles71 Mezzo Piano User

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    Thanks Tim, I am jaded by a bad county and extremley unsupportive county. I am actually very interested in teaching at the colleg level.

    I know there are true professionals out there teaching like I was. To them I say good luck and you have my respect.
     
  4. rjzeller

    rjzeller Forte User

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    Okay, I have to weigh in here:

    There are four high schools in the town I live in. Two have very fine music programs, the other two are...well...less than impressive. But even the two which I would equate as being "fine" are still nowhere near the level of quality I remembered from my high school days.

    I can personally vouch, after having volunteered for over six years at one of these schools, that the directors love their jobs and the people they teach very much. I know the local private school works very hard to instill quality music education into their students.

    Unfortunately, there is so little community support and district support of music these days that many programs suffer. The constant battle for support -- not just for budget, but for cooperation -- wears down many band directors. You can see it in their faces. Even the young ones -- they've given up. They're worn down from the fight.

    It's bad enough they have to deal with angry parents, busy schedules, and wildly varrying degrees of talent; but they also have to deal with budget constraints, apathy from their administrations, and a lack of public interest in the arts.

    How can I ask a director to be enthusastic about band under these circumstances? How can he/her ask their student to be enthusiastic about music when their parents don't care? How can their parents care when the school board doesn't care? Have you seen the local free concerts by the community ensembles in your areas? How often is the crowd dominated by elderly citizens and very, very few youth? We, as a society, seem to be losing our interest in quality.

    It's falls back to the directors. It's tough work, but I've seen how the right punch of attitude and energy into a program can turn an entire cadre of parents and administration behind music 100%. It basically means a director has to kill themselves with work for the first few years, but they can do it.

    Problem is, that's a TON of work for most new directors, and they simply haven't the energy. But if you feel that way...offer your services. I started up a brass quintet at a school here and they received superior ratings their first year in contest playing a piece of music I wrote (don't ask me how I got away with that one). Their marching band went from a laughing stock to one of the premier programs in the area. I personally helped a French Horn player who had NEVER played a wind instrument in her life prior to her senior year prepare for the Notre Dame band and pass her audition.

    I got paid precisely $0 for that effort, but what a turnaround in that program (and to be fair...there were others who helped as well).

    My point, I guess, is that the deck is stacked against a single director. But it is unfortunatley up to the director to change that. One of the best ways to do so is to embrace those who are willing to help out. Most directors, either through pride or ignorance, try to do it all themselves, and they invariably either have second rate programs, or they burn out.

    Just my 2 pennies. I know every situation is unique. But society has turned a blind eye to music education in this country, and unfortunately teh only people who can change that are the educators themselves...
     
  5. tpter1

    tpter1 Forte User

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    I had a similar experrience in a pit. Only not as badly balanced. This conductor was truly gifted in working with kindergarteners and pre-k kids in giving them musically appropriate activities (I've seen her in action, and the kids love her and get alot out of their experience with her). Unfortunately, we are not in kindergarten or pre-k. She was constantly apologizing all over herself, rather than taking the confidence and acting in charge. She would constantly miss time signature changes, give false starts or communicate unpreparedness. I played the show because I committed to the gig, but will never play for her again.

    As for the music ed problems... I'm also a band director. I've been in this gig since Jan of 1990. I've done most of the music education gamut, from elementary general (k-6 classroom) to 5-6 choral (!) to 7-8 classroom to beginning through hs jazz enesmble and theory.

    I love doing bands and lessons the most. I love hearing the "soecial ed" kids respond and make musical judgements (as in this morning with my hs flute players reacting to their playing on the flute solos in Ticheli's Shenandoah). We do get beaten down. The president of my own booster club allowedd her daughter to miss the concert last year (contrabass clarinet) to play a game. Our superintendent (if I said he had the personality of a dead fish I would be insulting dead fish) cut one of our 3 music positions last year. (We all know it's never going to come back). We deal with being called "special area" when discussed with "core" subject areas. Anyone seen the new MTV commercial lately? We battle that perception, too. All of this has caused me to consider leaving. On many occasions. But I love the kids, I love working with them. How many times does a student return to their math teacher and say "Ooh, can you give me that test on linear regressions again? THAT was fun!" I can't count the number of times alumni come back and ask to sit in and play something they played as a student. That makes it worthwhile.
     
  6. Tootsall

    Tootsall Fortissimo User

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    Oct 25, 2003
    Yee HAW!
    Here's the subject of kids and music from another side of the coin: the parent and a community "volunteer" player.

    RJ, you said "Unfortunately, there is so little community support and district support of music these days that many programs suffer. The constant battle for support -- not just for budget, but for cooperation -- wears down many band directors. You can see it in their faces. Even the young ones -- they've given up. They're worn down from the fight.

    It's bad enough they have to deal with angry parents, busy schedules, and wildly varrying degrees of talent; but they also have to deal with budget constraints, apathy from their administrations, and a lack of public interest in the arts. "

    How about apathy on the part of the PARENTS!? Yes, they allow their kids to get into a music program.. but what support do they give them?
    I see music festival competitions where, as soon as THEIR kids' performance is over, they leave along with their kids. How about sticking around and supporting the OTHER bands? Like Red Green says, "We're all in this together"!

    Our community band frequently volunteers to perform joint concerts with school bands to assist them in raising funds for band trips, etc. What have we seen happen in the past? Usually the kids play first... and when they were done the parents got up and left! What were we doing there playing to an empty gymnasium? We finally solved that problem by doing a couple of tunes with a blended band at the very end... the kids practiced the music during class, we practiced the music (usually a couple of run-throughs)... and then we all get one big, happy family on stage in a massed band. The parents have to stick around to drive their kids home! We've observed that the kids absolutely love this (you know what they say about playing with a group that's slightly above your perceived skill level?) We had one young fella who thought he was a real hotshot.. warming up on all of his high notes. Well, he sat in with our trumpet section (and the rest of the band) and when it was over he turned to one of his bandmates and said "cripes, I couldn't even sit 11th trumpet in this band!". A little humility never hurt anyone neither!

