NYCSD Elementary Band Notes
If you would like to see dates beyond those listed, you can access your school's Band calendar by clicking on the school name below!
ALL SCHOOLS: Please put our concert dates into your calendar ASAP! Participation in concerts is mandatory! If your child is unavailable on one of these dates, please tell Mrs. Yohn as soon as possible.
- March 31, during school - All-District Band Concert Dress Rehearsal (all Band students)
- March 31, 7:00pm - All-District Band Concert @NHS (all Band students)
- April 19, during school - Spring Concert Dress Rehearsal (Advanced Band students)
- April 20, during school - Spring Concert Dress Rehearsal (Combined Band students)
- April 20, 7:00pm - Spring Concert @NHS (all Band students)
- Permission Slips Due: 03/02 (March Rehearsal), 03/21 (April Rehearsal)
- Day 1 Practicing Competition: 03/10 - 04/11
- Day 6 Practicing Competition: 03/09 - 04/10
- Full Band Rehearsals: 03/21, 03/29, 04/12, 04/20, 04/28, 05/08
- Day 1 lessons: 03/21, 03/29, 04/12, 04/20, 04/28, 05/08
- Day 6 lessons: 03/20, 03/28, 04/11, 04/19, 04/27, 05/05
- Permission Slips Due: 02/27 (March Rehearsal), 03/24 (April Rehearsal)
- Day 4 Practicing Competition: 03/15 - 04/16
- Day 5 Practicing Competition: 03/16 - 04/17
- Full Band Rehearsals: 03/16, 03/24, 04/03, 04/17, 04/25, 05/03
- Day 4 lessons: 03/16, 03/24, 04/03, 04/17, 04/25, 05/03
- Day 5 lessons: 03/17, 03/27, 04/04, 04/18, 04/26, 05/04
- Permission Slips Due: 03/03 (March Rehearsal), 03/22 (April Rehearsal)
- Day 2 Practicing Competition: 03/11 - 4/12
- Day 3 Practicing Competition: 03/12 - 4/13
- Full Band Rehearsals: 03/14, 03/22, 03/30, 04/13, 04/21, 05/01
- Day 2 lessons: 03/14, 03/22, 03/30, 04/13, 04/21, 05/01
- Day 3 lessons: 03/15, 03/23, 03/31, 04/14, 04/24, 05/02
- Permission Slips Due: 02/28 (March Rehearsal), 03/17 (April Rehearsal)
- WES Practicing Competition: 03/16 - 04/17
- Lessons & Rehearsals: 03/17, 03/27, 04/04, 04/18, 04/26, 05/04
Quickly approaching are our two concerts! Our All-District Band Concert will be held on Friday, March 31st, and our Spring Concert will be held on Thursday, April 20th. During the All-District Band Concert, the Elementary Band will perform first, followed by the Middle School Band, and then the High School Band. We will end with a big finale that includes all of the Band students in the entire district! Our Spring Concert will consist of the Elementary Orchestra playing their music first, then the Elementary Band, and finally the Elementary Chorus.
By now, all Elem. Band students have received a physical letter about the March concert as well as a permission slip for the Dress Rehearsal. The letter and permission slip for the April concert Dress Rehearsals are coming home this cycle. You can also find them on my website (links below). Due dates are written above, as well as on the physical letters and permission slips. Even if they are late, permission slips MUST be returned before our Dress Rehearsals, otherwise your child will not be able to go to the High School that day. If a student does not participate in the Dress Rehearsal, they will be unable to perform in the concert, so please be on the lookout for the permission slips!
Please encourage your students to practice this month. It is my goal for concerts to be as enjoyable as possible - a celebration of all of the progress our students have made so far! In order for the concert to be enjoyable for the kids, they must feel prepared, and the only way to do so is by practicing :)
PRACTICE COMPETITION RULES
This is our first official practice competition, so as we go we might need to edit/add a rule. If that happens, I will send out an email blast and let the students know as well!
- The dates of the competition vary depending on lesson cycle day, but all students have a total of 33 days. Start and end dates are listed above in the "Important Dates" section of the newsletter.
- During lessons, we will tally up how many minutes the students practiced. That specific lesson day will be included in the tally of the following cycle, since many students practice after school.
- If a student is absent on their lesson day, we will wait to add their total until their next lesson with the exception of the last lesson. If a student is absent on the day of our final tally, a picture of the student's calendar may be sent to Mrs. Yohn via email or SeeSaw, however the picture MUST arrive in Mrs. Yohn's inbox/messages by 4:00pm on that day. If it arrives after 4:00pm, it will not be counted.
