Charlie Nesmith Interview
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But I would also like to just thank you for the content you've been putting out for so long. I mean, I, I still have notebooks of notes I took on some of your marimbalogy episodes and, and just again, thank you for that. I mean, it's hard to put out content and you've kind of just for a long time have been putting out a lot of great stuff,
Well, thank you. Yeah. So as far as like, yeah, so in 2009 when I, I started releasing YouTube videos for marimbalogy . And the whole reason why I did that is because I actually started my career teaching math. I was a math teacher for five years and my major was in music education and my minor was in math, but there weren't any band jobs open in the area that I wanted to live.
And my wife and I were scheduled to get married and I was like, I really can't. Live anywhere else. Like, I have to live here if we're gonna get married. So I started teaching math and I just really wanted to, to be you know, in the music field. So I started uploading those videos until I got, like, I kind of transitioned my career into teaching music. And after I started teaching middle school band, I pretty much stopped making videos because I was, I was getting my fix,
Now you've, you've been directing for what, what was it, like, 16 years or something
Yeah, so I've been in like in official band director since 2011, but I've been doing middle school band for the last 11 years. And absolutely love it. I did high school for a little bit, but I really just miss being in the middle school classroom and I've made the transition to middle school band and I absolutely love it.
I really enjoy starting the kids from scratch. I think it's, it is a huge challenge to take, you know, like an 11 year old and teach them how to play every single instrument cuz every kid is different and they approach things differently and it's, it's a huge mental workout, which I really appreciate and enjoy.
I also like building them from the ground up, kind of like the way that I want them, you know, like a lot of high school directors, like, like they complain about their feeder and everything. It's like, I have no one to complain about. If they don't know something it's cuz I didn't teach them, you know? So it's a lot, you know, I like having like the responsibility of like, I, I need to teach them all these things that they need to know to go on.
And I, I just really appreciate that.
Are you, are you involved at Stanton
High School? Do you work with front ensemble or
anything like that?
I, I did a little bit with our marching band my very first two years. But after that I kind of stepped back to focus more on the middle school. Now we do have two band directors at my, at my middle school. So my other band director, John Wilson, he is the assistant director. Of the marching band.
So he is involved there. So there is kind of a bridge between middle and high school there. But I, I don't have involvement with high school marching band anymore. I do a lot of judging in the area now. And if I were teaching them, that would be a bit of a conflict of interest and I really enjoy judging.
So I haven't stepped into that arena with the high school for quite some time.
I did that for a long time. I think I did that for maybe eight years or so. But I really just kind of fell in love with teaching middle school band and I kind of cut away some other things from my schedule so I could focus on trying to get really good at, at just doing that. I, I mean, I do judge a lot and that's, and that's very fun.
But as far as the school year goes, I mainly focus on middle school.
here's something very fun about the middle
Yeah, middle schoolers are great, man.
I love it. I, the way I describe it to people is middle schoolers are a bit like a mirror. Like whatever you give to them, they give right back to you. So if you're a boring person, they're going to be bored, right? If you come in the classroom with a lot of energy and, and excitement, they're gonna have a lot of energy and excitement.
If you come in and you're angry and you're like yelling at kids and stuff, they're gonna get angry back. Like, like literally. Whatever you give to them, they give right back to you, and I really enjoy that relationship. High school is a bit different, you know high schoolers tend to think they're, they're really, really too cool for everybody and everything.
And, and winning over high schooler is a lot different than winning over a middle schooler, win over a middle schooler. You just have to be really excited. And I got that.
I got that. well
that's no problem, right? High schooler is a little bit harder to win over, you know? But yeah, I, I do really enjoy the middle school crowd.
I think it is super fun.
Do you have a percussion class or are all of your instruments together?
So the way that we do it, we have two band directors and we have two rooms.
Sixth grade electives only share two blocks. So there's like seventh block band and then, and there's sixth block band. So the way we split that up is in sixth grade I have a clarinet saxophone class in my room and in John's room he has trumpet and horn. And in seventh block I have flute, oboe percussion, and he has all of the lo brass plus basoon. So in essence, in sixth grade, we have four classes in total, and then in seventh grade we have a. Brass class and we have a woodwind percussion class, and then in eighth grade, they're all in one, one class. So we start out with four classes and we gradually merge to one and it works out great. It's like, it's so nice to be able to have that schedule.
And we see the kids for 45 minutes every day. And I absolutely love our schedule. It is like, it makes life so much easier than just mixing in all the kids. So my previous school, my previous middle school, all the kids were just mixed together and like, however guidance could fit them in your room is how they fit in your room.
And that's really tricky when you have so many different instruments to teach from scratch. It's a little easier on the more advanced stages the more advanced levels, high school, et cetera. But like in middle school, when you're teaching someone like. How to put a read on a clarinet that takes a while.
And if you have a bunch of flutes and t trumpets and trombones, like, they just kinda have to sit there through it, you know? Unless you're bringing in a lot of outside people to help you out. So being able to split things up is really nice. I don't have percussionist on their own. In some respects I would like to, but I like that they're with oboe because they read in about the same range in the beginning of the year,
and they get to hear a lot of the terminology that we use with winds and they get to kind of figure out how that terminology translates to percussion.
So I'd be able to teach them more efficiently if they were on their own, but I, I do like that they're with the rest of the band and that definitely helps. We're preparing for concerts because they get to play their parts with the wind players. And the first time they're doing that isn't like right before concert.
They're doing it the whole year. So you know, I could go either way in that, but I do like the way that we have it set up right now.
So are you able to do any
of percussion ensemble
stuff with that combined
So the way that we have things set up in seventh and eighth grade, I can do a percussion sectional whenever I want.
Because cuz seventh and eighth grade are, are all co-taught. So at any point I can just say, all right, today's gonna be percussion sectional, which is amazing. Which is, I know that is a luxury. If any band directors are listening who do not have a second director, I know, I know. That is a luxury. But I haven't started like an afterschool percussion ensemble yet.
I want to do one next year. My sixth and seventh grade percussionist this year are just like off the chain. Good. And I want to keep 'em challenged. So I think I'm gonna start an afterschool percussion ensemble next year. I do have an afterschool woodwind ensemble that I do in the fall, and that's really fun.
We learned a bunch of like Christmas music and then we go and play every single elementary school in December. And we go down, we go down to city hall. We play for like city council, we play for the school board and the superintendent. And it's a great recruiting tool, but it's also a good way to like, kind of get us out there.
But that's only in the first semester. Second semester I don't do any after school ensembles, so I think I would like to do a percussion ensemble next year and do like a similar sort of thing.
All right. So what are some of your favorite fixes from the
podium for your
That is, that is a very, that is a very broad question.
If I could steer that question in a slightly different direction I think, oh man, I'm gonna, I'm gonna have to get on a high horse here. I apologize. So as a percussionist band director,
sometimes I get a little bit frustrated with some of my colleagues who are not percussionist, because as a percussionist, when I started teaching band, I had to work so hard to learn all of the techniques for woodwinds and brass and all of the terminology and the skills and the tone production, and like practicing all those instruments to, to get a good sound on all of them.
