So You Want to Be a Published Composer?

Are you interested in being a published composer for school band and orchestra? Let me start out by dispelling a myth right now. Getting music published does not equal getting rich! There are very few composers that I have ever known that can make a solid living just on getting music published for school bands and orchestras. Most, like me, have other jobs as well, or they write a lot of freelance arrangements, or they write commissions or books, etc. So, if you were intrigued enough to read this article because getting published interests you, then I will give you some insights based on my 22 years of experience as an editor for two major music publishing companies.

Let me also state that I am not looking to increase my submissions by writing this article, as I receive hundreds of manuscripts each year from people who want to have their music considered for publication. What I would like to do with this article is to help folks who were like me when I was starting out, and didn’t have a clue as to how to get started in the process. I was fortunate enough to be rejected when I was a young composer (in the nicest way possible) by composer/editor/publisher John Edmondson. He didn’t accept my music, but he told me what to do to get it published eventually. I have always appreciated that, and I hope that this article will serve to pay forward the wonderful advice John gave me those many years ago.

The first thing you need to do to get your music published is to do your homework. You must listen to and look at a lot of published music, with a critical eye and ear. Try to figure out why you think these pieces have been published. What makes them worthy? Better yet, find out on sheet music dealer websites which pieces are selling well (many post top seller lists), and try to figure out why. Once you go through this process, then you will have a better understanding of what each of the publishers are looking for, which leads me to my next point.

Figure out in which publisher’s catalog you think your music will fit best. It doesn’t make sense to submit grade 10 symphonies for band if that publisher doesn’t publish difficult music! Or, don’t send your music if it doesn’t seem to be the type or style of music that publisher accepts. Each publisher is a reflection of the person or people that select the music they publish. Each has their own musical tastes, and that is based on the editors who make those decisions, so choose wisely where you decide to send your music.

Once you determine where to send your music, make sure it fits into their parameters. Every publisher has grade level series and instrumentation idiosyncrasies that are unique to their company. Most companies have guidelines of ranges, keys, rhythms and other technical limitations for each series that you can get – you just have to ask. When you get those guidelines or study your potential publisher’s pieces, adapt your piece to fit their guidelines and instrumentation.

Next, you must prepare the score you are planning on submitting in a way that looks professional. Using a notation program today is an absolute must. Publishers really can’t afford the cost or time to “engrave” your piece from a handwritten manuscript any longer. Make it look as good as you can before you send it in.

A recording is an absolute must! This can be a MIDI realization from one of the notation programs, but make sure that the MIDI playback shows your piece in the best light possible. Obviously, a high quality live recording is best, but for many that is not possible. I receive many MIDI recordings a year, so I am used to it, but I must say that some of the playback from some of the software is terrible and does not help the piece – at all! I suggest you don’t try too hard to make the MIDI sound “real”. I sometimes receive MIDI recordings that have so much reverb added that it is impossible to hear “inside” the piece. Do your best to send a recording (live or MIDI), that you feel best represents your music.

The big question is – who do you send your music to? It is imperative that you do not send the music unsolicited to generic places like “Publications Review Committee” or “Band/Orchestra Editor”. You must take the time to find out to whom you should send the music directly, in order for it to get reviewed. I believe it is important to network anyway, and a great way to find out the decision maker at each of the publishers is to meet them at conventions or through your other colleagues. People that take the initiative to do this are going to have a better chance of getting the attention of the decision-makers.

Now that you know where to send your music, what should you send? This is simple – send one piece at a time. Do not send your whole life’s work in one package. Send your best piece first. Then you must be patient. As stated above, major publishers receive hundreds of submissions a year, and most of the time we can only devote a certain time of year to reviewing unpublished composers. This is another reason to network and try to talk to the decision makers. You can ask them the best time to submit, so that your music will arrive at the optimum time to get reviewed in a timely manner. But, it still can take a long time to get a response, be patient. The other thing you can do when networking with the editors is to find out how they would like music submitted. Each publisher has their own way of doing things. Some like old fashioned mail with a score and CD, some like email, others have ways to upload PDFs and mp3s to them directly through their website. Again, do your homework and find out what they want.

Expect to be rejected at some point in your career. It happens to all of us. It is important that you write music for your our creative needs first and foremost, and if other people like it or it gets published, that is a happy coincidence. I can’t stress that enough. You must write music for yourself first and foremost! Getting published is certainly nice, but it ultimately should not be the goal. Creating art should be!

