Episode 184 – What To Do In a Parade

Parade

A parade can be a lot of fun – or it can be stressful and annoying. The choice is really up to you. These tips can help it lean more towards the fun side!

Has the show benefited you? Would you consider supporting the podcast with a $5/month pledge through patreon or make a one time donation of any amount through Paypal (jamesthedivine@gmail.com). 

Find out more about fundraising for your program at Scool Services

Check out Music, Instruments and Science which includes 8+ lessons that are great for use on sub or distance learning days.

Need a speaker for your event? Need leadership training for your students? I’d love to talk.

Have a question for the podcast? jamesthedivine@gmail.com or 719-238-4193. 

Multitude of links and resources here

Episode 183 – Is Getting a Master’s Degree Worthwhile and Affordable

An affordable master's degree

Although I have been in music my entire adult life – 34 years to be exact – I did not have a music degree until I was 43 years old. I had wanted to earn my master’s degree for many years, but kids, life, and cost prevented me. There are excellent master’s in music education that cost 25, 35, 50 thousand or more! Do you know what I paid for mine? Just $9,000! It’s more affordable than you think. And there were no student loans.

Has the show benefited you? Would you consider supporting the podcast with a $5/month pledge through patreon or make a one time donation of any amount through Paypal (jamesthedivine@gmail.com). 

Find out more about fundraising for your program at Scool Services

Check out Music, Instruments and Science which includes 8+ lessons that are great for use on sub or distance learning days.

Need a speaker for your event? Need leadership training for your students? I’d love to talk.

Have a question for the podcast? jamesthedivine@gmail.com or 719-238-4193. 

Multitude of links and resources here

Advice: Choosing Quality Band Literature at the Appropriate Level

Choosing Quality Band Literature

Here are a few things I have learned about selecting music for wind band…

Ability Level of the Ensemble You Direct: 

A piece of music may be the greatest creation ever made, but if it is too difficult for the students to play, they will become discouraged. I often made the mistake of selecting literature that was too difficult in the early years of my career. Does this mean that there should never be a piece in the folder that is beyond students’ reach? No, there should always be something that we are looking at that would be a stretch for our group. Musicians have never “arrived.” We are always working and striving for better things.

My students still say things like “This is too easy.” I have learned to explain to them that – yes, their individual part is easy, and each person may feel that way about their part, but when we put it all together it isn’t musical yet. It’s hard to make music when one is struggling with the technique. There is good quality music available at all levels. At some levels it will take more digging to find the quality stuff, but it’s there. You might use a resource like the Teaching Music Through Performance series.

Instrumentation: 

This is a difficult one. If you don’t have an oboe/English horn player, it will be difficult to do a piece like Russian Christmas Music. It can be done – and as a professional sax player I have played the oboe and English horn cues in that song – but it just isn’t the same. Likewise if you have no trumpet players or few low brass players, there are simply some things you cannot perform.

I want to thank one of my mentors, Joe Brice, for helping me in my teaching in this area. He came to clinic my band and said “You need another tuba.” Of course I agreed but stated that I couldn’t do anything. Joe answered with a detailed, thoughtful answer that represented his 50+ years of experience. He said, “Did you ask anybody?” At that point I wanted to slap my head in a big “Duh; why didn’t I think of that” moment. I asked and convinced three students to switch over.

My point is that – although instrumentation (or lack of it) can be difficult, we really need to take a long term approach to it. Ask your students if anyone wants to switch, especially if – like me – you have a ton of flute players and less of others. Some of those who switch will become awesome; some of them will go back to their original instrument. That’s ok! Explain to the students why it is important that some of them switch for the good of the band.

Rehearsal Time: 

We are involved in the field of music education. Sometimes I think we forget that…I know I have…especially as we rush to prepare for a concert, festival or competition. A director of a professional symphony may be able to prepare difficult pieces with just 2-3 rehearsals. However, our job is not only directing, but educating. As I have gained more experience, I have realized that the educating part of the job is much more important and has more lasting effects.

I think it is better to do one or two high quality pieces and play them extremely well than to perform 4-5 pieces and not have really learned anything in the process. It is important to dig deep into the music, the history and even some analysis of the songs being performed. So often we are so busy with the need to get through the music that we forget to instruct students about the music.

Select Quality Literature: 

Now we arrive at probably the greatest challenge in selecting music. How do we define quality? For me, the definition has changed a lot over the course of my teaching. There are many pieces I regret having wasted money on in my early years of teaching. I know quality when I hear it, but I don’t always recognize lack of quality (if that even makes sense). There is quality literature at every level. There is junk at every level.

Here is my definition of quality music…

Quality music moves me emotionally. Sometimes it makes me uncomfortable, not a cover your ears and run out of the room uncomfortable, but uncomfortable in the sense that my thinking is challenged. It is expressive. It is melodic. Although it may contain repeating motifs, it is not the same two measure repeating motif for 120 measures.

