temovate otc

If pro orchestra conductors were evaluated like HS music teachers

By John Gardner

I am pouring over spreadsheet data for my “Evaluator”. How many administrator evaluators have music ensemble experience? My boss will use this data to determine [exact terminology altered] “Amazing”, “Satisfactory”, “Help-me” or “Almost Outta Here” teacher status, which, in turn, affects employment status and pay. What would happen if professional orchestra conductors were evaluated like high school music teachers?

A professional orchestra conductor must select repertoire, rehearse and perform entertaining music at an excellence level to attract large audiences purchasing expensive tickets regularly.

Chicago Symphony Tickets

I like that the current emphasis in education is in making sure every student is learning, as it should be. But how do you prove it? A concert demonstrates the overall effectiveness of the teacher/conductor, but it does not prove individual ensemble participant improvement.

OrchestraIf pro orchestra conductors were evaluated like HS music teachers…

Read the following as
instructions to the conductor.
NOTE: Official terms
and designations
intentionally altered in this article.

As you write your objectives, keep in mind that your Professional Orchestra objectives and your effectiveness as a conductor will be determined by your evaluator who, in your case, is the Police Chief. The data you present will affect your employment status and pay increase/decrease.


Read more ›

Posted in High Schools, Job Search, Music Performance, Personal experience, Teaching, Teaching Music Tagged with: , , ,

Double tongue technique for woodwind and brass instruments

Solo and Ensemble no frameBy John Gardner

My high school band was playing “Masque”, which has some fast articulation passages better played via double-tongue.  Below are some videos I also posted for my students. If you have better ones or others that you recommend, please send me the links. Thanks….enjoy….and let’s get better.




This next guy does a lot of detailed demonstration. Try to duplicate what you hear. Remember that you have a metronome on your iPad. The school portal provided Clock Pro includes a metronome. Then, I like one called SilverDial (free) because it also uses a flash option (for when you can’t quite hear the click).

SAXES and Double Tonguing. This Conservatory professor is really good, even if he does use Rico reeds. First minute is demo, then he talks through it. Good points.

CLARINETS. This guy is not a good presenter, in that he is obviously reading everything he says…..but he has a valid point to try….. to use da-da-da instead of ta-ta-ta. Not true double-tonguing, but a way to go faster.

FLUTES. She’s fast. Wow! Talks both double and triple tonguing. She has several videos and appears (and sounds) like she really knows her stuff and explains it well. Watch her videos on sound and vibrato also.

DOUBLE REEDS. Ok, this bassoonist is kinda boring and gives more historical data than you might want to hear, but then he has some good graphs of what happens on the inside of the mouth.

VMO Business Card

Posted in Teaching Music Tagged with: , ,

Goal of 80% Does Not Work in Music Education

Screen Shot 2013-02-17 at 3.49.14 PM

By John Gardner

Screen Shot 2013-02-17 at 3.49.14 PMIn the February 15, 2013 edition of the Campus newspaper, the opinion editor writes about the new S.L.O (Student Learning Objectives) process introduced this year in our high school.

S.L.O. is part of the Indiana Department of Education’s RISE Evaluation Model for schools and teachers. If you want to get a feel for the complexity of this model and evaluation process, visit the IDOE site on RISE and watch the video on Student Learning Objectives.

The Campus article mentions a goal of 80% on the final.Would you accept 80% accuracy (mastery) from:

  • the other drivers obeying 80% of the traffic rules and signals?
  • your surgeon, doctor, or orthodontist?
  • the police, fire or ambulance finding your house when you call 911?
  • the architect and construction crew who designed your house, school or office building….?
  • the engineers who coordinate the traffic signals?
  • the railroad crossing lights and gates?
  • the fire alarm at school — or the smoke detector in your home?
  • your pilot?
  • your alarm clock?
  • your instrumental or vocal ensemble?

We can’t accept 80% accuracy in music education.

Read more ›

Posted in Classroom Teacher, College Prep, High Schools, Music Department, Music Performance, Parenting, Teaching, Teaching Music Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Solo contest judge’s #1 recommendation

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 7.59.59 AM

By John Gardner

excellentMost participants in high school solo competitions are only in the performance room long enough for his/her performance and maybe for a couple friends’. They could learn so much by sitting and listening/observing for a while.

