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I recently picked up a senior from the local High School. On our first lesson I told the kid to just bring some of his favorite music so I could just hear him play. He shows up with a MK VII alto and a premiere mouthpiece and starts to play. He sounded like crap lots and lots of air mixed with very little sound. After a few questions he tells me:
1. He is playing a #4 reed.
2. His band teacher is a Drummer
3. Every sax player has 4 size reeds to help with thier intonation.....
4. The only reason he was playing that junky sax was because his vito was broken.
5. There where other saxophones in the storage room just like he was playing but the students did not want to play them cause they where pieces of junk. (I eventually found out they are MK VI's and VII's)
6. He wants to be a music major in college
It took me about 2 months to fix this kids sound and embouchure and its still a little shakey. There is no way this kid is going to pass a college audition this year.
Now I cant get the rest of the sax section out of my head.. How many of his sax players will eventually want to major in music? How many will fall on their faces at the audition?
 

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Really in this situation I really dont see a way for anyone to help the seniors all that much but the band director should be noticing this and trying to fix the problem. If he's not he's not doing his job. The only way really to get a new band director is if he quits or if he did something that got him fired but to get fired from a teaching position now a days takes a lot and I mean a lot.
 

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topher said:
How many of his sax players will eventually want to major in music? How many will fall on their faces at the audition?
The lucky ones; who might not end up being poor.
 

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And also tell the drummer/teacher I would be happy to buy him a shiny new Vito sax for every single one of those junky horns he has laying around. Heck, I would even spring for a Bundy II!!!!
 

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Yeah, sounds like my high school band instructor. He was a sax player, but he didn't know how to read chord changes. My senior year, I recall a time when he unsuccessfully tried to teach the band how to swing eighth notes for "Tequila."

Poor soul, though... a drummer in charge of the band. They probably don't get anything done.

(No offense to drum-playing saxophonists, of course. :D)
 

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I've taught a lot of middle/high school kids, and I run across those kinds of problems all the time.

I've noticed a trend where band directors complain that their saxophones can't play low notes and they play waaayy out of tune most of the time, particularly above high A, and they either sound like chainsaws or all fuzzy. Sad thing is that the finger of blame always points outwards to the sax players who are considered to be bad musicians and it is never thought that maybe they're being taught wrong.

Meanwhile, band directors continue to teach their sax players some bastardized clarinet embouchure and insist they play on hard reeds because of course the harder the reed, the better the sound. And they don't understand why their saxes still sound like crap. What's that definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results or something like that?

Maybe you could offer to go in and do masterclasses or sectionals for the band director. Just be tactfull when you explain to the kids their director knows nothing about how to play woodwinds. Even offer to do one for free in the hopes of getting some more students out of it.

My middle school had a Conn 6M as the "junk horn" that sat in a closet most of the time. Wonder if it's still there...
 

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topher said:
I recently picked up a senior from the local High School. On our first lesson I told the kid to just bring some of his favorite music so I could just hear him play. He shows up with a MK VII alto and a premiere mouthpiece and starts to play. He sounded like crap lots and lots of air mixed with very little sound. After a few questions he tells me:
1. He is playing a #4 reed.
2. His band teacher is a Drummer
3. Every sax player has 4 size reeds to help with thier intonation.....
4. The only reason he was playing that junky sax was because his vito was broken.
5. There where other saxophones in the storage room just like he was playing but the students did not want to play them cause they where pieces of junk. (I eventually found out they are MK VI's and VII's)
6. He wants to be a music major in college
It took me about 2 months to fix this kids sound and embouchure and its still a little shakey. There is no way this kid is going to pass a college audition this year.
Now I cant get the rest of the sax section out of my head.. How many of his sax players will eventually want to major in music? How many will fall on their faces at the audition?
I am sad to say that I almost laughed at the part of junk horns being considered Mark VI's and VII's. That is extreamly sad. The sad thing that is going on everywhere almost. It was not until my current lesson teacher corrected my embouchure this year that I started getting the sound I wanted. This was on a Selmer Series II Tenor. My private lesson teacher told me that he had scarring on his bottom lip from playing the way I was playing for a long time.

