With one proclamation, President Trump would have my unending support

If President Trump would simply issue the following proclamation, I would support him forever…

“Let it be known that from this day forward, all marching band competitions shall be held on Fridays. All students involved in the competition shall be exempt from homework given or due that day. In addition, students not involved shall remain at school and complete any standardized testing required. Marching band students shall be exempt.”

“Let it also be known that each school district shall provide the competing band with a charter bus – complete with DVR and satellite – and shall provide catered meals for the marching band members and staff for the duration of the contest.”

“Let is also be known that the day following such competitions, practice by any of the bands participating shall be forbidden. If a band ignores this provision, it shall be required to take the standardized tests it missed. Band directors and staff shall be provided with a $200 honorarium to enable them to enjoy this day with their family and friends.”

Hereby signed by President Trump in the Oval (isn’t a whole note an oval) Office this day of October 15 in the year of our Lord 2017.

Differentiation in Band Camp

Guest Post by Seth Jones, Pennsylvania Band Director

Visit Seth’s site at: https://thebandoffice.blogspot.com/2017/08/differentiation-in-band-camp.html


Monday, August 20
Happy Eclipse Day, y’all!

Well . . . I made it through my 16th band camp. Wow. So tired. 🙂

A few interesting facts about me . . . band directing was not on my radar after high school. I went to a Conservatory and as default had no college marching band experience. Since I am a clarinet player by trade, drum corps never developed in my life either. Therefore, all of the marching band experience in my life has either been student or director. I think that I tend to think outside of the box when it comes to Marching Band because I’m not shackled by the pretenses of the Pageantry Arts. (I love Drum Corps, Winterguard, Percussion, and it all . . . .just never did it myself).

Therefore, when I set out upon Marching Band rehearsals, I treat them very much like I would tackle any rehearsal problem. I think that my marching band staff doesn’t always “get it” because they are used to the way they know. (Another future topic: how to teach a staff of drum corps people to be educators in one short summer).

This particular band camp presented a few significant challenges. And, despite such grievances, I think it turned out to be the best I’ve ever had. I thought I’d share some of our successes with you.

DISCLAIMER: Despite my unusual upbringing, my marching band is quite competitive (and good at it). We have won quite a few championships and been fortunate enough to have been a BOA Regional Finalist twice. We are on a definite upswing. One of my past challenges was cultivating the staff, parents, and students into this continued pattern of growth. (As you may have already seen, getting out of our long term rut was a priority). Therefore, I enjoy some advantages that I recognize the typical band director may not have. I have oodles of kids, and oodles of staff to go with it. Money is generally NOT a problem but by no means is it plentiful either. We get the job done with great decision making, wise spending, and a wonderful network of support.

So . . .therefore, going into the band camp experience I was naively unaware of the challenges we faced this year. Our band is 30% first year members. AWESOME. The kids have zero question in dedication (as previously evidenced). AWESOME. Our camp experience this year was different than in the past because we spent an ENTIRE week on fundamentals (that’s right . . . no show learning). Therefore, many of the days in camp were spent coming up with self-directed initiatives. And . . . wow . . . this was by far the best thing that’s ever happened.

I have to immediately thank my staff. They were awesome and worked with me on some great stuff. The first week of our camp was entirely dedicated to fundamentals (both visual and marching). Through our planning, we heavily relied on differentiation to instruct the students. This was completely new to me and I can’t speak enough on how it worked. Here is what we did:

Differentiation by Personnel
The first thing we did this year was split our group by WW and Brass. They never did anything together until very late in the process. While visual had one group, music team would have another. We worked on objectives together (the prep for music and visual was always the same) and strove toward common outcomes (visual exercise 1 matched musical exercise 1 so that the two could be done together). It was more consistent work for the staff (no breaks) but the kids benefitted greatly. It allowed for more staff to student ratios and created smaller working groups.

Differentiating by Ability
During one of our days of camp, we did a morning where the students self-identified themselves into a lower, middle, and upper group. (We kept tabs on this too). The three groups were split into different objectives. The lower group just worked on basics while the uppers added more layers of complexity. The groups worked toward the same objective (box drill, for example) and were able to perform together. One such challenge of band camp is the older experienced students grouped in with the younger students. This allowed the groups to move at their own paces. I even teamed up section leaders in the lowest group to build bonds between the members. Overall, the success of this was vast as the students were able to complete the drill objective together.