During some down time in between local student performances at a state level contest, I sat in a few performance rooms just to hear examples of what other students around the state are doing.  I did not expect to see the wide range of performance quality given that I was at a STATE level contest and everyone participating had already received a GOLD (top) rating at district competition. If I had to summarize that experience, it would be with the conclusion that…

…not all music education results are created equal.

Read more ›

Posted in College Prep, High Schools, Music Department, Music Performance, Parenting, Solo Prep, Teaching Music Tagged with: , , , , ,

As an Assistant Director, What Is Your Job?

By John Gardner

Asst DirectorI was a band director in a small school when left to start a business (still running). Eight years ago, I was asked to help out the large local band program as a part time assistant. When I asked that director if there was a job description, he answered with…

Your job is whatever I don’t want to do.

Drawing on his experience as an assistant coach, the principal at the time described it as the “2nd chair” position.

I have “assisted” four band directors. I’m thinking that makes me an “expert” in the area.
So….as I organize my thoughts for a potential series, I’d love to hear of YOUR experiences in the 2nd chair position as a coach, teacher, director, pastor, principal, manager or whatever.

VMO Business Card

Posted in Assistant Directing, Classroom Teacher, Communication, High Schools, Music Department, Virtual Assistant Tagged with: , ,

Sight-reading Tips

By John Gardner

Solo and Ensemble no frameMusicians auditioning for acceptance or for music scholarships are working on prepared pieces — likely the same piece he/she is using for solo contest. An aspect of many auditions that are a challenge is the demonstration of sight-reading proficiency. Colleges want to know how quickly you can learn their music.

In most sight-reading circumstances, there will be a period of time for you to preview what you are about to play. In a concert band festival, the sight-reading session involves 10 minutes to look over a piece (counting/clapping rhythms, checking out different aspects, before time is up and the judge is ready. In the Smartmusic.com practice software, sight-reading exercises begin with a user (or teacher) determined amount of time prior to the click off and the assessment. Whatever amount you get, gage the time to get through the following:

Key signature. What key are you in? Think through the scale. Look throughout and see if or how many times it changes during the piece.

Notes. Check range. If possible, sing what you see…. Can you hear and sing what you see? That is another skill we will address in other posts.

Time signature. Does it stay the same or change?

Tempo. If marked, this should give you a general guideline, but keep in mind that is a performance tempo. For sight-reading, look for the most difficult passage that you will play, get a quick idea of how fast you think you can play it accurately, and use that as your overall tempo. Once you start, you don’t want to change the pulse depending on difficulty.

Rhythms. Scan for anything that looks tricky and take a moment to count, clap, sing or whatever — to get that/those rhythm(s) in your head.

Dynamics. Scan for them and then be aware as you play.

Stylistic markings. Staccato, legato, articulation, accents, etc. The tendency in sight-reading is to concentrate on notes, which are primary, but watch for the other signs as you go. Like driving the car, staying on the road (notes) is important, but watching the road signs (slow down, stop, cross-walk, etc) are equally important to getting to your destination safely.

Once you start – DON’T STOP! If you miss a note, that one is history, you can’t go back and fix it … part of practicing for sight-reading (or for any performance) is to force yourself to continue.

Finding music to sight-read. Get books from other similar-range instruments. Pick random hymns in a church hymnal. Check the band director’s office. Go to the music library and pull out random pieces. For sight-reading practice, however, don’t keep playing the same piece(s), unless it is to prepare them for performance or to see how quickly you can perfect them.

Another important aspect to sight-reading is evaluation. If possible, have someone else listen to you and critique what you played. You may be playing a rhythm wrong that you will continue to play wrong.

Hope this helps. Add your comments or send questions.

Music Coaching

VMO Business Card

Posted in College Prep, High Schools, Teaching Music Tagged with: , ,

Recruiting for Band

Here is a short under 5-min video (slide show, mostly) we put together to target and recruit 8th graders to join high school band…… Hope you like it.


Posted in Teaching Music

How much do you charge for music lessons?

By @JohnRGardnerClassic music Sax tenor saxophone and clarinet in black

How much do you charge for music lessons?

