November 20, 2012 at 4:43 pm #15939
I am a HS band director with 2 bands. This is my first year in the position. The prior director did the placements this year. One is mostly freshmen and students that play, but don’t excel enough to be in the advanced group. Do any of you have criteria you use to separate into the two groups? I have some freshmen that think they should be in the advanced group. Any help would be appreciated.December 1, 2012 at 3:40 pm #16381
I think it’s good to have a pre-determined standard for the level of excellence you require to be in the higher level band. If a freshman can play at that level, then he should be allowed to perform. I would rather have a small ensemble of advanced players than fill the seats to make a larger ensemble. A playing test is really the best way to judge ability. Allow students to practice a piece at the caliber of the advanced ensemble and at a scheduled audition, judge the prepared piece as well as some sight reading. An advanced player should be able to sight read with correct notes/rhythms and sound decent and the prepared piece will tell you whether or not your player is interested in putting time and effort into learning. I would have auditions only at semester changes since the ensemble needs to function and constant additions/subtractions would disrupt the balance. Once a student is admitted into the advanced band I wouldn’t make them re-audition year after year, but I would stress that the advanced ensemble is a privilege that can be taken away if a student is pulling his own weight.
You need to decide for yourself what level the advanced band should be playing at and then only accept players who can play at that level. Doesn’t matter the age, simply the ability. Pick a piece and find players who will be able to rise to the challenge!December 3, 2012 at 7:50 am #16391
In the spring, we have auditions. We don’t have “set criteria” for the top group (other than clarinets must play 2 octave scales to be considered). Kids must perform a common etude (everyone has the same assigned), 30-40 measures of a piece of their choosing, and major/chromatic scales. From there, it’s pretty easy to determine who should be in the top group and who shouldn’t.
Other considerations: we encourage students to audition for the All State Band. Any student who makes it automatically goes into the top group, and will knock out someone who didn’t try out.
We do open challenges a few times during the year where the upper portion of the second band can challenge a player in the lower seated portion of the top group. Keeps the kids on their toes, but does cause small drama once in awhile.
If a kid is on the bubble, and is a hard worker, I will typically take them. We have around 75 in the top group and 100 in the second group. I’ve often thought of whittling the top group down more, but we’re already on the bubble of needing a third band…and we don’t have the staff or facilities to do it right now. I’m not a believer in slicing your group down to 40 or 50 kids just to play even more advanced literature. I think the more kids you can get to experience music at a higher level, the better your group is going to get in the long run (within reason obviously). For us, it’s the difference between class A and AA music. But, our kids are improving at a faster rate overall. Just my opinion.December 3, 2012 at 7:55 am #16392
Added note: If you have an issue with kids thinking they should be in the top group when they shouldn’t, try this: We do open auditions. For example, on a Monday, all of the flutes come to the band room..have a seat…and audition for us and in front of their flute peers. The kids have no input, but it’s very good for them to hear everyone in their section. Freshmen have many “come to Jesus” moments during these auditions when they hear some of the advanced players play. It quickly shuts them up about “i should be in the top group” etc. Each kid knows exactly where they stand, and they can figure out pretty quickly what they need to do to improve. A friend of mine used this audition method at his powerhouse program so I stole it…it’s awesome how well it works.
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