Episode 148 – 4 Tips to Help Your Band Sound Their Best

The longer I teach – 22 years and counting – the more time I spend on fundamentals. You may be surprised at just how much time!

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Here’s the link to the Student Led Rehearsal episode mentioned in the podcast: https://www.jamesdivine.net/2017/01/18/episode-75-student-led-rehearsal/

Prayer Has Never Been Removed from Schools

I hear Christians lamenting all the time about two Supreme Court decisions in the 1960s that “removed prayer from schools”. This is a distortion of the facts. I decided it was time to set the record straight.

Those decisions did not remove prayer from schools, but removed state-sponsored prayer from public schools, and frankly I’m glad they did!

Christians have always been for the underdog, for the downtrodden, for those whose rights have been taken away, for those who are being abused. After all, it’s what Christ commanded us to do. And with our constitutional right to freedom of religion, this also includes the freedom to reject any religion. God has never forced anyone to follow Him. 

So why would we want to force people to pray? And what would happen if the majority of people were not Christian? Would they then have the right to force us to pray to their god? We should NOT have state-sponsored prayer in our schools, but neither should prayer be prohibited, and according to our constitution it’s not.

The dictionary defines prayer as a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or an object of worship. Prayers can be out loud, or silent and in our minds. They can be made with eyes open or closed. While standing, sitting, or kneeling. The Supreme court decision in the 1960s did not ban prayer in schools. The constitution demands freedom of religion, which means you can pray whenever you want. 

Here’s why I think Christians have become dismayed over this subject…

Someone “in charge” at a school – a principal, board member, or teacher – has made a decision to “ban prayer.” Maybe the decision is made out of fear (many parents are ready to take every decision they disagree with immediately to the superintendent these days). Maybe the decision is due to lack of knowledge (many people misunderstand our freedoms – read the constitution please). Sometimes Christians have allowed themselves to be bullied in these situations. To be fair, the bully doesn’t always know he’s being one.

I pray daily at school – at my desk before I eat – in the hallway before students file in – while proctoring state testing – every Friday when I walk through the campus specifically praying for the school – and every week I pray for the leaders in my school district. 

Nobody stops me.

If a group of football players wants to get together before the game to pray – THEY ARE ALLOWED TO – and if some players don’t want to join in – they are allowed to refrain. If a group of students wants to meet early or stay late to study the bible – THEY ARE ALLOWED TO, unless the school prohibits all groups from meeting.

There are some things I’m not allowed to do…

  • I’m not allowed to use my music class time to proclaim the gospel
  • I’m not allowed to be disrespectful of other people’s beliefs that differ from mine

But what I’m allowed to do far exceeds that…

  • I’m allowed to pray whenever I want, silently during class or out loud when I’m alone
  • I’m allowed to talk to students about my faith when they ask me about it
  • I’m allowed to say Merry Christmas to students and staff 

You CAN pray in schools, for schools, for teachers, for administrators, and for parents and students. You CAN run for your local school board. When was the last time you prayed for our schools? Will you take a moment to do so now?

*** James Divine is in his 22nd year of teaching, which he believes is his calling. Today’s Christian teachers are on a difficult mission field, but they have the potential for tons of impact. Find out more about James at www.jamesdivine.net

James Divine is an amazing speaker. He is funny, humorous and quite a delight to watch! If you ever get a chance to hear him speak, do so! If you ever get a chance to hire him, grab the chance, you won’t be sorry!

James Divine was the lunchtime keynote speaker for my Be Authentically U event on September 7th 2019 and he did not disappoint! All eyes were on him, I did not see one person looking at their phone as he had captured their attention with his Italian stories and costumes weaving in various characters from his life. By the end of his speech our bellies were hurting from laughing so hard and our hearts were touched! 

Thank you James for being the speaker I knew you could bring to the table!

Trisha Trixie
Greenwood Village Colorado
Faith-based Empowerment Specialist
www.Trishatrixie.Com

Episode 140 – 5 Tips for Developing Great Student Relationships

Dare I say that a positive student teacher relationship is even MORE important than teaching music skills? You may not agree totally with that statement, but you have to agree it is an important piece in the puzzle.

