In the high school bands I teach, we are just beginning to work on Africa: Ceremony, Song and Ritual. (Click that link to listen and follow the conductor’s score). It is an incredible piece of music written to display some of the beauty and complexity of African music and drumming.

I have two “racist”-related stories to go with our preparation of this piece. The first happened several years ago when I invited (and then had to un-invite) an area African drumming group to come to our school to lead a Master Class for our students and open our concert. That will be for another post.

More recently, as part of our discussion and preparation, I spoke with the class about how African drums are considered “sacred” and that we would treat this music and our performance of it with that type of respect.

As part of that discussion, I spoke a little of my son’s study abroad experience during his undergraduate work at Duke University, when he spent a summer in Ghana. He was one source of telling me how reverently the Gananians treated the drumming instruments. He also told me the exceptional level of respect they gave “white people”, and especially men.

He stepped over some local cultural norms when he insisted on helping with the food preparation and in washing his own clothes. And it should be noted that the home where he stayed was considered one of a “nobleman” from the area.

Not comfortable with the female servants doing his laudry, David tried to do his own. The best he could get was for them to let him help them.

“Everyone wanted their picture taken with the white guy, and they wanted hugs. When I went to church, they would always set me on the front row, if not on the platform itself.” -David Gardner

What really sparked the shocked response was when I told this class (mostly white with a small hispanic component) about my son’s experience in a Drumming Circle, where several of the students from his trip participated. The comment that the drumming leader made (multiple times) was that….

“You all are playing like a bunch of WHITE PEOPLE.”

When I shared that quote, I got a noticeable gasp of disbelief and shock. I went on to explain that this was not something a white person said, but rather was a critical statement made by a Gananian African about how non-Africans were playing his instruments.

I was not trying to be or show any form of racial disrespect, but rather, to use a quote from someone who should know the instrument….. Incident averted.

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Choir Treble ClefBy John Gardner

See Teens At Their Best

This is a followup article to, “14+ Ways To Volunteer For A Show Choir To Help Teens Sing Their Hearts Out“, which focused on ways to share your talents and abilities and experience the youthful, enthusiastic atmosphere around a show choir during competition season. It is also a re-tooling of the article, “10+ Values Marching Band Students Learn“, with THIS article’s focus on values show choir students learn.

Show choir competitions can involve two dozen groups with two thousand students with nothing resembling the level of supervision in a high school before or after school or as classes change. For the most part, choir parents and the directors are the only ones with direct oversight….. and after a performance, most students are free to roam the building or move freely in and out of the performance areas as they mix and mingle.

In costume, before a performance, you’ll see focused faces as students prepare to do what they are there to do. You might see them move quietly, in lines or couples, from their homeroom to warm-up to performance.

Show choir students learn dedication, commitment and
that striving for excellence is a worthy goal.


Show choir operations are very structured with responsibility and accountability. There are seniors, section leaders, dance captain(s), staff, directors (where do I put parents in this list) all with authority over the ensemble student. They understand the ‘why’ of the structure – and they comply.

Show choir students learn the value of,
and respect for chain of command


Unlike a basketball team with its starting five, there is no bench in show choir. Everybody is in. Everybody is a starter. Few other types of groups will involve people from such varied backgrounds. There are children of doctors and lawyers performing with children of single-parents working multiple jobs or utilizing government help. There are the students who have their own cars and those who need rides, those with the iPhones and the free phones or no phone. You will find students from every church in the community and others who have never been inside a church. And yet, with all these differences, when they are in costume (actually, even before they dress)…..they are all on the same team, all equal. A good result requires the best from everyone. Students learn teamwork and cooperate with those outside their friend circle.

Show choir students learn to
cooperate and collaborate
with those from different
backgrounds and capabilities.


Go to a Show Choir competition and watch students cheer and applaud for good performances of other groups, including those with whom they compete. You’ll see them wishing each other good luck, especially when a group is transiting through the pre-performance stages and passing others who have either already performed or have a while yet to go.

Show choir students learn good sportsmanship.


Show choir is not a normal class-only choir activity. Unlike a marching band, which has about two full weeks of all day rehearsals prior to the start of school in the fall, show choirs are generally learning their shows during the late fall and early winter months in rehearsals that often start after school, go through the dinner hour (group meal in the hallway) and into the later evening – PLUS Saturdays. Some rehearse over the holiday break.