As much G.A.S. as we all suffer from time to time, the person plays the instrument. I am kinda surprised by how much I realize my band director knows. They got any Sops. they want to get rid of cheaply?:D :D :D
 

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I don't think it's just the fault of the band instructors, because they can't possibly know the entire musical background of each and every student and still conform to each person's needs. One kid might have a good strong sound, but has trouble with anything beyond an eighth note. Another kid might play so softly you can't hear them unless you sit them down and have them play a solo where they shine like a brand new Sax that's just been carefully polished.

A teacher could end up with a group of Sax players where some players own their sax, and maybe even have private lessons on the side, and others must use whatever the school has available and rely on whatever practice they can get at home and also learn from whomever will teach them because they barely have the money to pay for a new reed now and then.

I know I struggled once I hit middle school because I had ended up in a magnet school where the band class was on the High School campus just across the way. Where I had felt pretty confident in elementary school, being the only Sax player in the 6th grade and having the responsibility to help the fifth graders who took up the sax, when 7th grade hit, I was thrust into a huge band (at least fifty kids in the class...) There were no Altos to borrow from the school as a beginning band class had taken them all... So I was stuck with a Bari. I was intimidated by the size of the thing and quickly realized that since I took the bus to school there would be no way in heck that I'd be able to get practice at home. (Oh c'mon, where was I gonna put that monstrous thing? And besides, I didn't think I'd be able to manage carrying it from the bus stop at the local regular middle school to my house which was several blocks away.)

I did my best in that class until I was back at a school where an Alto was available. We all make do with what we have. I'm sure you all agree. Even a person with the potential to succeed will fail if they do not have the tools and opportunities to succeed. This is shown very well in School bands.
 

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It is the teacher's fault. The teacher is doing a job they aren't qualified to do and are teaching the kids many, many wrong things. It wouldn't be such a big deal if they would ask someone who knows what they're talking about for info. In the process they're turning those kids' chances of learning to play properly into a (likely unappealing) uphill battle.
 

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littlemanbighorn said:
It is the teacher's fault. The teacher is doing a job they aren't qualified to do and are teaching the kids many, many wrong things. It wouldn't be such a big deal if they would ask someone who knows what they're talking about for info. In the process they're turning those kids' chances of learning to play properly into a (likely unappealing) uphill battle.

This happens in every field, not just music. You should see the number of people teaching things they aren't qualified for even at the university level.
 

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There are many fine music education programs across the country that have rigorous standards and teach comprehensive and up to date pedagogy for all band instruments. Unfortunately this is not the case for all university programs. Nevertheless there are countless resources available for music educators to strengthen their weak areas even after graduating, so it is indeed the fault of the teacher. "You cannot teach what you do not know".

In the case of the example given, I would question the competency of the elementary and/or junior high band teacher as well. Good tone production concepts and playing habits need to be established well before the high school level if a student is going to have a chance at becoming a highly skilled player. Poor playing habits of 4 or 5 years are extremely difficult if not impossible to correct even by a skilled teacher. My experience has taught me that the first year of a student's playing experience is by far the most critical. It used to drive me crazy when parents would say "if he does well and shows an interest after the first year or two---then we will get a good instrument and pay for some private lessons". ARGGGH:banghead:
 

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jbtsax said:
It used to drive me crazy when parents would say "if he does well and shows an interest after the first year or two---then we will get a good instrument and pay for some private lessons". ARGGGH:banghead:
I totally agree. The first years are the most important. My Nephew just picked up the Sax through his school the same way I did, and I was telling my sister (his mom) that she ought to rent a sax for him so that he can practice during the summer as well. Unfortunately, things are just about as tight for them as it was for my mom and I with money when I was that age so it's like "If he does well then we'll see what we can do..." Hopefully I get a sax of my own by the time I come down so I can show him a few things, maybe even teach him some of what I know.
 

