Monday, December 10, 2007

Reminders about Winter Concerts

Just a reminder about this week's band concerts:

The Norup Bands will perform Wednesday, 7:30 PM in the Norup Gymnasium. Featured bands include the 6th, 7th, 8th, and jazz bands. Call time for students is 6:45.

The Berkley High School bands will perform Thursday, 7:30 PM in the BHS Auditorium. Featured groups include the Concert Band, Percussion Ensemble, and Marching Band. Call time for students is 7:00 PM for Concert Band, 7:15 PM for Marching Band.

All are welcome to come!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Event Listing for University of Michigan Programs

I just wanted to supply the link that shows all School of Music, Theatre and Dance events. As you'll see, there are tons of events every week, and all (except some musicals and plays) are FREE.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Good charts...

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Getting to be November...

Well, it's getting to be November. That means a number of different things across the band program. At the high school, the marching band is transitioning to almost full-time focus on concert music, but still wearing the marching "hat." We made two trips to the middle schools this week to try and expose the kids there to what we do. It was fun. Probably most fun of all was watching the kindergarten kids at Norup react to the music. Half the kids danced and conducted unabashedly. The other half looked as though they were trying to catch flies in their mouths, lost in thought or observation. One little girl reacted in a scarily sophisticated way--first reacting to the cymbal crashes by throwing up her hands at each one, and then predicting when they would come.

It's a real pleasure watching the progress toward the December concert from the 6th grade band all the way up to the high school bands. As much as I know that I'll never be satisfied with where each group gets (which is a good thing), I can't help but appreciate the synthesis and hard work on display. "Irish Tune from County Derry" is a good example. On its face, the piece is both simple and daunting. Simple to the eye and ear--just "Danny Boy" after all--but awkward in its scoring, bring exposed woodwinds into the highest tessituras at pp and ppp, and trombones to high G and A. But starting just recently--starting today, in fact, the kids are starting to get it. Starting to develop the most important piece of all--the aural concept. The Norup students are no different. The pieces are starting to materialize as distinct wholes instead of disjointed surface readings.

I hope to hear some similar stories from the other directors I meet this weekend. I'm attending an Early Careers conference for band/orchestra directors in Mt. Pleasant. Hope to gain some good teaching strategies, etc. while there.

Last, this looks pretty fascinating:

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Late October Update

I thought I'd give a few updates on this seemingly dreary, windy Saturday morning. A week ago yesterday, the marching band had a very successful indoor marching concert. It being my first time, I admit not knowing what to expect in terms of audience turnout, pacing, etc. But we had a good amount of support, there, and the kids seemed excited and focused.

As a good follow-up, we (72 kids, chaperones, and my sister) traveled to Ann Arbor the next night for the University of Michigan's Band-O-Rama. The concert featured the Concert Band, Symphony Band, and Marching Band. It was great because each portion of the concert had something especially worthwhile. The Concert Band is sounding good these days under the direction of Rodney Dorsey (who the band had the good fortune to work with in the Spring). They played "Blue Shades" and played it very well.

The Symphony Band performed "Symphonic Dances from West Side Story," which seemed pretty exciting for all the kids. They got a chance to see, I think, that our arrangement is pretty accurate to the original (rhythmically and motivically). I think we were the only band there shouting "Mambo."

Seeing the Marching Band portion was amazing, and it was a special highlight for the kids to see Andrew Lapin (former BHS band member) marching and playing trombone. When he came out doing entries, I think a few kids almost fainted a la Beatlemania. I'm very proud of him for making these blocks his freshman year--not easy to do in the competitive trombone section. It was really fun for me to see some colleagues from this summer's classes (and before) conducting the band. It's a switch to see my friend Dave Tenerelli up in front after seeing him in front of a recorder class in Jackson. What a fun gig for him.

Tim Cibor (band director at Seaholm and beloved coach at our marching band camp) came with his band, too, which was great.

It's nights that like that make me more and more grateful for the position I'm in.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Concert--This Friday

Just a reminder that the marching band has their annual Indoor Marching Concert this Friday, October 19th. The concert will begin at 7:30 PM at the BHS Auditorium. Hope to see you there!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Tag Days '07

What can I say? Our Berkley band students are the best kids around. Period. If anyone has any Norup or Anderson pictures, I'd love to post those, too...