So I can model that to my students. Like I had to spend so much time learning about woodwinds and brass, and I don't feel like. Some directors who are wind players put in the same amount of effort to learn about percussion, and I think that's a little bit of a disservice to their students. Now, this isn't everybody, but it's a sizable quantity of directors.
And I think it's just doing the students a bit of a disservice to, to give you an example, one of my friends called me up last year who shall remain nameless, but she's been teaching for about 17 years, same as me, and she called me up and said, Hey, what does it mean when a snare drum has like slashes on the notes? You know, and my head just kind of exploded for a second. I was like, you've been teaching for, and I didn't say this obviously like I helped her out, but I was like, you've been teaching for 17 years and don't know how snare rolls are notated. Like that blows my mind. Like could you imagine if I called up my friend Claire, who's an amazing flute player at Harrisonburg High School?
If I called up my friend Claire. And I said, Hey, what does it mean when flutes have like dots on top of their notes? You know, she would look at me like crazy, right? She looked at me like I was nuts. So I feel like a lot of band directors don't do the due diligence to learn about the percussion. Like a lot of times they joke about it like, oh yeah, oh, don't know anything about percussion.
Ha ha ha. And I'm like, I don't think it's that funny. Like, you're really doing those students a disservice. Now, if you're in a district who has a percussion specialist who can come in and do that, then great. Then maybe you don't need to learn about it. You know? Or if you're in Texas and you have five band directors and one of them is a percussionist, cool.
I mean, that's, that's fine. But in, if you're in a school where you're the only person, like you really do need to learn some of that stuff. Like you don't have to be an expert player, but there's certain things you need to learn in order to effectively teach those students. And anyone who's listening to this podcast, Is already like in the right zone because they're here to learn that stuff and, and to get better.
So this does not apply to anybody who's listening to us talk right now. But I think a lot of like quote fixes happen from, from being educated on how the instruments work. So I'll get, I'll give you an example I, I've submitted to present at our state conference next year, and they're still deciding what sessions are gonna be in and out.
So I, I don't know if I've been selected yet, but I have submitted to do one specifically on really quick fixes for percussion for band directors that don't know a lot about percussion. And a lot of that is gonna focus around snare drumm specifically, but I'll touch on all the instruments. So I listen to a lot of auditions and district auditions, all state auditions, and I just hear a lot of really weird things at some of those auditions.
And I think probably my, my biggest gripe is actually snare rolls. So some quick fixes for, for any, any snare drum playing is in, in concert band. The kids should not be playing with their sticks in the center of the drum, like pretty much ever, right? Like they need to be about halfway to the rim and not in the middle.
The middle makes a very, like, this makes like a popping sound. And if you try to do a buzz roll in the middle of the drum, it just doesn't sound smooth, right? So you've gotta have the sticks like at least halfway to the edge to get like a really smooth sustained roll. I really don't play in the center of the drum, like ever. So halfway to the edge is good having some sort of snare muffling. Is my preference in concert band.
So I just have like a little strip of bandana that I put closest to the player. Some people use moon gel. That's okay. Tone control rings, I think give kind of a weird overtone, but they do work. So like that will instantly make the snare drummers sound better regardless of what they're playing. Playing zones are a big thing that I see in a lot of bands.
I just judged a couple different assessments in our area and I see a lot of kids playing bass drum with the bass drum mallet kind of down by the rim. Right. And that's yes, a very cloudy sound. Like usually you want it more towards the center. If it's a small bass drum, I play it in, in the center.
If it's a large bass drum, slightly off center. But the, it gives you like an, a nice like warm bassy sound. And if, and if the mal, like a lot of kids, I think they're just lazy, right? And the mallet falls down to the rim and it gets us very slappy, kind of cloudy sound. On the mallet instruments oftentimes they hear kids playing with their, the sticks over the rope.
Or what we call the node of, of the bar. And that makes, so you hear this on auditions a lot. You're like, Hey, play your B flat scale. And every B flat and E-flat are really quiet. And all of the other nodes are really loud because they're playing those accidentals right on top of the rope and it mutes all the volume of, of the bar.
So those particular nodes are soft and all the other notes are loud. So like you know, a lot of like quote quick fixes, I think for band directors who don't know a lot about percussion is really just where should the kids be striking the instrument? Like tambourine, right? Like usually if you have a, a tambourine with a head on it, you know, you have to put your thumb on the head when you hit it, you know?
So otherwise it sounds kinda like a drum. You know, so you have to mute the head a little bit when you hit it. You know, just like, like little things like that, like little, little quick fixes of like, just knowing how the instrument should be played or where you should strike the instrument will massively increase the quality of sound in the percussion section.
And then we can address like, you know, the kids' technique and stuff like that. But, but just knowing kind of how the instruments work. Another huge one is, is knowing just a little bit of basics about tuning the percussion instruments.so the two questions I asked a lot is about snare and timpani tuning specifically. So like so timpani, right? A lot of band directors say, Hey, when I, when I tune the timpani, the, the pedal moves, you know, and I, I learned about you know, kind of the quick fix for that in drum corps, actually, Steve Ballard taught this if you, if the pedal wants to go down, then, then the drum wants to be lower, so you need to loosen the drum head, right?
If the pedal wants to shoot up, then the drum wants to be higher, so you tune the drum tighter. And most of the time that fixes the issues. Or just, you know, looking up in a, in a, like a range chart of what notes that drum should be able to play. If it's outside that range, there's gonna be a lot of problems with the pedal.
Snare drum a a lot of people over tighten the snares, so I end up fixing a lot of snare drums in, in our district. So like if you buzz really softly, you should be able to hear the snare response, but if you crank the snares really tight, you can hear the snares if you hit the drum loud, but you can't hear them at all when you hit it soft because it's too tight to vibrate.
So I end up going around and just like loosening a lot of snare strainers to, to be able to get that nice crisp response at, at a low dynamic level. So those are all like the, the, the big fixes, like if I had to like get on my high horse about like, this will instantly make everyone's percussion section sound better.
All of those things would definitely, definitely make everything sound better.
What does the first year of percussion look like for you?
So I think this ties into one of your other questions later as well. But I am a firm believer that kids tend to spend an equal amount of time on mallets throughout all of middle school, but especially in sixth grade. So in the beginning stages, I will have all of the percussionist on one instrument.
So like everyone's on a practice pad today, or everyone is on their bell set today, or everyone is on a snare drum today. But as, as they sort of learn the basics of those three things, and we get into like maybe November, December, From then until the end of eighth grade, I have an odd even rotation set up.
So our fundamentals block is about 20 to 25 minutes. Every class, we just work on fundamentals. So I have this big chart on the board, so on even days, these people play snare and these people play mallets and then on odd days these people play mallets and these people play snare. So every single day, from the middle of sixth grade until the, until they leave my school, they swap between snare and mallets for warmups every single day.
