Grenada Band Teaching Strategies
Have you ever wondered how the members of the Grenada High School Band reach the level of performance we see at each Friday night game or how they win so many competitions? These talented musicians and performers don’t just drop from the sky. They are developed through years of practice and grooming by the Grenada School District band program. The directors of this program work together, teaching individual sections and/or full bands. They strive to help each student reach his or her potential as a musician. The band directors for the 2013 – 2014 school year are Barry Rogers, Director of Bands, and Assistant Band Directors Bernard Hatch, Steven Hugley, Brandon Lang, Joe Presley, Kim Presley, and Chris Sumrall.
The GSD band program actually begins in the fifth grade when students take a test to determine their musical aptitude. Approximately 175 – 225 students who meet score requirements are invited to participate in the sixth grade band program. Students who choose to accept the invitation spend the first month of sixth grade trying out various instruments to determine which one fits them best. After they choose an instrument; the work begins. The band is divided into instrument sections where each section works with an individual band director to learn to play their instrument. The students spend eighty-five percent of the year in sections, and the remainder of the year rehearsing as a full band. This first year of instrumental training is very important.
The significance of the first year of band has been solidified with the introduction of a new award. According to the sixth grade band curriculum, students have to “pass off” items for the directors. This allows the directors to have a more personal relationship with the students, and helps the directors troubleshoot problems before they arise. In the beginner band curriculum, the students now have benchmarks they must reach in order to become a “Master Middle School Musician.” The 40 benchmarks are broken up into 8 different levels before culminating to “Master Middle School Musician.” For each benchmark passed, the students receive a “star” to show mastery over that concept and benchmark. If a student receives 3 stars then they are considered to be a Level 1 musician. Every 5 stars after that, the students reach a new level: 3 stars = Level 1; 8 stars = Level 2; 13 stars = Level 3; 18 stars = Level 4; etc… The directors’ goal at the end of the year is to have all of their students on Level 6. If the students make it to Level 7 or higher, they are considered to be on a seventh grade level. Completing all 40 is an extremely hard task. Last year only 3 students accomplished all 40.
Jada Cashaw and Anna Francis, both from the Clarinet section, and Olivia Pollen, from the Saxophone Section, completed every benchmark set forth in the sixth grade curriculum. The directors are extremely proud of these students’ accomplishments. All three students received individual trophies with their name and year engraved on them. Along with the trophies, there is now a perpetual plaque hanging in the Grenada Band Hall that will be added to yearly with the names of the sixth grade students who complete every benchmark. These are the first of many who will be added to the plaque. Congratulations and good luck to these students as they continue to further their music education as part of the Grenada Band Program.