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Photos from Homecoming

On Friday, I had friend and professional photographer Abby Veldman take pictures of the marching band at the Homecoming football game. You can follow this link to view the pictures and buy prints if you like: Click on "Clients" at the bottom of the home page, and then click on "Berkley Homecoming."

Enjoy! I think she captured some really nice moments from the night...

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Pieces for Symphonic Band Auditions

Here is a link to a recording of "Procession of the Nobles."

This should give you an idea of the piece. But...warning! They play the piece significantly faster than most ensembles, and faster than we will play it.

Shoot for Quarter Note = 90-96. Not 124 like this band on the recording...

Here's a recording of the other audition excerpt: "Rondo," from "Prelude, Siciliano, and Rondo."

The audio isn't great. Also, probably an example of the most boring way to conduct...

Remember, auditions for symphonic band will take place the week of October 15 during seminar and after school.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Pictures from Andover

Here are some pictures (courtesy of Robertta Goffeney) of Saturday's Andover Invitational. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Andover Invitational

Last night, the marching band performed at the annual Andover "Early Bird" Marching Band Invitational in Bloomfield Hills. I was proud of how the band did, especially considering we hadn't met since Tuesday evening.

The invitational was valuable for several reasons. First, we received two audio tapes of comments by two long-time music educators and a video tape from the press box. Second, we got a chance to put our whole show on the field before the ensuing football games. Until last night, we had only performed 3 of 5 songs. Last, we got the chance to see 6 other area bands including Troy HS (, Andover (, Lahser (, Dakota (, and Southfield HS and Southfield-Lathrup (

What might be most fun about the night is seeing the very different styles of the bands. Our band probably had a similar style to Andover and Lahser in the presentation, music, and marching style. In the same way, the Southfield schools have a similar style, modeling their show on the Florida A&M Band ( Troy and Dakota had unique styles, at times approximating DCI ( groups.

We have the next week off from football and then follow with our last two games. I'll post soon about upcoming October events, including the trip to UM's Band-O-Rama (October 20), Tag Days fundraiser (October 12-14), and the indoor marching concert (October 19).

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A few corrections for the marching band...

Two corrections/clarifications about upcoming marching band events.

1) The call time for the marching band at Saturday's invitational is 6:15 PM at the circle drive in front of Andover HS. I had previously noted 5:45 (sorry).

2) The deadline for turning in ticket money for the UM Band-O-Rama ($9 to Berkley High School) should have read Friday, September 21st, not Friday, September 14th (sorry).

3) Sorry.

Hope to see everyone on Saturday!

Monday, September 10, 2007


Just a reminder that the BHS Marching Band has an extra practice tomorrow (Tuesday) evening from 6:45-8:15 PM at the field across from the high school. Be on the field no later than 6:45!! If anyone has a conflict, I need a signed note from a parent excusing you. We have lots of work to do...

Tuesday, September 4, 2007






Band Camp Wrap-Up

The second week began with more hot weather and good retention from the band. While we were able to get three songs on the field by the end of the first week, things were still in a rough state. We needed the second week to clean up the first three songs, attempt the following 1 and 1/2 tunes, and work on pregame and stands tunes.

"Cool," our third song, is just flat-out hard. But I love it for its substance. Considering its a 1:30 long marching band arrangement, it keeps its integrity and style intact (most arrangements of its kind are dumbed-down). I'm proud of the kids for working hard on it. I believe its intricacy (and our hard work on it) will translate into how well we play for the December concert and beyond.

In fact, "Cool" was difficult enough that we were not able to get to cleaning up "America" or to even charting "Tonight." This was expected, however, and we'll have those on the field for our September 15 invitational performance.

By the time Wednesday and Thursday (August 29-30) came around, the kids and myself were overheated and exhausted. So we finished a little early on Wednesday and slept in a little on Thursday. The performance Thursday evening was successful and received well. I can't wait to see what we are able to put together this Friday...