- In order for the minutes to count towards the students' total, the calendar must be filled out BEFORE the lesson, AND the completed weeks on the calendar MUST be signed by an adult family member. Calendars that are not filled out prior to the lesson will NOT count towards the competition. Please remember that part of the point of an adult signature is to confirm that the information on the calendar is accurate, so signing multiple weeks in advance is not helpful. For this reason, I ask that you do NOT sign the calendar until the week is complete! Partial weeks - i.e., if a lesson is on a Wednesday - will still count without a signature, since the week is not complete yet!
- Only minutes spent practicing the Band instrument outside of the school day count towards the competition. If a child receives private lessons on their Band instrument outside of the school day, that time DOES count and should be marked on the calendar! If a student practices more than once per day, you are welcome to just write the total number on the calendar (i.e., if a student practices for 15 minutes before school and then 15 minutes after school, you can just write "30 min"). Seconds should be rounded to the nearest minute. Additionally, all Band students who perform in the All-District Band Concert will automatically get 20 minutes added to their total, so students do not need to worry about tracking and adding that to their calendar. Time spent in lessons and rehearsals during the school day do NOT count towards the practicing competition and should not be marked on the calendar. Minutes spent practicing another instrument (i.e., piano, guitar, singing) also do not count.
- Students should start tracking their time when they start playing their first note. This time can include warm-ups, such as brass players buzzing their mouthpieces and all students playing their scales. The timer should stop after their final note is played. Putting together/away the instrument should not be counted towards the total.
- Students who are caught cheating (i.e., purposefully writing incorrect minutes on their calendar, forging an adult's signature, etc.) will be disqualified from the competition. The student's parents/guardians, homeroom teacher, and principal will also receive notice.
PRACTICE COMPETITION PRIZES
Repeatable Prizes - the following prizes can be earned throughout the competition by hitting certain milestones of minutes. If a student hits multiple milestones in one cycle, they will receive multiple prizes! If a student reaches 1000 minutes, we will continue counting the minutes accurately for the grand total, but for the purpose of prize milestones, we will reset to "zero" minutes.
- Multiples of 80 minutes: one piece of snack-size candy (various options)
- Multiples of 300 minutes: school-wide reward ticket + a celebratory email sent to family, teachers, and principal
- 400 and 800 minutes: the student earns DOUBLE whatever prize(s) they earned that cycle (i.e., if they reached a 1-candy milestone, they will receive 2 candies)
- 1000 minutes: an entire handful of candy OR one prize from our prize box
Highest Overall Minutes Prizes - the following prizes are earned at the end of the competition, based on the total number of minutes practiced. Other than the last one, these prizes are per school, so each school will have four winners (or more if there are ties!). These students will also receive special certificates.
- 4th place: 1 Free Skip Rehearsal Coupon, valid from 04/21/23-06/07/23
- 3rd place: 4th place prize + 3 items from our prize box
- 2nd place: 3rd & 4th place prizes + 1 Free Invite-A-Friend-To-Band Coupon, valid from 04/21/23-06/07/23
- 1st place: 2nd, 3rd, & 4th place prizes + Band Party Assistant Planner Job
- 1st place (entire district): school 1st place prize + special recognition at our Spring Concert
Additionally, if all students in one school practice 300 minutes or more, there will be a group prize for those students... I haven't figured this prize out yet, so if any students have ideas, please feel free to share them with me! :)
First, I think it is important to say that it is completely normal for Elementary-aged musicians to have difficulty maintaining a practice schedule at home by themselves! It is normal for them to forget to practice without a reminder (sometimes multiple...) from an adult. It is even normal for children to argue about having to practice! There are countless reasons why a child might seem to love playing their instrument in school but then forget about it throughout the week, but the biggest reason is that at this age, children's brains have not developed enough to have the skills needed to 1.) understand right from the start why practicing is important, and 2.) build and follow a practice schedule without help. Even adults can find it difficult to build habits - i.e., think about how many adults each year have difficulty sticking to New Years resolutions. It makes sense that children would have even more trouble making practicing into a habit on their own, and would need to have that skill taught to them!