Differentiating by Self-Practice
On the music side, we did a lot of work on breathing and tempo fundamentals. Isn’t it funny how you teach something only to find that in practice the students still mess it up? I was noticing that students would KNOW how to do a horns up for example, but in our musical exercise, would mess it up. WHY? I discovered that I think it was more the “this is the count you have to do it, this is when, here is the metronome, am I on the right exercise?” blah blah blah affected the student more than we could imagine. Therefore, before reps, I would put on a met and tell students to just practice horns up and down on their own. They had to do 5. Then, we would add in marking time. 5 horns up while marking time. Then, we would practice blade breaths from the Breathing Gym (goal to get them to breath in time fully). The isolation with a met allowed the students to grow comfortable with each task. Putting them together became easy. I think providing time for the students to work it through was meaningful.

Differentiation by Objective
We have always struggled with foot tempo while marching. Like, the students are so concerned with getting to Point B from A that they forget about tempo. We had the time to explore this by memorizing specific chunks of the music. We would then take them outside, march these chunks with no specific visual path. The ONLY goal was to play and keep feet in time. I discovered that relieving the students of the actual pathway part of marching allowed them to get more comfortable with foot tempo AND playing. I wish I had used the drone. It was the biggest and most amorphous blob you have ever seen.

We even had the sections stay in blobs at one point by instrument just to give encouragement. It worked well.

Differentiation by “Just Try It”
Ok . . . so this one isn’t differentiation. How many times have you done a new rep with the group and chaos ensues? Someone forgets . . . someone done the wrong thing . . . .someone misunderstands the direction. Have you lectured the group after? I’ve done it, and sadly, I’ve watched my staff do it. I keep forgetting that in AUGUST the students are babies again. Often times, I’ll do an objective 2 or 3 times before I say ANYTHING to them. Why? You just gotta give them the chance to understand. I feel that I waste my energy speaking to things that are just part of the learning process (for example, here is our new exercise, you’ve never done it before, why can’t you do it right the first time?). Just seem so hilarious. I got in a very good pattern of allowing the students a few reps just to “get it.”

Now for you marching band lovers out there . . . . I can totally understand the argument that it allows them to be lazy. By no means is this the case . . . with ANYTHING I have mentioned above . . . we DO NOT move on until every member does it correctly. Even in music warm up, UNTIL THE HORNS ALL GO UP TOGETHER (after the differentiation I explained above) we do it again and again. I’m just saying here that I don’t expect them to do it perfectly the first time in August and then lecture for five minutes about it. Trust me, follow the the process, and by November all will be well.

Well . . . camp is over. Now, I have to get ready for the first week of school. More posts to come!

Don’t Waste Your Time On New Year’s Resolutions

New Year’s resolutions are a waste of time! Most of the resolutions don’t last beyond the end of January. They are bound to fail. Resolutions are often not thought out, have no action steps and are rarely written down. They often lack specificity.

I want to lose 20 pounds by summer
NOT I want to lose weight

I want to earn $12,000 more each year by December
NOT I want to earn more

I will spend every Friday on a date night with my wife
NOT I want to spend more time with my wife

Did you know many gyms sell about 30% more memberships than the capacity of the gym? They know many people are not going to follow through on their desire for fitness.

There is – however – a way to achieve and exceed your goals.

Write them down

When I was young, I had goals and dreams like everybody else, but I didn’t write them down. For some reason, when we write our goals and take actionable steps, we are more likely to achieve them. I have goals in seven areas of my life:








Goals give you a starting point and destination. They are going to change as you grow and as you figure out what’s important in your life.

John Acuff, in his book Start, talks about how he has been able to write several books and also help build two schools in Vietnam. He didn’t write that down on a whiteboard several years ago, but as he progressed through his goals those opportunities became available.

Five years ago, I would have never believed I could be writing my fourth book.

What are some of your goals? Would you like to schedule 20 gigs in the next year? Would you like to finish your master’s degree in the next three years? Do you want to find a spouse and be married with kids in a couple of years? Do you want to move to a better job that fits your skills and talents? These are attainable and will be different for everyone.

EVERYTHING you’ve done – even things you didn’t like – have made you who you are today. For me, the military band was a great experience. It is where I developed my chops. It was my music education. Being self-employed was difficult, but it helped make me who I am today. I learned a lot about marketing, about pricing, about what my audience needs and wants…all things that help me even in teaching.