I get that question periodically and set out to see what is typical.


Some teachers charge per lesson, per hour, per month or per semester. I found “packages” where you could buy 8-lessons at a lower than lesson x 8 rate – and monthly fees that were less than week by week. Session lengths include 15-minutes for the very young, 30-minutes (most common), 45-minutes for group lessons (and some individual) and 60-minutes. University students can expect 30-minute lessons for “non-majors” (usually at 1 credit hour) and 60-minutes for music education and performance majors, who likely receive 2 credit hours per semester.

Depending on location, demand and pricing, you may be required to go to the teacher, but some teachers will come to your home, offering convenience and easing safety concerns, although usually at a higher price. Or perhaps the teacher does not have access to a studio or a location suitable for teaching.  Some teach full time (30-50 students and waiting lists) while others schedule lessons after school or after their day job. Experienced or in demand teachers tend to have structured payment policies (and penalties for no-shows or late-pays).

The purpose of this article is to answer some of the basic questions parents (and students) ask, or should, using a variety of sources, including my own.

Types of Lessons

Traditionally, music lessons are a 1-1 ratio with teacher and student together and alone in a room or studio. Some teachers go to the students’ homes, more have students come to their homes. Some teach from music stores, at high schools or in university settings.

I have taught lessons at my home, at the high school band room and in studios at the local university.

Music Lessons Piano Six handsIn economically challenged areas, and to increase the dollar per hour income, some teachers offer group lessons, normally charging each student less (see ‘pricing’ below).

My Local and Virtual Music Lessons and Critique Offerings


A Music Teacher’s Blog recommended $15-$20. A blog aimed at mothers of young children (2point5kids.com) distinguished between individual and group lessons. For individual lessons, parents were told to expect $20-$45, or in group lessons to pay $15-30 ea in a small group setting.

Another discussion board at Dis Boards had prices ranging from $15-$65. The $65 price was explained as related to the neighborhood that teacher was in. Lessons at a university ranged from $13 for a university student teacher to $51 for university music faculty.

The Berkeley Parents Network mentioned $44-55 if the instructor comes to your house, $36-45 if you go to someone’s studio and $37 at a community school.

My Pricing and Policies at VirtualMusicOffice.com

Payment / Policies

The overwhelming number of full time music teachers charge by the month vs per lesson. The main reason is that in per week payment plans, it is too easy for students (or parents) to cancel lessons.

I have witnessed a private lesson teacher come to my band room to meet with 2-3 students, only to discover one is a ‘no show’ – leaving an unpaid gap in his afternoon.

I do have students pay weekly. My policy is that if they cancel with less than 24 hrs notice, that they still owe for the lesson. Enforcement is awkward.

Most teachers allow for lessons to be made up, but not refunded when missed. One site mentioned having to pay by the third week for the upcoming month — or lose a spot. Obviously, in-demand teachers or fully booked studios can make that demand. A common policy I found:

…If the teacher cancels the lesson, it will be rescheduled at a mutually convenient time. If the student cancels the lesson, it is up to the teacher if/when to reschedule. There are no refunds.

At the university where I teach, semesters are approximately 16 weeks. Students pay the university for lessons, with the expectation that they receive 12. In my Syllabus, I require a minimum of 10 lessons to receive a passing grade and credit.

Organized schools, such as the School of Performing Arts in Cookeville, Tennessee, charge per semester. At that school, your tuition includes all books/materials and an accompanist for the end of semester recital.


Music is a Performing Art. Most piano teachers, music studios, schools of performing arts, and universities — offer recitals. In some school settings, there may be a solo festival where students perform. In addition to the performance aspect of our art, parents should hear the results of the study (and for writing all those checks).

Considerations in finding a teacher


college music major can work for short-term projects (starting band late, help with a playing test). They can help in a high school setting when it comes to basic technique. Advanced students should work with a more experienced expert.

band director has been professionally trained on at least one instrument and has a music degree. A band teacher can help with music preparation on any instrument, but for serious, systematic study with the idea of getting to a high proficiency level, you should try to find someone who is a specialist on your instrument.