Additionally, learning an instrument is often the first time that students are independently responsible for their learning. Everyday in school, students are guided in their learning by adults. In a typical five-day week, students receive around 400 minutes of guided learning in each core subject, while for Band they receive 55 minutes maximum of instruction (and, due to our six-day cycle, that could be zero minutes!). By the end of the year, students will have received around 11,000 minutes of learning in each core subject, always guided by an adult. In comparison, by the time our last concert in April rolls around, students will only have received around 1,200 minutes of in-school Band instruction - and that's assuming the student didn't miss any lessons or rehearsals due to absences, field trips, parties, etc. Teachers who see their students daily are able to guide the students in the majority of their practicing of the material, whereas it is up to the Band student to first decide to practice at all, and then to also decide how they practice, when they practice, what they practice, and for how long they practice all without their teacher there to guide them. That's a lot of decisions for a beginner musician! A similar comparison holds true for after-school sports as well - even just one 2-hour practice per week led by a coach is more than double the amount of time with an instructor than our 55 minutes per cycle.
When we look at the numbers, it becomes clear to us as adults why students must practice, but kids still might have trouble seeing it. This level of independent practice is still new to them and they will struggle with it. That is not a negative reflection of them; it's simply because they are still kids who are learning how to be responsible! As a team, we can help them build up the skills in time-management and executive function needed to make practicing a habit!
With all that in mind, here are my tips for making practicing a habit:
Help your child make a schedule, and be specific!
- Sit down with your child and discuss all the stuff that goes on during a typical week - homework, chores, sports, little sibling sleep schedules, etc. With all of that info in mind, work with your child to decide on a practice schedule that includes not only the specific days of the week they will practice, but also the time of day they will practice.
- You can adjust the schedule as the year goes on, but make sure it remains a schedule that you both agree on, as its important for the child to have agency in making the schedule, but for the parent/adult to ensure that it remains realistic and achievable. Plus, if it's a schedule the child took a large part in making, then they don't have much room to argue when it does come time to practice.
- If you'd like a worksheet to help with this, you can print one from my website here!
- Our practice goal is 80+ minutes per week. For some students, that's easily obtainable, but for our busier students, that might be tough. The most important part is consistency: 10 minutes for four days a week is much more productive than 1 hour one day a week, even though that would technically be more time. Also keep in mind - is your child the type of person to like to get stuff done all in one go, or would they rather do 5 minutes here and there throughout the day?
- For a little while, you might have to really help enforce that the schedule is followed, but that is all apart of building the habit! It helps to think about it like you would a normal afterschool activity/sport - for example, if your child has soccer at 6:00 on Tuesdays, and you both agreed on practicing the instrument at 6:00 on Wednesdays, treat both of those 6:00 activities with the same level of dedication to being on time. Additionally, if you wouldn't schedule something over the 6:00 soccer practice, don't schedule something over the 6:00 Band practice either! :)
Use recurring alarms (multiple!!!) to remind students to practice!
- Have you ever been super focused on something and then gotten frustrated when someone suddenly interrupts you and just expects you to drop what you're doing to do what they're asking you to do instead? Alternatively, have you ever been looking forward to doing something, but then you got so wrapped up in something else that you completely forgot to do that thing you were looking forward to? Both of these situations are frustrations students have described to me when I talk to them about practicing - either getting frustrated because practicing interrupts something else (often something fun), or genuinely meaning to practice but losing track of time after school.
- Setting an alarm to help the student remember to practice is helpful, but even more helpful is setting multiple alarms - and I am speaking from experience on this one! Different kids will need different amounts of alarms, but I personally use a 30-10-5-1 system: the alarm 30 minutes beforehand reminds me that I have to practice, but I still have plenty of time to finish what I'm doing first; an alarm 10 minutes before tells me I need to wrap up any big stuff I'm trying to accomplish; the 5 minute alarm tells me I need to wrap up the small stuff too; and the 1 minute alarm is the one I try to race - can I be in my practice spot, with all my materials, ready to go before that very last minute is over?
- The beauty of living in the technology age is that most devices have some sort of alarm you can teach your child to set, and many of them have a setting to make the alarm a recurring one. For example, if you and your child decided that Mondays at 5:00 was one of their practice times, set alarms to go off every Monday at 4:30, 4:50, 4:55, 4:59, and 5:00. That way you don't have to set the alarms (or remind your child to set them) every week - it's less work for both the parent and the child!
Create a convenient and obvious practice spot!
- It takes a lot of steps to... decide to practice, then find the instrument, then pick a spot to practice, then set the instrument up, then decide what music to play, then locate that music, then remember "wait, Mrs. Yohn told me I was supposed to practice a specific song," then locate the practice log with that information on it, then read the practice log, then locate the music that the practice log says to practice, then practice that music, then clean the instrument, then put the instrument away, then fill out the practice log, and then finally remember to write down how many minutes you practiced - but wait, there isn't a clock in the room, so we don't know how many minutes to write! That sounds exhausting, and only one of those steps was "practice." Even just typing it out demotivated me!