There are many good books about setting goals. One of my favorites is Dan Miller’s 48 Days to the Work You Love. My seven goals are adapted from his book. Get a copy of Dan’s book and work through the goal-setting process. Also read anything you can find by Zig Ziglar on goals.

In late November or early December, I create my goals for the following year. These big but specific and measurable goals are then translated into action items. I create a to-do list on my iPad mini and prioritize the items – always remembering to leave margin in my life.

Most people use a daily to do list. I am a much more global, big-picture thinker and find that a weekly list works better for me. On the iPad, I am able to reprioritize the items quickly each morning as needs and urgency change. Some people like to write their items on a list. Others use their phones. Whatever system you use, find something that works for you.

EVEN WHEN I DON’T FEEL LIKE IT, I begin to tackle items on my list. Sometimes just starting a task is the hardest part. Sometimes just getting started practicing is the hardest part. Sometimes starting a resume’ is the hardest part.


Put away all distractions. Turn off your email notification. Turn off your phone so you are not distracted by every text message that comes in.


Did you know that multi-tasking is a myth? We work at only 80% of capacity or less when trying to multi-task. When it’s time to book some gigs, write some music, practice, prepare my lessons or another important task, I turn off my cell phone, close my internet browser, shut down my email, get off of social media and get some focused work in. My rhythm – maybe because I am a public school teacher – seems to be about 45 minutes; then I need to take a short break and stretch or get some water. Others find that two-hour blocks work for them. Others prefer to work in intense 20-minute bursts. Find your rhythm.

Think of the short and long term goals as being a plan for your life. For example, if you want to lose 6 pounds in six months, that’s the big goal. The to-do list becomes the action steps necessary to meet that goal. In this example, you might get up thirty minutes earlier to exercise, prepare your lunch before you go to work so you’re not tempted to eat out, and buy some exercise shoes. Those are your action steps.

The goals that work best are:






If you can’t reach the goal, you will only become discouraged. If you are 200 pounds overweight, to lose that much weight in one year is probably not attainable. If you had zero gigs this year, deciding you want 300 in the next year is probably not attainable. If you have no college education, setting a goal of finishing your master’s in 18 months is probably not attainable. Here are some examples of good goals:

  • I want to lose five pounds in the next six months.
  • I will call five venues this week and every week.
  • I will book five events this summer paying $200 each.
  • I will save $2,000 this year by saving $200 per month.
  • I will save $50 a month to purchase that new instrument in 20 months.

What are your three-month goals? Six months? One year? Five year? Spend some time writing them down. Sometimes I set aside a half day Thanksgiving weekend to develop my goals for the next year. When I have acquired an early start, sometimes I have accomplished 10% or more of my goals before the New Year even begins.

I’m Glad My Marching Band Didn’t Make State

This was the best marching band season to date. Our scores were some of the highest we have ever achieved. Our show was the most difficult we have ever attempted. My students were the most committed they have ever been (with lots of room for improvement).

As my students attained higher and higher scores, we all thought for sure we would make it to state. When we competed at regionals and beat a few bands that normally beat us, we thought it was in the bag!

But we didn’t make it.

And we were disappointed.

And I’m glad.

When I told my students I was glad we didn’t make state, they looked at me like I was crazy. Some responses were…

“Don’t you care about us?”

“Why are you glad?”

“Don’t you have confidence in us?”

I DO care for my students. They are like my family.

I DO have confidence in them. They had achieved higher than they ever have.

But I was glad we didn’t make it.

We missed making it to state by one band. One band! You could say we almost made it to state. With being that close, the students are determined to work harder, smarter and achieve more next season. Their talk afterwards included “if we had done this a little better”, and “if we had been a little more focused at rehearsal we might have made it.” Their ideas for how to make the band better started to pour forth.

If we had made state…and if it had been barely, by only one band…you could have said we almost didn’t make state. The students may have gotten cocky,

“We made state, we made state, now we don’t have to work as hard next year.”

Oh, they wouldn’t have said this out loud, but it would have come across in their actions. I know my students well, and I know that for this band for this season, I’m glad they didn’t make state.

I’m proud of them. I know they will start next season with more dedication and more commitment, and I know they will achieve higher next year.

And if we make it to state, great… but if we don’t, we will take pride in having done our best. Ultimately that’s all any of us can do.

Follow these 7 tips for an extra 7 hours this week

About 5 years ago, my son was on the wrestling team at the school I teach at. Practice ran until 6:30 every night. Since we lived a half hour away, I thought I could get a lot done and catch up on my to-do list. Even though I was spending an extra four hours a day working, I still didn’t get everything done. It’s not about time spent, but spending the time you do have wisely, and spending it on the right things!

