A Different Kind of Beautiful

A collection of thoughts, anecdotes, and memories from over thirty years of teaching music (mostly band) to students from pre-Kindergarten through graduate school.

The first sounds, and even into the first several months, or a young instrumentalists playing career can produce a relentlessly outlandish array of sounds. These are almost never as difficult on the student as they are on the parents and all others in the household. It is important to get said parents on board with the importance of practice, even if this practice significantly breaks an otherwise tranquil and peaceful evening.

"I don't know if I can take this squeaking clarinet much longer," they often say, only half-jokingly. My response to them, and my mantra, is that it really is "a different kind of beautiful."

Maybe that doesn't always work for them. I know it, in my own heart, to be the God's honest truth.

WHY THIS BLOG?

In more than thirty years of teaching, I have accumulated (and continue to collect) lots of anecdotes, experiences, relationships, triumphs, failures, and other stories. It occurred to me this might be the perfect forum to create a chronicle. Names and events may change, some to respect anonymity, and others just because I remember it wrong. We'll see as we go. I hope this gives you some sort of benefit, no matter who you are. The posts appear from most to least recent.

SEPTEMBER 4, 2018 - A DIFFERENT KIND OF BEAUTIFUL, REVISITED

I realize that I've been hearing them for 31 years and they may be novel and amusing to you, so I will smile and bear all the "unbearable third grade recorder" and "excruciating beginning instrumentalists' jokes that you innocently share on my Facebook wall.... read more...

JULY 13, 2017 - SOMETHING IN THE WAY? SHE MOVES

Most of us have a story of an amusing misunderstood lyric or two in our past. Mine here was not so much that I had the words wrong, but rather their context..... read more...

MARCH 24, 2015 - EXPLAINING BUDDY RICH TO MIDDLE SCHOOL MUSICIANS

Buddy's mind, body, and psyche had clearly shown the mileage put on them by years on the road and behind the drums. In my opinion, this doesn't tell the whole story..... read more...

MARCH 4, 2014 - ALLAN MINKKINEN, AND THE RETURN OF ELEMENTARY SCHOOL BANDS

Allan wrote dozens of cool arrangements, found ways to highlight particularly motivated students, and became a legend in this town..... read more...

FEBRUARY 12, 2014 - PENCIL EQUILIBRIUM

I don't want to jinx it, but I have made some real strides with the Andover pencil culture. It remains an active struggle to get them to have pencils on their stands..... read more...

JANUARY 28, 2014 - COOPER KNAPP

I know so little of Mr. Knapp. He had three daughters near my age that I knew well in school, all of whom were involved in band. I knew that he had some difficulty with his hearing, and I knew that he played drums ..... read more...

JANUARY 10, 2014 - FESTIVAL AUDITIONS: LESSENING THE ACRIMONY

I freely admit that I could stand to reflect on my own behavior and attitude here. This is as self-aspirational as anything else..... read more...

DECEMBER 29, 2013 - LITTLE TROMBONISTS: CAN IT WORK FOR THEM

It is a challenge to get elementary kids interested in trombones. They are not out in the forefront like trumpet, saxophone, or drums. They certainly don't fit into a locker like flute or clarinet. Getting a kid to play trombone is almost always a result of changing someone's mind..... read more...

DECEMBER 12, 2013 - THE STAGE ELVES

Not too long into the year, I stared to notice that when I got to school, our horn player had come into the auditorium and staked out his position, as though a shoemaker's elf had been there..... read more...

OCTOBER 15, 2013 - I GOTTA TELL YA...MY KID NEVER PRACTICES

I often quip with my students that practice, broccoli, and naps are three things that I used to avoid when I was a kid that I now crave...... read more...

FEBRUARY 2, 2013 - BECOMING A MUSIC PARENT

I try to remember at all times that they all mean everything to someone, and deserve every shred of respect that I expect my son's teachers to afford him. If, God forbid, I am wrong, and for some reason there is no such person in their lives, then that is all the more the reason that, amid my teaching, guiding, coaching, and correcting, they deserve my respect...... read more...

JUNE 13, 2011 - POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE

Since entering high school in 1980, I have been involved in at least one commencement exercise every year, totalling well over forty. Most of them have involved the playing of Pomp and Circumstance, repeated many times...... read more...

JUNE 13, 2011 - ENCOURAGING IMPROVED CONCERT ATTENDANCE

Performance experiences are gratifying and motivating, and be it in the long or short run, being there in performance is a benefit to everyone...... read more...

JUNE 13, 2011 - THE BATTLE OF RESTCOUNTING HILL

I have contended for most my time in Andover that if it weren’t for rests, we’d learn our music twice as fast. It’s not the notes that really slow us down, it’s the silence....... read more...

SEPTEMBER 17, 2010 - IN MEMORIUM: GEORGE N. PARKS, UMASS MARCHING BAND

I have contended for most my time in Andover that if it weren’t for rests, we’d learn our music twice as fast. It’s not the notes that really slow us down, it’s the silence....... read more...

APRIL 16, 2010 - TWENTY-FIVE INFLUENTIAL ALBUMS

I have contended for most my time in Andover that if it weren’t for rests, we’d learn our music twice as fast. It’s not the notes that really slow us down, it’s the silence....... read more...

APRIL 16, 2010 - MUSICAL ARACHNOPHOBIA - DIVIDE AND CONQUER

Musical Arachnophobia -The fear of particularly ink-laden passages full of beams and articulations and accidentals and syncopations and triplets and quintuplets and foreign abbreviations that take on the appearance of spiders on the page........ read more...

APRIL 12, 2010 - THE MAGIC FEATHER - WHO ARE THE LEADERS?

They should not just strive to succeed without the 'magic feather', but rather aspire to become one.......... read more...

APRIL 12, 2010 - MIDDLE SCHOOL: UNDERSTAND THEM AND SUCCEED TOGETHER

If you teach middle school kids, savor the privilege to be such an important part of their lives at such an important time in their lives. ........ read more...

APRIL 12, 2010 - CHOPS, HIP, AND GROOVE

I have a less passive listening activity called "Chops/Hip/Groove". These three words represent three aesthetic components to music (in sort of a jazz vernacular), and I explain to them that when I decided what it is about a piece of music that speaks to me, I run it through this list to help determine that. ........ read more...

APRIL 10, 2010 - CAKE, DAT CAKE, SPRATNASS, TAY

I have a less passive listening activity called "Chops/Hip/Groove". These three words represent three aesthetic components to music (in sort of a jazz vernacular), and I explain to them that when I decided what it is about a piece of music that speaks to me, I run it through this list to help determine that. ........ read more...

APRIL 8, 2010 - MY ANNUAL HOMILY TO EIGHTH GRADERS

"You have given yourself, over the last four or five years, a gift. You have made yourself fluent in music. You are special. Many people wish they could do what you do. How tragic for you now to give it up, and take this from me, right at the time when this really starts to get fun. " ........ read more...

APRIL 8, 2010 - MUSIC MAKES YOU SMALLER/BASKETBALL MAKES YOU TALLER

Maybe music attracts smart kids. ........ read more...

APRIL 8, 2010 - AMANDA'S INADVERTENT BREAK WITH HER FAITH

"The funny part of it is that for most of these several months, she was not to a level where her playing gave that away. It wasn't until early this week that her level of play had become good enough that we could recognize what she was playing.". ........ read more...