Show choir students learn to commit, persevere and endure.


You’ll see both excited and disappointed students as the results are announced, but they will display professionalism many adults would be good to observe and learn from.

Show choir students learn that there are no shortcuts to success.


Many students, probably for the first time in any significant way, are given tasks and responsibilities and held accountable for them. The choir student is responsible for maintaining outfits and accessories for rehearsals and transit to competitions. For dance captains, this is likely the first time with leadership, management and oversight responsibilities, including calling out a friend who os ‘out of line’.  At the end of a 4-yr career, graduating seniors will talk about how

show choir “taught them” responsibility and accountability.


Show choir students learn that they are individually important.

There is nowhere to hide in a show choir. All students are active participants. Specialized expert judges are evaluating vocal sound, the dancing, soloists, the backup ensemble, even the stage crew. Show choir students understand that a trained judge’s eye automatically goes to what is different; someone out of sync, out of formation, out of tune, and that an individual performance reflects on the total ensemble score.  Student leaders learn how to balance their role as a mentor and teacher/trainer for the newbie members, while also ensuring that even the newbies get up to speed in time for performance.
Students are trying to find their spots and make their moves in the routine. It is difficult to see the big picture from the stage, so there are directors or instructors watching from farther back (and sometimes higher up) who will adjust form and balance. Or perhaps it is to point out that an individual is not moving with others or extending, smiling, focusing, or whatever. This is contrary to much contemporary educational philosophy which emphasizes only the heaping of praise on what students are attempting to do. Show choir students know better, and expect to hear how to improve individual performance. Achievement through excellence enhances self-esteem . The challenge for the individual is to “not take it personally”.

Show choir students learn to accept criticism, and that
self-esteem is raised through the achievement of excellence

With the extreme time commitment, students must learn to prioritize their time and use it efficiently, especially when it comes to getting homework done.

Show choir students learn time management skills.

When you ask people who were in a show choir years ago, they may remember how their overall group performed or competed, but probably not likely that weekly score or placing that seemed so important at the time. But they will remember the values they learned, which is why former show choir students encourage their children to participate as well. This is not the article to argue that choir utilizes academics, multiple arts and significant athleticism….. but they get all that as well.
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ps I am a band director and an instrumental teacher at the local university, but I have also been a two-time show choir dad over a six year period, and volunteered one year as the backup ensemble director — so I have spent considerable time around show choir students as well as those of the band variety. Thanks for reading.
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Andy Zay, one of our state politicians posted this in a facebook post.

At the time of this post, there were about 80 people who liked and responded. I posted this in response:

What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Elaborations?…..

By John Gardner

Dollar SignMonetize the Band Blog…

  1. by Rewarding, Recognizing or Endorsing Band Friendly Supporters
  2. with Band-Friendly Sponsors, Teen-focused Vendors, and Family Oriented Supporters
  3. with Affiliate Marketing and Advertising
  4. using e-commerce to sell
  5. by accepting donations

As a 30-yr veteran school product fundraiser, I use words like fundraising, money-making, profit, etc. Merging that fundraising mindset with my high school teaching assignment, I look for creative “monetizing” ideas to make the band blog an income stream.

There are HURDLES

  • Sometimes education gets so disconnected from the real world it is difficult for educators and parents to view things through a business lens. I found myself recently defending an idea against a that-won’t-work-in-education objection. Here was part of that discussion:

Something I learned a long time ago in business is that if you see the same thing happening over and over, it must be working. Consider “junk” mail? That costs real-time and money to produce and mail, yet they keep sending it because it works.

Admit it. You smile when, after complaining about highway billboards, you read the one that says, “Caught YOU looking.” They work.

Imagine a NASCAR car or driver NOT covered with ads. Even sports arenas become advertisement. The Hoosier Dome became the RCA Dome and was replaced by Lucas Oil Stadium. The University of Louisville basketball team plays in KFC’s “YUM Center”.

Vendors will pay to get their name in front of potential customers and with a music group in a high school, you  offer some very targeted marketing potential that vendors highly value.

  • If the group, i.e. the Band or Choir Dept., run their funds through a school’s ECA (Extra Curricular Activity) account, can be problematic with trying to satisfy all the State Board of Accounts rules. Use of the school’s tax exempt number typically requires; a) a Purchase Order in advance, b) an invoice from a vendor and c) confirmation that the goods or services were received or completed. Selling advertisements or sponsorships work, but offering products for online sales to individual end customers takes the school treasurer out of his/her comfort zone.
  • Another problem with selling or accepting funds online is that schools need to account for every penny, and with online transactions (PayPal, Credit Card Processor) there is a transaction “fee”. Someone who “Donates” $10 doesn’t actually put $10 in the account; it might be close….$9.75, but that is a problem for school accounting.
  • Accepting donations is typically a School Board responsibility. In the local school corporation, accepting a donation requires alerting the Superintendent’s office, getting on a School Board Agenda and waiting until they have a meeting and grant approval — before depositing the donated amount.
  • There are tons of school-related policies that make a profitable site difficult. Have you ever read YOUR school board’s policies. Here is the local version. Even getting permission for a domain name is difficult. In my last attempt, there were going to be several levels of approval (HS Prin, Tech Dept, School Board) with likely negative response, mainly because of the possibility that an abandoned domain name could be picked up by a porn site.
THE SOLUTION is for the Band or Choir to have a separate, incorporated, tax-exempt status parent group.

For this post, I will assume that the band parent organization has incorporated as a tax exempt entity and has, or could have, a an income-producing site.

Here are 5 ways to monetize your band blog.

  1. Reward, Recognize and Endorse Band-Friendly Supporters. The car dealer who puts an announcement about your fish dinner on his promo-sign out on the street, the water softener business that donates bottled water for the students for after performances and on trips, the coffee shop that sets up at your football games and shares a percentage of the proceeds, the funeral home that loans their limo for use as a fundraising prize, all the vendors and parents who donate items for the silent auction… a simple listing with some recognition and support can go a long way toward encouraging more.
  2. Allow Band Friendly Supporters to DONATE for adverts. Be sure to think through how to protect yourself from a situation where someone wants to buy ad space that you don’t want to sell them; i.e. a bar-grille, a movie rental place that includes x-rated materials, the local beer distributor, etc. You don’t need a fancy ad management tool, just design, or better, let them send you graphic ads that you can post for an agreed upon price and time. So that you can protect your non-profit status, call them ‘donations’. Get guidance from your administrators, but possibilities could include: a) only those from your band-friendly list may advertise, so only those from whom you accept donations/support.; b) local vendors who advertise in the sports programs, etc; c) band parents who own or work for appropriated businesses.Go after businesses who focus on or profit from the local teens; the movie theatre (link to their site that has the schedules and movies of the week), pizza or coffee shops, skating rink, etc. Locally owned businesses are easier to deal with than national franchises, but sometimes the local manager has a lot of freedom.
  3. Affiliate Marketing. This is advertising that goes through a third-party who pays you a commission for click-throughs or purchases from people who follow the ad on your site. There are several vendors you can register with, such as clickbank or commission junction. Your booster group will need to have an account into which the vendor can electronically transfer earnings. Set up an account with the affiliate program, select the businesses you want to promote, get the codes (they provide) to insert into the site. Some FREE web/blog sites may not allow you to insert advertisements. Most hosted sites, including will. also has an attractive affiliate program. One blogger who administers a School of Performing Arts has set up an Amazon Affiliate account to earn commissions for the school to purchase music. Because he writes reviews to sell their books, he gets discounts on the books he reviews. Do you have a parent (or are you) willing to read/review books about things pertaining to your music program?
  4. Sell online.What do you have to sell?
    – the fundraising merchandise you are currently selling, including things like decals , scrip cards, discount cards or other items easy to mail if a customer can’t come pick up.
    – videos or recordings of your groups’ performances (make sure you don’t violate any copyrights to do that)
    – old instruments or uniforms
    – LP records, VHS tapes, etc that you haven’t touched in several years
    – items donated by vendors who want to be on your Band-Friendly list If you don’t want to add a full-blown shopping cart program to your site, you can list individual items on sales sites like eBay or Amazon and then promote and link to them from your site
  5. Accept DONATIONS online. Add a DONATE button (set up through PayPal, for example) for different specific purposes, or even for general donations to the program. Here’s one example of a page using a DONATE button to help students get private lessons.One local patron ask if it were possible to have automatic withholding from his paycheck that would be electronically transferred directly to the band’s bank account.

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forrestgumpIn the spirit of Forrest Gump who put out Gump-isms like, “Life is like a box of chocolates…..You never know what you’re gonna get”, I offer the following sayings that sometime happen in band rehearsals and private studio lessons.

“Good Grades Do Pay.”

We all hear about college paying for good athletes, but they will also pay for good intellectuals. Pick up a brochure from just about any college and you’ll find a place in there where they list things like 1) Average SAT/ACT score or 2) National Merit Scholars.

If your SAT/ACT score is higher than the college’s average, then they WANT YOU because you will raise their average. To many schools, both the average SAT/ACT scores and the number of National Merit Scholars they have represent “bragging rights”. But instead of accidentally stumbling into success, strategically plan for it, and then systematically execute your plan.

The first major test is one often ignored, the PSAT (Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test). Sophomores and Juniors can take the PSAT, which gives colleges some early information they can use to recruit. The PSAT is also the NMSQT (National Merit Scholar Qualifying test). Colleges will pay for National Merit Scholars. They brag about how may NM Scholars they have in their community. This is a test worth practicing and preparing for. Treat your preparation as a part-time job.

How much money can you make at minimum wage?

The other test(s) worth studying and preparing for are the SAT, the ACT and the SAT II’s (specific subject tests required by some schools).

“Colleges Pay for those who Play – WELL!”

Don’t ignore the ARTS corner of the Triangle-A (Athletics, Academics, Arts). I remember a conversation I had with son #1 as we sat in the driveway of his trumpet teacher’s house and I was writing that check for an hour-long lesson:

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

I did not pay for MY college education. As one of five children raised in a single parent household by a polio survivor mother, I knew there was no way my family could send me to college. I knew that the only way I would get to college was for a college to pay for me to come. I wasn’t going to qualify academically and was completely non-Athletic. But by 8th grade, I realized I could play the clarinet pretty well – and set off on a track to make that my way in to college. Some of the things I did related to that:

* When my friends were out cruising, I was practicing.
(Not much choice as I didn’t have a car.)

* When my friends were going to the movies, I was practicing.
(Not much choice as I didn’t have spending money.)

* I took clarinet lessons all through high school.

* I participated in Summer Music Camps. I spent three 4-week sessions at the Stephen Foster Music Camp at Eastern Kentucky University and two summers at the 2-week Summer Camp at Morehead State University. Colleges offer camps and clinics to recruit: to get to know prospects and to give them an opportunity to fall in love with the college. In those cases, I got to study for short times with the clarinet professors at both universities. When it came time to select a college, both of those were recruiting me because they already knew me. And, of course, having intense rehearsals and master classes all day for the summer makes one a much better musician.

* I auditioned for specialty and clinic bands. Northern Kentucky had a “Select Band” which rehearsed for 1-2 days and gave a concert. I also participated all 4 years in the Kentucky All-State Band. There was the Morehead State University Band Clinic.
* I participated in several ensembles and played a solo every year at Solo/Ensemble Festival. I received 1-II, 14-I’s and 1-I+. Both my sons surpassed that, with Son #2 achieving over 42 Gold Medal ratings in District and State in instrumental and vocal.

Son #1 did not pay for his college education. Do you notice anything similar about our paths and strategies?

Trumpet Lessons starting in 7th grade.
Honor Band
* Solo/Ensemble Festival
 – three trips to State
* Music Camp – (KY) twice
Music Camp – (IN)
Jazz Camp – (TN)
* Youth Symphony
* All-State Band
Summer Substitute with the Philharmonic Orchestra
* Everything Band
 in high school, including Marching (2yrs), Concert, Jazz, Varsity Brass (Show Choir Backup), Musicals.

In fact, there were some semesters when he would register for classes that the school would give HIM a check. That was because each year:

– $2500 each year from the Presidential Scholarship (National Merit Finalist)
– $2000 each year from the University to completely cover in-state-tuition
– $5000 from the Honors Program (ACT score, National Honor Society) to completely cover out of state tuition
– $3500 from the Music Department to completely cover housing
– $1000 from the Trumpet Studio
$14,000 … at a time when the total cost at TTU (Tennessee Tech) was about $10,500/yr.

He also received local scholarships. I recall that for one of those scholarships he called the person in charge because he missed the “postmark date” and wanted to see if he could drive it to her home (local). Her response was, “Please do, honey ….. your application will be the only one we have.” See scholarship -ism below.

Son #2 went to a Top Tier school for a state school price. That university’s current tuition is over $61,000/yr. He had the grades but not the money. An Admissions counselor made me a promise (which they kept),

“If we decide we want him,
we will get him here.”

It is sad to see high school students who are pretty good in their local band go off to top-ranked music schools to face rejection because they settled for mediocrity in high school – because they could. Some of the students I teach at the university come in as music majors never having studied privately. It is really hard to make it at the college level without specialty instruction in high school. There is only so much that can be done in the large ensemble for which there is a “free” teacher. Assuming there is some talent/ability involved, you can almost look at the concept as a “Pay Now vs Pay Later”.

You can INVEST in your training and experiences throughout high school and go for the music scholarships in college, or PAY the sticker price.

“It doesn’t matter whether you win or lose — until you lose.”

I used to have a poster in front of my band room showing a rifle girl, her head down as she was dragging her rifle behind her…..featuring that quote.

“If the notes are on the paper, it is your job to play ALL of them.”

This was my response to a student who asked,  “How much of it do we have to play?” I often tell students that it is my job as a director to help mold and blend the sound, and to correct errors…… not to teach notes. Learning the notes is the student’s job.

“If you’re going to play it, you might as well play it right.”

Why hurt the ensemble and waste valuable rehearsal time when it doesn’t take that much more effort to do it right the first time?

“The view from 1st chair is much better.”

“Private Lessons can be like paying for college — one week at a time.”

“Be prepared: Make sure your parents are getting their money’s worth.”

I have had students come to clarinet/sax lessons without their music, ….. and one, without his instrument. One college music major lesson started (and ended) like this:

Student: I don’t know how to tell you this, but I just didn’t have time to practice this week.

Me: This is your 3rd week in a row with excuses. This is your major instrument. This is your major. This is just as important as that English, Math or Psychology assignment. This affects your grade too. I heard you sight-read this music last week when it was supposed to be practiced to performance-grade. I don’t need to hear you sight-read it again. You take this time and practice. I’ll see you next week.

When I was paying for lessons, I wanted my money’s worth. And I tell my students to give their parents their money’s worth, i.e. don’t waste my time or their money.

“Santa isn’t the only one who knows whether you’ve been bad (no practice) or good.”

If you engage in systematic study, your teacher/coach will get to know you well enough to know when you’ve practiced for your lesson.  Make sure your parents are getting their money’s worth.

“You can’t sight read in your lesson and get away with it. I’m better than that.”

“Like the ice skater who misses the quad, missing notes in public can hurt.”

Mistakes are going to happen. They just are. When you watch ice skating on TV, even at the world championship or Olympic level, there are mistakes. What I often explain in private lessons is that they probably hit that jump a high percentage of times in practice. Performance rarely goes better than practice. If you aren’t doing it in practice, what do you think will happen in performance?

“Anybody can be mediocre.  Not you. Not with me. Don’t even think about it.”

Mediocre means average. Anybody can be average. When talking about the lukewarm (mediocre) church, Jesus said he would prefer that it had been hot or cold, but because it was lukewarm, he would spit it out of His mouth. The Star Wars Jedi Knight Yoda says, “Do, or do not, there is no TRY”. 

“You can practice hard now and have fun at performance, or you can have fun now…”

High school life is so much about social life and relationships. The tendency is to bring that into the rehearsal. You can take it easy now, but then be disappointed with the results — or you can work hard, pay the price and enjoy the rewards and satisfaction of demonstrated excellence.

“Do you really want me to tell you it was good — if it wasn’t?”

Students usually know if it was good or bad. There is that balance between encouragement and improvement. When that balance is achieved, improvement happens. After a tough run of a marching band show, as we were ending the rehearsal, which we usually tried to do on a ‘high note’, after another staff member gave a critique, I asked the students; “Do you want the sugar-coated version, or do you want it straight?” They wanted it straight – which enabled us to end on a ‘good note’.

by John Gardner

January is a month that often includes preparation for solo festival. Many will have an opportunity to practice with an accompanist, perhaps a new experience.

Solo and Ensemble no frameAs instrumentalists, you should realize how long it takes to learn to play piano with the level of proficiency required to accompany your solo. Some pianists have invested thousands in private instruction and college educations. They are proficient at their craft just like an electrician, plumber, mechanic….or a teacher, professor, attorney or doctor. We are fortunate to have pianists willing to work with you. They deserve your respect, your preparation and your appreciation. This note should serve as a guide in working with your pianist.

Your accompanist will 1)spend time practicing your music, 2) spend time and expense coming to school to practice with you, 3) sacrifice part of an evening to help you in our practice recital, and 4) spend over half a day traveling to the contest site and performing with you at District. Group 1 Music is significantly more difficult AND… if you get GOLD at District, your accompanist is then committed to additional practice time and a whole day of time and expense travelling to Indianapolis.

RespectMost pianists will coach you with their expert advice. Unless they suggest something that conflicts with your private instructor’s instructions, accept their advice as authoritative.

PrepareDo NOT dis-respect your pianist’s time by not being prepared. You can’t be perfect, but you can be prepared.

Appreciate. Pianists don’t accompany for the big bucks, but some some rely on this as part of his/her income. Unless you have a different arrangement with your particular accompanist, consider an appropriate amount [locally we suggest @$25 min] to cover preparation, about two practices and performance (including recital) through District, and then a respectable amount to cover the additional time, and expense for state finals. Agree in advance with your pianist, including payment terms. And a thank you card is a nice touch…..

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By John Gardner

When I asked my high school Valedictorian son why he had chosen a particular top-tier university, he answered,

I’m tired of being the geek. I’m tired of ruining the curve. I’m tired of people getting mad at me because I do the extra credit anyway. I want to go somewhere I can be normal; where it is okay to be an achiever.

Pressure surrounds teens.

Parents push them to do better. Teachers need performance data in the ever-increasing “prove-you’re-teaching-and-they-are-learning” world of government schools.  The strongest pressure, however, can come from peers.

In handing out a “pre-test”, a beginning of a semester assessment to find out where students are on a subject, a teacher was explaining to the class.

“This is NOT for a grade. This is to help me find out where to start. If you already know most of what is on this pre-test, I’ll be able to give you higher-level work.”

A student in the class spoke up,

“Fail it!”

The message was clear.

“If we look like we know stuff, they will give us more. If we all fail the pre-test, we’ll get easy stuff to do. LET’S GO!”

Anybody can be mediocre

Here is some of the unwritten peer-pressure-code of many high schools:

  • Go easy on the pre-test. Save your effort for the one that counts.
  • Don’t ruin the curve.
  • If you turn it in early, you make the rest of us look bad.
  • If the instruction says 500 words, don’t do 501.
  • Just do what you have to do to get the grade your parents won’t yell about.
  • Don’t study at home, practice at home or do extra research at home because they’ll start expecting MORE.
  • The teacher will adjust the level of work to the level of the class. We vote for easy. Don’t mess it up for us.
  • Share your work with us…. we’ll change a few words and get away with it.
  • Teachers are the enemy. Don’t be a “teacher’s favorite”. The only time you should be “friendly” to a teacher is when you need something – or when you’re asking for more time, etc.
  • Snitches get stitches. C’mon! Who’s side are you ON?
  • If they give us the entire class period to take a test – take the entire time. If we get done too early, they will start on something else.
  • Tell your teachers what they want to hear, even if you have to make it up.
  • Use up the entire limit: number of times you can be tardy, number of times you can be called out before discipline, number of assignments you can miss, number of low grades that will be dropped…..and then use your puppy dog eyes and maybe even a few tears to plead for mercy, forgiveness and another chance — after the limit is hit.

Below are a few of the pics/graphics I try to use to encourage a different path…..

If you want to do

This pic is from the goal line of Lucas Oil in Indianapolis. Indiana bands have state finals here. Drum Corps International and Bands of America have national finals here. And…. many of my students call me ‘G’…


Get Things Done

If the notes are on the paper

You should seldom have to tellSlide29Slide30

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By John Gardner

white labrador retriever puppy dogThere is a sales technique called the “Puppy Dog” close. It gets is name from the puppy dog at the pet shop scenario:

A mother and young child go into a pet store to buy a dog. They find one, but mamma says it is too expensive.

The wise sales clerk invites the mother and child to take the puppy home for the night….with the offer to bring it back the next day if they don’t think it is worth the price.

They will NOT likely bring the puppy back.

I fell for that sales close with a car once. My wife wasn’t with me when I stopped on the lot (intentional, so I had a way out of a pressure sales situation). The smart salesperson invited me to drive the car home to show her. SOLD!

Classic music Sax tenor saxophone and clarinet in blackI used the “Puppy Dog” approach with a clarinet student (I will call her Sally). The first time I heard her play was in a middle school concert. I didn’t know Sally, but I noticed her. It was 2-3 yrs later when I convinced her parents to let her study privately with me. She had incredible musicianship but was hindered by a mediocre instrument.

When I would ask about a step up instrument, she always responded about how busy her parents were. Knowing her father’s occupation, I knew PRICE was NOT the issue.

I went to the music dealer and asked if I could borrow a top of the line clarinet for a day. I asked for permission to bring it back, but assured them I didn’t think that would happen.

I took the clarinet to Sally’s band rehearsal at the high school. I told her to play it in the rehearsal and then to take it home that night to practice with at home. I gave her the amount of the instrument and asked her to return either the clarinet or a check. The next day, she handed me the check.


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For the first time in school history, the band was en route to Semi-State marching band competition. Joan and I were in our car following the buses and trailers. We were about 30 miles out (approaching the Gas City exit) when I get a text that the bass drum line forgot their mallet bag in the band room. After a couple back and forths to confirm and make sure, I got off the exit and headed back to Huntington. We found the mallet bag easy enough, so now it was a matter of catching up with the band prior to performance.

By the time I arrived at the site and found a way to get into the school, the band was in music warm-up, which would be the last stop prior to transiting to the stadium for performance. I pulled into the parking lot and gave the mallet bag to the percussion coach. I responded to the percussion parent/chaperone after she texted a thank you to me…..

“Tell them this is not over.”

It was a very cold, windy day….but the details of the performance are for another entry. 

The competition had ended and the students were coming back to the buses to get ready to go. Two of the four bass drummers (the freshman girls) came smiling up to me to say, “Thank you for your service.” I know their intention was well, but I couldn’t let them get off with that, asking them to find the rest of their section and to come to me.

The bass drum section consists of four people, two girls, two guys, three freshmen and a sophomore. The percussion section leader (Grace) was with them. I had told her prior that I was going to put blame on her when I talked to the group, but ensured her in advance that I was not upset at all with her. Here is a rough summary of what I said:

I want you all to understand that this was not a small mistake. Did you notice when I actually got here with your mallet bag? I barely made it. And, instead of your 2hr trip, mine took over 3, because I had to add an extra hour of driving plus getting your equipment. By the time I got you your equipment and found a place to park — by the time I got to the stadium it was too late to come inside. I missed the show, except for an extreme distant view from the far corner outside the gate. 

[Turning to the sophomore guy] They are freshmen. You are not. You should be responsible for your section. And do you all know who I hold responsible overall? — Yes, your section leader. 

I want you to know that I am not angry with you. I am not mad. I am disappointed that on this most important and final competition of your season, that you had such a major lapse of responsibility. 

That is all I have to say, you may go get your stuff ready and get on the bus.

A few minutes later, a parent chaperone (not one of the percussion parents) came up to me and angrily asked me why I couldn’t let them enjoy their moment. Here, at the biggest competition of their life, I have them all crying…..

I never raised my voice. The crying (and one of them was profusely bawling along with a crying mother) was probably more likely because I called them out and told them I was disappointed.

These four students will never again go to a competition without all their equipment — and that was the idea.


I went to their percussion class the following day and had a friendlier talk with them, ensuring them that this incident was over and done with. I reminded them that I was the one who called them over during a rehearsal earlier in the season to pay them a higher compliment than I had ever given a bass drum line.

Even though the angry parent has yet to speak to me and one of the bass drummers fathers stares me down every time I see him — but I stand by my position of holding students accountable. Period.

That frustrating fine print…..

I was doing the math and it almost sounded too good to be true. Get a new credit card, spend $500 in 3 months, get a $250 Starbuck’s card. I was already thinking that I could spend $500 on an Amazon card and either get “4x” fuel points or 10% off. So…. I can get the credit card, buy a gift card (that I would eventually use anyway) and get $250 + $50 back….. Then, just sit on the card and not use it any more.

But….I decided to read some of the fine print. OHHHHHH…. “annual fee”. Got it. Didn’t get it.
When it sounds too good…..