Now do you feel qualified to determine whether music is of quality or not? Me neither. We need something more. Frank Battisti in his book The Winds of Change says that many directors have stopped attending concerts and listening and studying great music. We must expose ourselves to great music so we can know when we hear it. Battisti likens it to a wine connoisseur whose tastes improve as he becomes exposed to more wine. I liken it to a little kid who thinks a fast food burger is the greatest thing on earth, until she matures and realizes that there are burgers ten times better than the fast food variety.

I encourage you to listen to great music, attend your state conference and listen to the groups selected to perform, and when you go to contest, schedule some time to listen and observe other groups. As Battisti states, your taste level will be elevated. You will become better equipped to know when you hear poor quality music.

I will end with a quote from Battisti, “We are what we consume! If one wants to become an artist conductor/teacher – one must consume great Art.”

***James has been a performer and educator for over 30 years, teaching band and orchestra at every level from 4th-12th grade. He also hosts the music ed podcast, delivers keynote speeches using music, and has written several books on music and life in general. Find out more at www.jamesdivine.net. 

Episode 182 – Should You Focus On Sound With Beginners – Here Are Three Tips

Great Sound from Beginning Band

Air will get you there! I learned this from one of my mentors when he would come to work with my band – and even as a professional musician – when taking lessons – I was told to USE MORE AIR. In this episode I share three tips to help your beginners get a fuller, rounder, thicker, more beautiful tone. It’s a process – a life long one at that!

Has the show benefited you? Would you consider supporting the podcast with a $5/month pledge through patreon or make a one time donation of any amount through Paypal (jamesthedivine@gmail.com). 

Find out more about fundraising for your program at Scool Services

Check out Music, Instruments and Science which includes 8+ lessons that are great for use on sub or distance learning days.

Need a speaker for your event? Need leadership training for your students? I’d love to talk.

Have a question for the podcast? jamesthedivine@gmail.com or 719-238-4193. 

Multitude of links and resources here

Episode 181 – Teaching Jazz Phrasing

Teaching Jazz Phrasing

I recently taught these exact same lessons to my 6th, 7th, and 8th grade bands. It didn’t take them long to get the hang of playing notes the proper length and acquiring a swing feel. In this episode, I lead you through the process to teach the same concepts to your band.

Has the show benefited you? Would you consider supporting the podcast with a $5/month pledge through patreon or make a one time donation of any amount through Paypal (jamesthedivine@gmail.com). 

Find out more about fundraising for your program at Scool Services

Check out Music, Instruments and Science which includes 8+ lessons that are great for use on sub or distance learning days.

Need a speaker for your event? Need leadership training for your students? I’d love to talk.

Have a question for the podcast? jamesthedivine@gmail.com or 719-238-4193. 

Multitude of links and resources here

Are you burned out? Take this test to find out.

Burned Out

In 1998, I started my first teaching job with passion, dedication, love and joy. I gave my all to my students, but I neglected myself and – I’m ashamed to say – at times my family. I became extremely burned out. When I left that school for another in 2005, I promised myself I would never let that happen again! I set boundaries, I took better care of my health, I left for home at the end of the school day.

As my own kids grew, I found myself starting a marching band and devoting more and more time to my work. I didn’t mind. My responsibilities at home had changed, I had more time, and I saw what a difference marching band was making in my students’ lives. I had overcome the possibility of burnout!

WRONG!!!

I succumbed again. It wasn’t quite as bad as the first time, but this time I didn’t recognize the signs until I heard a presentation by Dr. Frank Tracz of Kansas State. He shared the burnout link with us that you will find below.

I left my position for a new one teaching middle school with no marching band. Sometimes – not always – one must leave a position to regain balance. That’s a whole blog post of it’s own.

Are you burned out? Take this Burnout Self Test from the good people at Mind Tools to find out. If the results come out positive, make the changes necessary to prevent burnout. You’ll be glad you did.

I just took the test again recently. Even though I am not burned out, I am in the danger zone – probably because of Covid. I address those thoughts in a recent podcast HERE.

Episode 180 – Have you thought of leaving the profession – Hang in there

Committed to Teaching Band

It has been a crazy year for teachers! Even though I KNOW I am where I am supposed to be, I still found myself looking at job postings at least 100x the last year. Listen in as I share from my heart about my calling and how those of us with a high EQ can navigate our crazy feelings.

Has the show benefited you? Would you consider supporting the podcast with a $5/month pledge through patreon or make a one time donation of any amount through Paypal (jamesthedivine@gmail.com). 

Find out more about fundraising for your program at Scool Services

Check out Music, Instruments and Science which includes 8+ lessons that are great for use on sub or distance learning days.