    We did one concert at a regional school (county) where the board was trying to close down the music program. Oh, the parents were all up in arms.... NOT! Only about half of the band parents showed up AND CONSISTED OF THE ENTIRE AUDIENCE! Suuuure, they value music. Uh huh. (The cancellation of the program was deferred one year... then it got killed).

    There are a couple of high schools in our city where music is highly valued; the music teachers are respected "up and down" the administration AND by the kids. These teachers manage to run great programs (quite a few of their music students end up doing degrees involving music) and the annual band trip (Las Vegas, Disneyland, the West Coast, Banff) is looked forward to with great anticipation (probably fair to say that some kids go into band or choir just because of the annual trip!) All four of my kids have gone through this one school and this one lady's program with one of those ending up with a B. Mus (perf). The two youngest are currently in both her orchestral and jazz programs with two years to go.

    But that's the combination, isn't it? Without gifted teachers the program will collapse. Without an administration which values "the Arts", the program will collapse. But without supportive parents the program will most assuredly collapse.
     
  7. tpter1

    tpter1 Forte User

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    I wanted to add a bit more, but didn't get to because I had to pick up my daughter from a fun-night at her school.

    Tootsall, you are absolutely right. I have seen parents even not attend festivals. Imagine that. I regularly run a bus home with several kids on board whose parents couldn't be bothered to attend junior high all-county or area all-state or all-county jazz. How sad is that? What message does that send to the kids about their musical involvement, and more importantly, about their worth as human beings?

    I have some colleagues who are check collectors. But most of what I see are people who really do care about their work and their students. I see teachers who work hours comparable to a physician, at 1/3 the pay, most of the time for free.

    Success breeds success, and one failure destroys a record of consistent success. We must be constantly vigilant that we select music of highest quality; not pander to audience entertainment needs. We are different from professional organizations in that respect; our concern is not getting an audience in the door, but producing citizens who understand and value the qualities of music and what it means to be human. If we approach our job with the intent to impart future lifelong interest in music, then we will reach an intended audience. Much of the problem arises because "directors" are too interested in producing trained puppies that can play very acurately a chopped up version of Pictures, so they can claim 'We did Pictures!", rather than cultivating and instilling an interest in students in experiencing Pictures for what it is, and determining for themselves what makes that piece great and what makes New Kids on the Block not great. Why do we like Phil Smith or Manny (yes, I know, because Manny is truly a wonderfully giving human being too, but what is it about his playing we like?) We need to make our kids recognize and approach music and musicians in the same manner of thinking. That will take people and put them in the seats at orchestra hall. So will more parents getting their kids to concerts at symphony hall or to hear the local jazz groups.
     
  8. Manny Laureano

    Manny Laureano Utimate User

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    Of all the recent posts I find this one to be extraordinary in its importance. A good band directoer or orchestra director is worth his weight in gold in the ability to inspire as well as interpret great music. Yes, I consider those beginning pieces that teach younger ones to be great music in its importance if not compositional weight.

    My heart goes out to you all, teachers and parent volunteers alike. The fight against the nonsense that MTV teaches is a worthy one. I wouldn't feel so harshly towards MTV type stuff if I felt that there was an equal balance of classical music or jazz being delivered with the same intensity by the various media.

    Keep up the good fight, those of you that have the heart. You are not unappreciated by those that know. I have a youth orchestra rehearsal bright and early tomorrow. I promise to keep my end up.

    ML
     
  9. rjzeller

    rjzeller Forte User

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    Tootsall:

    I don't mean to let the parents off the hook here. Not in the least. When I speak of community I include the parents in that. When I speak of dealing with upset or complaining parents, I don't mean because they're mad the program is SLIPPING.

    No. I mean everytime you try to do anything to challenge a kid at all, you run the risk of having a flaming hot parent breathing down your back. I know first-hand what it's like to have a couple parents try to make an example of you for no crime other than trying to encourage their student to excel.

    That's really two sides of the same coin -- Parents are either too sensitive and short on the fuse, or they go the other direction and simply don't care. I really feel for thier kids, who are sure to miss out on some great lessons in life.

    I have one set of parents...ONE...who involve their child in everything musical they can, and who support thier kid. They sit in with him during lessons on occasion (something I encourage parents do but which they never actually DO do...), they take him to concerts, and they ALWAYS attend his concerts.

    THis kid practices for hours every day. Most of my students don't. So I definitely hear you when you say the parents are crucial....
     
  10. miles71

    miles71 Mezzo Piano User

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    Nov 8, 2004
    Maryland
    Just an update. The musical is over and the kids did a nice job. The pit band improved tremendously over the three nights, it actually got a little fun towards the end. I was happy to help out the kids, but boy it was tough at times.

    As far as Music Education (which seems to be what thread this turned into) I have stated I was a band director and I loved my kids. I was spoiled and blessed with some of the best kidsa anyone could have wished for. Maybe it was the adults, the politics, the lack of funding, or any combination, but I got out of it. I agree with much of the comments on this thread and continue to support education through my new job. However, I do believe we are in trouble and Arts education is becoming a casuality of our times. I hope it will get better soon or we will have a society of childeren who cannot express themselves unless they can plug in to an X box.

    By the way, it felt real nice to play consistently again. Maybe if I practice every night for hours I can................nah.
     

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