If you are fortunate enough to get a piece accepted, get used to the fact that the editors of publishing companies may ask you to make changes. This is an important part of the process, as the editors have to make suggestions to make the piece better fit the needs of their catalog, the grade level or series and to try and make the piece the best it can be. If you don’t want to make changes/edits to your pieces, then I suggest you don’t send your pieces to a publisher at all. Editors are going to edit – that is what they do – and their sole purpose is to help make the piece better. They are not doing it to ruin your work of art. If you are not willing to be flexible or easy to work with, then you will not get your pieces accepted for publication.

If you have gotten past this point, then you need to understand that publishing companies that publish school band and orchestra music need music for all grade levels. If you want to continue to be published for the long haul, then you need to have the skills to be able to write music for all ability levels. If you are not a teacher, then you need to study what students can and can’t do on their instruments at certain levels, and be prepared to write music that will fit their educational needs, but that will also be of a good quality for use in instructional purposes.

Finally, believe in yourself and your abilities. If composing is something that you aspire to do, then study hard and write music, everyday, and get better. Rejection is not fun for anyone, but keep an open mind and try to get better from it and move forward. Not all good music gets published. It sometimes doesn’t get to the right people at the right time. Keep trying! As I stated above, write music because you love to write music, it fulfills you, and makes you happy. If it happens to be successful, then that is merely a bonus. Good luck!

Minute Clinic – Learning From The Past

Mr BartowI’m not sure this qualifies as a clinic or not, but I wanted to share a recent experience that gave me such a boost of excitement for music education, and the legacy we all contribute to as music teachers. I was commissioned to write a march to honor a band-directing icon in the state of Florida, John DeYoung, who has been active in music education for over 50 years. He was the long time band director of the Bartow High School Band in Bartow, Florida, along with serving as the conductor of the Bartow Adult Concert Band, president of the Florida Bandmasters Association, president of the Florida Music Educators Association and a hall-of-fame member of both organizations. He truly was and continues to be the “Music Man” in the town of Bartow. So much so, they call him Mr. Bartow, which was the inspiration for the title of the march I have just written in his honor!

When we met to discuss the piece, John expressed his love for the marches of Henry Fillmore. He said, “Fillmore’s marches are happy music.” It is obvious John is an upbeat, happy and positive man, and I tried very hard to write a happy march in John’s honor. He’s happy because he has loved his job for all of these years, and the joy that he brings to life and to his teaching is what made him the icon he is today.

My point is the music profession has a lot of icons like John DeYoung. They are role models for how to live our lives, and how to inspire and teach young people the joy of music. I think it is very important that we honor these legends in our profession, and most importantly, listen to their stories of how they accomplished so many things. More often than not, you will hear about all the countless hours of the hard work they put into their jobs, but that it wasn’t hard for them because they loved it so very much. We all can learn from the passion these role models have shown in their careers.

So, if you ever get the opportunity to talk to an “old-timer” in your area of the world, take advantage of it. You will be surprised at what you can learn from them. Better yet, if they are still able, let them work with your ensemble and let your students see the passion and wisdom in these great people who have paved the way for us all. Become a legend to your own students. Show them your passion for music, and know that you are affecting the lives of young people everyday. You are creating your own legacy, and don’t ever take that responsibility for granted.

I feel truly honored to be able to do the things I do, and to get a chance to honor folks like John DeYoung. I can tell you that I learned a lot from John in the process: how to live a life well and to be passionate about music. I know you can too, from the legends of music education in your “neck of the woods!” Good luck!

Minute Clinic – What To Do With Percussion

percussionWe all know that we unfortunately spend a large portion of our rehearsals focused on the woodwinds and brass, especially during the “warm-up” phase of the rehearsal. Those poor percussionists can at times feel unwanted and unloved while we have the band play long tones, warm-ups and scales. There are many pieces for band that don’t have a lot for them to do, and I remind composers all the time that bored percussionists in the back of the room is not a good thing for the teacher, as it can result in disciplinary problems. It is also not doing the best we can to teach these students as well as we do the other instrumentalists. I know that some directors are trying to overcome some of this through marching band and indoor drumline, but this still does not improve the percussionist’s experience in concert band. So, let’s focus on that.

