Military Band Budget Restored

Good news for both military musicians and fans of military ensembles.

By voice vote Wednesday, the Republican-controlled House restored $120 million for the armed services’ 100-plus military bands — money that budget-conscious members of the Appropriations Committee had cut last month.

While I’m not a veteran, I did audition for military bands twice (didn’t win either audition).  I am, however, a huge fan of many of the military bands.  I have a particularly soft spot for the Airmen of Note, as two of my teachers are former members of that group (Tom Streeter and Doug Elliott) and I worked on the old Online Trombone Journal Forum with the current MD and lead trombonist, Joe Jackson.

Many people don’t realize that military bands are more than marching band style groups.  There are many jazz bands, chamber groups, even rock and country bands.  Performances and recordings by the groups are generally free (or I should say, paid for by your tax dollars already) and the quality of many of these groups is as good as any professional ensemble you’ll hear.  They don’t just play for troops, either.  They often go on tour and if you look around, you’ll probably find that a military band is playing a free concert in your area this summer.  Do yourself a favor and go listen to a high quality band performing a free concert.  You’ll not only hear great music, but you’ll also be helping to support our troops and the musicians who support them.

Update:  Bad news.  Navy musician Rich Hanks commented here that the House has done a switcheroo, and now the cuts to military musicians are back in.  Please write your congressional representative and let them know that you value the work that our military musicians do for both our troops and all our citizens.

Mozart or Salieri?

Many musicians work very hard to develop their listening skills and knowledge of musical styles.  The “drop the needle” or “blindfold test” where you don’t get any knowledge of the music in advance is a common way to test music students’ progress.

Here’s a short quiz you can try out yourself today to see how good an ear for the styles of Mozart and Salieri.  There are 10 excerpts from pieces that were either composed by Mozart or his professional rival, Salieri.

Can you beat 80%?  I have to admit that I guessed on most, but I tried to make them educated guesses.  Probably I got lucky on a few.

Help Save the Lafayette Elementary School String Program

A friend of mine teaches strings at a Chicago inner city school and they are in danger of having their program cut due to lack of funding.  A mutual friend of ours sent me the following email and asked for help spreading the word.

Dear Friends:

I am writing you today to ask that you join me in supporting a music program that is very dear to my heart. One of my lifelong friends, Art Weible,  developed an inner-city orchestra that is due to lose it funding in September unless private donations can be secured to keep the program running for the next school year. I would like to tell you about Art, his program, and my hope that you can contribute in some manner to this very worthy cause.

Art Weible and I are lifelong friends going all the way back to first grade. In many ways our lives are parallel:  We grew up in Oak Park, attended the same college, married our college sweethearts, and we both have very satisfying careers with the Chicago Public Schools. Art pours his heart into his life’s work and his passion is music.

Art teaches at Lafayette Elementary School in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood. He is teaching in a very challenging part of town. Early in Art’s career he won a grant that let him build a student orchestra from the ground up. The grant funded instruments for the kids, rehearsal time after school, teacher stipends, and transportation costs for their performances. Art runs his orchestra until 6:00 almost every day, thus giving his students safe after-school activities. Art’s students have played all over Chicago including Orchestra Hall, the Union League Club, and the elementary school where I teach junior high social studies. They are an amazing group.

The financial challenge the Lafayette Orchestra faces and their fundraising efforts have made the local Chicago news (Windy City Live) and national news (AP and CBS Evening News).

I am asking for you to help in three specific ways.

  1. Click on the links below to learn more about the Lafayette Orchestra.
  2. Make a donation to help keep the program running.
  3. Please forward this e-mail to as many people as you can to help get the word out.

I hope my e-mail motivates you to help out and I welcome your follow-up comments or e-mails. I am sending this e-mail to about everyone in my contact list. I hope we can make a difference.

With many thanks…tk

The links: 

Reasons to Give Story/Donation Site:

The AP story:

Windy City  Live:

If you can, please donate to Lafayette Elementary School’s string program or to a similar program near you.  In this economic climate music programs are being cut all over the country and many of them are in dire need of financial assistance.

The Vertical and Horizontal Aspects of Musical Phrasing by Norman Bolter

Trombonist and composer Normal Bolter has produced some YouTube videos where he discusses the vertical and horizontal aspects of musical phrasing.  As I mentioned a couple of days ago, we often have a tendency to evaluate our practice on an objective level (correct notes, in tune, etc.) rather than the more subjective musical expression.  Good technique is extremely important for a musically satisfying performance, but we also need to practice expressive playing.