When I was in high school, my band director (played Euphonium) coordinated clarinet lessons for me with another area band director who was a clarinet specialist who taught out of his home outside school hours. I went to his home weekly.

choir director is a trained vocalist, able to help both male and female singers. At higher proficiency levels, students may seek a teacher specializing in their range.

A university professor, especially if it is with the professor at a school you are considering attending, is a great idea. The price will be considerably higher because now you are studying with someone who has (at least) graduate level study on that instrument. If too expensive for your budget, consider a small number of lessons prior to your college entrance audition. It doesn’t hurt for a college teacher to get to know you.

A professional musician. If you are fortunate enough to find someone who makes his/her living playing (orchestra, professional accompanist, etc), that can be a wonderful experience as they know what it takes to get to that level. CAUTION: Not all performers are good teachers. They are so good at what they do that it may be difficult for them to understand and address difficulties others may have. Expect to pay more.

My son studied several years with the principal trumpeter in a professional orchestra. At the time, I was paying more than double the local norm. When the teacher sent a message that he wanted to go from 30-minute to 60-minute lessons, I approached him with the question,

“Do I get a volume discount?”

His response,

“You get me for double the time at twice the price.”

My comment to my son the next time I was writing that check,

“I am paying for your college
education one week at a time.
By the time you graduate,
you need to be good enough that
colleges will pay for you to come.”

It worked! They did.


Are you just wanting short-term help on an audition piece or are you looking for ongoing, systematic study?

Is the teacher strict or someone who wants you to have fun? Either approach has merit, depending on your personality and what you want to do.

Will there be some theory and history involved or is it just about the instrument and music at hand?

What are your teacher’s expectations? Are you required to put in a minimum of practice per lesson? The teacher I had in high school, who got me prepared for and into college on a music scholarship, put out his overall expectation at my ‘audition’ when he accepted me as a student:

“You have potential, but you need help getting to the next level. I can help you — and will work with you until the day you show up here unprepared. Do we have a deal?” -Robert Roden

Practice and Prepare
Make sure your parents
are getting their money’s worth.

What will your other required expenses include? Books and solos? How many? How much? How often? Will you need a tuner, a metronome, computer software (i.e. Smartmusic or some other practice enhancing program)?

Other possible considerations

  • Location. Will the teacher come to you, meet you at school, do you go to his/her home? One forum discussion participant said it was worth the extra money for the instructor to come to her home for her child’s lesson.
  • References. What do others say? How have this teacher’s students done at solo contest, auditions, college scholarships, etc?
  • Safety concerns. How well do you know this teacher?Are you (parents) able to listen in? Is your student comfortable with this teacher in a private 1-1 setting? I tell people not to “ignore your gut”. Consider an article I wrote called,”Safety, Transparency and Reputation“.

Hope this helps. Here’s my commercial: :)

Download my Virtual Music brochure 2013
Visit my Services Page and Review my Pricing & Policies




Thanks for reading.
John Gardner

VMO Business Card


Posted in College Prep, How May I Serve YOU?, Personal experience, Solo Prep, Teaching, Teaching Music, Work from Home Tagged with: , , , , ,

Army Field Band Response to #MarchonRome

Posted in Teaching Music

What happens when a national sportscaster takes on the Marching Band world

By John Gardner

Much of the info in this article comes from an article in the Washington Post, “Jim Rome tweets his take on marching bands then tweets apology for his take on marching bands” and from Sporting News.

Jim Rome has his own show and reports for CBS Sports. The following is a collection of tweets and posts, several coming from hastags #MarchOnRome and #RomeIsBurning, which came the battle cry response hashtags.

His original tweet was deleted, probably after people told him what was about to happen if he took on the band world.

Jim Rome original tweet



Here are a few of the responses

Jim Rome Tweet Army Response


Jim Rome tweet Marine Response

Jim Rome tweet Temple University response

Jim Rome tweet JMU response

Apparently he got the message, tweeting this apology

Jim Rome tweet apology


Jim Rome quote BOA response

Although it won’t make national news, here is a tumbler quote from a 16yr old girl in band….