And, and what's really great about that is not only do they get the experience on both instruments, but there's no fighting or arguing about it. You know, like some directors like, Hey, like I can't convince my kids to play, wanna play mallets, or this sort of thing. And, and I was like, if you just switch them every day, like from sixth grade on, then it's never a fight cuz they just know, oh, this is just how we do things here.
So I'm a firm believer that they need to spend a lot of time on both instruments, and there's like a lot of cool ways you can kind of incorporate that into like very beginning band. You know, like if you have your flutes playing on a head joint, for example, and they're doing like long tones in for four, blow for four, you can have your percussionist doing like eight on a hand on a practice pad, and they can do that pretty loudly to get like a nice good solid wrist stroke because it's a practice pad, it's not very loud, right.
So yeah, so I do think that in the first year they, they have to have a solid grip on that. Our percussionist at the end of first year know all of their basic rudiments that are required for auditions. So it's like you know, long roll, five stroke roll nine, stroke roll flam, flam tap, paradiddle drag lesson 25.
So those are all of the audition rudiments in my district for middle school. So we cover all of that in sixth grade. And then they should know about four to five scales at the end of sixth grade on the mallet instruments. So yeah, I mean, it's definitely a goal that every kid is, is reading music really well.
So of course on mallets in particular, it's a really, it's really important to me that they have played timp at some point in the year. So if we're playing a piece that doesn't have Timpani I will write a Timpani part for it and put a kid on it, because I want every single kid to have the experience of playing timpani, because then you can talk about tuning and you can talk about you know, working out their ear and, and that sort of thing.
And it's a really good topic for percussionist to, to get into in the early stages.
I don't do a lot of accessory percussion instruction in the first year. We do play pieces that have accessories, so if we're playing a piece with a vibraphoneslap or with a triangle or whatever, then I will show that kid how to do whatever they need to do for that song.
But I don't spend a lot of time on accessories until the later years. I try to keep them on snare mallets as much as possible in the first year so they can get their reading skills up. So those are like kind of like my absolute like must do things and end the very first year.
Would you, if
you didn't have to have a your percussionist with your wind players, would you do more than four or five scales? Because my
theory is the mallets are so visual that we can really get around that instrument pretty quick by just seeing the
Yeah, I, I'd say if, if I had percussionist on their own, I would do more scales.
If I have more different types of instruments, I would ac I would do less scales. Probably Uhhuh, Uhhuh, you know, in, in sixth grade. In sixth grade. Now by the time they get the seventh and eighth grade, they're playing a ton of scales in two octaves. But in, in the first year of instruction, you know, I spent a lot of time on about four scales, four or five scales.
And then in seventh and eighth grade, we do a ton more. But yeah, I mean, percussion is so visual, but you have to balance, you know, if they're not on their own, you have to balance the needs of the group. Mm-hmm. And kind of, and kind of pace it along with that. One thing that I do in, in our fundamentals, we can talk about fundamentals for l i I can talk about it for hours, literally hours.
But one thing that I, I do also believe in as far as like the odd even rotation, is I've paired up a snare rudiment with every major scale that we play. And every time we play that scale, the people on snare drum play a very specific rudiment. Right. So for me, I'll just pick one concert E flat. I've paired up dyal with concert E flat.
whenever the band plays concert E flat, the standard arm are playing paradis.
there might be eighth note paradis, there might be 16th note paradis depending on how old they are. But but I've paired up a, a rudiment with every single scale and that is so helpful for getting them practice on all the rudiments.
Cuz when you get into seventh grade and we're playing all the scales, then they can go through tons of rudiments as we go through each scale. So yeah, I think that's, it's a really good way to kind of build up their fundamental time.
about what you normally do with your warmup? Fundamental thing is, is, scales and rudiments
or do you have other exercises
do? So I have published on, on my Flying Baton podcast website, I have a set of fundamentals that I have developed over years and years and years that is specifically paired up snare and mallet stuff That makes sense. With the fundamentals that the band needs. And I spent a lot of time on this because I, you know, and I feel like when a lot of bands are warming up, the, the conductor spending a lot of time with the wins and the percussionist are doing very little. So here's, here's like, kinda like one of my big, my big pet peeves you know, rehearsal starts and the conductor's like, all right, let's do concert B flat scale in half notes or whole notes or whatever. And then they just have the mallet instruments just do rolls.
Like, if you think about it, doing a roll is probably the worst way to warm up possible, because when you're doing a roll on, on a mallet instrument, you're hitting the mallet instrument super fast to get us sustained, right?
Like, could you imagine if you told a trumpet player, all right, first thing we're gonna do, first thing we're gonna play in class, or you're gonna play as fast and loud as humanly possible. Like, like nearly every wind player would tell you, that's a horrible idea, and you should never warm up that way.
Right? But then they ask their percussionist to do that. So like, if you start out percussionist, like, all right, everybody do rolls for all these scales, then their hands start tensing up. Because to do a roll, especially if you're on xylophone, which is a very staccato instrument, you have to move your hands so fast.
It's, it's not a good way to warm up the muscles at all. So I've paired certain snare drum and mallet skills to each skill that the woodwinds have in a way that kind of makes sense and, and builds up all the things that I need them to know. So as, as an example I have a pretty extensive page of Remingtons for the winds.
I have about six of them for the winds and when they're doing that, percussionist are doing accent tap exercises on the snare drum or alternating timing patterns depending on which Remington it is. And then the mallet players, instead of rolling the half notes, like the bands playing half notes like da, da, da, that sort of thing, instead of rolling that on the mallets, I have them doing eighth notes.
the band is doing half notes. So they're able to get a nice big legato stroke that's relaxing for their hand and good for their technique instead of trying to play a roll just like super fast with their hands. And then we get into lip slurs, which I call trampolines in exercise packets. So that's great for brass obviously to work out their lips.
It's great for woodwinds to work on slurring, really weird fingerings and getting it smooth. So for percussionist, I've paired that up with a natural sticking exercise. Cause that's something percussionist struggle with a lot when they're really young, is natural sticking. They try to do everything alternating sticking and then the rhythm falls apart.
So I made a lot of natural sticking exercises to go along slur. And then for articulation exercises, I have a whole bunch of stuff for the winds. And then percussionist are doing different flam exercises for that. For the scales, you know, we already talked about that. I have rudiments assigned for every scale that we play.
So yeah, there's, there's just a lot of, a lot of things. So I've just kind of paired up a snare skill with every single kind of fundamental I want the band to do In seventh and eighth grade. It's pretty extensive. In sixth grade, it's really paired back, but the same sort of concept is still there. I want, I want the percussionist working on something that's good for them at the same time that the winds are working on something that's really good for them.
Is that like a product that you're selling or is
this just something that you're
using with your band?