Need a speaker for your event? Need leadership training for your students? I’d love to talk.

Have a question for the podcast? jamesthedivine@gmail.com or 719-238-4193. 

Multitude of links and resources here

11 Ways to Lose (and Keep) a Band Student

11 Ways To Lose (and Keep) A Band Student

Nobody wants to lose a band student. Sometimes it’s inevitable – you get a student who doesn’t want to work at all for example. Other times it may be our own fault.

Here are 11 ways to lose a band student for sure (and 11 ways to keep them).

1. Have Roving Eyes

Instead of focusing on the here and now and what students you do have, always look for the next Miles Davis. Never be content with who you have.

Make the best of who and what you have. Develop them to their fullest ability. Miles Davis could be weird at times anyway.

2. Don’t Answer Calls and Emails

Answering these takes time, time away from preparing the music. Just delete/erase these before they clutter up your inbox.

If a student takes the time to call or email you, it is generally because he wants to do well and improve. If you don’t respond in a timely manner, you are showing lack of concern for them. Many times students have told me I’m the only teacher who responds to their emails.

3. Don’t listen to feedback

Some of my directors growing up were “My way or the highway” types who really were not interested in becoming better people. Ignoring the feedback from your students means you won’t have as great of an opportunity to improve.

Listen to student feedback, even if you disagree. Maybe there is a compromise in there somewhere. Listen carefully if it’s coming from your leaders.

4. Don’t Get To Know Your Students

After all, music is the most important thing, so why would we ever ask them about their families, future plans or other activities. (Caveat…I DO make sure my students understand that our short rehearsal together is going to be focused on music).

Before, after and during breaks in rehearsal, get to know about your students’ families, jobs, dreams, interests and hobbies.

5. Focus only on your wants and needs

Who cares what songs the students want to play. It’s all about winning the competition and making me look good.

Isn’t it ok to play a Disney song once in awhile? Let the students pick some of the repertoire. I usually ask them to send me a www.jwpepper.com link so I can review it. If it’s not suited to our group, I tell them why.

6. Argue over little things

After all, what type of tread is on the bottom of the marching shoe has won and lost championships, right?

After 23 years of teaching, I quit being so strict about footwear at concerts. Do I want the kids to look nice? You bet. Does a percussionist wearing black sneakers instead of black dress shoes affect anyone’s enjoyment of the music? Not really.

7. Ignore The Little Things

I know Sally doesn’t have music yet, but there’s just no time for such trivial things. I’ll update the grades at the end of the semester. I know Brian took a retest weeks ago, but I don’t think he will mind having a D as long as I change it before the end of the semester.

The little things add up to big things. I am not perfect in this, so I write EVERYTHING down. I don’t want to forget the small details.

8. Don’t show appreciation

The students have the privilege of being in my class.

The students have the option not to be in your class. It’s your privilege to get to teach the best and brightest in the school.

9. Don’t Apologize

Rule #1: The director is always right.

Rule #2: When the director is wrong, refer to rule #1.

Saying “sorry” when called for is one of the best things you can do. I’ve lost my temper at a kid. I’ve said something that humiliated them or done something I shouldn’t have. I ALWAYS apologize. It makes an impact on the students.

10. Poor care of facilities

Hey, the music is the most important thing, so why do the room and instruments need to be taken care of.

Put away piles of stuff. Organize. Throw away. Make the facility look the best you can with what you have.

11. Don’t care

Look at the players as people who fill a need for an instrument rather than as people.

Show concern. Call when a student is away for extended illness. When they return, tell them how much you missed them.

A student doesn’t care how much you KNOW until they know how much you CARE.

Episode 179 – Job Hunting Tips

It’s that season, where band teacher jobs are listed and many people change schools. Make sure you change for the RIGHT reason. Here are some tips that helped me a few years ago when I changed positions.

Has the show benefited you? Would you consider supporting the podcast with a $5/month pledge through patreon or make a one time donation of any amount through Paypal (jamesthedivine@gmail.com). 

Find out more about fundraising for your program at Scool Services

Check out Music, Instruments and Science which includes 8+ lessons that are great for use on sub or distance learning days.

Need a speaker for your event? Need leadership training for your students? I’d love to talk.

Have a question for the podcast? jamesthedivine@gmail.com or 719-238-4193. 

Multitude of links and resources here

James Divine – Youth Success Speaker

Poverty
Abusive Father
Homelessness
Sexual Abuse

I’ve lived through all of these. I had to overcome them as I realized that I could have a better future than what my life had dictated. I love sharing my story of experiencing all these things, but more importantly, sharing the steps I took to overcome and leave these events in the past where they belong.

In the past 20+ years, I’ve shared this message with tens of thousands of people to help them change their mindset, overcome their past, and move to their best future. You can count on me to be humorous, interactive, and an engaging speaker, full of insights and stories, and music, and humor, and different characters even.

