Episode 80: Getting Sax Players To Play With Good Tone

As a professional sax player myself, I am sometimes deeply disturbed by what I hear coming from the sax section, even in my own band! But it doesn’t have to be that way. In this episode I share 8 tips that will help your students to have a better sax sound.

Episode 78: Answers to Listener’s Questions

I take a slight turn in this podcast and answer a few listener questions. I hope to do more of these. If you would like to submit a question, please go to the contact page at www.jamesdivine.net and send your question.

  1. Joel writes…I’ve been teaching awhile with the program growing stagnant. Do I need to move on? If not, how do I pull it out of the rut? Or can a program only become “so good.”
  2. An anonymous listener writes…What do you do if there is a school culture of AP classes and no time for band?

Submit your question

Episode 74 – Teaching Guitar Effectively: Interview with Bill Swick

Join me as I interview Bill Swick – master guitar teacher. We dig into several strategies for how to effectively teach guitar, especially if you are a band teacher.

When I started at my current school 12 years ago, I had no experience as a guitar teacher. I must confess that in the back of my mind I planned on getting rid of the guitar class as soon as I could. How dumb I was! Guitar draws in a whole different group of students who may not be drawn in by band, orchestra or choir. It doesn’t take away from the other classes…it adds to it.

Out of 18,000 teachers in Clark County, Nevada, Bill was selected as the 2013-2014 Teacher of the Year. He has developed a year-long lesson plan that follows and covers his state’s curriculum. Find out the biggest mistake guitar teachers make. Pick up several strategies for how to teach guitar more effectively, including some discussion of Prodigy software for assessment.

You can sign up for Bill’s free newsletter, which includes free resources, by sending him an email with “Free Newsletter” in the subject. Send that request to: billswick at msn.com. Find out more about Bill and order his materials at www.billswick.com.

Also see Episode 33: You CAN teach guitar and orchestra

Episode 72: Incorporate Writing & Math WITHOUT Giving Up Band Time

In this episode, I share a quick strategy that will give you up-loadable evidence to show that you are incorporating writing and math into your curriculum. The best thing about it is that it is probably something you are already doing!

Episode 71 – How To Practice, with Professor Jimmy

Professor Jimmy, James Divine’s twin music teacher brother, gives you tips on how to use your practice time wisely.

Professor Jimmy is much more fun to watch rather than listen to. Watch him here.

 

 

Episode 69: What To Do The Last Two Weeks Of School

You just had your final concert but there are still two weeks left at school. What do you do now? Don’t make the mistake I made early in my career and have no plan. Now is the time to try a few different things while still holding the students to high expectations. Listen to find out more.

Episode 68: Successful Differentiation In The Music Classroom

Many of us have learned to differentiate for special needs students, but did you know gifted students also need differentiation? In this episode, experienced music educator and music supervisor shares a few strategies for differentiation.

Does this whet your appetite for more? Earn college credit and learn more this summer when Samantha teaches a 4-day seminar of the same title. Find out more and register HERE for the course at Colorado College.

Episode 67: 5 Tips For More Efficient Rehearsals

Have you ever felt like you stunk as a teacher? I have 18 years experience and recently I felt this way. One of my colleagues came for a visit. He gave me some tips afterwards and pointed out some things that I should know better about! I was embarrassed (but glad he pointed these things out).


I took a good look in the mirror and immediately implemented some changes. Rehearsals have been more efficient and productive. These were things I knew – I had even implemented them and taught others to – but I had let things slide gradually.

Hope this reminder helps you as much as it has me. 

4 Tips to Help you be a Better Band Director using the Acronym BAND.

4 Tips to Help you be a Better Band Director using the Acronym BAND.

There are four key areas that – if you focus on these and make them a priority – they can help you be a better band director. None of them have anything to do with music, but the word “BAND” does fall nicely into place to help you remember them.

B-Bread

Watch what you eat! When life gets busy, it can be very easy to grab something to go. I once was 30 pounds heavier than I am right now, all due to poor eating choices and failure to plan. Plan ahead what you are going to eat. Buy some healthy snacks. Keep them in a fridge at work, in your glove compartment, wherever. Pack a healthy lunch. Watch the pizza. I once ate 8 slices at a football game and regretted it for the next day and a half. I could do that when I was 18, but I’m in my 40s now.

A-Activity

Move your body. Exercise is important, not only to your physical self, but your emotional and mental health too. Pick something you like. Jogging, hiking, swimming, biking, walking. Put more ing in your life. You should strive for a minimum of 20-30 minutes 4-5x a week. It will lengthen your career and leave you feeling like you have more energy. Warning: When I was 30 pounds heavier and first embarked on exercising and eating better, I initially felt worse. This is normal.

