Date: Fri, 22 May 1998 01:56:18 +0000
Subject: Re: Beginners - LONG!

Well, Ian!

You've done it again - this is perhaps my all-time favorite topic. I have written volumes on the subject, and now feel compelled to foist these "rantings" upon the list. (Grin!)

First of all, I believe that only the most experienced teachers should be "allowed" to teach the little ones.  They will "die" to please you at this tender age.  (This is no place for people to "learn to teach"!!)

And - I am not familiar with the "Team Band" book which you mention - but I have my suspicions!

With your permission, I will send a complimentary copy of our, Griftton School Audio Teacher for Beginning Trumpet/Cornet, to Andrew. It is a small "call and response" lesson booklet and cassette which both you and your son can "play -along -with. And be assured, it will push and heighten your son's expectations of what playing the cornet is all about! The children depend upon the teacher for their "expectations" for themselves.

Recently, someone asked, "what should I look for, as a sign that my children have a competant, classroom instrumental music teacher. I'm going to insert that response here:

(1) Look for a teacher / program which stresses the fundamentals of playing the particular instrument in question.  Embouchure - comes first!  Without it, little can be accomplished.  Tone, time, pitch, attack, release, articulation, rhythm - - listening. You should be teaching precisely the same things, in your beginner trumpet class, that you would stress during a private lesson!

(2) Look for a teacher who is capable of competently playing / demonstrating with the class. (Yes, I know, few of us have the luxury of teaching only "our" instrument in the beginning classroom.

(3)  Look for a program which does not "too soon" dump all of the children into a mixed ensemble situation - because it is expedient from a scheduling standpoint.  Look for a  teacher who understands that we are not, primarily, teaching "band" at early levels.  "Being in the band, or orchestra, can ONLY become a reality when, or if,  we are successful with our instrumental skills."

(4) Look for a program which does not place great emphasis upon the memorization of little "5 note tunes", to be played in unison, at the end- of- year recital.  Please avoid this "Garage Band" approach!  It serves only to gratify the parents. The "Music Man" syndrome.
(TPINER, Eddie Lewis' earlier post to you on this subject was right on the mark !)

(5) Look for a program/teacher who understands that primary goal is to teach the child how to "play" the instrument. To "study and get ready" for later ensemble participation.

(7) Look for a teacher who urges, and helps,  the students develop a concept of "playing by ear"! We don't want our young musicians to become a "slave to the page".

(8) And finally - take a good look at "method book" being used. Does it "fight tooth and nail" for nos. 1 and 5, or does it clearly fall into the 3 an 4 category - a  "Beginning Band" book.

Herding young children together, with unlike instruments, into a so-called "band", when nobody yet knows how to "play"! The garage band" syndrome, I call it. This approach is a great "parent appeaser", of course, but the emphasis is upon the WRONG things! The memorization and performance of little "three-note tunes", in unison, at the "end-of- the- year- concert, deprives children of that which instrumental music is all about.

I use a "Group, Private Lesson" approach in our like-instrument environment. The early lessons are absolutely critical to the establishment of sound playing techniques. Techniques which will enable success - or prohibit it! ESPECIALLY - the embouchure, the attack and release, the correct use of air - !  Recently, I spent 3 minutes trying to "find" a major scale, in a well known "band method book".
MANY, if not MOST brass-playing problems stem from a slovenly approach which does NOT require mastery of the fundamentals "early-on! I COULD WRITE AN ENTIRE BOOK on the fallacious concept of teaching the "FUN" method. (And probably will!) In my 52 years of playing the trumpet, I have watched one gimmick after another make an appearance. The message always seem to be, "how can we get someone to 'learn' something without requiring them to work??"

The more you are able to keep the children occupied with the business of "learning to play the instrument" , the better off they will be. Here are some favorite phrases, which I use to constantly remind my beginning players.

"Children - remember, you are playing a wind instrument!! Fill-up clear down to your toes - the amount of air you use to 'stay alive' isn't nearly enough"!!

"Remember, boys and girls - if we can't play our scales, what can we play??"

Take a stopwatch to class and "time" their long tones.  Believe me, each child will remember his time, and be waiting  for you the following week - to see how much he has "improved".

VERY SOON - you need to get those neophyte players OUT of the C - G range - they should be able to play long tones, chromatically,  down to the low F#. "Fill up with air - make them 'sing'!"  As these tones "enlarge" in strength and volume, notice how the tones above third space C will also begin to blossom.

Please don't talk about "high notes" and "low notes" with your students.

We must wrest the power from those, perhaps well-meaning, Administrators and Educators who have substituded a whole litany of non-musical, social goals and values, for the teaching of musical skills and values -in short, the lofty Art of Music.

"Children are capable of amazing things - if you REQUIRE it of them. NEVER assume that they won't understand!"  Approach your students as if you have a little HL Clarke, or Rafael, or Gottfried, or J.S Bach, or Ludwig, in your class - maybe you do??????