First of all, the percussionist should be just that – percussionists – and not just drummers! They must learn and have experience on all percussion instruments. They all should play timpani and mallet instruments along with snare drum and all of the accessory instruments, and they must learn how to play them correctly. I suggest that you make the percussionist play something along with every note during your warm-up routine. They can play the pitches on the mallet instruments and timpani and the rhythms on the drums. I suggest you have them play rudimental patterns too while you are playing warm-ups, scales and technical studies. If your warm-ups don’t have anything written out for the percussion, then write something out that will challenge these students, each and everyday, just like the wind players. It can be as simple as a different rudiment everyday, or an accent pattern, simple paradiddle patterns or rolls. And, it doesn’t have to be loud. It needs to be controlled and in balance, just like you want them to do during the music. Also, just like the wind players, emphasize proper technique and playing position. Don’t let them sit back there and play with the wrong grip, the drum too low or any other bad habits. If you expect good posture and embouchure from the winds, expect proper technique from the percussionists as well.

Bands often play chorales as the last part of the warm-up process. Some things you can do with your percussionists are to have all four parts of the chorale played on different parts of the mallet instruments, so it will sound like a 4-part mallet ensemble, and yes, they need to read bass clef too. If the chorale does not have any percussion parts, write some. Chorales would be a great way to have them work on their technique for playing suspended cymbal, mark tree, triangle, rolls on bass drum, even crash cymbals on the climax of the chorale. Get creative and make this experience as close to what these students will encounter when playing their band music.

During the rehearsal of the music, make sure to work with the percussion, too. Think about not just what they are playing, but how. Are they pulling the sound out of the instrument? Are they using the right mallets for the color of sound that is needed in the piece? Please don’t use brass mallets on bells just because that is what you have. Some more delicate bell parts require a softer mallet to get the appropriate sound. This goes for timpani as well. Does the piece require harder mallets for a more staccato sound on the timpani? These are important points that are often overlooked by many band directors. Let me ask you, how do your percussion instruments sound? When was the last time they were tuned, or had new heads put on? How about the timpani pedals? Do they work? You wouldn’t ask your clarinet players to play on broken instruments, so why do we do this with percussion?

If the music you are playing for the next concert is a bit short on percussion parts, then why not program a percussion ensemble piece to add variety to the program? It is important for these members of your ensemble to be challenged and grow musically, too. It is just not fair to those students to make them constantly sit around and do nothing, because I can tell you from experience, the more you do this, the worse they will play the parts they do have, because they just won’t care!

Yes, percussionists have to learn how to rest, and to wait for their time to play, but we can set up ways to engage them during concert band so that they feel more a part of what is going on, and also they can learn something and be challenged to improve. It takes creativity to be a band director, and I encourage you to place more focus on the back of the room, so that it is not the forgotten section of your ensemble. Good luck!

Minute Clinic – How Do You Select Quality Music?

clark-sheet-musicThe beauty of music is that there is something for everyone. What one person thinks is the greatest piece ever written could be the most annoying piece for someone else. As they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and that axiom is never more apparent than in the selection of literature for your ensembles. Listen, we musicians are a judgmental lot. Sometimes we look down on other teachers because of the music they select to perform with their students. Remember, there is no one more qualified to decide what music to play with your students than you. So naysayers begone, let people do the jobs they were trained to do.

Rather than tell you what is good or bad music, I will help you determine what are some characteristics of quality music that will help you to better choose music for your ensembles. These certainly are not the only characteristics, but some important ones that can signal the worth of the pieces you select for your students.

1. Intrigue – Does the piece pique your interest? Does it hold your attention? Does it take you on a musical journey, or does it seem too predictable? Is there something about the piece that is memorable? Will you walk away with something after it is over? Will it have an effect on you and your students?

2. Drama – Does the piece have a sense of shape or arc, like a good book? One aspect could be the shape or arc of phrases and the overall arc or form of the entire piece. Does it have well-placed climactic features, or is it just sort of monotone and rambling?

3. Artistry – Does the piece have something to say? It is sophisticated? Is it well-crafted? Is it creative? Does it show genius? Even a well-written grade 1 piece can show these things.

4. Craft – Does the work show the composer’s skill? This is different than artistry, especially for a piece written for students. A piece could have all of the above elements, but be poorly scored due to the composer’s lack of understanding of orchestration and technical limitations of the instruments. This can hurt the overall effectiveness of the piece. I suggest that you look more carefully at this area when selecting literature for your students, because bad results can happen with what is a semingly good piece, if the composer does not have an understanding of what is possible on the instruments and what “works” in scoring. I have reviewed literally thousands of pieces that might have characteristics 1, 2 and 3, but have scoring that will preclude them from being successful with your ensembles. Here are three simple things to look for:

  • Look for what I call uncomfortable counterpoint. That is, look for places where there are non-chords on weak beats (or strong beats too sometimes) that don’t really make a lot of sense from a “theory” standpoint. If you listen to a piece and it feels at times like something might be weird, then check for uncomfortable counterpoint.
  • Check the scoring in the lower voices to see if it will be muddy. The way to do this is to remember two things: 1. the overtone series and 2. your college part-writing rules. Remember how you were not supposed to have close intervals between the bass and tenor voices in your part-writing theory assignments? Why? Because it sounds bad, and it gets in the way of nature (the overtone series). The overtone series shows us that open voicing on the bottom will be better acoustically. Close intervals of seconds, thirds and fourths between Tuba and other lower instruments or bass and cello in orchestra is going to sound muddy and be problematic for younger student ensembles ultimately.
  • Everybody plays all of the time. This is not creative orchestration and gets tiring to listen to. I find this a lot when I review string orchestra pieces. Even having some simple changes in orchestration can go a long way in making a piece hold interest and be more effective.

5. Space – My friends and I have been discussing this one a lot lately, as it appears that many of today’s composers feel the need to fill up every possible space in music with something going on. One of my friends said, “music is how you get out of silence, and back into silence.” I also believe that there needs to be breath in music. It has to ebb and flow and have moments of repose. Certainly a piece that just comes at you for 3 to 5 minutes straight can be effective, but after that point our ears need some breaks in order for the next phrase or part of the composition to be more effective. Space can obviously lead to better drama in composition. Rest in music is a good thing and can provide the space necessary for color, texture and timbre, making a piece more intriguing and interesting to listen to.

6. Usefulness – You might think, what does this have to do with quality? In my opinion a lot. I believe that if you determine it is a quality piece of music, then ultimately it has usefulness with your students. But, I also understand that in the educational realm finding pieces that help you teach specific things to your students is very important as well. Although we should consider characteristics 1 through 5 first, it is critical that we find music that can be used to teach concepts that our students need, or pieces that push them in the ways they need to be pushed.

Try not to select music only on the fact you like the tune when you hear the demo recording. Since the music you play with your ensembles is your curriculum, it is essential that you take the time when picking music to look carefully at the piece for the items mentioned above. Are there other factors that can be considered? Certainly, but this is a good place to start. Even pieces that are to be used for functional purposes like a holiday concert or a spring concert can and should have all of these elements. I am a big believe that there is great music in every genre. The problem today is sifting through the thousands of choices you have as a music educator to get just the right piece for your students’ needs. I hope that these suggestions will help to clarify your selection process into something more concrete. Most importantly, trust your musical tastes and talent when selecting music, and always keep in mind that no ones knows the needs of your students better than you! Good luck!

Minute Clinic – Rehearsal Etitquette

CartoonconductorWhen you think of rehearsal etiquette, what comes to mind? Is it discipline? Is it procedural? Is it behavioral? It is certainly all of the above! As conductors, we have an image in our minds of what makes a great rehearsal and how we imagine our students acting during this ideal session. Have you expressed these expectations to your students?

Much is written in our teaching literature that focuses on what we can do as a teacher/conductor to elicit a great rehearsal from the students. Peter Boonshaft devoted a good portion of his wonderful book “Teaching Music with Passion” to the subject (especially his chapter called “The 33 P’s of a Wonderful Rehearsal”) as did Ed Lisk in his important text “The Creative Director – Conductor, Teacher, Leader.” These books are step one in the process and will go a long way toward helping you structure your rehearsals for success.

The next step however, is to teach the students your rehearsal expectations. I believe that you must tell them every single detail of what envision to be a great rehearsal, from how they enter the room to how they leave after it is over. This, of course, is based upon your teaching style, personality and philosophy. Some people want their rehearsals to be completely quiet and intense at all times, others have a more relaxed style. Neither is more effective than the other necessarily, just different. I personally feel that rehearsals need to have highs and lows. Points of high intensity and focus, and other points when you let the students relax a bit and bask in the glory of a goal achieved. Sometimes for me, a well-timed joke can make all the difference in making the rest of the rehearsal a success. However, I was one of those teachers who did not want chaos at the beginning of rehearsal. I expected students to set up their places, get their music, chair, stand, and assemble their instrument as quietly as possible, then wait for me to give the downbeat for the first note. I found that if quality was established from the very first note, then I had a better chance for the whole rehearsal to be executed well.

Besides determining what type behavior or intensity you expect, explain to them how you want to practice things, how you want them to remember things they’ve learned. Explain why you keep saying “one more time” thirty more times – and ways they can avoid that in the future! You should even explain to them how you would like them to mark their music with a pencil. Some students really do not know how to mark their music effectively so that they will be able to decipher it the next time they play the piece.