In this episode I share 5 strategies that have worked for me, several for over 20 years. As a music teacher, you have a great opportunity to influence a student’s life (for the good or bad). Choose good.

I would love it if you would consider supporting this work of love at www.patreon.com/themusicedpodcast. Your support would help take this podcast to the next level.

I highly recommend Harry Wong’s The First Days of School.

Episode 139 – Help Beginner Trumpet Players Change Partials

When beginner trumpets have a hard time changing partials, it’s almost always about the air. We as music educators know what we want the students to do, but they often don’t understand what we are asking.

In this episode I share more than six tips to help your trumpet players change partials. It’s also effective with other brass players.

Has this podcast been a help? It’s a labor of love for me. I’ve been doing it for seven years for free. There are some costs involved. Would you consider supporting the podcast for as little as $5/month? Go to www.patreon.com/themusicedpodcast.

How To Book More Gigs

Excerpted from “The Saxophone Diaries.” 

You aren’t going to get any gigs if you don’t develop some process and spend some time on it. That is going to vary by what you want to accomplish and what your goals are (see goal-setting/goal-getting chapter). I know many musicians who are MORE GIFTED than me who hardly ever gig, although they will tell you they want to. Do you know that although talent and skill are much needed, there is one trait even more important than these? Persistence! When you get 19 no responses for a yes, you need persistence. When people tell you what they think of your music (negatively) – which is personal to you – you need a tough shell and persistence. When you’re driving 300 miles to a gig, you need persistence.

You also need to treat this as a business. One of my early mistakes was not doing that very thing, but more on that in another chapter.

Here’s a booking process that worked for me for many years and continues to work although it has been updated somewhat.

  • Compile a list of venues I wanted to perform at that fit my target audience and size. Send an introductory letter to the person responsible for scheduling music. The letter is just a short introduction of who you are and states that you will follow-up in a week or so with a phone call.
  • This is important! Call when you said you would. This is a low-pressure call simply asking if they would like a packet with more information. If they say yes, get it in the mail to them that day (a packet with CD, promo materials, etc.).
  • This is important! Include another letter in the packet saying you will call in a couple of weeks to see if they have any questions. Then call in a couple of weeks. Try to get the decision maker on the phone. Be persistent but not annoying. If he is out, call back once or twice a week until you reach him. Be kind to the secretary/receptionist. Ask if he/she received your materials and if there are any questions and if they’d like to go ahead and schedule a date.
  • At this point, you will receive a lot of nos. That’s ok. If you are an excellent musician and have created some decent materials and have properly focused your marketing niche, you WILL get some positive response, but you need PERSISTENCE.

These were my stats using this process…

  • Send 20 introductory letters to decision makers
  • Follow up with a phone call
  • Ten wanted a complete packet with CD, etc.; mail those out
  • Follow-up with a phone call
  • Out of those ten, one would schedule me right away, 3-4 would say not right now, and the rest would say “no.”
  • With the 3-4 “not right nows”, I would continue to call monthly until I either scheduled a date or received a no. Usually one of those would eventually schedule a date, sometimes a year or two after I sent the packet!

You can see that out of 20 contacts I would get one gig, sometimes two after much persistence. Believe it or not, that’s a decent rate of return, and it was at a time when the quality of my music product was not as high as it is now with 20 extra years of practice.

I made a decision that every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I would make ten new contacts. After about a year of doing this, I had to take a little break from it because I had 125+ gigs lined up. That sounds like a lot, but because of poor marketing, pricing and business strategies, I didn’t make much, even though I was working my butt off. For example, sometimes I drove 500 miles for a gig that I might earn $300 for. That might be ok if I had 5-10 gigs in that area, then came home, but it was usually the only gig I had and was followed by another long drive to another area. Learn from my mistakes and it will mean fewer mistakes for you.

By the way, don’t expect a booking agent early on. They usually will not look at you until you are so busy you can’t handle it on your own.

