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"On Teaching Band" A Must Read for All Band Directors!

June 12, 2015

     Hello Friends and Colleagues! For my first blog post, I had to start with a recommendation of a book that has had more of an affect on my classroom teaching than any other. The ideas in this book will be the foundation of a majority of my future posts so I felt it necessary to start here! With the school year winding down and summer starting for most of us teachers, this is great time to grab a book and find that quiet spot in your house while listening to your favorite music or maybe you are lucky enough to sit on a nice warm beach with the ocean as your accompaniment. If you are like me, once summer hits, you need a few days to step away and do your best to not think about school! For me, it really just is a few days as we start our summer program with our incoming 6th graders literally the Monday following our last day of school. Besides getting to work with our eager new beginners who are also putting on hold the beginning of their summer break it also gives me a chance to revisit this most essential book! So enough about the freedoms of summer (or lack of) and let me get to it!

 

"On Teaching Band" is an incredible resource for band directors at all levels. Eddie Green's perspective on the pedagogy of sound and musicianship is the cornerstone of instrumental music education and along with the Essential Musicianship books should be part of every high school and middle school band's daily routine. – Mr. Michael Pote, Director of Bands, Carmel High School, Carmel, Indiana

 

     “On Teaching Band: Notes from Eddie Green” edited by Mary Ellen Cavitt is the essential must read for all music educators. This book goes into great detail on all facets of an instrumental music program from understanding fundamental instrumental techniques, ensemble tonal and timing concepts, ideas on best practice for managing your band program, classroom management, and even the steps on how to secure a job from the resume to the actual interview. This book is for those teachers that are just starting out as much as it is for us seasoned teachers! Every time I revisit this book, whether it is a complete reread (which has been done multiple times) or just a quick review of a chapter on articulation technique for our flutes, I always take away something new, or better yet, it always makes me think! The concepts in this book have led me to try and experiment on ideas that have only been created because I read this book. If we were to only rate books on their ability to be reread, in music education, this book takes the cake so to say. Most importantly, my students have benefited from this book and they are having a better experience because of it!

     My first question when I was told that I have to read this book was, “Who is Eddie Green?” Let’s start there! His full biography is located in the book so I will just do the highlights. Eddie Green started teaching in Texas in 1962 and has taught both middle school and high school band including a member of the original staff at Lake Highlands Junior High. He was the director of bands at Western Michigan University and he finished his teaching career as the director of bands at the University of Houston. I highly recommend that you check out the recordings of The University of Houston under the direction of Eddie Green on iTunes. One of my favorites is their recording of Appalachian Spring.  To me it sums up all of the concepts talked about in “On Teaching Band.

 

“Eddie Green’s On Teaching Band is an essential resource for band directors of any level.  In it you will find detailed and practical information about the crucial first steps in posture and sound production.  It provides countless examples of simple yet powerful language that concisely communicates fundamental principals of learning an instrument.  It is a book that I have on my nightstand next to my notepad and highlighter.  Each time I read it, I find something that I am eager to try in the classroom.” – Mr. Zachary Rooksby, Hickory Middle School, Chesapeake, Virginia

 

     One of the great things about this book is that the second chapter includes an interview between Eddie Green and Mary Ellen Cavitt. In this interview you get a first hand look at where a lot of his concepts were developed. An interesting topic to me in this interview was that when he was a very young teacher and before having a “private lesson staff” was a thing, he invited members of a local professional orchestra into his school to give his students lessons as well as had them sit in their band rehearsals. While they were in his rehearsal he actually had them walking around working with students while he was teaching. This is back when only one person could run a rehearsal and the person on the podium was the only person that could speak! In the 1960’s having more than one person teaching in a rehearsal was not at all common. His “private lesson staff” even approached him after one of the first few rehearsals and said to him, if you are going to have us teach your students, we need you to reinforce the fundamentals that we are working in the rehearsal. This is where a lot of his fundamental concepts that he shares in the book come from.

