Teaching Orchestra and Band in a Digital Space: Day 10

Routine & Balance

After ten days of teaching remotely, plus a week of keeping track of assignments the week before, while preparing to be a virtual teacher, this thing we now think of as remote teaching, is starting to feel routine. Teaching from my makeshift home office is starting to feel almost normal too. In fact, it’s surprising to me how this pattern has evolved over these three weeks.

At first I kept the same sleep schedule and my morning routine for the sake of not making too many adjustments. After all remote teaching was at first supposed to last for about a month. Then after a few announcements by the WA State Governor Inslee, then the CDC stating that this may very well be our collective reality at least until May, I started to change my mind set about this experience. I became more positive and started approaching long term solutions to some of the challenges facing me, my students and most certainly my family. After all, they too are stakeholders in this environment with me.

The routine is becoming cemented with me, so I’m sure my students are starting to feel it as well. Working from home is no longer the hurtle it was two weeks ago, and now I’m most concerned with the balance of working from home and still being a good father and husband for my family. It seem that the work-life and home-life balance I had been trying to figure out before the coronavirus era began, is still something I’m going to need to tweak and work out. Funny how the challenges of being a full time teacher during regular work hours and keeping an active performance career doesn’t really change in our current situation. I still need to find the time in my day to work on my ability to play the trumpet, and lesson plan for my students with the added advantage of becoming 1/2 of our home school faculty for our kid. 

New challenges are coming. Old challenges are evolving. The earlier wave of obstacles is becoming routine.

Teaching Orchestra and Band in a Digital Space: Day 1

It’s hard to imagine how someone could remotely teach an interactive music class like an orchestra or band, but given the current situation, with Seattle being the epicenter of the Coronavirus, this is now my new reality as an instrumental music instructor. This week starts our three-week (or until further notice) experience teaching and learning in a digital space. The concept of remote teaching isn’t new;  in fact, in music, students and instructors have been connecting digitally for decades and in real time. However, with less than a week’s notice, I had to think about, and then quickly become, a virtual orchestra and band instructor.

Fortunately, today marks the start of a new term and all that comes with starting over. Somethings are familiar, like the online portals for assignments and grades. Attendance is taken and I still have to manage the class the same way I would as if I were physically in the same room with students. I’m finding out that by already having set the expectations at the beginning of the year in my physical classroom, students are naturally carrying these over into the digital learning space.

Although there was a lot of prep to get this virtual teaching endeavor going, I think picking out the right tools and setting up both my physical space and digital environment will pay off. In the weeks to come I’ll try my best to document what tools worked for me and what tweaks I end up making along the way.

Day 1 down…more to come.

Persistent Ear-Worm

Over the summer I find myself going between the dropping off my kid at summer camps, helping the family with home-related projects, working/ continuing to learn how to care for my house, writing/ arranging music and (of course) practicing my instrument. Summer is a convenient time to make significant progress on some of these things.

With that in mind, I took to expanding some of what I do on my trumpet. If you spend time practicing an instrument, typically one plays exercises in a pattern. In my case, scale patterns. In order to switch things up, I thought it would be a good idea to rehash some of the jazz improvisation patterns I did so long ago as a student.

After working on transcriptions of Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Fats Navarro, and Clifford Brown, I started working on scale and arpeggio patterns related to Giant Steps by John Coltrane. As a classical guy, I tend to use chord changes in several ways.

First as a way of staying flexible through the different registers on the trumpet.

Second, it’s great for ear training because it reminds me that I need to hear the music before I play it.

Third, when breaking down some chord patterns, you can use them to practice alternate fingering. I often practice a small section and try to find natural lip slurs. Kind of like doing Clark #3 with mainly lip slurs like playing G major with a 1-3 fingering at the start.

However, Giant Steps is a different animal. First I can’t get the tune out of my head, and I can’t get Coltrane’s playing out of my ear as well. His navigation of those harmonies is mesmerizing. After listening to it for a period of time, I started to dream in these chord patterns. It’s an incredible piece of music and art.

 

 

NBA Playoffs and Trumpet

Once again, I find myself multitasking during the NBA playoffs and somehow settle on a practice routine while watching games. This year it’s been four books, the Max Schlossberg Daily Drills and Clarke Technical Studies, Charles Colin Advanced Lip Flexibilities and finally any variation of flow studies.

The first quarter involves mouthpiece buzzing of Schlossberg Long Tone exercises 1-3, then played on the trumpet. Numbers 8 and 9 on mouthpiece then on the trumpet and eventually numbers 31 and 32. All of these exercises played with a metronome running at 72 beats per minute.

The second quarter is when players off the bench start to contribute, this is Clarke Studies time. I like to either pick a key and play as many exercises in that key as possible, or I pick one of the studies and work through those exercises and end with the Etudes.

Half time is snack time and rest time.

The third quarter is for Lip Flexibilities. I’m a fan of Vol. 3 for this part of the game. Play and rest are key, these exercises can be taxing.

For the 4th quarter, flow studies like the Snedecor Lyrical Studies or Concone Lyrical Studies. 

Trumpet and Basketball

Sometimes multitasking can go to far. For me lately, my practice habits have been lead by the NBA playoffs. I settle in to watch a game but feeling guilty about not practicing my trumpet. So I decided to create a practice routine around the game.

I tend to think of this kind of practice as maintenance. More like stretching or breaking a sweat, and not a full blown workout on the horn. This should be be done with exercises you are familiar with, not exercises which are new to you.

The routine is centered around Herbert L. Clarke’s Technical Studies. I keep the volume low on my T.V. and practice with a practice mute sometimes. Some of the game go late into the evening.

I practice the first study in the first quarter of the game, then play Etude 1 during the coaches interview between the 1st and 2nd quarter. Then do the same with the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th studies and quarters.

I have used other books as well. That said these other books are related to the Clarke Studies, like the Vizzutti’s Trumpet Methods or Robert Nagel’s Speed Studies.
 

Waiting Rooms Ramblings and Trumpet Routine

Having a few opportunities to sit and think while waiting for my kids appointment to end, I have become accustom to letting my mind wonder about all sorts of thing. There is always something that needs to be done, like grading papers, lesson plans, practice mouthpiece buzzing, stick in a practice mute and pray it’s not a distraction for my kid. Sometimes it’s even simply lining up the next appointment or any number of parent related tasks.

Lately, I’ve taken to learning some new skills from several tutorials. A few I’ve downloaded on my laptop and some show up on Youtube. In any case I can’t figure out how many different ways to occupy my brain during these times. Games, podcasts, work related stuff, call my mom and dad…the list goes on. Either way I am frustrated and am now choosing to blog about a feeling I can’t put into words.IMG_3778

For now I’ll just look into the bell of my trumpet and wonder about what’s coming out of it. Conicidently, my latest practice routine has me working through:

  • Irons 27 Groups of Exercises
  • The Gekker Articulation Studies
  • Vincent Chicowitz Flow Studies
  • Verzari exercise.

Pick one group from the Irons then a set from the Gekker. Followed by one of the flow studies and etudes tongued and slurred, and finally closing the session with a Verzari exercise. The routine can take from 15-40 minutes, depending on how much time you have in a waiting room.

IronsGekker-Articulation-Studies-600x800 Front-Cover-VC-Vol-2-231x300Verzari_TPT_Exercises-detail