- Eliminate some of the exhaustion and decision-making by helping your child pick a consistent spot to practice, preferably one that is located in sight of a fun area they enjoy being in (i.e., a game room). Remember, out of sight = out of mind, so make sure its a spot they pass by regularly.
- Help them to make sure they have everything they need - a clock/timer, a pencil, their instrument, a music stand, their Band folders, and their Band book. Right when they get home from school on their Band day, the instrument and all necessary materials goes right to the instrument spot. If you have an instrument stand and there is no risk of damage from siblings/pets, leaving an instrument out and put together can also help eliminate the "I don't feel like it" arguments.
- Remind them that it's not always about how long they practice but about how they spend that time, and that a good way to ensure they are practicing productively is to look to see what is assigned on their practice log each cycle. Once they practice the required stuff, any extra time can be devoted to whatever songs they enjoy the most!
Use a timer that counts up instead of an alarm that counts down to keep track of practice minutes!
- Honestly, I'm not sure why this works, but for most kids it does seem to make at least a little bit of difference. An alarm that counts down has a very rigid ending point that can't seem to come soon enough, whereas a timer that counts up feels more like a fun challenge - how many notes can you play before the timer reaches 10 minutes? How much of this song can you learn before the timer reaches 20 minutes?
Reward the practicing you want to see!
- Believe it or not I, Mrs. Yohn the Elementary Band Director, did not enjoy practicing until about 7th grade - three to four years after I started playing my instrument! I didn't like playing my instrument by myself at home (even though I had a blast in school playing with my friends), it was hard to read music, I was frustrated because my instrument made weird sounds and I didn't know why, and I was too young to see/understand the progress that practicing brought me. What changed in 7th grade wasn't that I had matured, or that we got a new Band Director, or that I suddenly understood how to keep a practicing schedule. What changed was that my Band Director handed us music from my favorite movie (The Lion King) and said "this is hard, but if you practice it, I think we will be able to play it for our concert" - I had a reward in sight (getting to play my favorite music at a concert), and I had a way to earn it (practicing), and within only a few months I became a practicing expert. Only then, after I started practicing consistently, did I start to see how my practicing made a difference in my playing. Sometimes, students have to experience practicing and growing before they can see why its worth it.
- Movie music motivated me, but you know your child best! What will motivate them? Some examples would be "if they practice for 15 minutes daily Mon-Thurs without argument, they do not have to practice on Friday," "if he starts practicing at 5:00 without a reminder, he only has to practice for 10 minutes, but if he needs a reminder, he has to practice for 15 minutes," "if she practices for 60 minutes over the course of Mon-Fri, she gets extra video game time on Saturday" etc. Then as it gets easier/more in the habit, you make the goals a little harder to reach/the rewards a little less often until it is finally a natural habit!
- The only type of reward I would not recommend is one that comes directly after each practice session (i.e., "you're only allowed to watch tv after you practice"), as that frames practicing as a chore that has to be done before fun can be had instead of a habit trying to be built.
Make it a group activity!
- Sometimes students don't think they're very good, and the idea that they might not be good discourages them from trying to practice, but the students know more than they often realize. If you have the time to spare, ask your child to show you something they've learned recently on their instrument, whether it's just one note or an entire song. When they realize that they knew something you didn't and they were able to show (maybe even teach) it to you, it will be a bubble of confidence that hopefully pushes them to practice for a few more minutes.
- Playing for others feels much different than practicing by yourself. If possible, give them opportunities for them to "perform" for you, even if it's just a little bit of what they've been practicing. It will help build their confidence, and can also help to show them which spots of their music they still need to practice more. Plus, your excitement about how amazing they sound truly will mean a lot to them!
- There is a reason why so many kids have dreams of forming garage bands with their friends - playing music with each other is fun! If your child has friends who are in Band and who visit each others houses regularly, suggest that they bring their instrument along to practice together. Even if they are different instruments, practicing with someone often feels more like play than work.
Keep Mrs. Yohn in the loop!
- If you are doing everything you can to motivate your child to practice and they still aren't, please contact me about it before it gets unbearable for you or the student! As I said, difficulty in practicing at home is common amongst elementary-aged musicians, and I often have an easier time figuring out the why's of what's going on. I can only help, though, if I know there is a problem! :)
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