I have been teaching middle and high school students for more than 20 years. I know their struggles. Their pains. Their insecurities. I was exactly like them. I suffered from “I Can’t” syndrome, but finally found the process to break free. I wish it was just a little magic pill, but it’s not. It’s a process. I’ve helped hundreds on their own journey.

Now I’m a veteran, husband, dad, teacher, musician, author, and grandad! Contact me today and let’s discuss your needs.

A Glimpse of my (Italian Widowed) Mom in Heaven

Dealing with a family member who has had a stroke is very difficult. There are so many things to attend to, not to mention wondering if your family member will even survive! My mom had a stroke in May of 2016. At first we thought she was going to die.

When she made it through the first few days and was in recovery, we got to see a glimpse of what she will be like in heaven. It was a wonderful gift…one that I especially treasure now.

Looking back on my life and seeing how my mom acts now, she is sometimes a real PITA (rhymes with her name). No, not an eastern style flat bread. This is a very different definition of PITA.

A lady I know used to occasionally call her grandkids PITA when they were acting up. She said it so sweetly that I thought it was a pet name for them. I asked her what it meant. She said it meant Pain In The ***. My mom can be a real PITA at times.

My sister and I have always lauded her as the master of the guilt trip. We were used to it growing up. We often had interactions like this…

Me: Mom, I’m sorry I talked back to you. Will you forgive me?
Mom: You’re not sorry.
Me: Mom, please forgive me. I’ll never talk back to you again.
Mom: You don’t appreciate anything I do for you.
Me: Mom, I DO appreciate you. I love you.
Mom: You don’t love me. People who love other people don’t talk back to them.

Let’s just say there were times when there was not a lot of grace. If anything, mom has gotten worse about this with age. She is 76 but constantly talks about how when she was 5, one of her sisters stole an orange from her. When you try to reason with her, it backfires and comes back to “Since you are arguing with me, you don’t really love me.”

It has become somewhat of a family joke that all these bad things happen to her because people are prejudiced against Italian widows.

“Jimmy, they got my order wrong at McDonalds on purpose.”
“No, mom, they’re just incompetent. They get everyone’s order wrong.”
“You don’t understand what I’ve been through. They are doing this because I’m an Italian widow.”

Sheesh. They must get my order wrong because I’m the son of an Italian widow!

We all do things wrong in life, including mom, and we all need God’s forgiveness and grace. Mom has somehow lost that grace for others in her own life. However, for three wonderful weeks in June of 2016, we got to see what she will be like in heaven.

A stroke normally does change a person’s behavior, but it is often for the bad. In Mom’s case it was for the good. She became very gentle, charming even with the hospital staff (she normally berates hospital staff. When I apologize for her, they tell me they only have to live with it temporarily while they acknowledge I have had to live with it for life). She ate food prepared by others. As usual, she insisted it wasn’t as good as her own, but she was cute and charming about it (normally she won’t even eat ANY food prepared by others). She was very grateful for life, for the hospital staff, for everyone who came to see her, for the hospital food, for all the well-wishers who came by to visit, for my wife (who was there EVERY day…our Friday night date nights became dinner at the hospital cafeteria for awhile…I am so grateful to have a beautiful woman like that as my soul-mate).

Alas, as her brain healed, she went back to being normal, which for her is depressed, condemning, judgmental and unforgiving. I truly believe the untreated depression contributes to this, as well as undiagnosed mental illness. I have asked my wife to watch me for any mental illness as I know it can be hereditary, but so far nothing has shown up (shhh, the government is looking over my shoulder as I write this).

I hope that reading this article doesn’t give you the impression that I’m ungrateful. My mom was a single mom. She gave up a lot in life so she could purchase a saxophone and music lessons for me, and I’m extremely grateful. We never went hungry. Despite the guilt trips and being chased by a wooden spoon often, we knew we were loved. She taught me about God, probably the best gift she could ever have given me. Mom is racked by a lot of guilt and regret. I wish she would accept the lessons she taught me. God forgives her. He has wiped her past away. He still has plans for her, despite her poor health.

I write this to give you encouragement. Maybe you were raised by someone who was the master of the guilt trip. Maybe you are dealing with mental illness, or stroke, or cancer or a multitude of other things. These issues have to be faced with grace, forgiveness, humor and support from others. With God’s help, I’ve become the person I am today, and I am grateful that for three weeks I had a glimpse into heaven of what my mom will really be like when “God will wipe away every tear” from her past and heal all her wounds.

James Divine is a musician, author and music teacher. His latest book “A Stroke of Bad Luck: A survival guide for when someone you know has a stroke” is available on Amazon. James tries to share truth, grace and love wherever he goes. One of his main goals in life – besides running away from the ever-present wooden spoon – is to act his shoe size, not his age. Find out more at www.jamesdivine.net.

