AS 214 : Beginner Fundamentals Timeline

In this episode we talk about what beginner fundamentals we are focusing on this semester and planning when to approach them with each of our classes.

Fundamentals to be addressed:

  • scales
  • dynamics
  • staccato
  • legato
  • vibrato
  • tuning
  • trombone slurs
  • Remingtons
  • enharmonics
  • new rule (stagger breathing)
  • range extension
  • recognizing keys
  • 2 count breaths

AS 132 – Instrument Placement

By popular request, we talk about how we design our beginner instrument placement. In this episode we cover:

  • selling our program
  • parent contact
  • physical set up
  • our process
  • assigning instruments
  • creating a balanced beginner program

Below are the files we discuss in the episode.

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This is our very official flier that we deliver to all of our feeding elementary campuses.
This is our very official flier that we deliver to all of our feeding elementary campuses.


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This is the instrument placement form that we used this year.


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Here is a sample of the Google Sheets shared file that Jenna and Darcy use as they check students out at the end of instrument placement. Because the file updates dynamically, both of them can see as the instrument slots fill up and so both can see where they need to steer students to keep balanced numbers.

AS 130 : Overly Committed

In this episode we talk about kids that are too involved to be in band… or stay in band.

If you enjoy our podcast, take 2 seconds to share it with a friend or 15 seconds to review us on iTunes… Okay maybe a solid minute for the review. Your word of mouth helps band directors like you find our voice with which to commiserate, learn, and just relax.

Thank you for sharing your car, band hall, and earbuds with us. #trypod

AS 124 : Success Through Accountability

This episode is a recording of our TMEA 2017 clinic entitled Success Through Accountability. We talk about specific methods we use to approach accountability with our own kids and how individual skill leads to program success. You can find the YouTube video from the actual presentation below.

Beginning Band Band Entry Checklist

SB Entry Checklist


7th Practice Sheet

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Practice Guide


AS 012 – Flute Flexibility and Vibrato

Jenna teaches half of the flute class, and the spring semester is all about vibrato in the flute world! In this episode Jenna expressed her concern about teaching vibrato when (as a horn player) that is not a skill she’s ever had to perform. The beginners are also incorporating octave slurs into their fundamental time, and the flexibility required to slur without over-blowing is not something her brass face has yet. In this episode we cover vibrato techniques and discuss exactly what a good flute face should do when changing octaves. An I-Play-You-Play demonstration is provided! 🙂


Or, watch the same (but less amusing) basic premise on this YouTube Video.

AS 009 : TMEA Sanity Survey

In March every Texas band director received a survey from TMEA about our health/sanity/balance/burnout. It was a survey fueled by questions about exercise, diet, and what we do outside of the school day. Jenna, Alex, and I have talked about this a lot over the course of the last two years as none of us want to find ourselves in the place in which band simply is overwhelming to the point of a career change (as many of our friends have reached).

The Texas band system is one on steroids. To say that we brag about how many hours outside of school we spend at the band hall is maybe an understatement. Early in my own career, I decided that was not a path in which I was interested, and therefore efficiency vs. time on the job became the goal.

Each of us physically active outside of work.  I (Darcy) exercise 5-6 days a week in addition to the yard work that centers me more than maybe anything. Alex spends his evenings alternating between basketball, jumping rope (for real), and video games. Jenna miraculously manages to find time to work out most days of the week after putting the two tiny Yees to bed. And all of this in the name of not hating our lives or our jobs.

So many of my college friends have already left the profession. While I attribute much of that to kids majoring in music simply because they liked playing their instrument (as opposed to teaching), I strongly believe that music educators create an environment of success by working more. If I worked at Chili’s and chose to show up 2 hours early and leave 2-4 hours late, people would look at me like I was crazy. But band directors arrange their own schedules dictating 12+ hour days for pennies on the hour with pride.

It’s not sane. It’s not healthy. And it’s not heroic.

Despite what we may tell ourselves.

AS 008 : Prepping Kids for NEXT Year

The last 12 weeks of school is 100% prep time for next year’s bands. While we definitely are still teaching beginner classes, we have split most of those periods amongst the three of us into two speeds: those who who need 12 more weeks to master Essential Elements book one and fundamental skills (ex. one octave scales), and those who are ready to potentially finish most of Essential Elements book two as well as more advanced skills (ex. unmetered vibrato, two octave scales, focus on musicality). Our number one goal is ensuring that 100% of our beginner students are prepared for 7/8th grade band, and that means meeting the kids at the level that they currently are at. Continuing to teach all students at the same pace denies the reality that kids learn at different speeds and sets some up for failure and others for boredom. We speak specifically about what that split looks like in the podcast.

In our full band classes, we are creating next year’s leaders. Whereas 8th graders might have been assign the majority of first parts most of the year, we are now pairing a 7th grade first part with an 8th grader so that they can learn to confidently take on harder roles while still with the safety of their older partner.

AS 007 : What Would I Tell First Year Me?

Having a student teacher on campus brings to mind all of the lessons a new teacher still has to learn, lessons that most often can only be learned from making their own mistakes.

