DrWardMiller.com 2015 in Review!

Hello, school music educators, and happy almost-new-year!  2015 was a banner year for drwardmiller.com, and I wanted to take a moment to thank all of our readers, and to highlight some of the top moments and trends on the site in 2015.

Lots of Visitors from Everywhere!

We had so many readers in 2015, and they hailed from every state in the union, plus 95 additional countries.  9,853 unique users visited the site a grand total of 11,814 times!

Top Posts of 2015

We had a wonderful response to so many of articles on the site, but these Top 5 stood out based on the amount of readers they received:

  1. 5-Minute Read: Divide and Conquer! (September)
  2. 5-Minute Read: Maximize Your Brass Impacts! (July)
  3. Blue Stars Announce “On Corps!” Arranging Competition (November)
  4. 5-Minute Read: Make Your Band into Dynamic Detectives (November)
  5. Guest Article: Eight Not-So-Secret Ways to Experience Success with Honor Bands (November)

Rise of the Guest Article

As you can see from item number 5 above, 2015 saw our first articles from guest contributors, and your response was overwhelmingly positive.  We’ve got more guest articles lined up for 2016, with educators, performers, and conductors at every level of music education writing from all across the United States!

What’s Next?

With all the success for drwardmiller.com in 2015, what’s next? Well, you can expect more timely, and relevant articles in the 5-Minute Reads in 2016.  But also, you’ll be seeing:

  • Video clinics!
  • Some of our articles making the jump to print in a national magazine (no spoilers on which publication!)
  • Increased interaction with users with an option to register with the site
  • Announcements of new arrangements, compositions, premieres, articles, guest lectures, conducting appearances, and clinics
  • More!

Thanks again to all of our readers and supporters who’ve made drwardmiller.com a destination on the web for school music educators.  Have a safe and Happy New Year!

It’s Hector Berlioz’s Birthday!

On this day in 1803, Hector Berlioz was born in France at La Côte-Saint-André. A maverick and innovative compositional voice, Berlioz made significant contributions to the modern orchestra with his Treatise on Instrumentation. He specified huge orchestral forces for some of his works, and conducted several concerts with more than 1,000 musicians.

While he is best known for his compositions Symphonie fantastique and Grande messe des morts (Requiem), Berlioz also made a major contribution to wind literature with his Grande symphonie funèbre et triomphale (Grand Funeral and Triumphal Symphony), op. 15, his fourth and final symphony. Berlioz scored the symphony for a large military or concert band, with optional choir and string instruments. First performed on July 28th, 1840 in Paris. The work is one of the earliest examples of a symphony composed for wind band.

Behold the ambitious scoring as you listen to this massive work in the video below!

  • piccolos (4 players)
  • flutes (5 players)
  • oboes (5 players)
  • E-flat clarinets (5 players)
  • 2 B-flat clarinets (26 players total)
  • bass clarinets (2 players)
  • bassoons (8 players)
  • contrabassoon (ad lib)
  • 6 horns in F, A-flat, E-flat, G, D and C (12 players total)
  • 4 trumpets in F, C and B-flat (8 players total)
  • 2 cornets in A-flat, G and B-flat (4 players total)
  • 3 trombones (3 tenors or alto and 2 tenors, 10 players total)
  • bass trombone (ad lib)
  • 2 ophicleides (6 players total)
  • 2 snare drums (8 players total)
  • timpani (ad lib)
  • cymbals (3 players)
  • bass drums, tam tam, turkish crescents
  • choir and strings (both ad lib)

Happy Birthday, Olivier Messiaen

Today in 1908, French composer Olivier Messiaen was born in Avignon. A professor of harmony at the Paris Conservatory, his special compositional voice was made all the more intriguing by his interest in birdsong. Transcribed birdsongs appeared in many of his works. Wind conductors should check out his 1956 work Oiseaux exotiques (“Exotic birds”). Written for solo piano and orchestral winds and percussion, this avant-garde composition weaves together various birdsongs in bright, crystalline colors. Check out this recording online!

A Great Recipe for Music Selection

So, you want your concert band to have a great performance that everyone will remember, full of energy, excitement, and of course great music! For this fine performance, you no doubt want repertoire that will dazzle the audience and will be enjoyable to conduct. You’ll even get a chance to show off your best conducting moves in your new formal attire. The audience will be so impressed with your performance of this music that they will spring to their feet and cast roses to the stage as they breathlessly await your return to the podium for the encore of this magnificent performance.

The Realities of Selecting Music for Your Band

Now I want you to slowly wake up, face reality, and truly examine the factors that must be considered when creating a program of music for a concert band in an educational setting. When you are trying to select the right music for your school band, there are three realities that you need to accept:

  1. It is not about you.   As much as you want to impress everyone you need to make your students impressive.   Promote the success of your students and you will never go wrong.
  2. Sometimes your best conducting “moves” might have to give way to what actually keeps the ensemble together.  Again, it is not about you. (See Reality #1)  Your conducting may have to be more along the lines of diagnostician and time keeper with just a bit of artful expression.
  3. Your selections must be based on what you can teach, and what your students can learn. If you have performed the piece before as a member of an ensemble that may help, but it does not necessarily mean you can teach it.  You also must consider whether or not your students will be able to meet the technical and musical demands of the piece.

The Recipe for Success

Once you accept and plan for these realities, then you create a practical plan for the repertoire of your upcoming performance.  This practical plan is much like a recipe, and it contains the following key ingredients:

  1. You must be able to meet the technical requirements of the piece within the rehearsal time frame.
  2. The music must challenge the ensemble and be interesting.
  3. The various selections should offer musical contrast for the performers and audience alike.

Put Your Recipe into Action

If you are not a composer or arranger, creating a program of music can be your “composition” and can be very interesting and enjoyable.  Create a flow chart of every possible selection you would like to do at the beginning, middle, and end of your performance.  Some selections may be interchangeable as to where they are placed.   After listing the selections, consider which combinations produce the desired continuity and musical contrast; eliminate selections until the program provides the aforementioned characteristics. Ask your students for their input.

Challenge them not to judge a work on its technical difficulty, but on the content of the work and the opportunities it provides to move the individual members and the ensemble as a whole forward. Take advantage of the approval service that many music distributors provide so you can read works before you purchase them. This is an invaluable resource that can give you an opportunity to read many titles that you do not have in your library.

Above all, enjoy the process!  Even music that you don’t select for your program can often become titles that can be used in the future as your ensemble progresses. Your students will find it exciting to read a variety of works as you pursue the selections that suit your needs.