Yeah, yeah, it's right. I didn't intend to plug anything, so sorry for anyone who thinks I'm just a money-grubbing whore. No, it's, it is, it's like 30 bucks I think, on the website.
And all the PDFs are included. So for every instrument in the band there's a PDF packet, there's a score for the conductor, and if, if anyone purchase it, purchases it, they get unlimited photocopy rights forever. So every, every new group of kids that can come in, they can just hit print, print the whole exercise packet, boom, and give it to 'em.
And it's predominantly designed for second and third year players. I do have a lot of stuff I've written for sixth graders for, for beginners but not in a published format. I haven't published anything for that. So this is really for seventh and eighth graders predominantly. But yeah, it's like unlimited photocopy rights forever.
I just ask people not to share it with other directors. Like if they, if, if, if another director would like to have it, if they could pay for it, that would be great. But once they do unlimited photocopy rights off, you know, copy it for as many kids as you want forever. And the reason why I did that is because I, I just didn't really like any of the products that were out there, and I spent a lot of time specifically trying to figure, figure out how to incorporate percussion into the wind band warmup in a way that makes sense for everybody.
Yeah, I don't know if you're
familiar with Ultimate warmup by Gary
Gilroy, but that, I mean, it always fascinated
me. It was like a marching band warmup, but it went through every stock drum line warmup kind of seamlessly. Mm-hmm. I, and it's not like I use it or anything, but it all, that always fascinated me where
Where people were able to find like the middle ground, because like you said, I mean, it's always.
All right, mallets, let's go ahead and
A lot, a lot of honor band clinicians, you know, they'll spend a lot of time with, with the band on like scales or long tones or call and response. And I've seen a lot of, you know, honor band conductors just have percussions, literally just stand in the back and not, not do anything during that time.
That always breaks my heart a little bit. So I've kind of adapted some of these for when I do an honor band conducting gig. So it's like a super scaled down one pager, but it has some stuff for percussion to do. I don't sell that or anything, I just kinda use it for me. But yeah, I just, I just really appreciate making sure the percussionist have, have something to do.
As far as like the other books that are out there, I think the book that probably comes to the closest that I like the best is probably Foundations of Superior Performance. Does a good job of pairing up like drummy stuff with wind stuff. My only complaint is that it's way too hard for middle school.
Like the stuff in there gets really advanced really fast,
but he does have
the option, so you don't need to do the advanced
option. I think that's
cool about that
book. Yeah. Yeah. It does have like lots of different variations you go through. I think it's a, I think it's a great series. I think for me, I just, it, there's enough of it that I would omit for middle school that I felt the need to just develop my own thing that was like eight pages long that I could just give the kids for free instead of having them purchase a book that we're not gonna use to its fullest potential.
Now, if, if there's a middle school that is like, has a really great relationship with the high school and they have a really good continuous curriculum from like sixth grade to 12th grade, and they wanna buy that book early and just start adding things and adding things as they go through high school, then I think it would be great.
At my particular situation, there's not a very good continuous curriculum from six to 12. You know, there's, the high school director does things very, very differently. So but if, if we were more synced up, then maybe we would try to use the same book but we aren't. So I, I kind of developed my own thing.
Yeah, a few episodes ago I actually talked about that book and a few other, you know, the standard of excellence and essential
I happen to really like that one cuz I'm just such a, I'm a huge Mark Wessel's fan. I mean, I think that guy is the he's thought of everything, you know, I don't know if you've used any of his like lesson books.
So Mark Wes was one of the first people to put any sort of percussion instruction on the internet. So like, I was in high school in like the late nineties, right. And, and I was, I grew up in a fairly poor household. So I couldn't afford lessons or anything like that. And when I switched from playing clarinet noboe and switched to percussion, you know, since I couldn't afford lessons, like, I was like, I just went to the internet.
And in the late nineties there was not a whole lot on the internet like period, but especially instruction like now you can go onto YouTube, And watch 1000 videos on five stroke rolls. Like it's very specific now. You can learn pretty much whatever you want now. But at the time there really wasn't anything out there.
And one of the few websites that there was was Mark, Wes had a bunch of stuff up on his website to like learn the rudiments and learn some technique. There's another website, I think called drum bum.com that might still exist. I don't know where you could download like sheet music of stuff, but Mark had a lot of like instructional material that was really great.
And then I think he got scooped up by Vic Firth to, to do a lot of their production stuff and, and their education stuff. But yeah, his, his stuff, I haven't used any of his method books. But I really appreciate the things that he has done for the percussion community.
Yeah, it's definitely what we need more of.
So I have a question that I thought of while you mentioned conducting honor bands, it's not on the list, but I, I'm curious, do you think percussionist conduct differently?
like, like, Percussion is conductors conduct differently? Yeah. I don't know if I have analyzed enough conductors say, answer that question.
I would say I probably cue percussion less
than a winds conductor. You know, it's kind of funny, like, like being in front of a band. I will. Often tune percussion out, which I know sounds a little weird because it's my primary instrument, but I think it's kind of like the plight of a lot of like
and band director relationships.
Like if I don't hear anything wrong coming from the percussion section, I'm normally pretty happy enough not to like listen super carefully a lot of the time. At least like, cuz in middle school especially, like, I'm working so hard to get the sound of the band right. If percussion is making good sounds, I don't pay as much attention to them as I probably should,
So if we're playing a piece of music and percussion is just kind of always hitting their cues, I don't really cue 'em a lot when I'm conducting. Unless, unless I really need to. But as far as like, like arm motions and expression I don't know. It's hard to tell. I don't, I don't think I've seen a lot of percussionist conduct to be able to, to answer that question.
I know I'm, I'm a, a very emphatic conductor. I would say there's more of a, there's more of a difference between a middle school conductor and a high school conductor than there is between a wind conductor and a percussion conductor, right? It's like middle schoolers are barely looking at you. We spent a lot of time trying to train them how to look at the conductor and interpret the motions of the conductor.
But a lot of 'em, you know, just playing music is so new for them. They're like super hyper focused on the page and just concentrating enough to play what's on the page so they don't watch as well, because they're very new to reading music. Especially like sixth grade, right? They're barre barely looking at you.
So in middle school, I find I'm a very, very emphatic, like in my cues, like if the trumpet section comes in after a long rest, I turn my entire body to the trumpets and give a giant cue when they come in.
Whereas like in high school, you might just kinda look at 'em with your head. Mm-hmm. Or, or give like a little tiny flick. But in middle school it's like now the trumpets are coming in, you know, just because they're, they're not watching a lot. So I tend to be very animated when I'm conducting middle school in particular. Just cause like, like a lot of middle schoolers, like the biggest problem that they have isn't like a lack of ability. It's a lack of confidence. So like you'll have a kid who counts their 17 measures of rest just fine, but they're not sure that they counted it fine. So if you don't look at them when they come in, they actually won't play because they're not sure if they're supposed to. Like they counted just fine. They brought their instrument up. But if you don't cue 'em, then they don't come in. Cuz they're, they're unsure of themselves and they don't wanna be like wrong. Right? They don't wanna be incorrect. So I find myself giving a lot of very generous cues in middle school that you perhaps would not do in high school or college.