What makes playing expressive, though?  Bolter discusses this question, using Morceau Symphonique by Philippe Gaubert and a Rochut Melodious Etude as examples.  You can check it out here or on his blog.

“Mountain Winds” Community Band of Western North Carolina

Are you an adult musician living in western North Carolina who plays a wind or percussion instrument?  Did you play in high school or college, but haven’t played much since then?  Are you looking for an opportunity to have fun playing in a concert band again?  If so, you might want to go check out the newly formed Mountain Winds Community Band.

The “Mountain Winds” is an adult community band which provides a musical outlet for musicians in Western North Carolina. This concert group is open to any adult residing in Western North Carolina who has high school or college band experience. . .

This concert group was formed to provide community members the opportunity to perform in a concert band after their formal schooling. The group is comprised of individuals from several occupations. The common thread shared by all members is the love of music and performing with friends.

They are just getting started, so I’m sure they need players on all instruments.  You don’t need to be a virtuoso player, either, just love playing and be willing to commit to attending rehearsals and performances.  Go register with them and start enjoying making music!

How Important Is Soundtrack Music?

It’s a busy time for me just now, so I’m afraid updates will be a little longer between for a bit.  At any rate, here’s something interesting I just saw.

It’s a good demonstration of just how powerful an effect the music has on our perception of the action in a film or video project.  I’ve done something similar a few times with students by recording someone walking down a hallway and dubbing in different music  for the that exact same scene.  As the music changes, so does the feel you get of the person walking.  In the above video, the change in music makes the happy Sound of Music turn into a dark and terrifying drama.

The Music They Made

The New York Times has put together a video collage of musicians who died in 2010.  Included in this video are Johnny Maestro, Alex Chilton, General Johnson, Lena Horne, Abbey Lincoln, Gary “Diaperman” Shider, Marvin Isley, Bobby Hebb, Captain Beefheart, and others.

To this list I have to sadly add Dr. Billy Taylor, who passed away last Tuesday, December 28th.

Advice For Students Writing Music Papers

The last semester of 2010 just wrapped up.  Due to the nature of two of the lecture courses I just taught, I ended up with a lot of papers to grade during the last 3 weeks of the semester.  While reading them I made note of some of the common traps that my students run into when writing about music.  Even when I go over these mistakes in class, some of them are easy to make.

There are plenty of common writing issues that crop up regardless of the topic of the paper, such as grammar and proper form and style.  Different teachers will have their own policies.  Personally, I don’t care too much if the paper is done in MLA, APA, or Chicago style, as long as it is consistent (although I’m speaking here for mostly non-music majors taking elective courses).  Don’t make up your own system of citing and such.  Find out what your teacher wants you to use and make sure that you’re following it.

Here then are some common traps to avoid when writing papers about music. Continue reading Advice For Students Writing Music Papers

How To Mark Your Music

Yesterday I mentioned Bruce Childester’s The Trumpet Blog as one of my recommendations for online brass resources.  A short time ago he had a great post on “How to Mark Your Trumpet Music” that I wanted to recommend.  He offers examples of several standard practices and other suggestions about how to mark music appropriately.

Some of his points I’d like to reiterate include only marking your music in pencil, so it can be erased.  Also, circled music means “tacet” (lay out), not look carefully at this.  Many music students will circle things they want to remember, but I encourage everyone to get used to only using circles to mean tacet.  You never know when you’ll need a sub last minute.  Your substitute may need to sight read a performance and might assume that circled parts mean lay out.  On the flip side, you don’t want to be the only one barreling through something you were supposed to lay out on because you didn’t know what that circle means.

One piece of advice I’d like to add to Bruce’s is the use of a dash and number (e.g. “-2”) over notes to indicate exactly when the note is released.  It’s common for students to release notes too early, so I often have them mark a whole note, for example, with a “-1” to remind them to release the note after all 4 beats (on the downbeat of the next measure, or off on 1).  It’s also useful for effects like “doits” and  fall offs (“-3” to mean fall until the 3rd beat, etc.).

While you’re at it, poke around a little at The Trumpet Blog.  There’s lots of good stuff in there.