The booking process has been updated for me. I rarely send out letters anymore. Most of this process is accomplished via email. Warning about email; you will not find much success if you just send out email blasts to a large group of anonymous people. Target and tailor the email to the decision makers. Have a good website with all of your materials. Have documents created that you can link to your website and attach to emails.

PERSISTENCE IS KEY!

Episode 138 – Getting Middle School Students to Quiet Down and Focus

This was my first year back teaching beginning band after a 14 year hiatus while I taught at a suburban high school. My first experience 14 years ago was at a prestigious private school where the students and parents all seemed to care and were on their best behavior. Now I’m at an urban school. My how things are different!

It took persistence and consistency over a six week period, but the students are finally where I want them to be (well, 42 of the 43 are). You’re often going to have an outlier on whom nothing seems to work. He spends most of his time in the hallway. We have a conference scheduled with his guardians. Not saying it as an excuse, but he has had a difficult life thus far.

In this episode I share some strategies that have worked for me. Try them. They may work for you. Just remember, each situation is different. I saw a post on a media site about this same problem. Some teachers answered “All I have to do is threaten to call home.” That was my same strategy when I was at the private school.

It helps if you have a very supportive admin, which I do.

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I Thought I Was Going To Jail

The summers of 2010-2012 I was driving every week to Weatherford, Oklahoma to work on a master’s degree in music education. The trip took me through the Texas panhandle.

The panhandle gets its name because when you view Texas on a map, there’s a thin stretch of land in the northwest corner that – when combined with the rest of Texas looks like the handle to a big ol’ fryin’ pan, you know the kind I’m talking about. They weigh about 57 pounds and are made out of cast iron. When not used for cooking, they have alternate uses as doorstops and behavior modification for wayward husbands.

The panhandle is also flat. It’s so flat that you can see anthills in the distance rising out of the landscape. The road is so straight that I once set the cruise control, lashed the steering wheel into place and climbed into the backseat for a nap.

The thing about the panhandle is it seems that nobody lives there. Oh, you see the occasional cow, the occasional road kill, and vultures. Vultures everywhere, sometimes tearing into road kill that seems like it hasn’t even cooled down yet. You hope and pray that you don’t get a flat tire because you’ll be changing the tire with one hand while fending off vultures with the other.

Did I mention that it is also hot! With air conditioning on, it sometimes felt like the interior of the car only cooled to 85 degrees or so.

I was driving along the panhandle on my way to Oklahoma when I passed a state trooper on the side of the road. Now, it was sometimes tempting to speed along this stretch, especially since I was making this drive every week, but as I mentioned you could see for miles in any direction and I knew I wasn’t speeding at that moment.

The state trooper pulled in behind me. If he wasn’t a state trooper, he could have easily been accused of tailgating. There was no traffic in either direction! We were the only two cars on this four lane divided highway and he was tailgating me. I carefully checked to make sure I was on target for speed. I even racked my brain to try and remember if I had been speeding.

The trooper continued on my tail for 3-4 minutes.

Finally, much to my relief, he pulled out from behind me, scurried over to the left lane, and passed me very quickly. Relief! He was really beginning to make me nervous.

My relief was short-lived. He immediately pulled in front of me and slowed down rather abruptly, causing me to tailgate him. Now, I hate being too close to a car. Why did he pull in front of me like that? I was still worried about my speed and checked to make sure that it remained steady. I did not have cruise control in this vehicle. It was easy to end up with a lead foot, especially when I was tired.

After another minute passed, I was tired of tailgating the trooper, so I pulled over into the left lane, still being cautious about my speed. The trooper remained in the right lane, about two car lengths ahead of me. We continued on like this for 3-4 minutes. I was nervous the entire time. It just seemed odd to me that this trooper would remain so close when we were on this big expanse of highway.

Finally, the trooper slowed way down, but wait! He pulled in behind me in the left lane and turned on his blue flashing lights.

Great, not only am I being pulled over by a state trooper, but now I’m going to have to rescue him from the vultures too!

The state trooper sat in his car for a looong time behind me, a very long time, a very very very long time. My nervousness was reaching a peak and my air conditioning was working overtime trying to keep my car cool. Was the sweat dripping down my face from nervousness or heat, or a combination of both.

