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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This is a variation off the "How would you rebuild a high school program" thread.

My daughter is in 10th grade and terribly bored with her high school band and jazz band. She's been in the high school jazz band since 6th grade, and been principal alto in both since 8th grade. She has the Fuzzy Bird sonata "down", according her her well-known private instructor, and is already playing at a level which could get her into a top conservatory. On both sax and oboe.

The band director is very nice. Perhaps too nice. Discipline doesn't really exist in the program. Players are not required to practice. One of the other alto players was given half of the 1st alto parts this year, probably because his parents asked the director to, but this boy doesn't practice. He also hits my daughter sometimes when she tries practicing her lesson during warmups.

The band director does try to give her some incentives to stay with the program, but I'm afraid they won't be enough this year. He's selected a piece with a long English horn solo, and last year she got to perform the Scaramouche concerto with a small wind/string ensemble (consisting of the instructors and a few professionals). In jazz band, they'll play "Begin the Beguine" for the last concert, and she'll get the clarinet solo.

While she's happy for that, putting up with the lack of discipline and effort by other band members every day all year is really wearing on her. If the players were more like the 1st tenor sax player, for example, she wouldn't mind nearly as much. The tenor sax player doesn't have much talent, but he takes lessons, practices and tries learning jazz from my daughter by asking her questions and listening. My daughter is happy when this player gets some solos, because he is actually trying.

She's seriously thinking of quitting the bands, graduating one year early and going to conservatory early, where she can finally play in a real wind ensemble.

There are other high school programs in the area with far better bands, but hers isn't one of them. She plays in an outside youth symphony (on oboe), but has nowhere to play "classical" sax. She does perform in musicals (she's done about 8), but those are mostly oboe/EH/clarinet and only some include sax.

Thoughts?
 

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Graduate early, or take a serious look at the high school program at The University of North Carolina School of the Arts. It would be a boarding school situation, but she would be surrounded by people of similar caliber in ALL the performing arts.
 

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I had a very similar situation as High School student. I did not participate in my High School band but looked for playing opportunities elsewhere. I performed with the local community college jazz ensemble, summer jazz camps, and eventual made All-State Jazz. High School band if done incorrectly causes more damage then good. I have been a middle school band director for 11 years and I see promising students leave the high school program simply due to lack of discipline. We have a new HS director so hopefully participation will increase. Good Luck
 

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If she really isn't getting anything out of the school band program then maybe she doesn't need to be there. As a band director I've had many students who were way ahead of their peers, but they still enjoyed playing in the band and felt they could gain something from it. As a band director it is important to help these kids find ways to keep even the most advanced kids learning in band. Sometimes this can mean playing another instrument in band of having a leadership position. A couple of years ago I moved an incredible talented flute player to bassoon. He kept up with the flute in private lessons, and since become a serious bassoonist.

It is a weak move for the band director to take the first parts away from your daughter if she deserves to play them. (sometimes 2nd alto isn't all that different though)

School bands are going to be geared towards the students who are in them. Probably only 1-2% will go to conservatory, so obviously anyone in your daughter's position would be amongst peers who are far less motivated and disciplined in music. She wouldn't get into a good conservatory anyway unless she were on a different level than the majority of students.

Sometimes advanced kids stay in the bands because playing easy music is still fun for them. Or because having time for music during school is fun. Or because of the social aspect. If worse comes to worse you can always get her a bassoon or change the keys of the sax parts so she has to learn to transpose to play in that band.
 

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Also, I'd add that, discipline issues aside, it sounds like the band director has made a honest effort to showcase her abilities. He/she has dozens of other individuals to attend to. If she's too advanced, there is only so much the much the band director can do.
 

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Also, I'd add that, discipline issues aside, it sounds like the band director has made a honest effort to showcase her abilities. He/she has dozens of other individuals to attend to. If she's too advanced, there is only so much the much the band director can do.
x2. From the sounds of it, she's above/beyond the rest of her peers. Without cracking the whip on the remaining students (which really will have no impact on the skill level deficit...compared to your daughter), there's not a whole lot that the band director can do.

I would look into what awholley suggested. For a student that's gifted (whether it's academically or artistically), remaining in class with average individuals (or worse...slackers) isn't going to do her a whole lot of good. It certainly won't help her grow, as a musician.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Awholley, I've heard good things about the North Carolina school, but I can't afford to pay for a high school education (I've got another daughter in college right now). I agree that the band director has made efforts to give her solo opportunities, but the lack of discipline in the band is what bothers her most--and he just doesn't see it.

My daughter got through 6th and 7th grade band (same school, same director) by playing bassoon. She did it because she was far too bored to play the sax or oboe parts. Back then it was a challenge. But in 9th grade she took it up seriously, got a teacher and auditioned into a top youth orchestra on that too. The band bassoon parts are very boring--all quarter notes and rests she says. The school orchestra director does have the orchestra perform a full symphony twice a year, and my daughter will play 1st bassoon then. But that's one rehearsal and one performance outside of band class, and then it's over. Last year she played 2nd clarinet in the back of the section for a few weeks just to get her chops back up for musicals. But after playing in the pit orchestra for a professional theater all July, she's a pretty good clarinet player too. She would be challenged if she joined the flute section, but she doesn't want to add another instrument right now. She wants to work on her two main instruments.
 

