Reflecting on the 2014 Midwest Clinic

This past week, our school district sent 9 of the 14 instrumental music teachers to the Midwest Clinic in Chicago. Much or our trip was paid for by a Teacher Quality grant for which each of us applied. We were there Wednesday through Saturday and attended several outstanding clinics, heard some amazing performances, bought quite a bit of literature, and ate a lot of great food! As part of the Teacher Quality grant, we are asked to reflect on the clinics we attended and what we learned while at the conference. Below is a rough sketch of the different things I learned while at Midwest this year.

Below is a list of all of the different clinics, concerts, and exhibits my PLC visited while at Midwest. I am sure I have missed things my colleagues viewed, but this gives a general idea of what we saw. Many of the links are to the descriptions of their sessions on the Midwest Clinic website. Additional links point to their own personal or institution’s websites. If there were handouts available, I will include those in my synopses below.

Clinics

Concerts

Exhibits

Play Alto Sax with the Big Phat Band… NOW!
Eric Marienthal is currently the lead alto sax player for Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band. This clinic was sponsored by Alfred Music as a promotion for their new play-along series. The books (alto, tenor, trumpet, trombone, drums) come with charts for a variety of Gordon Goodwin tunes and software that allows you to play-along with the Big Phat Band. The added benefit to this software is the ability to control levels within the play-along. You can turn up or mute the click track, the play-along track, or the lead voice. In SmartMusic, this lead voice is played as a MIDI piano sound. In the TNT2 software, this is the actual lead players from the Big Phat Band. Several of the charts in the second book are not in SmartMusic. The books are available for $25 each from Alfred Music or Gordon Goodwin.

While a helpful demonstration of the software, I have found that the jazz clinics at Midwest are lacking. Typically, a publisher is sponsoring a big name artist to come and promote a new publication. The artist does not share much in the way of educational tips and tricks (in this case, creating a big lead alto sound), but instead promotes the product. I hope the Jazz Board of Directors begins looking at ways they can better educate the Midwest audience.

High School Band Rehearsal Lab: Woodlands College Park Wind Ensemble with Robert Carnochan
Dr. Carnochan worked with this outstanding ensemble on becoming more expressive with the literature the students had in front of them. This literature included Variations on a Korean Folk Song by John Barnes Chance and the Buehlman transcription of Brahms’ Blessed are They. While Dr. Carnochan did not have any specific methods for helping the band to express more, he did demonstrate a variety of questioning and gesture techniques to aid in the ensemble’s interpretation. He also included this handout with some quotes around interpretation and expression.

Converting to Digital: Our 1st Year as a 1:1 Music Department – Lansing Dimon and Greg Redner of Waukesha North High School
I had a strong desire to attend this clinic due to our district’s current transition to becoming a 1:1 school district. Last year, 5th graders were issued Chromebooks. This year, those now 6th graders continued the use of Chromebooks while the district issued the new 5th and 7th grade class devices as well. It is my understanding that each building gets to choose the device it believes is best for their students. I hope that our students will get the benefit of an Apple (iPad or MacBook) or Windows (tablet or laptop) device. I believe we, as a music department, will be quite limited by what we can do with Chromebooks.

Lansing and Greg are both band directors in the Waukesha, Wisconsin school district. Here is their Google Slides presentation. Their district began the process of moving to 1:1 for all students in grades 2-12 in the 2013-2014 school year. They detail their process in the presentation which I will not recap here. My big take-aways were the following:

  • Apple devices: Students receive iPads (4th gen, Air, or Air 2). Teachers receive MacBooks (Air or Pro) and iPads. Classrooms receive AppleTVs. This was done because of the offline capabilities of the devices as well as the integration possibilities with the district.
  • Google Apps for Education: Like our district, each student has a Google Apps account (StudentID@stu.waukesha.k12.wi.us) as well as each teacher (FirstName.LastName@staff.waukesha.k12.wi.us). Students can use these accounts to create their own Apple IDs and manage the content on their assigned devices. Teachers can also use the Google Apps to distribute and collect information to/from their students. A post alone could go on about the benefits of Google Apps for Education. I won’t elaborate here.
  • Self-Managed Model: Their is a whole slide in the presentation devoted to this, but the gist is that students are allowed to add and update their own apps, manage their Google Apps account (mail, calendar, contacts, etc.), and use the device as their own. The school district does have means of remotely managing the devices, but only does so if a student does not demonstrate proper responsibility in the use of the devices. There are more slides in terms of what they learned in the first year of implementation in terms of distractions and consequences.
  • Music Department Uses
    • Google Drive for information, assessment, evaluation, and feedback
    • Digital library for etudes, literature, pep band, etc.
    • Notability as a PDF editor for recording assignments and providing written and aural feedback
    • Wide variety of music theory apps and websites
    • iBooks and iBooks Author to create their own dynamic textbooks

This was an incredibly helpful and informative clinic. By digging in to the presentation you can find links to the backchannel chat that occurred during and after the clinic as well as a variety of other resources they are using to implement 1:1 in their program. With the right device, this could be life changing for our programs. It is my hope that our district could interact with Waukesha North as we begin implementation at the high school level.

