This years Iowa Bandmasters Association Conference was one of the most educational for me. Lots of great clinics and performances by outstanding groups. I wanted to take a bit to reflect on the different things I attended to better ingrain many of the things I learned.
Standards-Based Grading: Educational Reform that Actually Makes Sense
Chris Strohmaier of Valley Southwoods gave a clinic on standards-based grading and how their music department is implementing it. You can view his handout off the IBA website. Chris started off with a great history of “how we got here” in the world of grading. It gave me a lot to investigate with how people have wrestled with the concept before me. He then moved in to making a case for using SBG and implementing it in the music classroom.
Chris’ handout details a lot of what they are grading at Valley Southwoods (9th grade band, orchestra, and choir). They are assessing to a higher level of detail than our 6-12 PLC is, and it has made me begin to think about what and how else we could be assessing in the future. We were cut short before Chris could show us what his grade book actually looks like. I’m looking forward to discussing further with him their implementation of SBG.
Collaborative Listening: A Rehearsal Clinic with the Cedar Rapids Kennedy High School Wind Ensemble
Dr. Andrew Trachsel is the Director of Bands at Ohio University and is a graduate of Drake University. It was great to see him work with Jared Wacker’s group. My biggest take away was about the different sounds the group was producing. This past summer, I took conducting lessons with Dr. Ron Johnson, conductor of the Northern Iowa Wind Symphony. Some of our discussions revolved around setting up the band so the colors of all of the instruments could come through. I was further encouraged to experiment with this in my Symphonic Band by my mentor and high school band director, Paul Brizzi. It was obvious that Jared had taken this into consideration with the setup of his ensemble. I much more resembled the setup of an orchestra, with the flutes and clarinets coming out perpendicular to the conductor. There was a lot of space in between players and sections to allow the sounds to come out. I am excited to experiment with this next Fall.
Young Conductors Project Part II: Dr. Marcellus Brown and the Urbandale High Wind Symphony
Two years ago, I was part of the inaugural Young Conductors Project with Colonel Lowell Graham and the SCIBA Honor Band. It was a great privilege to stand in front of that ensemble and be critiqued by an expert conductor. Last year, I had the honor of introducing the clinician for the Young Conductors Project, Dr. Paula Crider, and presiding over her clinic with the Young Conductors.
I like the transition that IBA has made with this project. In 2012, the original idea was for the Young Conductors to conduct a high school IBA honor band, made up of the finest high school musicians from across the state. Logistically, this turned out to be quite difficult. Students from the SCIBA District were hand-picked to make up a fine ensemble. Six young conductors were nominated, one from each of the IBA Districts, to come and work with Colonel Graham. We each had to prepare three pieces, one of which would be selected randomly for us to conduct that morning. In 2013, Dr. Crider worked with four young conductors and two different high school clinic bands over two different clinic periods. This allowed for more podium time for the young conductors, as well as more exposure for high school bands across our state.
In 2014, IBA continued with two clinics, two bands, four conductors. Our guest conductor was Prof. Marcellus Brown of Boise State University. Prior to each of the young conductors working with the Urbandale Wind Symphony, their conductor, Myron Peterson, performed the two pieces that they would each conduct: Steven Bryant’s Dusk and Frank Ticheli’s Sun Dance. It is immensely helpful to see other conductors working with ensembles. It helps me process how I can better and more musically work with my ensemble.
Defining Your Marching Band’s Look: Uniformity, Style, and Synchronization
Our own Christian Baughman and students from Ankeny High School presented on the wide variety of styles one can see in a high school marching band. There were some exercises I will definitely use with our group next year. One that stood out in particular was having the students stand against a wall. They should feel four points of contact: heels, hips, shoulders, and head. When moving forward, they should feel all four of those points move off the wall together. Christian created a Google Site with a lot of information from his clinic.
Conducting with Purpose!
Dr. Joseph Missal of Oklahoma State University gave a clinic on his approach to conducting. It was refreshing to work through some of the more fundamental pieces of conducting, and then work with him through a variety of different scenarios. He encouraged us to bring our batons and actively participate with him in the scenarios.
Music Learning = Life Learning
The keynote speaker this year was Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser. It is always a pleasure to hear Dr. Tim speak. I have heard him speak at IMEA, Leadership Workshops, Iowa State, the Midwest Clinic, and Conn-Selmer. He is a gifted speaker with a knack for evoking emotional responses from his audiences.
Meeting with Steven Struhar
Christian and I met with Steven Struhar, a Product Manager for SmartMusic about how we are currently using their software in our district and how we would like to use it in the future. Specifically, we discussed the update coming this summer that will address several of the issues we were having with the rubric grading system. Other issues we discussed included the “sparse grade book,” chromatic fingerings, differentiated assignments, student information systems integration, registering students, Finale 2014, the notation rendering engine, and more. I left the meeting with a better understanding of how and why different components of SmartMusic work and a positive outlook for how we can continue to integrate the software in the future. With Steven, it appears SmartMusic has turned a corner in their customer service.
Conducting Beyond the Notes with the Ames High School Wind Ensemble
Dr. Joseph Missal presented another conducting clinic, this time with Chris Ewan and the Ames High School Wind Ensemble. Using Eric Whitacre’s Lux Aurumque, Dr. Missal presented several new gestures to include in our vocabulary to non-verbally draw sound out from the ensemble. Again, we were encouraged to bring our batons and gesture along with him to better understand what each gesture felt like. After my “face conducting” experience at the Iowa Conductor’s Forum, it was fascinating to watch Dr. Missal put this in to practice with the ensemble.
I really feel like this was one of the better conferences I have attended. It was great to attend clinics with details to take away and use in my teaching. I was inspired by performances by the Winterset High School Symphonic Band, the Cedar Rapids Washington Wind Symphony, the Iowa State University Wind Ensemble, and the University of Northern Iowa Jazz Band One. I had great conversations with colleagues around standards-based grading, SmartMusic, and vertical teaching. I am already looking forward to next year!