So yeah, I, I find that to be more of a, a differentiating factor than being a
The, the reason I, I ask I did a youth symphony when I was in high school, and I, I always, I remember just kind of having the feeling like, oh man, that this guy conducting right now, he thinks of time maybe a little differently.
Like he's being a little less artsy, You know, with his beat pattern. And it's very clear because he knows what he would
Hmm. Yeah, I mean, I, I've played under a lot of different conductors. I've you know, with the Waynesboro Orchestra, I can play under Peter Wilson and Peter Wilson just retired from the Marine Band. He's a violin player and he spent the last 20 years playing in the White House.
So, like foreign dignitaries come in, like, he'll arrange music in the style of the music from that person's country and like play it on violin or arrange it for his quartet or, you know, all kinds of things. So he's, you know, a, a. Essentially been a, a small ensemble performer for very high level people for 20 years, but when you watch him conduct, it's super precise.
Like you would maybe think he was a percussionist. Everything is very precise and articulate and very clear. It's one of the reasons why I love playing under his baton is because I always know what he wants when he wants it, but he's a violin player, you know? And I've, I've played under other conductors who are string players that they're conducting as very nebulous and very ambiguous, and I have a hard time finding the beat.
So I think that's more maybe like a personal, a personal thing and, and maybe has less to do with the instrument that they play.
. Has playing professionally in a large group like that, has that affected the way you teach?
a lot of band directors, they go to school. And then they graduate, and then they're band directors and they're not constantly kind of, you know, in the trenches.
So one thing I find really handy, well, a lot of things, okay, so I play in two groups. I play in the Waynesboro Symphony Orchestra, which I'm actually retiring from after this season.
I'm, I'm stepping down. And that's just to get more time at home with my little boy. But I also play in a group called the Valley Wind Ensemble. And the Valley Wind Ensemble, which meets in Harrisonburg is a full size concert band made up entirely of band directors and college professors. So they're all professional musicians or professional educators.
And playing with that group is so great for many reasons. For one, you get the camaraderie and you get the networking, which is, which is great. But I think it's something that's really important for all teachers, especially middle school teachers, but all teachers. Is to be able to have a standard of sound that you're comparing your group against, right?
So when I'm playing with professional musicians regularly, that is my standard that I'm trying to achieve. You know, if I, if I only heard middle school band all day every day, I feel like my standards would slip a little bit because that's what my ear would just kind of adapt to that sound, you know? But I'm regularly playing with these professional, semi-professional groups, so my ear is finally tuned to what really high level playing sounds like.
So I always have something to push my band towards. Now, I know my middle school is never gonna sound like a professional group, but like, but I, I have like a goal and like we, we push towards that goal and I think that's important. I do think it's important to, to be under someone else's baton. And not necessarily just to play your instrument, because a lot of us, by the time you get outta college, you've played your instrument a lot.
You know, I, I think it's sort of important to keep up the skills on your instrument, but I think it's more important to be a member of the band and not be in front of the band all of the time. It's good to be a follower sometimes, and I think that helps, gives you perspective to be a better leader when you go back to your band because every conductor does things differently.
They say things differently, they treat people differently, and I think it's really important to get those other perspectives to bring back to your school.
Yeah, agreed. That's
As as you did the crossman.
So I'm very curious, did they have ways of breaking down foot technique and like the, the choreography that comes with four mallets, or did they like achieve that? Some other, you know,
like more organic way? Did they have like exercises for your
So I marched in 2004. And so front ensemble in Drum Corps in particular, and by extension high schools, cuz a lot of times they mimic what goes on in drum core in Wgi I and things like that.
Well a lot of high schools do WGI now, which was not the case when I marched. So it, the front ensembles evolved a lot over time. When I was marching in 2004, there was a pretty big push against what we call fake expression. So at the time that was really looked down upon, you know, like these choreographed motions and like exaggerated facial expressions.
At the time it was seen as like, oh, that's fake and we don't want to be fake. And there were a few groups who did a lot of very animated stuff, like the Cavaliers in the early two thousands did a lot of very animated stuff. And in the Crossman when I marched, we did a lot of audience interacting.
So like, we would pick somebody out, like on the front row and like periodically in the show we'd like point, point to 'em or like, you know, make faces at 'em or like, you know, we'd try to interact with the audience. And we would of course interact with each other and look at each other, but nothing was choreographed.
And in fact you had groups at the time, like Santa Clara Vanguard you know, with, with Jim a Jim Ancona in the early two thousands. You know, at the time his philosophy fee was like, Hey, I don't even care what Malach grip you use. So they had years where some kids were using Stevens grips, some kids were using Burton grips.
Some kids were using traditional cross grip. Like they didn't care as long as you sounded good. They didn't care what you look like. And then once you get out of the early two thousands, that really changed dramatically. Where like uniformity became so much more important in the scoring that like it pretty much every drum court mandated, not only does everybody have to use the same grip, but now everyone's body needs to look the same.
And that wasn't the case before. It's like when I marched, we weren't really doing that, but it, it kind of swung, the pendulum swung back hardcore in the other direction where front ensembles had these very elaborate choreographed moods. And it was more of like,
and I, and
I, wouldn't say that it's fake, I would say it's more theatrical, you know, it's more plans like, like a ballet is planned, you know, when this happens in the music, our bodies are going to do this.
And I also things that's very beautiful. I would not categorize it as like fake expression, but it's very different than what we were doing when I marched. So we did not talk about that sort of thing. But I know now the uniformity aspect and the visual expression plays so much of a bigger role in the activity than it used to.
yeah, for sure.
I for sure don't like the over emoting thing, but orchestral musicians use the fact that we hear with our eyes all the time.
You know, like a timpanist lifting a stroke up
now it's a longer note. You know so no, no talks about any sort of like lifting. You guys just
kind of did what was natural
Well, lifting is a, is a different topic. So this guy by the name of Mike Schutz who I believe teaches up in Canada now, he used to teach at Long Wing University here in Virginia. He did a pretty extensive research pro project on what we see with our eyes versus what we hear.
And he actually got Michael Burt to do all of the sound samples, who, if you're listening as a well-known Maruba player and, and percussion teacher. But he had Michael play like OneNote on a maruba several different ways. So he would play it and then keep the mallet in the down position, like hovering like an inch over the bar.
And then he played the same note and like bounced the mallet way up high in the air with this big exaggerated long stroke. You know, and sonically there's no difference, right? So once you strike a mallet bar, Whatever your hand does afterwards does not make any difference to the sound acoustically. But here's the point of like Mike's research, that was really important.
It made a huge impact on people's perception of the sound. So he had several, like many people look at these video samples and nearly everybody, I think it was like 70% of the people that saw Michael Burt do a very exaggerated ricochet bounce off the bar, reported that the note was longer than in the videos where he does a more like sharp attack and then keeps the mallet hanging low.
