Episode 77: How and Why You Should Start a Tri-M Chapter

Like me you probably think you don’t have time to run a Tri-M chapter. I’m here to tell you you don’t not have time! A 2-hour investment per month can yield hundreds of hours of influence. It’s simple and not expensive.

Go to the Nafme website to find out how to start a chapter in three easy steps. They have a ton of resources for you:

Tri-M Music Honor Society

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 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.

Episode 65: How To Properly Use Festival Warm Up Time

When I was a young director, I thought the thirty minutes they gave us to warm up was too long. I just didn’t know what to do. Now I fill those thirty minutes quickly and wish I had more. I share my warm up process for festival and for most days in band.

Link to the Breathing Gym Materials

Link to Function Chorales by Stephen Melillo

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.

How To Book More Gigs

Excerpted from “The Saxophone Diaries.” Release June 2016

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. This worked really well from 1996-2001.

  • 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 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. 

Sleeping Underneath A Piano

Guest Post by Steven Kristopher. Check out links to his albums at the end of this post.

 

It was the fall of 2007, and I had been on the road full time (10 months out

of each year) for two years. On the road as a musician in a band was great, and

difficult, and amazing and painful, all at the same time. I had an hour or two

before our gig that night. I was in Little Rock, Arkansas on the road with

Midnight to Twelve and before a gig we had some downtime.  I decided to go

on a walk and clear my head so I could focus on music. I saw a piano store a

few blocks away from the club we were playing.  I went in knowing I couldn’t

afford any of the beautiful pieces that sat before me.  It was a small store and the

pianos were almost flush against one another.  I side-stepped toward one I’d

never played before.  I sat down to a Bechstein Grand Piano.

 

I played the first couple of chords of a song I was writing at the time and I could not believe the

amazing tone of this beast.  It was the most beautiful sounding piano I’d ever

played.  I played it for a few minutes and the owner of the store walked over and

asked if I had any questions.  I did.  I asked him, how much for the one I was

sitting at.  He said, “the smaller one next to you goes for 85, and the one you’re

sitting goes for 110.”  Inside, I was astonished at the price.  He meant $85,000

and $110,000.  I was so blown away and tried my best to restrain myself to make

it look like I knew that’s what the price would be.  The owner was very kind.  He

gave me his business card, which I still have to this day on my desk.  Its a

reminder of the experience and hopefully one day I can afford a Bechstein piano

for my home.  Back then I was playing keyboards in a rock band touring the

country opening for bigger bands, playing clubs theaters, festivals, etc., so to

own a piano like that was a big dream.

 

When I was a kid, I started playing drums in my church and I knew I

eventually wanted to play an instrument that would allow me to write songs.  I

wasn’t sure on guitar or piano until my friend played a song for me.  Create in

Me a Clean Heart by Keith Green, was a song that had a 3 minute piano

prelude that I was very impressed with.  So much so, that when the song

finished, I said the words, “I want to play piano like that.”  Not six months later, I

was playing a Casio Keyboard and an upright piano my Mother had in the living

room as much as I could with a chord book in hand.  I learned as many songs of

artists I loved that I could.  I would put on a C.D. and play along, learning songs

by ear and figuring out how songs were written.  A couple of years later, I was

writing my own songs.  I sincerely love the piano very much.  It calms me down

to sit and play.  It brings me joy to play.  It shows me parts of myself I didn’t know

existed.  It helps me grow as an individual in many ways.  I told my Father one

day that I would trade my bed and all the things in my room for a piano.  He

asked me, “Where would you sleep?”  I said, “I’d sleep underneath the piano,

where else?!”

 

I currently live in a house to small for a piano and use two keyboards that

are great.  But there is nothing like playing an amazing sounding piano, feeling at

my fingertips the craftsmanship and the artistry of something that is so perfect to

me.  I am hoping that one day, I will be able to walk into that shop in Little Rock,

Arkansas and buy a Bechstein Concert Grand Piano for my home.  That would

be a pretty great day, to say the least.

Steven Kristopher

 

www.StevenKristopher.com

www.facebook.com/stevenkristopher

www.iTunes.com/stevenkristopher

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPYM8dgXVL0 – Psalm 23 Official Video

With Abandon (New Album) Itunes Link:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/with-abandon/id1063836099