As the three of us talked, classroom management and injecting your specific personality into your teaching style were the major themes. Finding a balance in front of your kids is something that takes experimentation and is constantly evolving. I certainly don’t teach anything like first year me, and that is a good thing in more ways than one.

AS 006 : Post UIL Breakdown

On March 9th and 10th, Alex and Jenna’s respective bands went to UIL Concert and Sightreading Contest. Both bands did a fabulous job. Alex’s band played “Forward March”, “Storm Mountain Jubilee”, and “Phantom Ship.” Jenna’s performed “Alamo March”, “Broken Bow”, and “Moscow, 1941.”

Sitting in our office decompressing, Jenna and Alex had many thoughts on what brought their bands to this point this year and where they will be pushing their kids for the spring concert. While the kids might see the spring concert as their final concert of the year, we see it as the building blocks for next year’s bands.

AS 004 : Cut Time

After our TMEA rhythm clinic, a lot of people asked us if we had special counting charts for teaching cut time, and the answer is no.

A few years ago we started introducing the concept of cut time after learning how to play #175 (Egyptian Dance) in Essential Elements. We learn #175 at “normal tempo” (72) and then push the tempo up to 120 over the course of 2 or 3 days. Once we get it to 120, I show the classes how fast the real Egyptian Dance goes and how ridiculous it would be to pat our foot that fast. That’s my lead-in for cut time.

Having the melodic reference helps the kids make the brain transition to cut time since they already know how it sounds in 4/4.

Later, we’ll go back to old rhythm charts (Chart 2, 2.5, 3, 4, and 6.5) and count those in cut time. We do the same thing with old songs in the book as well and specifically #179 (American Patrol)

Every year at the spring concert our beginner band plays the Patrick Roszell arrangement of Shepherd’s Hey, and we teach it in cut time at 60 so that every beginner has a good bit of experience with cut time before they get to 7th grade.

This year in particular, I had one class that really struggled with learning cut time. After a couple of days of frustration on MY part, I discovered that I had one very confident kid (read counts loud) that wrote “1 te” but read “1 ti” and was trying to put the te on the 2nd 16th note instead of the 3rd… It took me forcing myself to be calm and collected to figure out what was actually happening with a class of generally smart kids instead of just getting frustrated over and over again while beating a dead horse. That class is doing just fine now. 🙂

AS 003 : Beginner Pacing & Tuning

Every week we have Chair Test Tuesday. I feel like weekly chair tests are positive as it forces the kids to get lots of practice getting nervous in front of each other while simultaneously taking some of the stress away from the potential for a bad playing test… if they happen every week, redemption comes soon!

Periodically I’ll allow the kids to create their own rubric for these chair tests. I guide them as they identify the skills that particular line in the book or fundamental exercise can test, and then the kids get to choose how many points each is worth. In edu-speak we could say that we are empowering student learning and self-evaluation, etc… and while all of that is definitely true, sometimes it backfires(!) which is a lesson in and of itself.

By the end of February, most of our classes are finishing up the beginner book one. We use Essential Elements and then supplement like mad. Book 2 (ye new book two) by spring break might be the goal, but every year brings its own realistic time frame.

Right after Christmas we start working with tuners in all of our beginner classes, actually incorporating “tuner tests” that function like a chair test. The visual aid helps our kids to learn ear training at an accelerated rate, taking some of the mystery and guesswork that we all initially encountered out of the mix. For kids who don’t have naturally sensitive ears, it allows them to learn to manipulate pitch while we introduce concepts that make absolutely no sense to their baby ears.

AS 002 : Classroom Management

Amongst the flurry of feedback we got from our TMEA rhythm clinic was an email from a young teacher asking how I kept control of my classes when I teach with such high energy.

The three of us have wildly contrasting personalities and teacher personas, so it is logical that we all handle our classes slightly different styles, all while keeping the same tone to our band program.

There is a fabulously ridiculous, completely non sequitur part of our conversation that was edited out for time (and topic), and you’ll be able to download that just for fun episode to be entitled “Habanero vs. Habanera” very soon.

AS 001 : Introductions

A podcast about band? Super nerdy…

Several weeks ago it occurred to me how lucky I am to be surrounded every day by my BBFFs (best band friends & family) – our band staff, lesson teachers, high school directors, etc – and that some of our best practices come from bouncing ideas off one another in those few minutes between classes or after sectionals.

I certainly haven’t always been a part of such an awesome band community, and I know there are lots of directors out there that don’t spend their days amidst a bevy of band buddies. Especially as a young teacher, I would have enjoyed and benefited so much from listening in on the kinds of conversations I now get to have multiple times every day.

And so After Sectionals was born.

Sometimes impromptu, sometimes planned, we record when things are fresh on our minds: after sectionals… and on the rare occasion that we have a few quiet minutes between classes.

Now take a few minutes and meet our staff: Darcy – the hyper-caffeinated, Jenna – Ms. Glitter and Unicorns, and Alex – Air Ortega.