Episode 178 – 7 Things They Don’t Teach You in College

College is great, but we don’t learn everything we need to know there. In this episode, I share seven things I wish I knew BEFORE I started teaching. Learn from my experience.

Has the show benefited you? Would you consider supporting the podcast with a $5/month pledge through patreon or make a one time donation of any amount through Paypal (jamesthedivine@gmail.com). 

Find out more about fundraising for your program at Scool Services

Check out Music, Instruments and Science which includes 8+ lessons that are great for use on sub or distance learning days.

Need a speaker for your event? Need leadership training for your students? I’d love to talk.

Have a question for the podcast? jamesthedivine@gmail.com or 719-238-4193. 

Multitude of links and resources here

Episode 177 – Help! I’m retiring/leaving and don’t know what kind of job to do

There is life after teaching band. It MAY be something still in music, but it may be something totally unrelated to music. You have many options!

To get my free resource 40 Ways to Make Money as a Musician send me an email at jamesthedivine@gmail.com.

Has the show benefited you? Would you consider supporting the podcast with a $5/month pledge through patreon or make a one time donation of any amount through Paypal (jamesthedivine@gmail.com). 

Find out more about fundraising for your program at Scool Services

Check out Music, Instruments and Science which includes 8+ lessons that are great for use on sub or distance learning days.

Need a speaker for your event? Need leadership training for your students? I’d love to talk.

Have a question for the podcast? jamesthedivine@gmail.com or 719-238-4193. 

Multitude of links and resources here

Episode 176 – Take Care of YOU

You are not going to be the best teacher you can be if you don’t put your needs first – physical, relational, spiritual. When you take care of you, you are more equipped to serve your students. Everything in life works under the pay now or pay later rule.

Has the show benefited you? Would you consider supporting the podcast with a $5/month pledge through patreon or make a one time donation of any amount through Paypal (jamesthedivine@gmail.com). 

Find out more about fundraising for your program at Scool Services

Check out Music, Instruments and Science which includes 8+ lessons that are great for use on sub or distance learning days.

Need a speaker for your event? Need leadership training for your students? I’d love to talk.

Have a question for the podcast? jamesthedivine@gmail.com or 719-238-4193. 

Multitude of links and resources here

Episode 175 – Creating a Great Culture

In this podcast, I share some great tips and ideas that you can use to create traditions and develop a great culture in your band. You must be intentional in this. The traditions you create will often be the memories that students think of years from now. You have the power to create a terrific culture!

Has the show benefited you? Would you consider supporting the podcast with a $5/month pledge through patreon or make a one time donation of any amount through Paypal (jamesthedivine@gmail.com). 

Find out more about fundraising for your program at Scool Services

Check out Music, Instruments and Science which includes 8+ lessons that are great for use on sub or distance learning days.

Need a speaker for your event? Need leadership training for your students? I’d love to talk.

Have a question for the podcast? jamesthedivine@gmail.com or 719-238-4193. 

Multitude of links and resources here

Episode 173 – Easy Ways to Incorporate Reading Into Band

What do you think when your principal tells you she would like for you to incorporate reading into band? Do you inwardly groan? Do you dread the thought of giving up an entire day of music for reading? It doesn’t have to be that way.

In this episode, I interview reading expert Dr. Danny Brassell. He shares tips and strategies to incorporate reading WITHOUT taking away from what you are doing musically. We should incorporate reading – and history – and music theory – and lift unheard voices – but we can do it seamlessly and as part of what we are already teaching,

Danny hated reading as a kid, and now he promotes reading to others. Find out more about Danny and get a free book when you go to www.readleadandsucceed.com.

Has the show benefited you? Would you consider making a one time donation of $5? Donate here

Find out more about fundraising for your program at Scool Services

Check out Music, Instruments and Science which includes 8+ lessons that are great for use on sub or distance learning days.

Need a speaker for your event? Need leadership training for your students? I’d love to talk.

Have a question for the podcast? jamesthedivine@gmail.com or 719-238-4193. 

Multitude of links and resources here

Tube Socks, Giants, and a Teacher’s Trust

Have you ever had a teacher say or do something that had a huge impact on you for your entire life? I have had many of these opportunities.

Some teachers affect you in a negative way. I’ve had my share of those. Most of my teachers had huge, positive impacts on my life. My seventh grade band teacher was one of them.

I went to a rough school in seventh grade. Remember tube socks from the 70s? On the last day of school, it was not unusual to have some of the teens in the neighborhood surround the school bus – tube socks in hand – but with the addition of a large rock in the bottom of the tube sock. These teens would swing their rock-filled tube socks with the expertise of David swinging his slingshot at Goliath – except instead of using their rock to slay evil, they were intent on causing evil by smashing the windows of the school bus. I was a terrified 13 year old about to wet my pants.