Friday, August 24, 2007

One Week Down

5 Days later, the Berkley HS Marching Band has made leaps and bounds toward our "West Side Story" show. It was a bit hard to believe today that the band that was playing and marching both "Maria" and "Mambo," and which had worked through all of its third song, was the same that needed time with standing at attention on Monday morning. But enough glowing generalities.

As a first time marching band director, I'm thrilled with the efficiency of our marching rehearsals and with the attitude of the band so far. I've worked with a lot of groups with significantly lower morale, work ethic, and sense of family than this, and I constantly feel blessed to work in Berkley.

That said, we aren't close to the finished product yet.

I think it's really important to go to the source of the music we play in band. So on Thursday night, Al Lindstrom (auditorium manager and former die-hard Purdue Marching Band member) got us in to watch "West Side Story." About 40 band members came and we had a great time. You sort of forget the dynamics of that movie until you see it. What got me the most was how hip the movie still is. The music, the clothes, the dance choreography--all amazing. You might not remember it as a comedy, but to most of our male band members, it was. I guess they didn't always understand the need to interrupt a good knife fight with dancing or singing.

On Monday we make our 2007 debut at the freshmen orientation. Parents should feel free to stop by any rehearsals next week (we're usually outside from 10-12 and 2:30-4). Otherwise, see you at Hurley Field on Thursday night...

Monday, August 20, 2007

Band Camp Begins

Today was the first day of band camp and a soggy one at that. As everyone in the band knows, the 2.5" of rain that fell in the metro Detroit area seemed to congregate at Hurley Field. Luckily, we were able to use the gymnasium to learn some fundamentals, and only had to spend less than an hour of the afternoon in the rain, which ranged from a light mist to something else entirely.

Band members had a good first day. Rehearsals and sectionals were run pretty well, and everyone was impressed with the effort of the the freshmen. It's no easy task to get thrown into a 100-member group with confident seniors barking responses. Good job, Frosh.

We have some excellent help from the outside as well. Birmingham High School Director of Bands, Tim Cibor, is here for most days of camp. Also assisting are UM School of Music students Annika Voss and Matthew Landry. Last, the drumline will receive instruction from local musician and teacher Adam James. It's hard to stress how advantageous it is to have these sets of eyes and ears with us for the week.

I also escorted 18 awesome upperclassmen/section leaders/drum majors to Echo Grove Camp & Conference Center on Sunday for teambuilding/leadership training. With the exception of some rain--catch the common thread, here?--we had a great time. I was impressed with how well the group worked together. If all goes well, I'll post some pictures from our outing.

Hope for a dry day tomorrow...

Mr. Shaw

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

August 2007 Update

Today is Tuesday, July 31st. On the eve of August, the month in which the Berkley HS Marching Band will begin its hard work at band camp, I thought I'd update students and supporters alike on the band's status.

We've had three successful music-only rehearsals on our challenging "West Side Story" show. Band members have their work cut out for them with this one, but the progress is very encouraging. Musical numbers include "Maria," "Mambo," "Cool," "America (Mallet Percussion feature)," and "Tonight." I think the show strikes the perfect balance between challenging and worthwhile music and catchy, entertaining tunes.

Our drumline recently had an interesting opportunity. We were contacted by the John Edwards presidential campaign and asked to entertain outside the 2007 NAACP National Convention at Cobo Hall. After a long morning of playing cadences and supporting cheers on a beautiful Detroit day, we caught a glimpse of Senator Edwards as his limo pulled up. While the drumline was not able to march inside the convention hall (as we were originally told was likely), I did receive word from the Senator's spokesperson that he was very excited to have our drumline present when he arrived. Signed letters of thanks for the drumline members are on the way.

Our on-field drill is almost complete, thanks to the hard work of our drum majors Kate Fairman, Megan MacDonald, and Umberto Fournier, along with Drumline Section Leader Peter Rifel and DM alum, Beth Quisenberry.

Lastly, the Berkley Instrumental Boosters have graciously supported the Marching Band again, helping us purchase necessary equipment. This includes step ladders on which our two periphary drum majors can conduct. The bigger purchase was the immensely helpful Long Ranger IV. This will make a big difference in the efficacy of our rehearsals and we're looking forward to it.

The next event on the horizon is of course our camp beginning Monday, August 20th. Talk to everyone soon...

Mr. Shaw