Some quick reflective thoughts as 2011 closes, and 2012 begins from my small corner of the podium:1) As I shared with David Ahrens a few nights ago via Twitter – the quality of my ensembles is a direct reflection of my preparation and practice. If they aren’t playing well, that is my responsibility. Yes, yes, the students have a responsibility to prepare and practice. But ultimately for any us with a performing ensemble – we lead, we prepare, we teach, we motivate. If it isn’t happening – look at yourself in the mirror and recite the following “Your ensemble stinks, and it’s your fault. Go fix it.” Looking back at 2011, my preparation and planning has not been all it can be – consequently I have been having a good conversation with myself in the mirror every day this year to remedy that problem.

2) It’s an exciting time as I embark on the research end of my doctorate work at Kent State. I am focusing on student and director perceptions of honor band festivals. As someone with a vested interest who has been on both sides as a sponsoring director and a guest conductor, I am curious to learn what students and the directors are taking away from these festivals, and if what they are taking away are of benefit to their school band program. Updates will abound along the way, and if you have literature or thoughts you would like to share I would enjoy the opportunity to connect with you.

3) Looking ahead, and speaking of honor bands, I am eagerly preparing for the Bucks County JH Honor Band in March, and the Schuykill County JH Honor Band in April hosted by former assistant and friend Brad Volek. Two new debuts at those festivals with students – it will be an awesome experience, and if not – well we need to revisit the mirror I mentioned earlier.

4) 4 New pieces to date will be available this summer including Dream Chaser and Winds of a New Day (Barnhouse), The Last Stage Coach Heist (FJH), and Yankee Fanfare (Grand Mesa). Honored to have Steve Gage at YSU include Romance for Winds on the March Program with the YSU University Band. Also currently working on a commission for long-time friend and colleague and one of the best directors I know Eric Schrader at Greenville HS (Pa). Hope to begin work on a new contemporary work late in January.

Finally, we are all music educators – some classroom, some directors, some both. Do what’s right in the best interest of our students. Share music that makes connections, expands their appreciation, and authentically engages them. Lead them to understand and appreciate that music is not only a collective collaborative art form, but a unique experience that can transform people and shape our cultures and communities in positive, uplifting ways. How this happens can be very unique to context in which it takes place, and for that reason we have to know our students, school and community well. Our decisions for music instruction must reflect the needs of the community, the expectations of the community, and consistent with our personal philosophy of music education.

Best wishes to all of you in the coming year, and thank you for your friendship, support, and exchange of ideas.

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