Within the school I felt very safe. We were kept safe by a group of three security guards who were very tall – they seemed like Goliath to me in the heights they reached – and well-muscled – but the friendliest giants you ever knew! They made me feel safe. They developed relationships with students. I had my share of getting in trouble in seventh grade, but these giants loved me all the same…as did my band teacher.

The band teacher played saxophone like me. I can still see his face. I remember his encouragement as I learned saxophone for the first time. I remember his praise – his gentleness – his push for high standards – not just musically but morally too. I even remember when he lost his temper at the drummers one day, flung his conductor’s baton at them, only to have it bounce off the bass drum and come back and hit him in the head. We all had a good laugh, including him. I can’t for the life of me remember his name.

One day we were taking a trip to a local music festival where we would perform, receive feedback, and listen to others perform. Those of you who took band may remember this event as Large Group Festival. As our teacher prepared us, he reminded us that we were stopping for lunch and we should bring some money. He informed us that if we forgot our money, he would be glad to loan us some, but we would have to repay it. Then he said something I’ve remembered my whole life…”And if you don’t pay me back, that’s ok. It’s worth a couple of dollars for me to find out I can’t trust you.”

That teacher’s trust meant a lot to me – and it taught me an important lesson… Trust everyone unless they show you they can’t be trusted. Thank you Mister!

***James is a music teacher at a school very similar to the one he went to as a 7th grader. He is in his 23rd year of being an educator and attributes his success to all the wonderful teachers he had along the way. James grew up in poverty and abuse, but now shares his story of Your NOW doesn’t determine your FUTURE as often as his schedule allows. Find out more at www.jamesdivine.net. Get his book on amazon Forgive: One man’s story of being molested…and God’s redemption.

Episode 172 – 5 Tips for Student Engagement in an Online Environment

Even though teaching may look differently for a while, you can still engage your students!

In this episode, I share five tips that have worked for me.

Has the show benefited you? Would you consider making a one time donation of $5? Donate here

Find out more about fundraising for your program at Scool Services

Check out Music, Instruments and Science which includes 8+ lessons that are great for use on sub or distance learning days.

Need a speaker for your event? Need leadership training for your students? I’d love to talk.

Have a question for the podcast? jamesthedivine@gmail.com or 719-238-4193. 

Multitude of links and resources here

Episode 171 – Marching Band is Needed Now More Than Ever Before

These are trying times! Even though I currently don’t teach marching band, I am considering starting one at my middle school (I started and taught marching band for a decade or more at my previous school).

Through marching band, we learn team work and socialization and leadership skills!

Also see Episode 47: How To Start a Marching Band

Has the show benefited you? Would you consider making a one time donation of $5? Donate here

Find out more about fundraising for your program at Scool Services

Check out Music, Instruments and Science which includes 8+ lessons that are great for use on sub or distance learning days.

Need a speaker for your event? Need leadership training for your students? I’d love to talk.

Have a question for the podcast? jamesthedivine@gmail.com or 719-238-4193. 

Multitude of links and resources here

7 (Fun) Rules for Eating During the Holidays

  1. Start with a huge glass of egg nog. This is to coat your stomach lining to keep it safe. Home made fudge also works in place of or in addition to egg nog.
  2. When whoever’s cooking isn’t looking, grab a healthy sample of what they’re cooking. You want to make sure it’s safe for the family. Can’t let them see you because they’ll feel bad that they didn’t think of it
  3. Skip anything green or anything with more than 50% vegetables. No sense in using space that could be filled with meat or pie
  4. If in doubt about whether to pour gravy on something, pour extra on it. You can’t go wrong.
  5. Eat a double portion of all desserts. It’s tasty, plus double portion sounds biblical.
  6. Take a nap
  7. Repeat numbers 1-6.

And don’t forget to be thankful for all the blessings in your life.

YOU are a blessing in mine.

YOU make my life rich.

I love you.

Episode 169 – Why I Don’t Do Christmas Concerts

This is a replay of an episode I recorded in 2012. Excuse the sound quality. Many of you may not even be doing ANY concerts this year, much less a Christmas concert. In this very short episode, I just wanted to share some of my thoughts on why I chose many years ago to not have Christmas concerts. Maybe this will give you an idea for the future, when concerts return and the pandemic is a thing of the past. Disclaimer – I do set students up in caroling groups and we go around the school, often with the choir. Easy – fun – very well received!

This is the last episode of 2020. I look forward to bringing you more content next year. I’d love to hear from you! Send me a question or comment at jamesthedivine@gmail.com.

