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Who’s Advising?

August 8, 2008

I’m not trying to compete with Kent’s credentials. But I do want you to know who’s giving this advice. Jack Hammer says that Kent and I have “gobs of experience.” So, here’s my musical autobiography:

In the fourth grade, my father started me out playing a $25 trumpet in the beginning band at school. I practiced as I was told and in the eighth grade, the band director asked me to move to the baritone. It was while playing the baritone that I began to love instrumental music. As I progressed, I figured out that the tuba wasn’t much different from the baritone, and in my senior year of high school, I learned how to get around on the trombone. We went to Mexico on our senior trip, and the trombone took up less space than a baritone, so I figured out how to play hymns and songs on that.

Through this time, I rarely had professional lessons. As I recall, there were a few summers when the music director at our church (he was good enough to have been a professional) gave me a few lessons. I don’t remember any practice sessions in particular, but I do remember practicing. I would practice at the piano in the living room, or with my music propped up in the trumpet case on my bed in my room. I practiced in the band room at church/school. Most of this practice time was done in my elementary and junior high years. As I improved, I was given the opportunity to be in many instrumental groups, and each of these had a weekly practice time. I practiced five days per week with the high school band, once a week with the high school brass quartet, once a week with the high school brass ensemble, once a week with the church brass ensemble and twice per week in the church orchestra. I also practiced regularly to play some solo in the nursing home or in Sunday school. I say all of that before I confess that I didn’t practice too much on my own besides the group practices. Is that good–not really. It’s just history.

Once I graduated from high school, seven weekly practices were removed from my schedule, but maturity helped me “get by” for a little while. I continued to play the baritone and migrated to playing the trombone. I love to play the trombone, but I’ll admit, I’ve never played as well as Kent’s son.

During my pastoral theology studies in college, I was encouraged to take some music classes as electives. I took a preacher boy’s music class (which was a breeze for all of the guys with musical experience), Freshman Theory (where I was introduced to Ottman and the intriguingly mathematical world of music), and a class they called Instrumental Music for Church Band. In that class, I was introduced to all the basic instruments of a band (I had two weeks of instruction on each) and had the opportunity to observe and lead some school band rehearsals. I also took a semester each of flute, clarinet, and percussion. That’s a lot in a paragraph, but not really that much training to be a instrumental instructor.

Fourteen months after graduating from college and one month before school was to start, the band director at our church and school left with no warning. I was given the responsibility of training and the privilege of working with the fourth grade beginning band, the fifth and sixth grade band, the seventh through twelfth grade band, the church orchestra and the church brass ensemble. Since then, I have worked with many students and studied many conductors.

Mine is the advice of experience. The advice has changed over the years as my experience has grown. But I think I am fairly settled in and am now consistently giving the same advice to parents as we work together to develop their children musically and instrumentally.

I intend to give you my advice on 1) how to choose an instrument for your child, and 2) how to develop your child’s practice habits. If I think of others, I’ll have a fourth post for the topic.

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  1. Cathy
    August 9, 2008 at 12:44 am

    First of all, I will not relay your practice habits to Rachel. Secondly, I am very well interested 1 and 2, mainly because I think I failed in number 1, and number 2 would be great because with so many other demands and tasks, I often don’t allow much time for practice.

  2. August 9, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    Jeff has played more music than me. Jeff has played better trombone than I ever played trumpet. Jeff has directed more music than me. I think Jeff has produced quite a few professional CD recordings that we listen to at our house.

    I never heard of having a professional teacher when I grew up. I, like Jeff, only played five times a week with the band, played at church, played in special groups, played on 6 or 7 tours, and had a few lessons in conjunction with our yearly state contest. We would have to practice for that. I also had to practice to get the memory down for the groups I was in. That was the extent of my practice. I do believe that the teaching makes a huge difference. And the practice.

  3. August 9, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    I was able to take lessons at the Christian school I attended while growing up. I took 9 years of trumpet and am so thankful for it. Now I pastor, have a Christian school, and two children. I want my son to begin taking lessons soon. Question is this (and you will probably address it soon if I was patient enough): there is really no one here that can give lessons on an instrument, should I seek a professional or would the worldly influence be something I could not practically guard enough?

  4. August 11, 2008 at 9:00 am

    I personally don’t believe that a half an hour or hour lesson once per week with the focus of the time being on instrumental development would be harmful at all. There may be other things to consider, which Kent may address, but the one thing I would be sure of is that the tutor understood what music you would not want your child to practice.

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