They, they said that the other one had a longer sound. It didn't like you could look at it on a, you know, a, a. A doll and see that the sound is identical. But people said that the, the long stroke made the note longer and Mike's whole like kind of thesis was like, perception is reality. So even though making these like exaggerated lifting motions after you strike a bar doesn't change the way the instrument sounds people think it does.
So it does. Mm-hmm. Like it doesn't, but it does cuz people think that it does. Now I say on the mallet instruments, I do have my kids like lift up like pretty high after they strike. But it's less for that reason and more for a technical reason. Like if you keep your mallet heads low to the keyboard You can't cross over very well.
And a lot of times in mallet playing you need to reach across to hit different notes. And if you pull up your mallets out of the way, you have more room to reach over and hit accidentals and things like that. If you keep your mallet heads way down where the bars are you have more of a chance of like clicking your sticks or like not being able to reach certain things.
So in drum core, we pretty much had the same philosophy. It was less about the sound or the, or the visual aspect and more of like, keeping your mouths in the up position is better for your technique and will allow you to play more relaxed.
I love that.
did did you come up with that
perception is reality thing?
beautiful. I love that. Oh, that was,
that was the whole point of Mike's paper. Like you can go read it. Mike Schutz is, is his name. He has his all whole thesis on it. He's got audio and video and all kinds of stuff. It's, it's really great and, and it really changed how I thought about things because I have read a paper written by Lee Stevens, who is the inventor of the Stevens script for, for the non percussionist.
And Lee Stevens did a very lengthy article on his website about, Doing downs stroking versus UPS stroking and how it doesn't change the sound at all, so it shouldn't matter, was essentially what Lee was saying. But Mike's research was important because it was like, sonically it doesn't matter, but people think that it matters, so it does matter.
So yeah, it was really, it was a beautiful paper. It was really cool to watch. Like he's embedded lot of, like, a lot of like, like what do they call 'em, optical illusions into his paper to demonstrate certain concepts and like kind of relate it to sound. It was very cool. This is a good read.
You mentioned you have a like 50 50 of marimba and snare drum. Do you push drum set literacy?
I don't. So if a kid does not play drum set and they want to learn and they join up the after school jazz band that we do in the fall or the spring we can show them some things.
But I find the drum set's one of those instruments that like if a kid's really motivated to do it, then they will. Look, you know, they a look on YouTube, they'll do some research, they'll maybe take some lessons, that sort of thing. Or maybe they'll take lessons with me or whatever. And we can show 'em those things.
I don't do it as like a unit in class and, and part of the reason is why I don't have a percussion only class. If I did have a percussion only class, then maybe I would, I would go into that. But since my percussionist, as they go through middle school, are combined with larger and larger groups of people we can't really sit around and, and talk about percussion very much.
We do play pop charts for various pop concerts that we do where there's like snare rides, snare, high hat parts, so they can work on the hand part of it, but not the feet part of it. So they do get some exposure to ride patterns and high hat patterns and, and that sort of thing, but not on a, not on a full drum set.
Now, if you go look at Steve's videos that, that he posts on Facebook, I saw one the other day. He had like 30 kids playing drum set at one time. Like I just. I, like I said, I don't know how many kids are in his school that he can have like a drum set class of like
And have the funding to have that many drum sets and, and when he ran outta drum sets, he like made makeshift drum set drum sets with like practice pads and like other stuff.
So that's cool. But I don't, I don't have a percussion only class to do that with.
Yeah. I'm really spoiled. , I teach at five middle schools now, and some of them have a percussion class.
And at one particular, it's a really nice thing to do when it's like a Friday and they have a slightly shorter day. I don't know if you guys do this, but here in Orlando, like every schedule, like every day has a slightly different schedule in the schools. Like one one day is the short Wednesday is an hour shorter.
Some of the days are a full seven period, some are four block periods. But on a when we have like a shorter class, especially if the band director's out judging or something, I just have them line up and teach them, you know, some sort of simple groove and All right, go All right, go All right.
And it's not a huge, it's not something we do really consistently, but I noticed there's like less set players now. You know, when, when I first joined band, like I thought I would be playing the drum set and then I find out, oh, I have to like stand up and like, play
the snare drum and
bass drum and all that stuff, you know?
Yeah. I'm, I'm not sure what that is. I do see on your list of questions, something that I, I did hope we could talk about, which is how to select percussionist.
I think that's an important question. You got a lot to say about that. Hope, hopefully I don't get canceled for saying this.
I think there needs to be a pretty even gender split in your percussion section. If, if you have 11 middle school boys in the back of your room, you're gonna have a bad time.
Right. And I love my middle school boys. They're crazy, but I love them. But like, if you have a more even gender balance in your percussion section, like things are just gonna be better for a lot of reasons.
Right. So, you know, back in the day, like, you know, like when I was going to middle school in the nineties, it wasn't uncommon at the time for there to be like a lot of sexism in instrument selection in some parts of the country. This is still the case, unfortunately. But you know, like back in the day it'd be like, okay, boys are gonna play drums and only girls can play the flute.
Mm-hmm. And there's still some schools in America today where they do not let male students play the flute. I, I've talked with directors who, this, this is still happening today. I, which blows my mind, it's 2023. I don't know why. That's still a thing. I have lots of boys on flute. They love it.
Like, I, I just can't fathom that that's still a thing, but it is unfortunately. But I think when, when it comes to selecting your percussionist and you have your instrument tryout night, you know, I think it's important to encourage boys and girls or however they choose to identify like a nice diverse mix in your percussion section.
You know, I have definitely seen schools where only boys play percussion and that's a bad time. Or another thing that happened in the nineties a lot is boys will play snare drum and girls will play mallets. You know, that was a thing that was pretty big when I was growing up. And I think that has mostly kind of been eliminated.
But yeah, so that was, that was a thing for a long time and that's why I think the odd even split is so important, right? Like every day you will switch to the other one, the other instrument. So they're always getting equal exposure on everything. And they're not fighting over things. Cuz another time the, if band, band directors just let kids pick what they play for warmups, you know, your kids with your stronger personalities regardless of gender, your kids with stronger personalities are gonna get what they want and kind of bully everybody else into playing the instruments they don't wanna play, you know?
So I think the odd, even rotation is really important and I. Yeah, I think that works out really well. As far as like selecting the percussionist, I, I do know some band directors that require their percussionist to have piano experience. I don't live in a high enough socioeconomic area that enough of my kids even have any musical experience walking in the door to, to be able to do that, you know?
I'm in an urban school setting. Most of our kids are in poverty, you know, so I, there's not a lot of kids that take piano lessons in my area. If someone said like a more wealthy area or with a much larger school, they might be able to make that a requirement. I don't think that it needs to be some of my absolute best mallet readers had no piano experience whatsoever.