Sound Fundamentals – Daily Ensemble Training for Ideal Tone, Intonation and Blend – Minoru Otaki and the Saitama Sakae High School Wind Orchestra
I did not attend this particular clinic as it was occurring at the same time as the 1:1 presentation. Here is the handout. My colleague, Scott Hook, attended this particular presentation. Bravo Music published a transcription of their daily warm-ups. This clinic demoed the what, why, and how of those warm-ups. The transcription is entitled Basic Training for Concert Band. Some of the concepts seem very similar to what we use in the Foundations for Superior Performance. I am also curious how it ties in with the Foundations for Wind Band Clarity.

Literature and Concert Programming: Improving Student Learning through the Music – Matt Temple and Rick Jaeschke
This clinic provided another large take-away for me that will likely lead to a whole other post tied in with a reflection over all I learned in my VanderCook class this past semester, Teaching Music in a Common Core World. The two presenters asked difficult questions to set the stage for their presentation. Questions like, “What are our educational aspirations for the 3rd clarinet player in our 2nd band?” “What would you play if there wasn’t a concert?” Their premise being that we need to be intentionally selecting literature that teaches the concepts we want our students to learn.

The presenters used the Comprehensive Musicianship Project as their guide for their clinic. They demonstrated alignment of the five parts of the CMP process (selection, assessment, strategies, outcomes, and analysis) with edTPA (planning, instruction and assessment), the Danielson Framework (planning and preparation, classroom environment, instruction, professional responsibilities), and the National Core Arts Standards (create, perform/present/produce, respond, connect). This is what I will delve into in another post.

The focus of the presentation was really on the selection (planning) aspect of each of these initiatives. There are several resources in the handout including a composition comparison chart, an example full year concert cycle, and an example four year rotation of literature. Tying this in to what I have learned from my VanderCook class, I see a lot of potential change in my planning for the upcoming years, but that is for another post.

Building and Maintaining Quality Band Programs in the Context of Current Educational Realities – Roy Holder, Scott Rush, Lafe Cook, and Denny Stokes
I was also not able to attend this clinic because of my attendance at the Literature and Concert Programming presentation. Scott attended this clinic instead. I do want to pick his brain further on what he thought. You can view the handout here. I will be sure to include his thoughts in a future post.

Concerts
Our PLC heard some truly outstanding performances this past week. Janelle attended the Canyon Ridge Middle School Honor Band as well as the Coral Springs Middle School Jazz Band. Vista Ridge High School is fed by the Canyon Ridge Middle School. I got a lot of great literature ideas from the Lindbergh High School Jazz Ensemble, and of course, the Chicago Symphony Brass were nothing short of amazing.

Exhibits
Our priority the past two years has been to expand (start?) our solo and ensemble library. When our district transitioned to two high schools for the start of the 2013-2014 school year, the instrumental music library remained housed at Ankeny High School while the vocal music library came to Centennial. Both high schools share both libraries. While this is a bit easier with the concert and jazz band literature, it becomes more difficult with the solo and ensemble literature. Especially when both high schools go to the same solo and ensemble festival, the Perry Band Olympics, in February.

We have fallen in love with Eighth Note Publications. Their ensemble library is extremely reasonable in terms of price and highly educational in terms of literature. Several of the arrangements are flexible and can be used with a variety of different woodwind and brass instruments. I would highly recommend checking out what they have to offer!

We have also transitioned our high school percussion into a separate “class” that meets at the same time as our concert bands. The students are divided up by ability levels and assigned percussion ensemble literature that helps them work on developing skills our percussion coordinator has identified they need. Watching Dr. Thieben shop for percussion ensemble literature was like watching a kid in a candy store! He spent quite a bit of time selecting literature from C. Alan Publications, Row-Loff Productions, and Tapspace Publications.

Many of us were also on the hunt for literature for our concert and jazz bands. We frequented several different publishing companies looking at scores and listening to recordings. You can check out our Twitter feed to get an idea of some of the different things we checked out. Some of us were also searching for new instruments in the forms of batons, pBones, and alto flutes. Let’s just say we were quite successful!

Wrap-Up
This is my eighth Midwest Clinic and each year is an incredible learning experience, even the year my wife and I got hit by a car! Because of my job in Ankeny, the types of clinics I attend are vastly different. I don’t need to attend specifics on clarinet embouchure or percussion methods, as there are specific teachers to help. We have a well-designed curriculum, so clinics I look for involve instruction and assessment. I still wish the jazz side of the Midwest Clinic was a bit more developed, but overall, it is a great opportunity to get rejuvenated for the coming semester. Here is to many more to come!

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