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cleger said:
This happens in every field, not just music. You should see the number of people teaching things they aren't qualified for even at the university level.
AMEN, brother. I see this every day.
 

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jbtsax said:
In the case of the example given, I would question the competency of the elementary and/or junior high band teacher as well. Good tone production concepts and playing habits need to be established well before the high school level if a student is going to have a chance at becoming a highly skilled player. Poor playing habits of 4 or 5 years are extremely difficult if not impossible to correct even by a skilled teacher. My experience has taught me that the first year of a student's playing experience is by far the most critical. It used to drive me crazy when parents would say "if he does well and shows an interest after the first year or two---then we will get a good instrument and pay for some private lessons". ARGGGH:banghead:
I'm living this problem now... I feel cheated really... I spent hours upon hours practicing in high school and practicing WRONG. Until i got to college i had no clue and it wasn't til college i realized it. That is what really gave me the fire to teach... I'm pissed i wasted so many years...
 

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fenix424 said:
I'm living this problem now... I feel cheated really... I spent hours upon hours practicing in high school and practicing WRONG. Until i got to college i had no clue and it wasn't til college i realized it. That is what really gave me the fire to teach... I'm pissed i wasted so many years...
Yeah, that's precisely how I felt. It took eight years of musicianship--from fifth grade til college--before I found out what chords were. My girlfriend, on the other hand, was taught the circle of fifths while in her middle school jazz band. Cheated... yeah, that sounds about right.
 

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Carbs said:
I am sad to say that I almost laughed at the part of junk horns being considered Mark VI's and VII's. That is extreamly sad. The sad thing that is going on everywhere almost. It was not until my current lesson teacher corrected my embouchure this year that I started getting the sound I wanted. This was on a Selmer Series II Tenor. My private lesson teacher told me that he had scarring on his bottom lip from playing the way I was playing for a long time.

As much G.A.S. as we all suffer from time to time, the person plays the instrument. I am kinda surprised by how much I realize my band director knows. They got any Sops. they want to get rid of cheaply?:D :D :D
yeah seriously. if they've got any baritone saxophones with lewd pictures of undressed women engraved into the bell, I'll take it off their hands. for the good of the children, of course.
 

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Rahspeak said:
yeah seriously. if they've got any baritone saxophones with lewd pictures of undressed women engraved into the bell, I'll take it off their hands. for the good of the children, of course.

I'm with you!! I will personally replace anything there with a brand new shiny Yamaha!!
 

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***! I see this all the time. My band, I found out was a college level band a couple years before I came, and hen our new direcctor came, our band played zippity doo dah day, and it's a small world, (more like it's a small brain in there). SO I just came to this school, from being in a band that has so many great player, and I am going to be drum major, and put swome sense into the band and the teacher. Instead of playing the cheesy "Patriotic spectacular, no, we're going to play sousa marches, and I am going to force the other students to play with dynam,ics, and intonation, to where they hate me! Oh buy the way, if you come across any conns or mark VI's, please PM me. I am a very caring person who is always looking to help poor helpless children. I'll take a couple of those mark VI's. Anything to save someones life to get rid of junk. This is ridiculous. My school band director says that we don't have enough money to but new tenor saxes, when his wife/man in the relationship/assistant band director spends $40k each year to buy NEW STEEL DRUMS!!!!!!!! THAT'S MY TAX MONEY!!!!!!
And if it doesn't get any worse, we have no jazz band, whereas the previous band director had one, and the new director does nothing and tells me," I 'm terribly sorry that we have no time to have a jazz band. I hope you understand that," This is crap when He takes more "sick days" than any other teacher in the school. If there is one thing that I know, it is that band directors these days just do it for the money, and most of them don't even care if their bands know how to play or not!!!!!
 

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Chu, for the band's sake, for your teacher's sake, and most of all for your sake, it's time for an attitude adjustment.
 
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