Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Beginning Band Syllabus

Dear Students and Parents -- Thank you for being part of the Windsor Middle School Musical Community. Music enriches our lives in many ways, and the work that we do together enriches the overall climate and culture of Windsor Middle School. Consequently, we have a responsibility to our selves and to our school to live up to our potential and to create the best bands that we possibly can! I know that the students in this year’s bands are capable of great things. I truly believe that we can create some of the best music ever produced at Windsor Middle School, and I look forward to working together, having fun, learning many things and taking advantage of your abundant talent. This document should provide all of the information that you will need to have a rewarding and fantastic year!
Attitude is the most important thing in life, and certainly the most important thing in our bands. Attitudes are contagious: bad attitudes tend to spread to others and can ruin a group and the experience for every member. Similarly, good attitudes can sweep through a group creating a feeling of connectedness and loyalty that can make good groups great. As Charles Swindoll said, “The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company...a church (a band)... a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude..I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you...we are in charge of our attitudes.” Your attitude and your behavior account for 1/2 of your grade in this course. Please be here because you want to be here to participate in all of the fun things that we will do this year. Students who develop an unacceptable attitude that affects other members of the group will be removed.
Band classes are different from other classes. In Band, we learn by working together to create something that none of us could create on our own. Every person in the group affects every other person to a much greater extent than in other types of classes. Each person’s behavior and performance directly influences both the quality of the music that we produce together, and the amount that we can learn. Because we perform in public and represent Windsor Middle School, the quality of our work reflects the quality of our WMS community. Each person in the group has a responsibility to every other person, and to the school at large, to do their best, in class and in performance. It is critical that we work together to create the best possible experience for ourselves, and an outstanding impression on the community.
Behavior in instrumental music classes presents a unique challenge for both students and teachers. Think of it this way: the goal of our class is to create sound - beautiful, artistic sound hopefully. We have large classes full of students who have instruments that can make a great deal of noise. Because our classes are “electives”, students are more likely to be in groups with their friends. (This is good, because we are creating a community, as noted above.) The challenge is to enjoy the company of our friends and to create an environment that allows everyone to learn. It is imperative that students have outstanding behavior in the classroom and in public performances. A list of Band Room Rules was sent home with a section to be signed by both the student and the parent. Please consult the “Rules” sheet for specific rules and consequences. Parents can help but supporting our efforts to maintain high standards for behavior and performance. Students who develop an unacceptable pattern of behavior that affects other members of the group will be removed.
Here are a list of the dates that we have on the calendar for the 2009/2010 school year:

Winter Concert December 16 2009
Windsor Day Parade May 1, 2010
Spring Concert May 18, 2010

It is my hope that with this advance notice you will be able to keep these dates in mind as you plan your other activities. The Winter and Spring Concerts are considered part of the student’s grade. Unexcused absences to the Concerts will cause a student’s final grade to be reduced by one letter grade. Failure to attend the Windsor Parade will result in a 250 pt. fine, but extra credit work will be available for any student who is uanable to attend.
Performance Attire
We ask that students wear black long pants, or skirts a white long sleeve button down shirt, or blouse and black shoes.
Fifty percent of a student’s grade will be based behavior and participation in class and fifty percent of their grade is based on work they do outside of class. Assignments for homework include documented practice time on their instrument, written reports on composers and performers, written music theory assignments, musical or concert reviews, directed composition projects, music careers research projects, or solo and small ensemble performance projects . There are points available for playing in EC ensembles, serving as a Band Officer or other service to the “musical community”. There are 900 points per term available for behavior and participation in class and 900 points available for work that is done outside of class. Final grades are calculated as an average of the two scores described above. Students who earn less than 540 points in the “homework” category, can still get a “C” if they have outstanding classroom behavior and participation. Students who earn more than 900 points in the “homework” category will not be able to subsidize poor scores in the “behavior and participation” category. Student scores are posted by “code name” in the room, so students will know how they are doing at all times. The homework portion of the course is “self-directed” in the sense that students choose which assignments they would like to do and when they would like to turn them in. This gives students the freedom to plan their homework around their individual schedules, but adds the responsibility of making sure that they have the points that they need for the grade that they want to earn by the time the term ends.
Grading for Windsor Middle School Bands
Daily points available per quarter: 900
Daily points available per day: 20
Other points available per quarter: 900
Your grade will be based on the “Average” of your “Daily points” and Your “Other Points”

810 - 900 = A
720 - 809 = B
630 - 719 = C
540 - 629 = D
below 540 ---- does not earn a passing grade

Ways to earn points:
• Practice – 1 hour – 100 points.
• Playing tests – 50 – 100 points depending on difficulty.
• Research papers on Composers or Performers – 50
– 250 points depending on quality
• Performance Review – 50 – 250 points depending on quality
• Composition projects – 50 – 250 points depending on quality
• Music Theory worksheets - 50 points per sheet (4 available per term)
• Music Careers research projects - 50 – 250 points depending on quality
• Band Officer – 500 points (President, Librarian, Treasurer, Sound Tech)
• Jazz Band or EC ensembles – 50 points per session – 250 pts. per performance
• Fill an Instrument vacancy (low brass/low winds) – 500 – 750 points
(The points awarded for filling instrument vacancies will be negotiable.
We clearly have a need for some instruments more than others.)

If you have less than “540 points” in the “Total Other” Category on the last day when the grading period is over, 539 points is added to your “Total Other” score. This will bring your average up. If you have more than “900 points” in the “Total Other” Category, your “average” is calculated based on 900 points and not your actual total. This keeps well behaved students who have not done enough work outside of class from failing, and poorly behaved students who get a large number of “Other” points from automatically earning a good grade.
Instrument Selection
It is very important that beginning students select the correct instrument when they are starting out. A student is much more likely to be successful and reap the benefits of studying music, if they choose an instrument that they are well suited for. Each person’s body and face is different and most people will find that they have an easier time with some instruments than with others. Many students already have an idea of what instrument they would like to play, or the student’s family has an instrument that they can use. Please keep an open mind about instrument selection. Our goal is to have everyone be successful in their efforts to play an instrument. The students in the Beginning classes will soon be trying out the different instruments mouthpieces to see which instruments will suit them. A letter will be coming home soon letting you know how your child did on the instrument tryouts.

WMS Instruments
We are fortunate to have a very limited number of schools instruments that we will be able to loan to students for the year. WE WILL NOT BE ABLE TO PROVIDE EVERY BEGINNING STUDENT WITH AN INSTRUMENT. We are happy to loan the WMS instruments that we have for the year, and ask that families pay a $50 instrument maintenance fee so that we can insure that all WMS instruments remain in good working condition. Preference for WMS instruments will be given to families that have a financial need to borrow one from the school. All other WMS instruments will be distributed by lottery. “Music for Schools” also has instruments to loan to those families that are unable to rent an instrument. Once again, preference is given to those families with a financial need. I have applications available for those interested in pursuing this option. Rental instruments are available from several shops in the area including Stanroy Music Center and Santa Rosa Music Center in Santa Rosa. Percussion
Students wishing to play percussion instruments will be able to apply and audition for one of our percussion positions after our Winter Concert. Our percussionists must be among the finest musicians in our group. Not only do they need outstanding music reading and rhythm skills, they need to be proficient in reading both treble and bass clefs. They also must have outstanding classroom behavior, a strong work ethic and outstanding musicianship. For these reasons, we wait until half way through the year to determine which students will be selected to play percussion. A student who really wants to play percussion will have to demonstrate that they can play all of the material that we are playing on their first instrument. Parents who would like to help their child become a percussionist can help by making sure their child is successful on their first instrument.
I ask that students practice for at least 20 minutes per day. 2 hours of practice time per week will give a student the 900 points required for an “A” in the “homework” portion of our grading system. Students are always welcome to practice more than that, and they may need to at the beginning. Students who do not practice outside of class will have a much harder time being successful in class and will be much more likely to want to quit. 10 - 20 minutes of practice 5 days a week will really help a student to pick up the skills that they need to be successful. Parents can help by providing a quiet space and time for students to practice. Listening to your child and providing a few words of encouragement can really help!

Thanks again for encouraging your child to play music and thank you for supporting music at Windsor Middle School! As always, you can reach me at 837-7737 ext 134. It is often easiest for me to communicate via e-mail: smitchell@wusd.org. If you prefer to communicate via e-mail please send me a message so that I have your address in my address book. Thank you !!
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