Lack of Fundamentals Being Taught At School

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by trickg, Nov 7, 2004.

  1. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

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    Oct 26, 2003
    Baltimore/DC
    Recently, finding a little more time on my hands than I've had in a while, I decided to start working directly with my son again on his trumpet playing. Right now he's a 5th grader in his second year on the horn. The upshot is, I was dismayed and somewhat alarmed at how little he knew about some basic fundamental aspects of playing and practicing. He didn't even know a C scale, which is tragic when you consider that it only took me about 20 minutes for me to teach it to him in it's entirety to where he could play it both ascending and descending. I realize that the teacher has more than just one student in her class, and that she has a curriculum that she must follow, but still, he should know more than that by now. The day that I started playing trumpet, I was taught a C scale by my older sister, and I can't imagine that the class hasn't been taught that.

    Anyway, I decided to be proactive in teaching the basics to my son, since it's obvious that he's not getting it from the school band program. In just a few days worth of practice, I now have him not only playing a C scale, but he can switch back and forth between a C scale and a Bb scale. Also his sound has opened up, his range is easier, and his articulations have become more crisp, not to mention that he's actually starting to breathe correctly. AAAAAAARRRG! What are they teaching in this place!!!!! :evil:

    I always figured that competition is a great motivator to work harder to get better, so I asked him who the best trumpet player in the band was. According to him, he's pretty much it, which is even more troubling. If he's that far behind where I think he should be, and the rest of the section is laggging behind him, the musical future of that group looks pretty dismal.

    Is this a common trend these days, or is it just HIS teacher?
     
  2. trumpetpimp

    trumpetpimp Piano User

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    Dec 6, 2003
    Toronto
    My sister's high school music program looks in need of an overhaul too. I could write a short list of things to her teachers that would make a world of difference.

    1. Don't set the band up in paralell rows. Make consequtive semicircles with the winds in front 2 rows, brass along the back and percussion behind.
    2. It's a jazz band or a big band, not a "stage" band.
    3. Set up the jazz band in paralell rows with the saxes sitting in front, trombones sitting behind, trumpets standing in the back row, with the rhythm section to the side....not three rows of saxes on the left, five rows on brass on the right and rhythm behind with everybody standing.
    4. Don't have 2 electric basses playing unison in the jazz band.
    5. Never EVER let two drum kits play time at the same time(concert band or jazz).
    6. Don't use the crappy synthesizer with voice and string effects for the choral pieces when there's a perfectly good grand piano at the hall.
    7. Don't conduct every beat during the "jazz" pieces. The drummers(yes, plural, *shudder*) can keep time, sort of. In fact, you might even consider counting in with an emphasis on 2 and 4.
    8. If you feel the need to play woodwind chamber ensemble pieces at least take the time to tune the instruments.
    9. The soprano sax is generally considered a doubling instrument. You don't need them to be played for every piece in the concert band. Furthermore, the criteria for being allowed to play the soprano sax should probably be closer related to interest, dedication, and talent than it is to whether or not the student has already played alto, tenor, and bari in the previous four years of high school.
    And on a personal note...
    10. I know it's a Catholic school(I went to one too) but you might want to attempt to refrain from dedicating EVERY piece, one at time as you go along, and the concert in general to Jesus or Mary. It sort of loses the effect after a while. Especially when it's a Haydn divertimento or the national FREAKING anthem.

    Okay, here's just one more bonus tip. You might ask the kids to not continually tap their foot. It's usually better to move your toes inside your shoes if you need to keep time. Seeing 120 feet tapping(sometimes not in the correct time) really doesn't look too professional.

    All these things really happen when I see my sister's spring concert and it drives me absolutly mental. My girlfriend(also a musician) and I have gotten to the point where we can laugh instead of cry at these concerts but it's still not pretty. It's not just your son's teacher. There are crappy teachers everywhere. Fortuntly there are also some excellent teachers, some of which I've had the opportunity to learn from.

    You should keep giving your son some private instruction in the mean time and when he's ready you might want to consider getting him a private teacher. Throw him some recordings he might like too. A little outside influence might be just what he needs.
     
  3. bigaggietrumpet

    bigaggietrumpet Mezzo Forte User

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    Jan 23, 2004
    Nazareth, PA
    So is it sad then that I "conduct" rather than tap with my foot?

    Yeah, the quality of music education has fallen through the basement. To be quite frank, it sucks. I know how the story goes. Me and my little Ambassador held first chair in the beginner band for probably every single week except maybe 1 or 2, and we had tests every week. Now granted, I was one of the few who actually went home and practiced, probably the only one who practiced diligently. But still, I could have learned sooo much more. I wasn't challenged/motivated until my freshman year. 3 years! How much ground could I have covered if I had received better instruction and motivation?
     
  4. trumpetpimp

    trumpetpimp Piano User

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    Dec 6, 2003
    Toronto
    Ain't nothing wrong with a little tapping but I just don't like when it's constant and visible. I try not to do it unless there's a rhythm or meter change I'm having trouble with.

    But, I'm intrigued. What exactly do you mean by conducting with your foot?
     