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Sometimes advanced kids stay in the bands because playing easy music is still fun for them. Or because having time for music during school is fun. Or because of the social aspect.
Indeed. Its interesting to me that your daughter is so so frustrated by the other musicians. I was lucky enough to be in a program where there were a handful of folks at my level, but there were also many who were not close. The others didn't bother me, and I considered many of them friends on a social level. Just because they aren't practicing, and even if they are bringing a high school music program down a bit -- let's get some perspective. This is high school.

Does she have fun playing, or is she so turned off by this ego response about being "better" that she's unable to enjoy making music with friends? If the latter, I politely suggest that she stays in high school band -- she still has some room to develop, albeit in terms of "life" rather than musical performance.
 

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Indeed. Its interesting to me that your daughter is so so frustrated by the other musicians. I was lucky enough to be in a program where there were a handful of folks at my level, but there were also many who were not close. The others didn't bother me, and I considered many of them friends on a social level. Just because they aren't practicing, and even if they are bringing a high school music program down a bit -- let's get some perspective. This is high school.

Does she have fun playing, or is she so turned off by this ego response about being "better" that she's unable to enjoy making music with friends? If the latter, I politely suggest that she stays in high school band -- she still has some room to develop, albeit in terms of "life" rather than musical performance.
Speaking from personal experience...I was a serious kid. I already held a job for two years before I reached the age of 18. How many 15-18 year old's do you know that can stay in one job for six months...much less two years? My biggest struggle in high school and my first stint in college was dealing with what I interpreted as screw off kids. I had difficulty in just relaxing and cutting loose. In many cases, I just couldn't relate to my peers. I'm not saying that's the case here, but it wouldn't surprise me if it was.
 

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.. but the lack of discipline in the band is what bothers her most--and he just doesn't see it.
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And yet you do. Do you sit in on rehearsals? I don't mean that quite as sarky as it probably sounds. My point is a sincere one, though. It sounds that you have made a lot of judgements. I'm wondering on what evidence you're basing those. Does your daughter like anyone in band?
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Indeed. Its interesting to me that your daughter is so so frustrated by the other musicians. Does she have fun playing, or is she so turned off by this ego response about being "better" that she's unable to enjoy making music with friends? If the latter, I politely suggest that she stays in high school band -- she still has some room to develop, albeit in terms of "life" rather than musical performance.
Good question.

My daughter doesn't have an ego problem, in fact she's the opposite. Due to being placed in special ed in elementary school and being called "stupid" all her life, she learned to put herself down constantly. In fact, I've been working on her for years to boost her self-esteem. Because she's had to work so hard in some subjects, she has really learned to work hard in everything. She worked herself out of special ed (IEP program) and has all A's. Some of her teachers work with this issue with her too. Example:

History teacher yesterday: "You wrote an incredible essay, and I gave you an A+.
My daughter: "What? me?" (Cowers, doesn't believe teacher).
Teacher: "Okay, we'll try this again. I'm going to walk out of the room and do it over" (walks out, then in). "You wrote an incredible essay, and I gave you an A+".
My daughter: (now corrected) "Thank you".

My daughter has great fun playing good music. At Tanglewood two summers ago she had the most wonderful experience of her life playing with really good and interested sax players. They were all older than her, but she got along well with them and in fact wants to start a (pre) professional sax quartet with three of the players she met there. Her tendency to put herself down had an effect on her auditions several years ago, but she has since overcome much of that tendency and has auditioned well over the last year.

It's really just the lack of discipline in band that bothers her. Students talk constantly in band and hit theirs and sometimes her instruments. Examples: students are allowed to damage instruments without consequences or paying for damage. My daughter voluntarily inspects and fixes the school saxophones for the lower grades, and sometimes finds that the instrument has been dropped and finds large dents. Another example: Band has sectionals once a week. They are supposed to work on parts within their sections. Students mostly goof off, don't play and just walk out. Part of it probably is that we live in a wealthy area. The kids in the band are really smart SAT wise, and a number of them are nasty ("mean girl" type) and not friends with my daughter.

In contrast, in her youth orchestra, although there are also weak sections, this doesn't bother my daughter. The conductor runs a tight ship and there are no disciplinary issues. She has to play 2nd oboe half/3/4 of the time, as the other oboe player is a senior. She's not as good as my daughter, but she is a very good player, works hard, and together they make a great oboe section. This orchestra, in a large metropolitan city, is a far more diverse student group and according to my daughter they are nicer people.

I think I'll make the suggestion to her about getting music in another key and transposing the part during band rehearsal. She's having to do that in jazz band anyway and it's good practice.
 

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Suggested reading for you and your daughter: "The Inner Game of Music".

Sounds like your daughter needs to be paired with a good mentor.