Why I Don’t Trust the Media

I spent 1986-1996 as part of the Army band in Virginia, Japan, and Colorado. During that time we usually performed more than 200 times a year and often participated in high-profile events that included the media. I can’t tell you the number of wonderful events I was a part of that were featured on the news that night…

  • 1,000s of people were in attendance
  • There was free food and entertainment
  • Helicopters and tanks were on display for kids to climb on
  • Speeches were made and received with great applause
  • Veterans were celebrated, recognized, and congratulated
  • The media was everywhere, interviewing kids and veterans and joining in the festivities.

With anticipation, we all tuned in to the news that night, excited to see how our event would be portrayed on the news. Instead of the fun and festivities, we would see a two minute clip of the three protestors screaming obscenities from the base’s main gate. This was not a true representation of what had happened!

Then There was the Time I WON NCO of the Quarter

If you understand Army band musicians, you understand that we LOVE to be in the spotlight – at least when it comes to music-making – but we could care less about it when it’s an out of band recognition.

When I was in Japan, an office over the band realized we were never sending candidates for the NCO of the Quarter competition, so we were ordered to send candidates. When it was my turn to try out, I ended up winning the competition. I was a snarky early 20s young man who hadn’t even wanted to go to the competition. But I won and was interviewed by the Stars & Stripes reporter…

S&S: What made you want to enter this competition?
Me: I didn’t want to, but we were forced to send someone

S&S: What does it feel like to have won this honor?
Me: I really could care less about it.

S&S: What did you do to prepare yourself for this competition?
Me: Nothing.

I would have totally understood if the reporter had decided to not submit my story because of my lackadaisical attitude and responses. I was shocked when I read the story in the paper and it said something along the lines of, “SSG Divine spent hours preparing for the NCO of the Quarter Competition. He told Stars & Stripes, ‘I worked hard and have wanted this honor for many years. My countless hours of preparation paid off.'”

I was dumbfounded!

Now imagine this (fake) headline

Man Spends 25% 0f Daily Commute at One Stoplight!

How does this headline make you feel? Do you feel bad for the commuter? Do you think “Thank God that’s not my commute?” Do you wonder why he doesn’t take a different way? Do you wonder why traffic engineers don’t do something about this? 

What if I add that the commute is only ten minutes, 2.5 of which are at this particular stoplight at a major intersection? Does this change what you think? 

Man’s commute varies from 10, to 30, and sometimes 60 minutes

Poor guy! He must live in a populous city like New York, or D.C, or L.A to have such a varied commute. 

The truth…some days he drives the four mile commute, some days he rides a bike, and others he walks.

Now consider these three very possible headlines…

Interest rates fall – fixed income, elderly in trouble

Interest rates rise – would be homeowners priced out of the market

Interest rates stay the same – is the economy stagnating?

When you read or hear a story in any media – newspapers, news shows, radio, etc. – be EXTREMELY careful. It is often easy for the media to “tell the truth” while not being entirely honest. 

Episode 168 – Why I Made the Shift to Teaching Business

A few weeks ago I did something I thought I would NEVER do – switch to teaching something besides music. Now this isn’t permanent, and I’m not advocating this for everyone. I share this primarily to encourage you that if you find yourself needing to shift for any reason, you CAN do it.

Has the show benefited you? Would you consider making a one time donation of $5? Donate here

Find out more about fundraising for your program at Scool Services

Check out Music, Instruments and Science which includes 8+ lessons that are great for use on sub or distance learning days.

Need a speaker for your event? Need leadership training for your students? I’d love to talk.

Have a question for the podcast? jamesthedivine@gmail.com or 719-238-4193. 

Multitude of links and resources here

The Cruelty of Quarantine

By Melanie Wiseman
Reprinted with permission.
Original credit goes to:
Life After 50 October 2020 issue, The Voice of Adults 50+ in the Pikes Peak Region

A daughter’s search for compassion amid a pandemic

Until recently, the COVID-19 pandemic was a mere inconvenience. I still biked, hiked, camped and enjoyed small socially distanced gatherings with friends. Everything changed when my mother’s health suddenly and rapidly declined in a Wisconsin independent living apartment 1,200 miles away.

My siblings and I were now among the thousands of families being kept away from fragile loved ones when they needed us most. Our quarantined parents were prisoners to the virus.

Health is wholeness

On March 11, two days after celebrating my dad’s 94th birthday, their independent living facility went into lockdown. My plane ticket to visit the following week would have to wait. Never did I imagine I’d be flying out two months later, just to watch my mother through her bedroom window with tears in her eyes, arms outstretched, longing to give me a hug.

Even though it was meant to protect residents’ health, the quarantine did the opposite. With her heart weakening, lack of movement and exercise meant fluid filled Mom’s legs and around her lungs, and tethered her to an oxygen machine.

Meals were brought to my parents’ room, and all in-person socialization with friends and family came to a halt. They became depressed and anxious, with little to look forward to. The only people they had personal contact with were masked facility staff.

