07 October 2006

I used to hate marching band...

...when I was in high school. It was always more about marching than band. Our group was small, so there was no concert band, jazz band, pep band, marching band, etc. etc. We were THE band, whatever capacity we may be called upon to serve in. It is a testament to how much I hated marching band that I actually looked forward to the transition to concert band and jazz band, which were often frustrating in their own right. Fast forward to today: I have been seriously digging this. These guys are not so much a marching jazz band as they are a jazz marching band. This is the kind of thing I tend to avoid for all kinds of reasons, not the least of which are my experiences in high school jazz band, but it occurred to me that you could very easily apply this sort of approach with younger students. It could be done without any written music, and could, though I am generally opposed to this, conceivably include popm music from the radio that kids actually like. (although, in truth, when I ask my tuba students what they listen to, they usually say...NOTHING at all!!!) After establishing the program, upperclassmen could teach incoming freshmen their parts each year in sectional rehearsals for any repeated repertoire; the band could also add new pieces and actually have a say in what they would be. This sort of approach could be hugely successful for programs like the one at my high school, which was (1) small, (2) included a huge range of ability levels, and (3) included some supremely talented percussionists who could not read music. Rather than being forced to first read the music and then committ it to memory (few of the kids were equally comfortable doing both of those things), students could teach each other their parts by ear, and even have a hand in picking and arranging the tunes. This would kill several birds with one stone as far as it would challenge all of the students (not just the ones who play in jazz band) to, if not actually improvise, then perform their parts in a less constrained way than they would in concert band (kind of like the Mingus band operated on recordings like Blues and Roots) and would provide an excellent basis for some very basic teaching of theory. Any JHS or HS band directors out there interested in taking this idea up?

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