N-Night

Get plenty of sleep. The amount is different for each person. I need 7 hours a night, so I try to make sure I get that at least 6 nights a week. Try napping. The floor of my office becomes a 10 minute nap area during marching season. Students have posted hundreds of pictures of me sleeping on the bus on a trip.

D-Diversion

Have a life outside of band. I heard of a band director who does not allow himself to read anything unless it is something that will help his band. I think this is unhealthy. Take up a hobby. It might even be music related, but not be something you need to do for a living. I had to quit giving lessons for the most part because I felt like my day was never ending, but I perform, record and compose simply because I like to and it’s an outlet for me. I also hike, bike and meet with friends (and spend time with my family of course).

When life gets off track and you’re not sure what to do, think B.A.N.D.

Episode 66: The Joy of Teaching in a Rural School 2; interview with Karen Gregg

Where can three degrees in bassoon performance take you? Sometimes to exciting and unexpected places like teaching music in a rural public school. Join me as I have a conversation with Karen Gregg about the joy of teaching in a rural school, where Karen has a ton of community involvement, more flexibility, gets to know her students and has 40-45% of students in band.

Also check out Episode 41: The Joy of Teaching in a Rural School; interview with Kevin Beaber.

The 5 Band Directors You Meet In Heaven

When I first started teaching band in 1998, I was VERY isolated. I didn’t even know very many band directors in my local area. I was only part time, showing up on campus right before my 1st class and leaving right after my 2nd class…I had kids to pick up from daycare. Most of my music contacts were in the performance sector.

By 2000, my third year of teaching, I became full time. As I participated in events like solo and ensemble and all-city band, I got to know many of the directors. But my kids were still small. This was a time when I needed a mentor the most but when I had one the least.

In 2005, I switched schools to my current position at Falcon High School. In some ways it was like starting over. At the local events, it was a different group of directors. But they seemed to have one thing in common…they all seemed old to me (maybe older is a better word).

Fast forward to 2016…

When I look around at band director gatherings now, I am one of the oldest. How did I get here? Are people looking up to me like I looked up to others? I’m just realizing how little I know!

I have the opportunity to mentor and encourage others now. One of the ways I do that is through The Music Ed Podcast, quick and easy tips for how to be a better band teacher. As I approach my 50th year – not of teaching but of life – my 18th year in this wonderful field of music education – my 30th year in music – I reflect on some of my greatest mentors and what made them great.

I present you with The 5 Band Directors You Meet In Heaven

 Ed Cannava

 I first had the chance to meet Ed in 2000 at the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee, where he brought his Dry Creek Dixie Dawgs to perform. I was performing with the Rough Riders Dixieland Band. We did a few selections with Ed’s group and was able to mentor and encourage them. At the same time I found a teaching colleague who became a mentor and a friend.

I was immediately impressed with Ed, first with the quality of his student performing groups and then with Ed the person. He is humble, works hard and willing to give a listening ear to a young director needing advice. Even now, every time I speak with Ed, I walk away feeling like I’m a better teacher and person. Ed offers advice and encouragement, and he does it in a way that doesn’t allow you to rest on past accomplishments. One must always strive to the next level.

The great thing about Ed is that he realizes it’s a journey. Every band program is different, and although sometimes he has disagreed, he has been able to see why I might do things differently. We share an Italian heritage and a love for emotional – not just technical – conducting. The best conductors I know are at least part Italian.

During trying times at my current school, Ed offered a ton of encouragement. It helped me make the decision to stay. Longevity is a huge factor in developing a great program. Although it’s not the only factor, it is one we often miss the importance of. Ed had been at his school for over 20 years. Although he retired about seven years ago, he is still active in many areas of music.

Dale Crockett

 I have only gotten to know Dale in the last 8 years or so, and more closely in the last 3-4, but I remember hearing his name as early as 1993, when I was still in the Army band at Fort Carson.

Dale is the most down to earth, humble person I know. Sometimes at local music meetings, you can see someone’s ego attached to their shoulder, like a little elf. Why would someone want to carry that dead weight around all the time? Dale carries no such weight. He stands tall – literally – and you can see he is proud of his students and proud of his work, but it’s the pride in a job well done, not due to ego.

Although Dale is “retired”, he still works “half-time” at a 5A school where he is the only band teacher. I would venture to say that it’s a full time job with half time pay, especially during marching season. It’s obvious when talking to Dale that he loves his students and that he loves his fellow directors. He is always willing to take time for a cup of coffee to talk shop or just talk about life. Did you know Dale has been a pastor at various times in his life? Ask him about it, and about his faith.