“Health is wholeness—the total wellbeing of the person,” said Dad. “There is physical pain and there is emotional pain.”

Their wholeness was not being cared for. Isolation took away any quality of life my mom had left. Each time I called my parents would say, “At least we have each other. We think of all the people going through this alone.”

Searching for compassion

By the time Dad ultimately said, “Come home,” I had just over a week with Mom before she died. Each day, I pleaded with the facility director to be able to physically and freely hug, hold and comfort them both. Every day I was told, “No.”

From behind windows, screens and iron fences, I watched as my mom, now a shadow of herself, was comforted by those who were strangers to me. These “strangers” then went home to their families and friends, while my mom’s own family stood outside.

My father was by my mother’s side at all times, exhausted, but extremely attentive. His being there was our only consolation as anger and frustration built up among us children and grandchildren.

Fortunately, Mom knew what was happening and was at peace, which was the greatest gift she could give us. In return, we wanted to grant her deepest desire: the ability to hold her family. We’d been denied for months; surely at the end of her life, compassion would prevail over rules.

But even as a hospice team was called, we were denied entry. The facility told us that when our mom was “actively dying”—within 48 hours of her death—family would be allowed to visit two at a time. But they never called it. We did.

After we’d visited Mom in the morning on June 11, my sister, her daughter and I recognized the nearness of my mom’s passing and pressed harder than ever to be allowed to spend time with her. The three of us were finally given one hour that afternoon. We used that hour to its fullest, taking off our masks when staff left the room and watching Mom light up like a Christmas tree as she saw our smiles and faces. We listened closely to her fading voice and reminisced over photos of her life growing up on a farm in Michigan.

“When I was a young person, I thought a lot about what my purpose was, and then I met your dad, and I knew. We would do it together,” she said. “I no longer have a purpose, but now it’s you kids’ and grandkids’ turn to take over for us.”

When the hour was up, my sister and I each gave her a hug and told her how much we loved her. As we went to leave, she quietly called me back.

“I need another hug,” she said. I tearfully complied at length and once again we told each other, “I love you.”

I assured her we would see her tomorrow morning. But there was no tomorrow. My mother, beautiful both inside and out, died in her sleep that night.

The price of protection

Why, you might ask, would I choose to share such a personal experience? Because this story is happening every day, all over the world. Facilities are “protecting” people from the virus, but at what cost?

The distressing end to lives from COVID or amid its restrictions is hard to fathom, but it’s very real. Families who just want to hold their dying loved ones face a moment in history where isolation reigns and liability overrules compassion.

I strongly believe that my mom’s death came quicker, not from heart failure, but from a broken heart. Did she die from COVID? No. Did she die much sooner because of it? Absolutely. My father agreed that the isolating confinement caused by the pandemic both rushed her death and was an undeniably cruel way to die.

“It’s time for me to grieve and adjust after falling in love with your mom every day for the last 72 years,” Dad said. “There isn’t a normal way to do that in this current situation.”

Sadly, the quarantine cruelty continues. The day after my mother died, Dad went back to being alone in their apartment, with no visitors. He FaceTimes with his children and grandchildren, but it’s no substitute for stimulating contact and social communication. He can’t leave the facility except for essential appointments. A “prisoner” once again.

In loving memory of  Wilma Katherine Baumbach July 27, 1930 – June 12, 2020

Episode 167 – Radically Rethinking Grading

It’s time to radically rethink grading – not because of a pandemic but because our current way of grading is outdated. Imagine if you showed up for work Monday-Thursday and gave it your all, 100%, every day. But then you decided to slack off on Fridays and only give 10%. Your grade would be a B, but you would still use lose your job. Listen in as I share my radical grading. Do you think it can work? Email me and let me know your thoughts.

Has the show benefited you? Would you consider making a one time donation of $5? Donate here

Find out more about fundraising for your program at Scool Services

Check out Music, Instruments and Science which includes 8+ lessons that are great for use on sub or distance learning days.

Need a speaker for your event? Need leadership training for your students? I’d love to talk.

Have a question for the podcast? jamesthedivine@gmail.com or 719-238-4193. 

Multitude of links and resources here

Episode 166 – 6 Strategies for Surviving the Stress of Teaching Music

If you don’t actively seek ways of reducing the stress in your life, you ARE going to burn out. In this episode, I share six strategies for reducing that stress. I use all of these as part of my own plan to be able to teach for a LONG time.

Has the show benefited you? Would you consider making a one time donation of $5? Donate here

Find out more about fundraising for your program at Scool Services

Check out Music, Instruments and Science which includes 8+ lessons that are great for use on sub or distance learning days.

Need a speaker for your event? Need leadership training for your students? I’d love to talk.

Have a question for the podcast? jamesthedivine@gmail.com or 719-238-4193. 

Multitude of links and resources here