The trooper exited his vehicle and approached mine with both hands on his hips, with more swagger than a policeman in a Clint Eastwood movie. There were no witnesses out here in the panhandle. Was I going to be beaten? Were drugs going to be planted in my car? I thought for sure I was going to jail.

It seemed like everything was moving in slow motion. Maybe it was just the heat waves shimmering on the blacktop. The officer approached my car. The swagger had left his hips and risen to his voice.

“Ya know what I pulled you over for partner,” he drawled.

“No sir, I have no idea,” I answered.

“Ya was drivin’ in my blind spot back there. If I hadda needed to pull over to the lef’ lane, I mighta hit ya.”

“I’m sorry sir, I didn’t realize that,” I answered.

Here’s what I really wanted to say…

“You idiot. You were tailgating me, then you pulled in front of me causing me to tailgate you. I moved to the left so I wouldn’t be tailgating anymore. Why were you doing that when we have all this highway open?”

Fortunately I held my tongue and didn’t say anything. Remember, this was the panhandle and there were no witnesses. It was not my day to become vulture food. I can see the newspaper report now…

Colorado man found eaten by vultures on the side of the road in the Texas panhandle. The foreigner had no idea when he stopped to pee that he should have had a shotgun in one hand while taking care of business here in the panhandle. Outsiders beware! We don’t tolerate disrespect for the law in these parts.

The officer returned my paperwork and instructed me to have a good day.

Have a good day?

Have a good day?

For the rest of the summer, I drove about 5 miles under the limit through that entire section of my commute to college.

Maybe I’m being too rough on this trooper. With the exception of the occasional road kill and once every decade when a truck filled with cocaine was discovered, there wasn’t much happening in his part of the world. I drove this section of road twice a week for three summers, for a total of about 24 times. He drove it EVERY DAY!

He could have just stopped me, told me he was lonely and then we could have driven to the next small town and chatted over bad coffee and tasty tacos at the local diner. He could have shared about his dream to become a Texas Ranger and how he ended up in the Texas panhandle. I would have listened. I love Texas Rangers, especially Walker, Texas Ranger.

Episode 136 – 10 Ideas For Creating Traditions

Traditions are such an important part of every band program, and traditions need to be unique to you and your school. When I started at one of my schools, they only had one tradition, and it was terrible! It was hard for me to continue it, but I needed to just for one year.

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Canon City Music and Blossom Festival

Be Authentically U

Get Tickets Here

FEEL FEARLESS AND FLAWLESS AS YOU HEAR, LEARN HOW TO…
BE AUTHENTICALLY U!!

Throughout this event, the speakers will provoke our minds with questions and fill our notebooks with ideas of how Authenticity can help you be more authentic in YOUR life! If you want to take your life to the next level, here’s how!

Many people fail to show their true journey. They show us images and quotes of inspiration. They share when things are great not when things are real. The reality is… there is no reality. Not everyone succeeds. One huge take away I have learned this year when my cancer came back is that authenticity is not just about being real, it is about vulnerability. Sharing and showing what REALLY happens behind closed doors. I believe this knowledge could help people who attend to see the light of this world and by learning how to truly be authentic in life they would have more followers, clients, and supporters.

Tentative Agena for other speakers

10-10:30 Opening Remarks by Trixie

10:15-10:30 Comedienne Dia Kline

10:30 to 11:00- Mythica VonGriffyn- Self-esteem and Body-image, the foundation for everything

11:00 to 11:30- Jennifer Lonnberg- 5 steps to Embodied grace

12:00-12:55 Keynote Speaker James Divine “Growing Up Italian”

1:00-1:30- Stephen Glitzer -Uncovering One’s Spiritual Truth

1:30 -2:00- Ann Kaemingk -The First Five Things

3:00-3:30- Jason Kendrick- Understand to be Understood, Honor their truth and yours

3:30-3:45 BIO BREAK

4:00-4:30- Gregory William’s- Transform Your Thinking, Reform Your Success

4:30-5- Final remarks, Q&A, and audience comments and thoughts on the event.

5 pm-close of the event! Trixie’s final words of thank you

Topics are on VulnerabilityRealnessRawness, or Authenticity.

