Slava! performed by an Elementary Band? Sure! Why not?

Just wanted to share this AMAZING video of an elementary band in Japan performing Leonard Bernstein’s Slava! Enjoy!

Ironically, this YouTube video directly relates to an online class that I just started through Wilkes University and Discovery Ed. I will post about that later. Anyway, I had my wife listen to the audio of this video first before seeing who was performing. Then, we she came into the room and saw who was performing the work, she was as flabbergasted as I was.

I have just begun reading Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind for my graduate class. In the first chapter, he writes about left brain versus right brain thinking and how our educational system has traditionally catered to the left – the logical, language-centered, essentially more “academic” side of our brain, all the while more or less ignoring our more right-brained compassionate, artistic, emotional side. This video is a direct correlation to that.

My wife says, “What’s wrong with this country that we don’t focus enough on the arts?” As Daniel Pink would point out, it is largely in part due to education being based on preparing a workforce to participate in the Industrial Revolution where artistic and creative thinking were not as valued. Somehow, folks in other countries have at least figured out that the arts are a vital part of their school’s curriculum.

I could go on and on about the effects of high stakes testing, and how I believe our educational system is skewed, etc. but many other folks have written much more eloquently on the subject than I ever could. I would like to leave you though with this talk given by Sir Ken Robinson in 2006 for TED Talks.

UPDATE: My Top Ten Songs

If you read my last post, you know that I was given a challenge of coming up with my top 10 favorite songs or recordings.  Well, after sifting through some 8000 or so songs on iTunes, I have finally picked 10 (well, 13 actually). Here they are in no particular order, and my reasons for picking them.

1. Chameleon – Maynard Ferguson – The first time I ever played a saxophone solo in public was a junior high jazz band concert in 7th grade. This was the song.

2. Hello City – Barenaked Ladies – When I first met my wife, she introduced me to the Barenaked Ladies. Every time I hear this song (or any song from the “Gordon” album) it makes me think of her and when we started dating. I like that.

3. The Rain Song – Led Zeppelin – I had to include a song from my all-time favorite band, and I just think this song really showcases how well they wrote music. I have always enjoyed music that was written with a lot of creativity.

4. Third Symphony, Mvt. 3 – Mesto (for Natalie) – James Barnes – One of the most moving pieces of music that I have ever played in an ensemble. I can remember weeping while playing this piece several times.

5. Shiny Stockings – Count Basie – This is the tune that introduced me to the Basie Band. I can remember specifically playing this song at a jazz festival in high school. It has been one of my favorite big band charts ever since.

6. Mercy, Mercy, Mercy – Cannonball Adderley – This is the song that introduced me to Cannonball. He has since become one of my top two favorites and biggest influences.

7. Irish Tune from County Derry – Percy Grainger – Hands down, my favorite wind band piece of all time. To me, this piece is the standard of beauty in the wind band literature.

8. Ornithology – Charlie Parker – This is from one of the first jazz recordings I ever owned – Charlie Parker at Storyville. I can remember just being amazed when I first heard it as a young saxophone player.

9. Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag – James Brown – I can remember hearing this recording on the local oldies station that my parents listened to. Probably my first introduction to soul/r&b music. I have always loved this tune!

10. Daphnis & Chloe – Suite No. 2 – Maurice Ravel – When I played this piece in college, it was the first time I really connected emotions to performing music. I mean deep emotion. I had always heard directors and conductors talk about playing with emotion and feeling, but it never really clicked with me until I played this piece.

11. Delta City Blues – Michael Brecker – This one is from my other biggest saxophone influence. What Michael does with overtones in this recording just blows my mind. He is one of the all-time greats. I wish I could have seen him live before he passed away.

12. Cheese Cake – Dexter Gordon – I was introduced to this recording at a jazz camp that had a huge impact on my life when I was in high school. I wish I could have picked every track from this album entitled “Go.”

13. Bu’s March – Benny Green – I always wished that I could play piano, and I love this album from Benny Green recorded live at the Village Vanguard. This recording has one of the hardest swinging shout choruses I’ve ever heard.

So there you have it. Looking back at this list, I noticed that each song has had a particular impact on my life as a teacher and musician, and I suppose subconsciously, that is why I picked them. I hope you get a chance to check out any that you are not familiar with, and I challenge you to do the same and pick your top ten. Please share the results here!

Top Ten Favorite Pieces

This idea is somewhat related to a conversation that Travis Weller started a while ago with a post entitled “My Band Room is On Fire.”

My ever-faithful assistant director Dennis Hritz, posed this question to me the other day: If a dinner was being held in your honor to document your life as a musician so far, what 10 recordings would be played at that dinner? So, my mission is to come up with 10 songs or recordings that are my favorites, regardless of genre. This is something that I’m going to have to think about! I’m not quite sure if I can narrow it down to only 10 favorite recordings, but I have starting thinking about what I might include. Some ideas I’ve had are to include things like my first jazz album that I owned or the first jazz recording I ever heard. I have to also include some of my all-time favorite players like Cannonball Adderley and Johnny Griffin. What songs have I listened to over and over again and still loved just as much as the first time that I heard them?

On a somewhat related note, if you haven’t checked out 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die, you need to do that! I have found some really great stuff there!

I would be interested to hear what is on your top ten list! I will post mine here as soon as I decide!

Middle & High School Winter Concert Recordings

Below I have posted links to our recordings from the winter concert. The first 3 songs were performed by a combined middle and high school group. I have done this the last few years because of lack of instrumentation in the middle school. The glaring thing that needs work in these recordings to me is intonation. I welcome your input upon hearing these as well. I tried to use the wordpress embedded player for these files, but for whatever reason, it didn’t seem to want to play them from drop.io. Any thoughts on that would also be appreciated, as I would rather use the embedded player than the links. Thanks!

I should also mention some info about the bands that you are hearing. These groups meet 2 and 3 days a week only, due to our scheduling. The Middle School Band instrumentation is as follows:
2 Flutes
6 Clarinets
1 Trumpet
2 French Horns
2 Trombones
4 Percussion
1 Mallets

High School Band:
2 Flutes
4 Clarinets
1 Alto Saxophone
1 Tenor Saxophone
3 Trumpets
2 Trombones
1 Tuba
8 Percussion
2 Mallets

The 7th & 8th grade bands perform together, even though the meet during separate periods. Also, 9th & 10th grade students meet a separate period from 11th & 12th, but they also perform as one ensemble.

Song for the Winter Moon – MS & HS
Do You Hear…? – MS & HS
Oh Hanukkah – MS & HS
Fa Una Canzona – HS
Prelude on Greensleeves – HS