Jim Rome, You know, I’m not that upset over the post he made. Yeah, it hurt at first but after sleeping on it and thinking about it, yeah it was out of line. All he did was say the things we hear our peers say to us all the time. I think the reason it got so out of control was because he’s an adult, whose somewhat famous, and he insulted other adults all the way down to kids/teenagers.
I’m a teenager so I can’t really speak for the ones older than me. I can speak for my age group though. Coming from a school that tells us on a day to day basis that we aren’t important, that the fine arts budget is constantly getting cut, that the sports teams are getting about 4 new uniforms for each sport every year, it hurts. And that’s already coming from adults and all of our peers. So we are already getting bullied by a lot of people. Especially my county. There are about 5 schools, almost every game night the roads are pretty clear, because they are supporting the players and watching the game. We work our ass off to march and perfect a 6-7 minute show on Friday nights during fall. Then we work our ass off AGAIN to perfect 2-3 songs, each with about 2-3 sheets of music for each song, so we can score a 1. We don’t get credit though.
So what if we can spin a flag while counting and marching trying not to hit a band member or march with our instruments hoping we hit our dot and our band director will finally yell “WATER BREAK”. I live in Texas, and since I’ve been in marching band I’ve seen the clouds cover us about 4 times in a 3 year period. We don’t have shade and we march on blacktop. Our football and baseball and tennis people have some form of shade, can get water whenever they want, and can rest. In band, we stood at attention for 8 minutes my freshman year at practice. My sophomore year, we just took our places on the field, we stood at attention, horns and flags up, for 15 minutes waiting on a judge to come back from the bathroom. So we deserve so much credit than what we’re given.

Jim Rome was wrong for what he posted and he took it down. He also said sorry over twitter where it was all started at. But like one of the comments I read on there, drop a glass and it shatters. Then say sorry to it. The damage is already done.

As a new broadcaster, whose apparently famous, and an adult, you’ve just shown to everyone that bullying band kids/people is okay and is the right thing to do. As a teenager whose pretty confident about myself, I didn’t take it to heart. But think about the ones who are starting band for the first time, or just entering highschool and in band. Freshman year is the most important year. It makes or breaks your reputation. So your posts, both of them, has just ruined someone’s confidence.

I would like to see, starting in the new football season of course, no band, highschool or college, go to a football game and play. See how much you need band after that.

 What if there were no marching/pep bands?

SOME of the invitations (and expectations) of a local high school band:

  • FOOTBALL GAMES – 4-5 x 2 performances each + stand tunes. Pregame and halftime. Pregame shows usually include the school song or even waiting for the team to come on to the field to add to the “pep” of getting ready. Halftime, absolutely…..even if there is an early departure on Saturday morning for a 10-14hr day at a marching band competition.

Band students didn’t sign up for football. How many band concerts or competitions will the football team/coaches attend?

  • BASKETBALL GAMES – 10-20/season. Expected to play between the JV and Varsity Games, to get the Varsity Game started with the national anthem, to play school song and cheers during the game and at time outs — and to entertain the crowd during halftime….. even if it is a school night and there are tests the next day.

Band students didn’t sign up for basketball. How many band concerts or competitions will the basketball team/coaches or cheerleaders attend?

Starting in the mid 1990s and up until just a few years ago, the band supplied pep band entertainment at each of our boys and girls varsity home games — at about 20/year. In the original negotiation to reduce that commitment requirement for band students, there were variations of ‘but we NEED the band to support the team(s)”…

  • GRADUATION. For graduates and parents it is a memorable evening. But for the band students….who have to listen to the speeches and the several hundred roll call names EVERY YEAR….

How many administrators and school board members will come to band concerts/competitions?

To their credit, local high school administrators and superintendent HAVE come to at least one concert and marching band competition this year. THANK YOU!

  • COMMUNITY PARADES. Since the local high school is the only one in the county, the band is expected to participate in 3-5 community parades every summer/fall. “You have our town’s students in your band.”

In a normal year, band students “perform” for their school, community…..and yes, for themselves…..about 25 times.

Don’t call us DORKS Jim Rowe.

What would YOU say?

Posted in Communication, High Schools, Marching Band, Respect, Teaching, Teaching Music Tagged with: , , , , , ,

Get email notice of new posts.

Follow me on Twitter

Phone Detective

Got a phone number and want to know who it belongs to? Click Here!