Get Tickets Here

Episode 135 – 8 Tips For Dealing With Kids Wanting To Switch Instruments

The dreaded “I want to switch instruments.” Although there are occasionally legitimate reasons for kids switching instruments, most of the time you have to become a psychologist and dig deep to find the “real” reason. You are a coach! Here are ten tips to help you out.

Even more dreaded is when students say they want to switch to drums! I covered that in Episode 123.

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I Wasn’t Always This Way

James Divine

People look at me – 52, getting better looking each year, married to my high school sweetheart, parent of four, grandparent of 6, successful band & orchestra teacher, author, speaker, musician – and they think “Wow, James is so confident and sure of himself. Life has been good to him. I wish my life was like that.”

I wasn’t always this way!

I struggled, really struggled with self-esteem for many years. I know it was related to having an abusive father, being molested and all the damage that did to my psyche. I ALWAYS felt like I had to be dating someone, and my self-esteem plummeted when a girl would break up with me. I would beg her to come back, to give me another chance, to tell me where I failed. By the way, this is the worst thing to do. I should have said, “OK…I was thinking the same thing.”

My friend Amy – after hearing about the umpteenth time of a girl breaking up with me and how sad and lonely I was – she was one of those people who got to the point quickly – confronted me about why I felt like I needed to be dating someone all the time. I don’t think she even realized the impact of her words. It caused me to think. It caused me to change my behavior. I decided to stop being worried about finding the right person. Maybe I needed to focus on me, on becoming a better person! Becoming more Christ-like.

The interesting thing is that when I did that, that’s when I found my soul mate, my life-long lover, my best friend. I started dating Susan soon after that talk with Amy. I knew in about a week that Susan was probably the one. (By the way guys, after a week is not the time to mention this, even if you know deep in your soul).

Even after I started my adult life, got married, joined the Army band and was a successful husband, dad and musician, my self-esteem was still rock bottom.

I wasn’t always this way!

You see, I am a recovering people pleaser. At first glance, a people pleaser seems to be a really nice person. Everyone can count on them. Need cookies baked, call a people pleaser. Need someone on a committee, call a people pleaser. People pleasers can’t say no. Ultimately for me, this desire to please grew out of a fear of rejection, which had its roots in not being close to my father due to his abuse of my mom. I felt that those close to me might reject me if I didn’t do everything they wanted.

Although I started killing off the roots of what caused me to be a people pleaser, I didn’t totally sever the roots until I went to LifePlan in 2015. LifePlan is basically two intense days of physical, emotional and spiritual counseling. In the course of the two days, you uncover your roots – patterns and behaviors that have contributed to how you act or react to things – and sever a lot of those roots (the bad roots). I learned to leave those people pleasing tendencies behind.

I wasn’t always this way!

So when you see me – successful, self-assured, confident, willing to disagree, making sure I have my priorities straight – I want you to realize it wasn’t always like this. It is a journey, a process, sometimes hard work that takes you from one point to another. I had the same doubts you have. I had the same struggles you have. I had the same lack of self-esteem as you have.

I overcame and

Now I am this way (but I wasn’t always this way)

And I like that I’m this way…the only one I truly have to please is God

And He’s pleased with me because He is making me into His image

By taking care of me first, it has given me more time

By focusing on my mission and calling, it has made me a better person

And believe it or not, I love others more than I ever have

 

So don’t look at me and say, “I wish”

But look at me and say, “If he could do it, with God’s help I can too.”

 

I love you.

I’m proud of you.

You make my life rich.

 

* James is first and foremost a son of the King. He loves that he gets to teach band and orchestra. He is also a musician, speaker and author of “Forgive: One man’s story of being molested.” Find out more about LifePlan at www.chrislocurto.com

Episode 134 – Interview with Marc Gelfo, Creator of the Modacity Practice App

Join me as I interview Marc Gelfo, musician and creator of the Modacity Practice App – an all inclusive practice aid that also includes a recorder and drone.

Find out more and download the app at www.modacity.co. Questions about the app? Contact the team at hello@modacity.co.

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