They just really love playing percussion, and they figured it out, you know, so I, I don't think that should be a requirement personally, but I do know directors that do that. What I'm looking for when I'm auditioning kids
listening for really good auditory memory. So the first thing I do is I have, and I'm doing my instrument tryout nights this Thursday actually.
So I'll have the kids come over and we're on a practice pad and I'll show 'em how to hold the sticks. And the very first thing that I do before we even play a note is I have them put the sticks out on the playing zone in front of the drum and I have them lift their sticks all the way up and lift them all the way back down without hitting anything.
Just I wanna see how the wrists move naturally. Like a lot of kids when they start moving their wrists will tilt their hands sideways into this, like what we call French grip, where, where your thumb is on top. And if I take their hands and I'm like, okay, no, it needs to go like this. And I tilt their hands back over, if they can't do that and they just gravitate right back to turning their hands upside down, I know they're gonna have a bad time.
I wouldn't say they play like can't play progression. But some kids don't have a lot of body awareness or coordination. The next thing we do on the, on the practice pad is I do some very simple rhythms, like very simple stuff like tat tat tat, tat tat, or, and then I start mix seeing some slow 16th note patterns like du diga, diga dot, and stuff like that, and see if they can coordinate their hands and match what they're hearing.
If I'm playing very basic rhythms and the kid cannot reproduce them, they're gonna have a really bad time at percussion. And I, I see this every year. Several kids, like, I'll go ta ta tee tee ta on the snare drum, you know, 1, 2, 3, and four, however you wanna count. And and they can't do that. Like they, they will, they will copy the rhythm incorrectly.
So that kid has no hope of playing amadi. Right. If, if they can't do 1, 2, 3, and four with one hand, they're gonna have a really hard time learning any rudiment. Okay. That kid just doesn't have enough like mind to hand coordination to be able to play percussion well now it's not to say they couldn't be in the percussion section and you could find things for them to play that are less dextrous.
That's kind of the beauty of the percussion section is it's like, like wildly differentiated. You can have your hot shot play the crazy snare, mallet parts, and the kids that maybe aren't so good, you can have 'em,
know, hit the occasional triangle hit or something. But if I have a lot of kids that wanna play percussion and I need to it down to like 10 kids, you know, I, I do look at things like that.
The next thing I do is I, I have them go over to a student bell kit and I show 'em, and, and the student bell kits have all the note names on the bars. I say, okay, we're gonna start on C here, a C. And then I play some very simple patterns like C, D E, D C, sorry for anyone with perfect pitch. It's probably not a C.
But like, so I, I have 'em do some very basic patterns and see if they can copy those. And once again, if they can't copy those very simple patterns, the likelihood of them being able to keep their eyeballs up on a page and play those patterns without looking down is like zero. It's essentially zero.
They ha they have to be able to do it mimicking before they can do it reading. And there are some kids that just have such a hard time with that that I think they can select percussion, but they're gonna have a much harder time than the kids who can, who can do those things more easily. So I definitely check for that.
Another thing I check for is ability to follow directions.
You know, percussionist, there's a lot of responsibility to playing percussion. You're in the back of the room, you're standing for long periods of time, and a lot of times the band director's gonna be cleaning the winds and you just have to be patient.
Okay? So if I have a kid in the audition, like when we're doing instrument tryouts and I'm like, okay, hold the sticks just like this, and they start immediately banging on the drum, I just make a little note on my own personal sheet to not allow that person to play percussion at all. And I don't care how good their audition is after that.
If I'm like, hold the stick just like this, and they just start beating things, you are going to have a bad time. When that person gets in a classroom of 50 kids and they're in the back of the room and have to wait longer than two seconds to do, to do something, right, they're gonna go nuts. Okay? So I, I learned a lot about the kids in the tryout process and I'm like, Hmm, this person maybe should be a percussionist.
This person probably does not have the attention span to, to be a percussionist and, and be successful.
those are the the big things that I look out for. And yeah, I, I think that's the, I'm gonna do that this, this week on Thursday. We have like an instrument try at night,
but we have, we have our kids try,
we have our kids try every single instrument.
So I'm, I'm make all of the fifth graders try every instrument, even if they like, have known since they were two that they wanna play trumpet. I still have them try every single instrument before they make a decision. And that's really handy because a lot, like if you just go to fifth grade and you're like, cool, what instrument do you guys wanna play?
They'll all say percussion and like saxophone. Mm-hmm. Percussion and trumpet. I got a billion trumpet players this year. Right. That's what they'll say. But then you get 'em into an audition room and let 'em try everything and they're like, man, French horn's awesome. You know, because they don't know a lot about the instruments that aren't in pop music.
So giving them an opportunity to come in and try it will really help. Cause I think ano another problem a lot of band directors have is this, too many kids wanna play percussion, right? So, If I get into that scenario where 15 kids pick percussion and I only really want 10 for my size band, I only want 10.
I will call in those 15 kids to come in over the summer and I'll try 'em on a couple other instruments and see what they think. And without me even suggesting anything, most of the time enough of them will wanna switch to a wind instrument because they liked it so much that I don't have to talk anybody out of it.
I'll just be like, Hey, here's, here's a clarinet, let's make some cool sounds on this and we'll just play clarinet for a little bit. And they'll be like, this is awesome. I think I wanna switch. And I don't even, you know, so I don't have to like cut anybody so to speak, or like break any hearts. They make that decision kind of on their own, you know, and that's kind of how you can curate your percussion section a little bit
sure you don't have too many kids kinda back there.
And that's the other thing too, like you, you don't want too many percussionist just because there's not enough things for them to do all of the time. And that can lead to behavior problems too, if, if there's too many kids back there. And I'll throw out one more thing just because I had a whole podcast episode about this.
A lot of in directors tell me I can't get my kids to play mallets.
I love that episode.
That was a great
episode. You did great.
Hey, I'll, I'll summarize it here. So,
listeners don't have to go listen to it. I mean,
The biggest thing if they're, they're like, my kids don't wanna play mallets.
I say, what do you have? And in a lot of cases, what they have is a 40 year old out of tune xylophone and like a crappy set of bells from the seventies. And I'm like, I don't wanna plan those either. I am a percussionist. I don't wanna play on those. Like, if you take like, you know, make a little investment, you know, two to $4,000, I think educational pricing, not, not list pricing, educational pricing.
You can get like a pretty decent synthetic maruba that goes down to an A and the kids will like literally fight over it. They will fight specifically the base end. They want to be in the low octa, like give 'em some nice soft mallets. They will fight over that marimba. But if all also you have for them to play is a planky xylophone.
I mean, I, I've been playing percussion for a long time. I hate playing xylophone. I hate xylophone. I can't stand it. I mean, I'll do it if I'm asked to in like the wind ensemble or whatever. But I don't like playing xylophone. It's an awful instrument. It's planky, it's staccato, it's brittle. It hurts your ears if you play it hard enough.