The most important thing in a rehearsal is to have a plan, be prepared, and then set expectations for the students that are clearly communicated to them, so they know what you expect and will feel a sense of accomplishment when they meet those expectations. If they do, I encourage you to reward them with praise for a job well done. Reinforcing positive behavior and actions has been proven to effect future behavior substantially more than no reinforcement or negative reinforcement. Expect their best by giving your best, and thank them for doing so!

Minute Clinic – The 10 Re’s of Summer

imageAs we all launch headfirst into the summer with Independence Day around the corner, I ask a simple question – what are you doing this summer to get yourself ready for school in the fall? Make sure to do these 10 things:

Rest – Take time for yourself this summer, with some much needed mental and physical rest.

Relax – Do some things you love outside of music that stimulate you.

Rejuvenate – Besides resting and relaxing, focus on four aspects that make us happy: our physical, emotional, spiritual and intellectual well being.

Read – Expand your mind with some good reading material. This can and should be entertaining reading, inspirational reading and reading that stimulates new ideas on how to teach better this coming school year.

Reflect – Think about how you will change/improve what you do next year to improve your program, and also to make it better for you too!

Review – Think about what worked and also what didn’t this past year, and the ways in which you can improve how you do what you do.

Reenergize – Study some music you love or would like to learn this summer. Even if it is music your group will never be able to play, it is important to expand your musical horizons. It will make you a better teacher.

Ready – Start studying the music you know you will be using with your groups this coming year. The best way to get the most out of your students is for you to know the score to the pieces you conduct and have the ideal image in your mind of what the piece should sound like.

Reeducate – Take some time this summer to improve your skills as a teacher by attending a summer workshop or taking a class.

Revitalize – After all of the above, you should be ready to take on a new school year with a fresh new attitude. Try to focus on staying positive as you enter the new school year, and don’t forget to set up strategies for keeping yourself healthy this coming school year. This means getting enough sleep, eating right and generally making your well-being the first priority in your life.

Enjoy your summer!!

Minute Clinic – Conduct More By Conducting Less!

LCconductingIn my travels around the country, I get to see a lot of conductors of bands and orchestras. There are some really good ones, and some not so good ones. What has always mystified me is that we spend years practicing and taking lessons on our chosen instrument to demonstrate our musical skills, but most music education majors take two semesters of conducting and poof! – they’re a conductor! That just makes no sense to me. It is understandable that many school band and orchestra conductors have limited skills in this area, and slip into bad habits when conducting.

There are, however, ways that you can improve your skills in this important area. First of all, just as with your instrument, you need to practice. Stand in front of a mirror and watch how you conduct. Video record your rehearsals and watch them. It’s sometimes painful to see yourself on those things, but very necessary for improvement to take place. Start out by getting a good conducting position. I find that most people conduct way too low, down at their waist and have their head buried in the score, because they don’t really know the score, but that is another clinic! Suffice it to say that if you don’t look up, they won’t either. One of my teachers used to say “the problem is right in front of your face.” What he meant is that if you cannot make eye contact with the students and see your baton at the same time, then you’re not communicating with the players and your stick is way too low. Put your baton up so that you can look through it at your students.

The second thing is that most conductors do not conduct the style that they want their ensemble to be playing. Many conductors have a lot of trouble conducting legato. Again, get in front of a mirror and work on making your pattern smooth and connected so that it matches the way you want your students to play legato. More often than not, the conductor’s pattern is only beating time and it is way too big. Try getting more legato when needed and conduct smaller. I sometimes think that the older I get and the lazier I get as a conductor, the better I get, because I conduct smaller, and less.

Third, and this is the point of this clinic, try to conduct less. You are NOT responsible for ensemble time. That lies within each and every player in the ensemble. You will never be able to pull them along. Pulse must be out in the group. It is every member’s responsibility, not yours. I find it best if you don’t conduct in these situations, and let them fight it out to find the ensemble pulse. With younger bands it is also imperative that you make the wind players keep pulse without the aid of the percussion. The other point of conducting less is to try conducting time less. Once ensemble pulse is established there is no need to constantly beat metronomic patterns. Use your hands, your face and your body to be more expressive and pull the music your want out of your students. Consider practicing your craft as a conductor with the same attention to detail that you used to learn your instrument back in college. Improvement in this area will only come if you put some work into it. It is what we do, and we should be as well versed in this skill as any in our musical arsenal. Good luck!