Joe Brice

 Many of you know him as the guy who heads up the Regional Concert Band Festival in Colorado. The festival is always well organized and smooth running with great clinicians and adjudicators. This is because Joe takes pride in his work. His wife Carol is often with him at music events. She is like a mom to so many of us. She does a lot of the behind the scenes work too. She greets everyone with a hug. This is more important than you might realize.

I got to know Joe through a mentorship program that one of the music programs in our state was offering…free mentors to come and work with your band. Did I mention they were free? Many directors do not take the organization up on this offer.

Joe was at my school for a clinic. He mentioned the fact that I did not have a tuba player in that particular group. I replied with “I just don’t have anyone playing tuba.” He wouldn’t let me fall back on that. He said, “Have you asked anyone?” I admitted that I hadn’t. The next week in class I asked for volunteers who were interested in learning tuba. I immediately got several people who wanted to try.

An interesting bit of trivia… Joe was Ed’s mentor, who became my mentor. I in turn am mentoring people too. What you do today has an effect for many generations!

Orlando Otis

 You’ll never meet someone as hard working and dedicated as Orlando, yet he is down to earth, friendly and humble. Orlando has achieved success in his program, yet he still finds time to give a word of encouragement and support to those who need it. He also puts on a terrific jazz and marching festival. His booster parents know how to take care of directors.

Orlando and I are in a competition for best-looking band director and band that has the most fun. I definitely have him beat on the former, but he is a very close second on the latter.

When I was a “new” band director, new to high school but I really had been teaching for 7 years and was approaching age 40, I brought my jazz band to his festival. My drummer didn’t make it to the bus that morning. This drummer was hot (I’m lying, he just thought he was hot). Orlando’s son filled in for us and did 3x better than our regular drummer. It was an eye opener for the jazz band. They could see where the band could go if we had a great drummer instead of just one who was ok. That drummer didn’t last to the next semester, but the memories of the jazz band did.

Jess Girardi

 Anyone who has taught in Colorado for any length of time knows Jess Girardi. He retired from Englewood HS, where he had a very successful program. Jess has remained active well into retirement encouraging young directors and teaching adjudication sessions. If you sit down with him in conversation for 10 minutes, you feel like you walk away with an encyclopedia’s worth of information. He’s smart, likable, friendly, and lends a listening ear, plus he’s Italian.

Jess has a quiet faith that is important to him. I believe it guides him and makes him the person he is. There is no guile in Jess. What you see is what you get.

Hosea Haynes

 When Hosea finally “retired”, he had 40+ years teaching experience. The only reason he retired is that he found out at a retirement workshop that he was working for just 10% of his pay (with retirement he earned almost 90% of his salary). He retired, but continued to substitute the maximum number of days he was allowed to and also worked for Meeker Music. He earned more in retirement than he did working full time.

Hosea became a mentor and then a friend. I had been teaching for 6 years at a private school. I had no teaching license. I began a program that allowed me to earn my license. I needed to find a band teacher with a master’s degree who would mentor me. Ken at Meeker Music suggested Hosea, and that started our friendship.

Hosea met with me for more than the required amounts of time mandated by the college. I know he wasn’t paid much, but he didn’t do it for the money anyway. When the year through the college was over, we continued to meet regularly. Hosea always had advice and encouragement for me. He always had a positive attitude. Illness took him from this earth much too soon, so that’s why he is number 6 on this list of 5 directors. Hosea has already preceded us to heaven and is conducting the community band that will welcome the rest of us.

No out of tune players

Instruments work perfectly all the time

Reeds never squeak

Valves never break

There are no poor attitudes

Tuba players move in all the time

I’m looking forward to sitting in the sax section (wait, are there saxes in heaven).

Find a mentor TODAY!

***James teaches band, orchestra and guitar at Falcon HS. He is the author of 40 Ways To Make Money As A Musician and Forgive: One man’s story of being molested. James is very thankful for these mentors and many more and attributes his success to their advice and encouragement. Find out more about James and invite him to speak to your group at www.jamesdivine.net.

Episode 63: 11 Ways To Lose A Band Student (and 11 Ways To Keep Them)

It’s the little things that make the difference. In this podcast I share 11 things we sometimes do (or fail to do) that cause us to lose a student.


We often get the music right, but fail at the relationship. Incorporate these ideas and you will find yourself keeping more of your students. 

Episode 62: What To Do If You Don’t Have A Bass Player For Jazz Band

A Bass Player and Percussionist are absolutely essential to making a jazz band or combo sound good. You can make almost any combination of instruments work. There are good percussionists almost everywhere, but what do you do if you don’t have a bass player?


In this podcast I share several strategies for obtaining a decent bass player.