We are sad to announce that we’ll no longer be offering Beginning Band for the time being. This post will explain why, and will suggest an alternative.
It’s no secret that we’ve had concerns about our beginning band program for some time now. The issue is that on a one-per-week class schedule, it takes too long to complete a thorough beginning band program. This causes two particular problems:
- Too few students reach mastery of the various skills in a timely manner—such that it’s hard to feel like they’re “getting anywhere”.
- We only have so much time available on the schedule, so if a Beginning Band class takes longer than a year to complete, this means that we can’t bring in a fresh crew of students every year.
As We, Montana! continues to evolve, we recognize that it might be possible at some point in the future to have a two-day band program. (And that would be at least three times better than a two-day program.) You may have noticed that even for Fall 2020, we are now breaking over into Tuesday mornings with two new courses being offered then. But for band, we’d need to get into a position where the classes were at least two days apart, if not three. (For example: Monday/Wednesday or Monday/Thursday.) Obviously, fewer families would likely be interested in a two-day schedule, as it is more demanding schedule-wise, but if we’re ever going to offer band again, we want to “do it right”. And when the standard school band program out there runs five days a week, two days looks a lot better than one day–and three days looks even better! So obviously, we’re not quite ready for that.
We have a reasonable alternative in mind, and have just this morning begun to float the idea of starting a Recorder Band on Monday mornings. And this may “kill two birds with one stone”. Since the recorder is much easier to learn than most other instruments, a once-a-week course would be much more effective in one academic year than would Beginning Band. Further, since everyone would be playing the same instrument (the recorder), much less class time would be spent singling out individual sections during rehearsal.
The “other bird” a Recorder Band would address is the need for all our chorus members to learn to read music. We simply don’t have the time in chorus to learn it, but it’s really not all that hard to do, and Recorder Band would be a great setting for doing that. And when a chorus all know how to read music, their rehearsals are much more efficient, because they’re no longer teaching notes in rehearsal.
Another benefit is that where Beginning Band starts at 10 years old, Recorder Band starts at 9. So, we’re excited to have more offerings for those younger students. And just as Beginning Band was open to parents who want to dust off their old horns, or to start fresh, Recorder Band will be open to parents as well.
It remains to be seen how well-received the Recorder Band will be, but we hope it proves to be very popular, because it is certainly needed. Some students have some piano lessons under their belts, which means they’ve been learning to read music. And while piano lessons are a fantastic pursuit, learning to read music for singing is less demanding still. So we hope that the Recorder Band will be a crowded class.
What if you already play recorder and want to join? Well, it’s up to you whether you’d be bored with it or whether you could be patient as we start from the beginning. It’s a two-semester class, so it lasts a full academic year. And by that time, we’ll have some students with a solid grasp of the recorder, and some others who have become more virtuosic with it. So don’t be surprised if recorder solos start popping up in some of our choral pieces–or even if we put together an occasional multi-part recorder ensemble to play a piece now and then in a Christmas concert, for example.
If you’re interested in Recorder Band, please do let me know ASAP as I’m right in the middle of wrangling the Fall schedule into shape.
And before I close this post, let me say again how regrettable it is that we couldn’t move forward with band. It was great fun, and it’s a shame to shut it down.