Information about next year’s 6th Grade Band
5th Grade students will soon have the opportunity to try different band instruments to see which ones fit them. The best choice for a student depends on many factors: personal preference, physical characteristics like the shape of lips and teeth, and musical aptitude. We are fortunate to have on hand a group of experienced technicians who have years of experience helping students discover which instrument fits them best!
The next step for students who would like to join band is to attend with their parents our Band Sign-Up meeting on Thursday, May 25th at 5:30 P.M. in the Litchfield High School “Little Theater”. At this meeting, I’ll talk to students and parents about band and answer any questions you might have. At the end, you’ll have the opportunity to meet with representatives from Eckroth Music to arrange for an instrument rental next year (or to have any necessary maintenance done on an instrument you already own), and order a book and supplies. Please bring a checkbook to cover the cost of the book, supplies, and rental or repairs. Attendance at this meeting is important for all students interested in band. Even if you already have an instrument, we’d still love to meet with you to tell you more about the band program, and to make sure you have all the supplies you’ll need (book, etc.).
Summer Beginning Band: Monday-Thursday, August 14-17 and 21-24
After our Band Sign-Up parents’ meeting on Thursday, May 25th, the next time I’ll see the band students is at our free two week “Summer Beginning Band”, Monday-Thursday, August 14-17 and 21-24. Each day, students come to a group lesson for 45 minutes and start to learn how to play their instruments. It’s a lot of fun, and a great way to start 6th Grade!
Many questions will be answered at the Band Sign-Up parents’ meeting on Thursday, May 25th, but I’ve answered some Frequently Asked Questions below. You can also contact me by phone or email: John Twernbold firstname.lastname@example.org (320)-693-2441, ext. 3210
Q. When do we rent/buy a band instrument?
A. At the Band Sign-Up parents’ meeting on Thursday, May 26th, representatives from Eckroth Music will be present to handle all arrangements for renting (or buying) a band instrument. You can also check out the Instruments for Sale page for names of local families selling used instruments.
Q. How much does it cost?
A. The price to rent most band instruments (clarinet, flute, trumpet, trombone) from Eckroth Music is $25 to $35 per month. This rental fee is applied towards the total price of the instrument–you will eventually own the instrument. However, you may return the instrument at any time without penalty if your child chooses not to continue in band. Litchfield Middle School also owns a limited number of instruments, available for a small rental fee per year. These are available for student use for just $50 for the entire year, or for free to eligible families. Students would also need to purchase their own accessories for use with a school-owned instrument (brass players need a mouthpiece; clarinet players need reeds).
Q. I found an amazing deal online for a brand-new instrument! Is it too good to be true?
A. Probably. 🙂 Music instruments are precision tools, and you get what you pay for. If you see a brand new instrument at a surprisingly low price, you’re right to be suspicious. Stick to brand names (Accent, Yamaha, Bach, Selmer, King, etc.) to get a quality instrument. When in doubt, email me the link and I’ll help you check it out. Avoid purchasing instruments from discount stores like Wal-Mart or online stores like Amazon. Such instruments are little more than toys, and never sound quite right (e.g. the valves get stuck, the pads leak air). Furthermore, they are usually pretty flimsy: they’ll often bend or break, and cannot be repaired like a “real” instrument—they’re basically disposable instruments. However, quality used instruments can be a great way to save money. They may need a bit of maintenance (e.g. chem flush for brass instruments, repadding for woodwinds), but a used brand name instrument is a good choice. Check out Instruments for Sale page for a listing of instruments currently being sold by local families.
Q. What other costs are involved with band?
A. Some instruments may require additional accessories. Woodwind instruments like saxophone and clarinet will require reeds, which should be replaced monthly (or whenever damaged). Reeds are available at Litchfield Middle School for about $2.50 each (alto/tenor sax reeds are $3.00/$3.50, respectively), or can be purchased in boxes of ten from Eckroth Music at a discount. All clarinet/sax players should have FOUR good reeds at any time. Students will also need a music book: Essential Elements, Book I
Q. What if the instrument needs repairs?
A. Any repairs can be handled through Eckroth Music or Whitney Music, both of whom send representatives out to Litchfield Middle School every Wednesday morning to delivery supplies, as well as pick up any instrument needing repairs or drop off repaired instruments. But students should be able to avoid costly repairs by taking care of their instruments and treating them with respect. While most accidental damage can be repaired, instruments of poor quality (like the type from Wal-Mart or Amazon) sometimes cannot be repaired. We encourage all band students to obtain quality instruments, such as those available from Eckroth Music.
Q. Can I play saxophone? What about horn, oboe, or bassoon?
A. We start students only on flute, clarinet, trumpet, trombone, tuba, and percussion. Students who begin on clarinet are sometimes offered the opportunity to switch to saxophone halfway through 6th Grade. Likewise, oboe and bassoon are an option later on for clarinetists, and horn is an option for trumpet players. There are a lot of other instruments out there which aren’t “band” instruments, and our standard band music isn’t written for them: violin, cello, guitar, etc. And no, I don’t teach accordian, bagpipes, or the hurdy-gurdy. 😉
Q. What’s the deal with percussion?
A. We are flexible in how many of each type of instrument we start in 6th Grade Band, with one exception: percussion. Band music is typically only written for 5-6 percussionists, and thus we need to limit the number of players. If there are too many percussionists, some would have to sit out and not participate, and that isn’t fun or educational for the students. Another challenge with percussion is that it includes so many different types of instruments: drums, mallet instruments (xylophone, bells, etc.), auxiliary percussion (cymbals, tambourine, triangle, etc.), and an entire world of ethnic and specialty percussion (drum set, afro-cuban drumming, rudimental drumming etc.) We want beginning percussionists to be successful even though they have so much to learn, so we require piano proficiency for this one section of the band: this insures that beginning percussionists already know how to read music, and have familiarity with mallet instruments (a xylophone is really just a piano played with mallets). To help us find the 5-6 percussionists for next year’s 6th Grade Band, we ask that any interested students come in and demonstrate their musical skills. This audition will consist of the following:
- Rhythm tests
- Limb coordination tests
- A prepared piano solo (please bring your own music)
- Sight-reading on piano
We will offer these percussion auditions in September. Prior to that, students should begin on a brass or woodwind instrument throughout our Summer Beginning Band lessons. Part of the evaluation of percussionists includes consideration of the student’s performance during Summer Beginning Band: amount and consistency of practice, attention to detail, speed and ease of grasping new concepts, etc. Once all interested students have auditioned, the 5-6 students with the strongest auditions will be contacted and given the option to play percussion, if they wish. Other students will be given their first choice of a woodwind or brass instrument. Please note that I also teach a Percussion Class at the high school, and students who have mastered a woodwind or brass instrument in middle school are sometimes given the option to join the high school Percussion Class.
Used Instruments for Sale
The following local families have used instruments for sale: