Modesty speaking

Below is a Facebook post from a former student, now a successful professional and parent of successful high school and college age children….

KC Facebook Post on Modesty

In less than 24hrs, there were 160+ likes and reactions and many comments. Here is my posted response.

“…and sometimes, when the parents fail they put it in the laps of teachers to have some sometimes incredibly awkward conversations. Not too long ago I got a nice note from a girl I had one of those conversations with several years ago. She is now a college grad, married and with a good job….and she thanked me for what she knows was an uncomfortable talk — when I, apparently with some success, encouraged her to hold herself to a higher standard than just what she could “show”. That’s a dangerous conversation for a teacher to have with a teenage student, btw. But I haven’t been fired yet.”

What Say YOU?

Quote Emma Watson

Posted in Guest Post, Parenting, Personal experience, Storytelling, Teaching Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

S-Steps to Success

By John Gardner

At the end of my first semester at HNHS, I gave a “talk” at the Band Banquet Awards….. At first, I was going to update it with what is outdated or different……but have decided instead to print it (almost) as I said it 9 years ago.

Rookie Run Down

From my perspective, the best thing going for this band is THIS BAND. The work ethic is good. These guys will do just about anything we ask, almost without grumbling. They have all been respectful to me. As the principal says, we have a great clientele of students here.

The NEXT BEST THING GOING for this band are THE PARENTS. There are the dedicated people on the uniform committee; measuring, altering, touching up, repairing when the fence tears a hole in the sleeve or touching up dirty shoes – and dealing with those who forgot socks, or shoes, or uniform. There is the Pit Crew that loads, unloads and transports all our equipment. The Food Committee waters the band after every performance and sometimes feeds them twice in a day.

As Bill Clinton said in a church service, “I like it here – and I don’t wanna leave.” 

S-Steps To Success

more below the poster……


After a Band Parent meeting, a group of people made an encouraging request.

“Tell us what you need and let us see what we can do.”

I’ve generalized my goals into three major categories – and they all start with ‘S’. I’m calling them my “Sssss-Steps to Success”.

#1 – Super Size

The FIRST thing we need to do is to SUPER SIZE this band. Size doesn’t equal sound – but it certainly helps!

We need to Search for Super Sizers. 

You can help. Be enthusiastic about your band. Enthusiasm is contagious.

Pit people (front sideline ensemble) don’t have to be band members. Your friends who play piano can play mallet instruments. People who quit band in the past can come back. And then, without taking anything away from what it takes to be a percussionist, we can teach just about anybody how to hit something.

We currently have a lot of people in the high school bands who do not march.

You need to Stay to be Seniors.

I’d love to see the school or community have to deal with

  • a marching band that can’t fit in the band room.
  • having to buy uniforms because we don’t have enough.
  • scrambling to get instruments and equipment for the people we have to use them.
  • pull into competition parking lots with 5 or 6 busses.

#2 – Sensational Sound

SECOND, you should Strive for Individual Success.

If you become the best that YOU can be, then we can work to blend your individual abilities to improve the overall band. A super-sized band can give us more sound, but we need your individual improvement to enable us to play some of the more challenging types music we heard this past fall.

Study Seriously for Improvement.

You should consider Individual Study on your instrument. If you can pay, we have access to professional experts on every instrument. They absolutely make a difference. For less pay, we can connect you with some college students who are looking for some experience.  And if you can’t pay, let us know, because some teachers will make allowances for hard-working students.

Instruments need to go home. There are no shortcuts. Proficiency requires practice. Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it certainly helps.

Your Individual Level of Musical Success depends on a combination of

  • your God-given musicianship
  • the training you receive
  • the equipment you use and
  • the commitment you have

#3 – Sizzling Show

FINALLY, we need a SIZZLING SHOW, and it won’t come cheaply.

We need Spectacular Music.

We need Stunning Drill Design.

We need Superb Special Effects.

We need Splendid Style.

We need State-of-the-Art Equipment.

You give us what we need in people, equipment, work ethic and attitude – and we’ll take some major steps toward BIGGER success.

I like it here.

Posted in Consulting, High Schools, Marching Band, Repost, Teaching, Teaching Music Tagged with: , , ,



Another news article of a 12-yr old girl committing suicide as a result of bullying shows up in my news feed. On the same day, after reading my post, “Bullying, Band and Best Practices“, a mother comments:

(NOTE: This is not a local parent or comment….. 

“My son was mercilessly bullied in band and is still the brunt of trashy rumors after he graduated. Their excuse: “It was mandated by a section leader, we were told to destroy him so he doesn’t even think about applying for the Band scholarship, it’s just for fun–there’s no lasting damage, he’s retarded, right–he doesn’t get it so why does it hurt? He should be flattered that we are picking on him. Yes, these were all used as excuses. The problem was ignored and swept under the rug. Now, my child is distraught, anxious, and traumatized. And his little brother has been threatened with the same or worse treatment when he comes in for being the retard, the snitch’s little brother. Parents and students alike have made threats. I was asked by a school official, “Now aren’t you ashamed that you took on the band and reported it.” My response, “No, I wish I had done it sooner.” Still fighting this garbage and just exhausted with it.”Sad boy

The beginning illustration in “Bullying, Band and Best Practices” IS a local story.

These BULLYING / SUICIDE STATISTICS are frightening. Click the link for the article, but here are a few that stand out:

  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people, resulting in about 4,400 deaths per year, according to the CDC. For every suicide among young people, there are at least 100 suicide attempts. Over 14 percent of high school students have considered suicide, and almost 7 percent have attempted it.
  • Bully victims are between 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims, according to studies by Yale University
  • A study in Britain found that at least half of suicides among young people are related to bullying
  • 10 to 14 year old girls may be at even higher
Sad teenage girl
These real life stories (with pictures) should break your heart.
Posted in High Schools, Personal experience, Repost, School Security, Teaching Tagged with: , , , ,

Organizing your Band Music Library

By John Gardner

When the local high school band director of 40 years (yes, graduated college, accepted a teaching position and spent his entire career in the same room with the same office and same desk) retired. One of the things he left was the music library software on his 1980’s vintage Apple computer. After multiple attempts by collegiate techno-types to transfer the data into a newer Apple format proved unsuccessful, we went a different route and have successfully transferred the data to a new program. In the process of doing that, I wanted to find how other directors organized their libraries and after some email and facebook responses, the following includes a compilation of that feedback.

Software Used

  • Spreadsheet 
    • Google docs. The free spreadsheet was the most common answer.
    • Open Office spreadsheet. OpenOffice, from Apache, is a free set of programs that compete directly with the Microsoft Office products.
    • Microsoft Excel. Didn’t hear this as much as I expected as people were opting for the free versions.
  • Database Software. The only specific response was Microsoft’s Access. Google docs and Open Office have competitive offerings. The advantage to a database program is that you can create more analysis, searching and reporting with a database program, but the downside is that most of those, especially if you must design it yourself, is that you have to really know what you’re doing.
  • Charms. This was the overwhelming choice from those who pay for a tool. It does much more than just maintain a library. Charms offers modules for keeping track of finances, including individual student accounts, has a way to text and auto-call from internal lists, includes a recording studio, includes music library, mobile ap, interactive calendar and more. Check out CharmsOffice here. Cost is @$300/yr. Those who use it, love it.
  • MyMusicOffice.comAn online program with levels of access by parent organization, treasurer.


  • Title. If you’re going to use a spreadsheet and want good searchable data, you should think thorough some of the naming conventions you want to use, such as:
    • Abbreviations. Arranged vs Arr., Christmas vs Xmas. Whatever you use, be consistent.
    • “Selectons from”… is it “Selections from XYZ Movie” or “XYZ Movie; Selections From?
  • Subtitles. If you are playing an arrangement from the movie “Wicked”, do you list the individual titles included in this collection?
  • Composer. Last/First name. If you are using separate name fields, ok. If putting into one spreadsheet box, I recommend Last name [space] First name. As the owner of a data entry company, I am all about finding ways to save keystrokes and, over time, each one matters. Forget the comma. Don’t do all caps. All caps would save you using the caps button, but it is harder to read all caps.
  • Arranged / Transcribed / Edited by. To save fields and data, I suggest adding to the composer field, in which case, abbreviations are important.
  • Publisher / Date. Can be helpful if needing to reorder parts or additional scores for contest judges.
  • Ensemble. Marching, Concert, Jazz, Pep, Solo/Ens, etc.
  • Last performed. All the times performed?
  • Tempo/Style. Slow, overture, folk tune.
  • Type. Holiday, festival, contest, pop.
  • Ranking/Difficulty Level.
    • SmartMusic(R) uses JW Pepper’s ranking system of (B)eginner, (VE) Very Easy, (E)asy, (ME)Medium Easy, (M)edium, (MA)Medium Advanced, (A)dvanced.
    • Use the difficulty levels defined by your state. In Indiana Group I is highest difficulty and Group V is considered Middle School beginning level. If you do not have this, some of the music publishers, including JW Pepper, have the state lists for many states. Or your state organization should have yours on their site.
  • Comments/Notes. Missing 2nd Cornet part, or that one thing you wished you had known about this piece before you started it this time — because you’ll likely forget that by the time you play it again.
  • File ID
    • Single number. Not recommended.
    • Alpha+Number, i.e. A-23, where alpha can be either title or composer.
    • Drawer + File, i.e. 15-5 means the 5th file in drawer #15. This is my preference.

Organize Library by:

Alphabetical by Title, separated by season. The local university band library is set up this way. Separate sections for Christmas, Marches (used to have a Sousa-festival), Basketball, Orchestra, Methods classes.


Simple and does not require a catalog program/file.


If you don’t know what you are looking for, it can be pretty miscellaneous.

When a drawer or shelf fills up, you must shift, which can be really bad if the overstuffed drawer is toward the beginning.

Separated by major ensemble types, but then numbered with Drawer and File number. My current school’s library has separations for Method books, Jazz Band, Pep Band and everything else.


Random searching….if you want newer stuff, you go to the higher drawer numbers.

When one drawer fills, just start another one.

If you eventually free up space in a lower drawer number (throwing away old music), you can add a new item there.

Efficient use of space.


Can’t find a piece by title or type without looking it up.

Misc Feedback:

  • Used the software to generate labels for the music.
  • I also have categories in “tempo” “style” where I might label something as “slow” or “overture” or “folk tune”, etc. This is super useful…when I’m looking for “slow” music, I can just have the excel spreadsheet sort to slow and voila! There they are.
  • I also have an arranger category, and a “music type” category (holiday, festival, pops, etc.).
  • I have mine organized by ensemble (HS band, MS band, Jazz band, choir by voicing, and solo/ensemble music), so each one is its own spread sheet. I have title, style, difficulty, composer/arranger, Publisher and date, and cost. If my school burns down tomorrow, I can get reimbursed for everything in my library.

Need help?

Are you able to “search” for example, for an advanced piece for concert band that you haven’t played for three years? Have you kept it up to date? Then it sounds like you’ve got things going well and you don’t need me.

Are you still using a card catalog? Are you using a file format that you need to transfer to something new? Do you want to add categories (from the list above or similar)? And is YOUR time completely maxed out with teaching classes? I can help.

In 1984 I started a data entry services operation in a specialized vertical market…..but I have, and have access to, accurate transcribers and data entry staff who can take on such a project. OR… I can set something up so that YOUR people can do the data entry.

Contact me at and we can set a time to discuss it.


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Posted in High Schools, Repost, Teaching Music, Virtual Assistant Tagged with: ,

When you hear that students today are behind

By John Gardner

I’m not going to defend some of today’s diluted, politically correct, expanded curricula when compared to what students learned decades (or centuries) ago. The Huffington Post published this 8th grade exam from 100 years ago and ask if you could pass it today.

I don’t ever recall, as a student, having to spend school time on bullying or suicide prevention, tolerance, drugs, sex, active-shooter and lock-down drills. I’ve participated in mandatory teacher training on bullying. We provide “digital citizenship” training worth several class periods for using those free iPads we gave them. Schools test to test that teachers’ tests are testing appropriate levels, that teachers are teaching and students are learning.
WHAT students must learn today is so much more complex than what students needed to know back in a previous century. Below is a good visual. It would have been much easier to learn to identify and differentiate the crayon colors available in the 1903 vs today, wouldn’t you agree?

Just sayin’.

Crayon Colors

Posted in High Schools, Public Schools, Teaching, Teaching Music Tagged with: , , ,

Why Scheduling More Performances Will Save Your Child’s Musical Life


Why Scheduling More Performances Will Save Your Child’s Musical Life (and Your Music Program)

Posted in Teaching Music

Remote Instrumental Music Coach

By John Gardner

ClarinetI’ve worked with this particular band director before. He teaches in a small school in a rural part of Indiana not blessed with an abundance of instrumental specialists to help his students with private lessons.

A few years ago, I travelled to his school for a workshop and master classes. Effective, but cost me a day and him travel expenses, etc.

I’ve worked with individuals preparing for solo and ensemble contest via Skype.

Here’s our current plan for several students preparing for solo festival in a few weeks.

Step 1

Students scan their solo part and make a video of themselves playing it. Those are sent to me via the band director. Students self-conscious about a self-video can send an audio only file. The reason I ask for video, however, is because part of the judge sheet includes variations of stage presence. It also helps me see embouchure, finger position and proper fingerings (chromatic, trill, alternate, etc).

Step 2

I watch, listen and make critique via audio, video or by note — and send back to the student via the band director.

Step 3

After they have had a chance to review and react to my comments, a Skype session is scheduled individually with each student.  Students use the teacher’s skype account and set up in the band office at their school. I would only consider a skype session from the student’s account or from his/her home with parental permission and supervision, i.e. in the area — not necessarily in the video.

Depending on the time of day and my personal schedule, I will set up in my high school music office or library — or from home.

I basically charge as if for private lessons.

I specialize in clarinet and saxophone, but can help critique any instrument for directors who have too many participants or not enough time.

Here are my posted instructions  and Policies for ongoing, systematic instruction.

Need help?

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

I’d like to be your Virtual Assistant

By John Gardner

Posted in College Prep, Consulting, High Schools, How May I Serve YOU?, Internet web design and ecommerce, Managed hosting, Teaching, Teaching Music, Virtual Assistant, Virtual/Local Services Tagged with: , , ,

Two bad ways to try to get a job

By John Gardner

I’ve been a part of two conversations describing opposite expectations from college grads related to employment and availability. The first was with a music store owner,

Lazy“I’ve tried to hire two people who have both turned down full-time work. The job involved working in two of our stores, and there was some driving to get to one of them. One said he didn’t want to drive — and wanted to be available to play in a band two days a week. I hired him, but he’s working part-time in one store two days per week….and happy with that. It seems like people these days want their free time more than they want a full-time job.”

The other was a conversation between a supervising teacher and a student teacher during the final evaluation.

“Don’t be too picky in where you work. I have two friends who are college grads who do not have jobs because they are holding out for the ‘big name’ school instead of demonstrating a willingness to start in a smaller school or less-developed program and build both a program and a reputation.”

And then, there are those recent grads sitting at home or working fast food because they were unwilling to accept a part-time or substitute teaching position.

What happened to the ‘old’ work ethic that went like this…..

“I need a job and I want to work.
I am willing to start anywhere if
it gives me an opportunity to work
in my area (or in any area if nothing
else is available), even if I have to
commute, to start part-time or for
a lower than fantastic pay, 
confident that I can “build” a
reputation and earn a better job.”


Posted in Job Search, Personal experience Tagged with: , , , ,

Email To Client about Content Marketing

By John Gardner

Customer Service - Lifting the WordsI get mind boggled by all the super-geek-speak about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and how to get what you say, who you are or what you do listed higher on search engine results. It is kinda like my conversation after taking my car to a brake shop because “it doesn’t feel right” and I hear (includes exaggeration for effect – but also several terms I heard):

“You’re almost metal to metal so I want to replace the pads for you. You don’t want the cheap ones, do you? I could turn the rotors, but they are already thin. Plus the calipers were hot after the test drive and the hoses were blue. There were some spots on the rear drums. Shall I replace all that at once or do you want to go buy a new car?”

I have a client who is admittedly neither a proficient writer nor a sales guru. I just read a spot-on article called, “Content Marketing Sales For Non Sales People“, which makes the case for using “content” rather than optimization-gimmicks to drive people to your site —  and was starting an email to my client recommending they read that article — and prioritize their “To-Do” list about building their brand with blog posts (or let me do it for them) ….when I decided to create THIS POST for others similarly situated.

Word Cloud Content MarketingI created this Word Cloud to give you ideas of possible blog articles. Each of those could be a question answered by a single article.

  • Send me notes, outline or rough draft – I can write the article and have you approve prior to publication.
  • Tell me if what you send is what you want posted (without edit) or if you want me to edit and enhance.
  • Include a picture (consider copyright). I can offer legally correct pictures if I know what you have in mind — or provide guidelines to do that for you.
  • Suggest links to pages on your website or to other sites that support what you are saying.
  • Don’t make it an exhaustive research project. You can follow-up later. Procrastination kills potential posts.

Be the expert. Let me manage your content.


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Posted in Communication, Consulting, Internet web design and ecommerce, Managed hosting, Sales and Marketing, Small Business, Social Media, Virtual Assistant Tagged with: , , , ,


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