Minute Clinic – Is Getting A Superior Rating at Festival the Goal?

FestivalMost ensembles by now have completed their yearly adjudicated performance. Did you get the rating you wanted? Did you get the educational feedback you needed? Does it really matter? These are important questions to ask yourself as you reflect on the year. Many states these days have changed the name of their festivals to MPA, Music Performance Assessment. Sounds very educational, doesn’t it? I guess that really depends on YOU more than the festival itself.

I was inspired to write this clinic after reading a Facebook post by Dan Dubay, a band director friend in Tampa, encouraging all of the local bands and wishing them good luck at MPA. In that post he made a great statement: “It’s not about the rating, it’s about the music.” I commented and told Dan that I thought that was a great title for a clinic! So thanks, Dan, for the inspiration!

It is so true that the important part of these festivals is that the students get something out of the music and are more encouraged by the process than discouraged. I think it is a matter of how we as directors approach this part of our program. If you put too much focus and energy into it, so will the students. If we spend most of the year working on these three pieces and basically nothing else, just to get the superior, we have missed the point. If we have picked music that is way over our students’ abilities just for our own musical stimulation, then we have further lost sight of what is important.

Life is about moderation, and so it is with festival. It is but one aspect of a well-balanced program. It should be used to inspire, motivate and educate, yet not be the reason our programs exist. If you have completed this annual ritual, then congratulations. If you didn’t get the rating you wanted, then use it as a learning experience for you and your students. Now that it is over, focus on some new music that can inspire, motivate and educate. Keep the priority in focus, which is to educate our students in the joy of music! Happy Spring!!

Minute Clinic – Skype Your Way To A Better Band!

SkypeTechnology is a wonderful thing. There are now countless ways we can use it to improve the quality of our programs. There is everything from tuners to metronomes to all kinds of apps for our phones and tablets. Technology gives us instant access to a wealth of information on the internet that can also be used to teach our students.

 A great way to use technology to help students understand the music they are playing is to get in contact with the composers of the pieces they are playing and set up a Skype session with them. It is a wonderful way for the students to feel connected to the music in ways that were never possible just ten short years ago. Most students think that composers are old dead guys that wore white wigs! They are surprised in many cases to see composers as real people and not dead! I have done quite a few of these Skype session and they are as fun for me as they are for the students. I always ask the teachers to have students come up with questions before the session they can ask me and those questions are always quite interesting. Besides learning about the actual piece, its inspiration and genesis, composers of music for school ensembles are usually teachers themselves and have lots of valuable insights that will help to improve the musicianship of your students. Most of these composer that I know are wonderful with students, great clinicians as well as being great composers.

 So, if you can’t afford to commission a piece or have a composer come to your school, you might want to think about a Skype session as an option. They are excellent learning opportunities for your students, and you will find that most of the popular composers today are very personable and willing to do these type of clinics. Many that I know have already done them many times.

Minute Clinic – Is Attending A Convention Really Worth It?

Midwest-Clinic-MastheadAs I prepare to attend the annual Midwest Clinic in Chicago next week, I feel compelled to talk about the purpose and usefulness of conventions on our development as music educators. Just like anything else in life, you only get out of a convention what you put into it. If you choose to skip every concert and clinic and just go shopping instead, you may not come back from Midwest with anything useful that you can use with your students. Why not make it a point this year when you attend Midwest or your state convention to get to more clinics and concerts than your normally do. I firmly believe that you can even get something out of a bad concert and a bad clinic. If nothing else, it will help you know what not to do when school starts up again in January! I always tell attendees of any of my clinics that I hope there are things they disagree with that I say at my clinics. That is healthy and will help you to remind yourself what your philosophy of teaching really is.

Also, don’t discount the social part of conventions. If your after exhibit hours gatherings at the Hilton bar or at a nice restaurant includes some meaningful conversation about teaching, music and learning what others do, that is wonderful. A lot can be learned just by hanging out with great teachers and hearing how they do things. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. We are all still learning and get something out of these positive interactions with our colleagues. We are all in this together, and I hope that we are more about how to improve the musicianship of our students than winning trophies, so why not help each other out while we have fun doing it. I have fond memories of my days as a band director in Tampa. All of us local directors would hang out together all the time and just talk “shop”. I learned an awful lot this way and you can too at the Midwest Clinic or whatever convention through the concerts, at the clinics or even in the bar. Focus on what is important this year at whatever conventions you attend. Enjoy!