G'luck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
And yet you do. Do you sit in on rehearsals? I don't mean that quite as sarky as it probably sounds. My point is a sincere one, though. It sounds that you have made a lot of judgements. I'm wondering on what evidence you're basing those. Does your daughter like anyone in band?
I don't sit in on rehearsals. Another daughter, now 20, used to play horn in this band for two years. She said it had nowhere near the discipline she'd seen at her middle school band at another school and that her middle school band was actually the better band. Also, the best flute player, my youngest daughter's duet partner, quit the band two years ago due to the lack of discipline and joined the school orchestra. There are about 12 more serious-minded students in the band that make the band work and she gets along with all of them.

Speaking from personal experience...I was a serious kid. I already held a job for two years before I reached the age of 18. How many 15-18 year old's do you know that can stay in one job for six months...much less two years? My biggest struggle in high school and my first stint in college was dealing with what I interpreted as screw off kids. I had difficulty in just relaxing and cutting loose. In many cases, I just couldn't relate to my peers. I'm not saying that's the case here, but it wouldn't surprise me if it was.
My daughter doesn't relate to many people at school. She's been getting paid music jobs for about two years now. She gets along very well with the pros she performs with and is recommended by musical directors for more shows, more than she can do. She may be a lot like my oldest daughter, who graduated a year early from this school as she couldn't relate to anyone and was getting nothing from the school. That daughter is now an extremely successful professional artist, and, at 23, earns more than $100,000 a year just painting. Both of them struggled with studies early in life, learned to work very hard, are very self-disciplined.
 

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What opportunities are there for honor bands/orchestras? all-district/region/state? Solo and Ensemble? Governor's School for the Arts (depending on your state)?
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Suggested reading for you and your daughter: "The Inner Game of Music".

Sounds like your daughter needs to be paired with a good mentor.

G'luck.
Ha! Her jazz teacher (sax/clarinet) recommmended that book last year. (You guys think the same!) I don't think she really understood all of it, but maybe she should read it again. And in this sense, he really is a good mentor for her, philosophy-wise, even though she doesn't plan on getting her degree in jazz.

What opportunities are there for honor bands/orchestras? all-district/region/state? Solo and Ensemble? Governor's School for the Arts (depending on your state)?
She did all-region last year but on oboe since she placed 1st. The rehearsals/performance only last about 3 days. She's looking for something year-round. Also, the audition process is very time-consuming, especially for All-State. They essentially make you wait around all day to audition. She's decided not to do them this year, as the performances and auditions conflict with her youth orchestra rehearsals. She only did Solo and Ensemble once, in 6th grade, and didn't get much out of it. In our state the student only performs in front of one judge who does not most likely play your instrument. She does however enter a number of concerto competitions and placed in all of them last year against seniors. She's got about 10 recitals this year, so she's got enough there. Her goal is to place 1st in one of the military band concerto competitions.

What she wants to determine, in the next year before she applies to conservatory, is whether she'd prefer playing sax in a military band, or oboe in an orchestra. She has a good sense of what orchestra life would be like, but not so much the strong wind ensemble.

No year-round public school for the arts. There's a governors school in summer, but it's not geared towards the performance major. The major summer institutes are better and she's planning on going to one this summer.
 

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Ha! Her jazz teacher (sax/clarinet) recommmended that book last year. (You guys think the same!) I don't think she really understood all of it, but maybe she should read it again.
As the author points out, Inner Game is recommended for parents as well as musicians. There is a lot of good material in there.
 

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If you are a talented musician that will typically be the case in a high school setting. In my high school jazz band there were only two or three that could improvise well and a few that tried, but just couldn't quite make it interesting enough. I remember our lead alto never played an improvised solo. He asked me one time why I don't play what's written. Of course my response was it's lame, unoriginal and not my style. I even doubled on alto for improvised alto solos from time to time.

Nonetheless your daughter should persevere through this and perhaps befriend some of the better players. That way she might be able to get some kind of side project going. One of my best acquaintances in high school was one of our tuba players, who really should have been our bass player in jazz band.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Unfortunately her jazz band doesn't really play jazz. Two of the good players graduated last year. My daughter ran a sax quartet last year using one of these guys, but with him now at Oberlin, she can't do it. The band director generally has them play more rock than jazz. He lets clarinet and flute players who can't play jazz or sax in the jazz band. She says she the only member left in the band who knows how to play jazz. She's very discouraged with the quality of the band and is ready to quit.

She ran a wind quintet for a while last year with some of the better players, but two of them would never practice or rehearse so that ended. She is trying to get a quartet going with a few of the good string players from the orchestra, but she'll be playing oboe there again and she's already got good groups outside of school where she plays oboe. She just would like to find a good group to play with on sax.
 

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One thing I missed in your earlier post that really bothered me, was that other students hit your daughter and sometimes her instrument. In high school nobody ever hit me, but they constantly messed with my sax while I wasn't looking. All they did was turn my case over, but considering how sensitive the mechanisms are it was still quite a nuisance. I even locked it up, that didn't stop them. I eventually asked my director if I could lock my sax in his office, luckily he let me. So, I can understand what your daughter has to put up with to some degree.

Also if the director is really that bad go to the Principal. He may have to just talk to the guy about letting students be so disrespectful.
 
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