Here are some tips to help you save seven hours each week.

1. Limit Media Time

Many people spend hours upon hours mindlessly researching things on the web or scrolling through their facebook feed. I’m not saying to eliminate those things…just be more deliberate in how and when you do them. Set a time limit on web research. Have a specific goal in mind. Want to watch tv? DVR the show. You’ll save 20 minutes in a one hour show. Set a certain time to look at facebook rather than letting the ding of the notification control you.

2. Touch email messages once

I once had a coworker who had over 1200 email messages in her inbox. They were there to remind her of things she needed to get done. Guess what? She never got any of them done and spent much time scrolling through the emails to find the information she needed.

I read an email one time and strive to keep my inbox empty. I have created many folders in my email program. Some examples are: Save, Admin, Reservations, Kudos, Bookings. When I read an email, if it’s something I can do or answer quickly, I do it and delete it. If it’s some important info I need to keep, I file it in the appropriate folder. If it’s meant for someone else (something I have to delegate), I immediately send it to the person who can do it, or I respond that I am not the one who handles that. Have set times to check email. Many people have notifications on and are checking email 50+ times a day. Some people need to be this accessible, but most of us just need to check it 2-3x a day.

3. Follow the 2-minute rule

If you can complete a task in 2 minutes, do it! I can’t tell you the number of times I have been in charge of a music event and needed info from other directors. All I need to know is how many students someone is bringing because I am responsible for ordering pizza. No response! It takes 3 seconds to respond! Do it and get it over with.

Don’t even add the item to your to do list if it takes less than 2 minutes. At school, the lady in charge of IEPs often needs a feedback form from a student’s teachers reporting on how they are doing. When I see the form in my inbox, I fill it out right away and return it.

4. Control your meetings if possible

Do you need to disseminate some information at a meeting but are otherwise not involved? Ask to be at the beginning of the meeting so you don’t have to wait through it all. I taught at a school where I was responsible for renting the sound system at graduation. I sat through two years of meetings where when it came to be my turn, the headmaster asked “Do you have the sound system rented and details taken care of?” I quickly learned that was the only reason I was at the meeting. I began to contact the headmaster a few days before, let him know I had the details taken care of, including the time and expense. I would then ask “Do you need me to be at the meeting?” He always answered “No.”

5. Schedule time to get work done

I was finding myself continually being interrupted during my plan time as a teacher by students who needed help, or sometimes they were just hanging out because they had a free period. I love my students, but I have a lot to get done if I want to be an effective teacher. I started being more deliberate about that time. That time is for lesson prep. I kindly ask the students to leave (even having them around being quiet is a distraction, and they often ask just a “quick” question, which gets me off task). I get a lot more done this way.

6. Consider your mission

What are your strengths and weaknesses? Focus on your strengths! Know when to say no (I call that my Know No rule). If you are a helping person, you naturally want to help everyone, but you shouldn’t if something isn’t your mission. For me to help the football coach would be a “good” thing, but I would be missing out on the “great.”

7. Look at the big picture

Often our schedule revolves around “Well, I don’t have anything else going on, so sure I’ll do such and such.” This attitude is not deliberate enough. What if we take a look at our calendar for a year and “fill in” things that are important to us before other things crowd the important things out? For example, I’ve already filled in my anniversary weekend, so if someone calls me with a speaking or performing opportunity, I will answer that I already have something scheduled.

I do have some flexibility. If the person calling me were to offer a great honorarium, I would present the opportunity to my wife and say “How about if I take this and we celebrate the following weekend, but instead of a weekend in Denver we get to take a cruise?”

Plan each week, month and year of your life so trivial things don’t fill your schedule. Make sure to include off time too. If you are teaching a 2 week class, block off four days or even a week afterwards so you can relax, hike, visit the grandkids, whatever you like to do.

If each of these tips saved you one hour a week, you would have seven extra hours a week to exercise, cook, hike, read, practice, sew, take karate or whatever you like to do, maybe even sleep!

James is a music educator, musician, speaker and podcaster. He enjoys hiking, biking, and spending time with his wife and family. He also enjoys long walks on the beach, but these are usually either solitary or with his wife. He is the author of “Forgive: One man’s story of being molested” and “40 Ways To Make Money In Music.”

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





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

With Abandon (New Album) Itunes Link: