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Grade 4 families: Meet the Band

Filed in District by on May 23, 2017

A message from BCSD Elementary Band Director Genoveffa Vitale

Hello Fourth Grade Parents,

I hope you are all enjoying the longer and warmer days that come along with Spring. With all of the new life sprouting all around us comes the next stage in your son or daughter’s musical growth—Beginning Band! Recently, I met with all of the fourth grade students to discuss the band program and play the instruments for them. I answered questions and presented the students a detailed overview of what to expect.  Below you will find an overview of the band program, descriptions of each instrument, and steps for the process of enrolling.  You will also find some helpful websites that you can watch with your child to help aid in their instrument selection. Please do not hesitate to email me at GVitale@bcsd.neric.org with any questions you may have.  I look forward to meeting your son or daughter in the coming weeks. 

Sincerely,

Genoveffa Vitale
Elementary Band Director

Be Part of the Band Website:  https://www.bepartofthemusic.org/bpotb/index.html

Band Program Overview

The option of playing in the elementary band is given in fifth grade. Students typically enroll in June for the next school year. Band will meet starting in the second full week of September. We will meet once per week before school at 8:15 am and in a pull out lesson during the school day (that rotates times from week to week). Once all students have been successfully enrolled you will receive a schedule in the first full week of school. In-school lessons are typically 30 minutes long. The information covered in before-school rehearsals and during our in-school lessons will be complementary, but very different. Attendance to both will be mandatory in order to perform in concerts. If you foresee an issue with transporting your child to before-school band rehearsals, please look into carpooling with other students as soon as possible so your child does not miss any information. Please be aware that students cannot participate in band and orchestra simultaneously. Band and orchestra meet at the same time in the middle school and it would be impossible to be part of both ensembles simultaneously. Students will learn how to assemble, play, and read music on their instrument. So, students are not required to have any prior knowledge in order to play in band.

First steps


  1. Discuss with your son or daughter which top 3 instruments they would like to play (view descriptions below) and fill out the interest form.
  2. Have your child bring the form in to school and hand it in to their classroom teacher (and they will put it in my mailbox).
  3. In the second or third week in June your child will meet with me, Miss Vitale, where they will:
  • Try their top 3 instrument choices (or more if your child expresses interest in others)
  • Come to an agreement and pick the one that is best for your child (or be placed on a lottery depending on instrument selection)
  1. An instrument assignment letter will go home with information on rental procedures, materials, and local vendors.
  2. You should rent your instrument in late August, early September (or reserve for a September spot/delivery)
  3. Please keep in mind that band will start the 2nd full week in September. This will be before school as well as during the school day. 

Download and print a copy of the Band Instrument form. (If you can not access a copy of this form, please contact the main office of your child’s school.)

Instrument options


Flute

Flute is part of the woodwind family and it reads music in the treble clef.  The embouchure (or lip formation to create a sound) is like saying “pooh” or cooling soup on a spoon.  Students use this visualization when blowing over the opening in the flute in order to create a sound.  Good finger control and fine motor skills are useful when playing the flute as the fingerings can be tricky.  As with anything, however, hard work always pays off with great results.  Please be aware that a “teardrop” embouchure might make it difficult for a student to make a sound on the flute.  If the center of a child’s lip dips down, it may separate the air stream into two airstreams, making it difficult to direct one airstream over the opening in the flute.  If this is the case, modifications will need to be made.  Some students overcome this challenge, but some do not.  If it is determined that your child has a teardrop embouchure, please be aware that it may mean that your child might have a harder time creating a sound on the flute for quite some time.  Typically, anywhere from 3-6 students can be part of this section depending on overall band enrollment.

Clarinet

The clarinet is part of the woodwind family and it reads music in the treble clef.  A sound is created by making a reed vibrate against the mouthpiece.  The bottom lip covers the bottom teeth and the top teeth are placed on the mouthpiece with the mouthpiece angled downward.  The corners of the lips and cheeks are firmed and the students will require a strong airstream in order to make a sound.   The only physical requirement to play the clarinet is having his or her two top front teeth.  Reeds will need to be purchased regularly throughout the year as they become worn or chipped. We may have an unlimited amount of clarinets enrolled.  Clarinets make a band sound full and lush, thus making it ideal to have a rather large section. 

Alto Saxophone

The alto saxophone is part of the woodwind family and it reads music in the treble clef.  Sound production is created in a very similar manner to the clarinet—with the exception of the angle that the mouthpiece enters the mouth (straight in).  The only physical requirement to play the alto saxophone is having one’s two top front teeth.  Reeds will need to be purchased regularly throughout the year as they become worn or chipped.  Due to the characteristic sound of the alto saxophone, we can only have a small number of students playing this instrument.  If too many students play alto saxophone in the band, they will need to play VERY quietly (due to the loud nature of this instrument).   Typically, only 1-2 students may play alto saxophone depending on overall band enrollment (3 if full band enrollment is high).  We have had to open a lottery for this instrument in the past.                                                                     

Brass

 Sound production on all of the brass family is created by vibrating the center of your lips to create a pitch.  Most note production on brass instruments is controlled by this lip vibration.  The addition of the instrument mostly helps playing exact pitches in tune, provides amplification, and provides different timbres.            

Trumpet

The trumpet is part of the high brass family and it reads music in the treble clef.  The trumpet mouthpiece is small, so the vibration must be created by the very center portion of one’s lips.  Some students with fuller lips or weaker lip muscle might find it difficult to create a good sound.  However, those physical attributes may not hinder anything and/or students can work hard to overcome any physical challenges.  It is mostly up to the student and how hard they want to work get the results.  The trumpet section typically has 3-6 students in the trumpet section depending on overall band enrollment. 

French Horn

The French Horn is part of the high brass family and it reads music mostly in the treble clef (it can vary as students play at the high school level).  This is a great instrument for students who sing well or have good pitch recognition.  Since it is possible to play any note with any fingering (however, not necessarily in tune), a student needs to have a good sense of pitch to control the notes in order to play accurately.   At the same time, it is important that a student has patience when playing this instrument as they will definitely play many wrong notes in their developing months.  The mouthpiece is similar in size to the trumpet, but different in shape and in placement on the lips.  The school district typically provides the French horn for an annual maintenance fee of $40.  This instrument is allowed on the bus, but some bus drivers may deem the bus too full (therefore unsafe) and will not allow it on the bus.  It is important to discuss this with your bus driver to see what options you have.  Depending on enrollment in the district, there is a possibility that a student can have a separate horn at home.  This option is often on a need basis.  Usually students transport their French horn back and forth from school on band days.  Please keep in mind that in the middle school and high school two horns are assigned to each student so transportation is only an issue for 5th grade.   The typical French Horn section consists of 1-3 students in the section depending on overall enrollment.   

Trombone

The trombone is part of the low brass family and it reads music in the bass clef.  This instrument has a larger mouthpiece and requires a wider buzz than its high brass cousins.  Pitch is changed by moving the slide in and out.  Arm length is not a requirement for this instrument since it is assumed that students will grow in the coming years—so student size is not necessarily a restriction.  This instrument is allowed on the bus, but some bus drivers may deem the bus too full (therefore unsafe) and will not allow it on the bus.  It is important to discuss this with your bus driver to see what options you have. There is a possibility that a student can have a separate trombone at home.  This option is often on a need basis.  There is no restriction to the trombone section size since a large trombone section makes a band sound strong.

Baritone

The baritone is part of the low brass family and it reads music in the bass clef.  This instrument uses the same mouthpiece as the trombone and has the same wider buzz.  Pitch is changed by pushing valves.  The baritone has a bit of a louder sound than the trombone and quite a different timbre (or sound quality).  Baritones are rented through the school and students are given two baritones: one for home use and one for school use.  The school district typically provides a Baritone for an annual maintenance fee of $40.. Baritone students are required to bring their mouthpiece back and forth from home to school.  The typical baritone section has 1-3 students depending on overall band enrollment. 

Tuba

The tuba is part of the low brass family and reads notes below the staff in the bass clef.   This instrument utilizes a very large mouthpiece and requires a very relaxed buzz.  A student’s size is definitely not a deciding factor when picking the tuba.  Small students can play just as well as larger students.  It is mostly dependent on having/developing good air support.  In fact, sometime our tiniest students can produce the largest sounds.  The school district typically provides a tuba to the student for an annual maintenance fee of $40.  However, the district only has enough tubas for one per player, so students will need to make arrangements to bring it back and forth from school once per week on their band day.  Usually, we can only have one tuba player in each band, but sometimes low enrollment in another part of the district means that we can have two.  So, if your child is interested, please make sure to put it down on their interest form. 

Percussion

All percussionists are required to play both snare (drum pad) and bells.  Students will rent a percussion kit that contains a bell kit and a drum pad (please no snare drum kits).  Also, please note that drum set is not part of the band percussion curriculum.  I only mention these things because parents and students have been confused on these points in the past.  In full band, students may also experience playing bass drum, cymbals, triangle, wood block, and/or more if the music calls for it.  Playing in the percussion section requires a great deal of responsibility.  It is not only the heartbeat of the band—helping to control the speed of the music—but they are also usually soloists.  Only one person plays the snare drum part, the bass drum part, or the cymbal part (etc).  While this is exciting, it also limits the amount of students who can play in one piece.  Because of this, we often must hold a lottery for percussion as well.  If even 3 students from each elementary school in the district continue into 5th grade, we end up with 15 percussionists in the middle school band.  With only 4-5 parts in each band song the other students end up sitting songs out or playing VERY little.  This is why we must limit our numbers for this section to typically 1-3 students depending on overall band enrollment.

Additional information


We will do our best to make every student happy, but sometimes we need to have a lottery for many reasons.  Our goal is for every student to have the most positive musical experience.  When a student must always play quietly or not play for half a song because there are too many students in one section, it makes the experience less enjoyable.  A good balanced band is not only pedagogically sound, but also makes it so every section can play with proper tone and support.  If a band is out of balance, it affects every section’s quality.

If you are experiencing financial hardship, there are school instruments available for rental.  They may not be in as good condition as instruments rented from a music store, but they should be usable.  If you would like more information about this, please email me or call me so we can discuss options.  All students should get a chance to play if they are interested.  We do not want anything holding them back from becoming the musician they wish to be. 

Please note that: piccolo, oboe, bassoon, bass clarinet, tenor saxophone, and baritone saxophone will be options for students to switch to in the middle school years.  These are often given to students who demonstrate the ultimate commitment to their own personal musical growth and foresee their musical career continuing into the high school.   Jazz band is available to all band students starting in seventh grade.