  5. bigaggietrumpet

    bigaggietrumpet Mezzo Forte User

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    Jan 23, 2004
    Nazareth, PA
    you know the hand motions the conductor makes with the baton to denote what beat you're on? I do a very miniature version of that with my foot. I don't even realize that I do it half the time.
     
  6. davidjohnson

    davidjohnson Piano User

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    Nov 2, 2003
    arkansas
    comrades:

    very interesting comments to me, since i've been in music ed since 1972.
    your observations may be completely correct for where you are....do try to find out how many days per week these groups really meet, it could easily be 30 min twice weekly. i've had administrations try to do that w/me. the elem. kids will NOT be released to you on time, & by the time they get in place, etc., the instructor could have barely 15 min. twice a week.
    your kids who have played a year or two could be also placed w/raw beginners every year because of schedules. those things really slow your kid's training down.

    foot tapping no longer bothers me since i saw the phildelphia orchestra with ormandy tapping like hell in mahler's first & bartok's concerto for orchestra! just so it's inaudible, i insist on it.

    the 'stage band' term was used for decades. i don't use it, but it doesn't bother me.

    wind ensembles often sit in straight rows, concert bands in arcs. that is not uncommon.

    ...interesting perspectives, ask the instructor your questions & keep helping your children.

    dj
     
  7. Benjamin

    Benjamin New Friend

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    Sep 30, 2004
    Montevideo, Uruguay
    I think we have to look at the big picture about why some school music programs are the way that they are. Time is a huge factor. How many hours are kids getting with their music teacher outside of the large group setting? Are those few precious minutes with 3 other kids? I am assuming in the majority of places there are group lessons once a week that are around 15-30 min. and a group setting once or twice a week for 30 min. That is hardly enough time to stimulate all of the students every single minute. That is why parent cooperation is so important. I am a parent, my mother is an educator in Wisconsin, and teachers nowadays have so many requirements slapped on them that don´t do anything for the improvement of the childrens education, only take time away from truly trying to take a student from where he-she is to where they should be. Class size is another huge problem. With all this talk about holding our teachers accountable, I think it should be something different. Holding our teachers, administrators AND parents responsible for the education of our children. Where the school can´t do better, that is where the parent kicks in. How many parents leave everything up to the school to educate their child? Teaching morals is the job of the parent, not the school, but the problem is how many parents don´t teach morals, and when the child gets to school, he tears the place up? So much time is spent on discipline and herding cattle than on teaching the things that should be taught. Sorry for the rant, but I grew up with two teachers for parents and have a very unique take on this whole subject. I applaude you for teaching your son scales and hope that all parents take an active interest in their sons education the way that you have.
     
  8. gregc

    gregc Mezzo Piano User

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    Apr 5, 2004
    New York, U.S. of A.
    The district REALLY matters. We moved a few years ago. and between the two school districts I've seen the very finest and probably one of the worst. Sadly, we've moved in the wrong direction. All I can think of is 'get your kids some privqte instruction and don't let them rest on their laurels just because they're #1 in their section'.
    gregc
     
  9. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

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    Oct 26, 2003
    Baltimore/DC
    Unfortunately, there are several facets to the beginning band program here in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, that I really don't care for.

    For one, we have one band director for about 3 or 4 schools. The kids meet with her twice a week.

    For two, it's one big band class. Beginners are lumped in with the second year students so you have a situation where the second years have to sit and wait for the beginning band kids to play catch up.

    For three, it is obvious to me from what I can see that the music and arts programs in the schools take a back seat to ANY other academics or programs in the school.

    Given those circumstances, the band program in this county is a recipe for failure. I knew that the band program was less than ideal, but I had no idea that the fundamentals were pretty much being ignored.

    I feel bad for the band director. Even if she were a decent director, (and I have my doubts about that, for other reasons) her hands are going to be pretty much tied due to the lack of time with the students and her struggle to comply with the curriculum she has been handed in the time she is allotted.

    I just feel bad for the other kids who aren't getting the fundamentals, and don't have someone like me at home that can fill in the blanks for what the music program is missing. Unless the kids have a natural ability and affinity for the instruments they have chosen, they don’t stand a chance. Fortunately, my son won’t have an excuse. :) He’s going to get the fundamentals, and hopefully, by the time he gets into a decent high school program, he will have what he needs to succeed if he chooses that path.
     
  10. fatpauly

    fatpauly Pianissimo User

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    Nov 11, 2003
    Ellicott City, Maryland
    Patrick -

    Fortunately, it seems a little better next door in Howard County, but not by much. My daughter is in 3rd grade and has started viola, but the instructor (I believe he is full-time at this school) has something like 180 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders in both strings and band to teach.

    Many of the students are beginners, and progress is painfully slow. May daughter has yet to start bowing her instrument, and they are basically playing a few note pizzicato. She doesn't know if she wants to continue with this or switch to another instrument when they get a chance.

    On the other side of the spectrum, I just read an article that some of the elementary schools here in Howard have a limited, extra curricular jazz program for the advanced band students. I think that is really cool for those lucky ones who get to play in it.

    Sorry things are tougher in AA County. Your kids are lucky to have a musical father. I know my girls are excited about all the musical toys I have around the house here, but they are still too young to blow horns or wear my bass!

    - Paul Artola
    Ellicott City, Maryland
     

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