     I have never met Eddie Green and I do hope that I get to at some point in my career, but an over arching idea in this book is that as a teacher you have to do whatever you can to learn from others. I cannot agree with this more! There are so many great educators that I have had an opportunity to work with and try their concepts with my students. Now you may like certain things that you see a teacher do or may watch someone and say “I don’t like that.” That is ok! What is important is that you are thinking and reflecting. That is what makes us better teachers for our students! Mr. Green understood this early in his career and he would often drive and go to the schools of great programs and watch their teachers work with their groups. For example, I have to thank Mr. Mike Pote, director of bands of Carmel High School here in Indiana for sharing this with me! I in turn have passed this book on to many of my friends and colleagues and now hopefully to you! That is the power of collaboration!

 

“This book has completely reframed my entire philosophy of teaching tone.  The results I have achieved have led me to recommend this book to every teacher out there - especially those just starting.  It is a philosophy I wish I had come across much earlier in my career. Eddie Green had reignited my passion for achieving a high level of excellence, a must read.” Mr. Sam Fritz, Center Grove Middle School Central, Greenwood, Indiana

 

     Now, Eddie Green did not write this book. This is a collection of notes from Mary Ellen Cavitt while taking his class at the University of Houston. There is so much great information in this book that this review could go on forever! In the chapter about “Instrumental Techniques”, he covers basic playing position for all instruments, breathing, pulse, and then goes into great detail on the flute, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, and trombone. When I say great detail, I really mean great detail! It includes information on suggested equipment, parts of each instrument, how to hold the instrument properly, finger technique, how to form the correct embouchure and ways to keep an eye out for mistakes, and proper articulation technique including the proper tonguing syllable that should be used as well as articulation trouble shooting. As a brass player myself, the woodwind knowledge is indispensible! My brass teaching has even improved after reading this book! There is bullet point after bullet point of crystal clear ways of how to teach these concepts and what to look for to maintain.  

     Another great thing is the language that Mr. Green uses throughout the book. There is a common theme of words and phrases like natural, relaxed, vibrant, and tonal energy to name a few. I have learned how to communicate these fundamental concepts more accurately and with more confidence!  The analogies and buzzwords that he uses make it simple for my students to understand these concepts and easily apply them. When I first read this book, I was on a quest to figure out how to get our ensemble sound clearer. I wanted to get rid of all the excess noise that can easily get in the way of ensemble clarity. I didn’t know it at the time, but reading this book has helped our groups ensemble sound immensely and was a reason our group was selected to perform at the 2013 Midwest Clinic.

     Mr. Green, along with John Benzer wrote the “Essential Muscianship for Band: Ensemble Concepts” (published by Hal Leonard). It has since been officially adopted for the fine arts curriculum in the state of Texas. We use this series in all of our bands and are wonderful ensemble fundamentals book. If you check out the media section of my website you can hear our Wind Symphony performing some of these exercises. After reading “On Teaching Band”, my understanding and confidence in using the Essential Musicianship series has grown tremendously! I plan on doing a future blog about these books! These two books combined have completely changed my approach on how to teaching fundamentals! For more information about the Essential Musicianship series please click here!

 

“I love this book!  It has truly transformed my teaching.  Not only is the information fantastic, it is also practical, applicable and it works! – Wendy Higdon, Creekside Middle School, Carmel, Indiana

 

     I hope you can see why I have read this book so many times. (Causing it to look like a lost library book from our media center that has been lost in the void of one of my middle school student’s locker for the entire school year only to see the light of day during the much anticipated end of the year locker clean out). The idea is simple. Every time I read this book I am at a different point in my career. When you read this book, you will be presented with great teaching concepts and ideas. There is so much great information and you will definitely get something out of it that you can start using immediately! This is what makes this book great! It will always be there as a resource and I always look forward to reading it! “On Teaching Band” is available at Amazon! If you read this book or have read this book, please share on my Chris Grifa Music Facebook page what this book has meant to you and how you have used it in your teaching. Don’t forget to “like” the Facebook page to see other people's comments and to stay up to date on future blog posts. Thanks so much for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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