Like I don't wanna play xylophone, right? And I'm a percussionist, but you're talking about a marimba or a nice vibraphone. Heck yeah. I wanna play that all day long, you know? So I know these things cost money and everyone's financial situation is different. So if your school doesn't have a good budget, I would say do a little bit of fundraising.
Do a fundraiser and be like, we want a marimba and hype the kids up and be like, cool, let's go fundraise and let's just make it happen. You know? Or tap into some community organizations that might be able to donate. But if you get a nice marimba, and it doesn't have to be a Rosewood MEbA, in fact, I would not recommend a Rosewood marimba in most schools like especially middle schools, but get like a nice synthetic marimba.
Like the must. Synthetic is great. I love the mustard synthetic because it rings a little bit longer than Rosewood. It's, it's almost like a vibraphone and how long it rings, but has a very pretty sound. They're like indestructible. Or get a nice vibraphone and then you could talk about pedaling with the kids.
And the kids who've had piano will love that. It's like, oh, it's got a pedal, like my piano sweet. And they'll be into that. So if you have good instruments for them to play on, the kids will be more likely to want to play mallets. And then when you're doing your odd and even rotations, no one's gonna complain about it cuz they have a good instrument to, to go play.
So I think that's really, really important. So that plus the odd, even rotation pretty much eliminates that problem for, for a lot of people.
of the marimba is that more than one kid can play it. You get a lot of bang for your buck.
Yeah, actually, so I have a lot of, a lot of percussionist In sixth grade this year I put three people on marimba, two people on xylophone, and I try to get one person on vibes, but you can fit two people on vibes for most sixth grade stuff.
And most fundamentals, you can put two people on vibes if you need to. But yeah, three people on a marimba easy for, for almost any kind of fundamental. Now if you're doing a lot of two Octa scales, you can only put two people on a marimba. But yeah, you can fit a lot of kids on the instrument. You get a lot of bang for your buck.
I think working on pedaling is great. Like you wanna talk about engagement, right? You can take a simple fundamental or exercise and then work pedaling into it. Like, cool, you've mastered this on Ariba, now come to vibraphone and I want you to pedal about every two beats.
You know, or if you're doing a scale, I teach 'em to either half pe to either half pedal or pedal every quarter note of the scale. So they can get, get used to the bars not bringing all together, but having enough sustain to fill out the sound. There's so many things you can work on with a vibe that, you know, I think it, it's challenging for the kids after they've mastered, like just the two hand thing.
Yeah. Beautiful, beautiful. So just to kind of close things out here I'm very curious about this. You did marimbalogy years later kind of relaunched as marimbalogy 2.0, then you're the flying baton guy.
So is there, is there anything else in your head that you're kind of working on? Like do you have like a next thing you could plug or you got any
ideas? My next thing is upstairs going down for, for bedtime. No, no, truly. So okay. So I started the marimbalogy , the percussion YouTube channel when I was a math teacher and I needed a percussion teaching outlet. After my band career started to take off, I stopped making those videos for a bit.
I think, I don't know, I probably have made one of those in like five years or so. And I focused more on just being a really good band director. And then I got into doing the podcast in 2020. I really like that. But I dunno, I, I used to have like a million hobbies, like I was really big into music tech and, you know, Composing stuff and recording and you know, like I was into like so many different things.
And then after having my son, it's like, okay, I really need to pair down what I'm doing a lot. So I, cuz I, I wanna spend time with him and, and I think this, I'm gonna gonna get real here for a second. And I don't, I do not mean to offend anybody when I say this, but there are a lot of divorce band directors and I, I don't want that for my family.
And I know it's not always something you can control per se cuz that's a two-way street. But so many of us music teachers are married to the job. And we spend 60 to 80 hours a week doing the thing that we love to do, especially if you're a high school director and you have marching band and musical, and you know, all these other things.
You know, we love what we do. We love working with kids. It's very easy to sink 8,000 hours into a work week just to try to get, you know, provide more opportunities for our kids or like make the music that much better or, you know, do all these like trips and competitions and all this stuff. But if having a family is really important to you, and it's not for everybody, but if it's something that's really important to you you need to make sure that, that you're home.
You know what I mean? Now I do know several band directors that don't have a family, and they don't want a family, and they are 100% fine being married to the job. And I, I have no issue with that. Like, if that's what they want and that's what they want to do, more power to them. For me personally, family is extremely important to me, which is the whole reason why I taught math in the first place.
Like there were band jobs open in other parts of the state that I didn't even apply for because I wanted to get married and live with my now wife. That was a higher priority to me than starting my career as a band director. So instead, I started my career as a math teacher because the family was that much more important to me personally.
And I knew when, you know, when I had my son three years ago, I was like, You know, he's only gonna be young once, and it's part of the reason why I'm stepping down from orchestra. I just did my last orchestra concert this past weekend, and I've been playing with the orchestra for 10 years and I'm, I'm stepping down.
Not because I don't enjoy playing. I still enjoy playing. I love Peter Wilson. He's an amazing conductor. But every Tuesday night I would go to rehearsal for three hours, know, and it got to the point this year where I would go to rehearsal or, or like try to walk out the door to go to rehearsal and my son would literally try to block me from leaving.
Like, he would like be pushing against my body, begging me not to go to rehearsal. And about the second time that happened, I sat down with a conductor and I was like, Hey man after this season I'm out. You know? Cuz you know, he's, you know, he's three and he, he wants to spend time with me right now.
Now being a middle school director, I know full well when he gets to be about 13, 14, 15 years old, he's gonna care a lot less about hanging out with me.
Yeah. You can
join the symphony
again. Yeah. And a little lot more about hanging out with his friends and like, you know, going on dates and that sort of thing.
And then I can like start doing a lot of these gigs again. But I just, I just know that like, I, family is so important to me. I, like, I had to par down the hobbies, so I, I am gonna keep doing the podcast. I took a break from the podcast last semester cuz I was finishing up my master's degree which I finally got my master's in administration from J M U which was great.
I I really love that coursework. It was great. No plans on quitting teaching anytime soon, but it was very valuable. But that was hard on our, our little family, you know, doing grad school one to two nights a week doing orchestra every Tuesday, doing wind ensemble every Monday. It was just so much time away from home.
like I said, he's only gonna be young once and I want to be there for it. So I've really scaled back everything to like, pretty much just the podcast and the occasional video game and the late hours, you know, bed. And that's pretty much the extent of my, my hobbies these days. I really wanted to devote a lot of time to my son and making sure he grows up, you know, with the dad who's, who's around, you know.
really great. You know I try to not take
too many gigs cuz God, I just love being home. You know, I teach at schools and then I come home. I have time at home. All right. If you'll indulge me for just one more here. I think this will be a fun segment. And depending on your answer, we don't even have to air it.
But what is some trouble, because we're a bunch. What is some trouble you've gotten into in the back of the band room? Maybe your band director didn't even know.
Like when I was a kid,
man, I don't, I don't know how much I'm comfortable divulging in that
My first kiss was in the band room.
Of course, yes. That, that
means I'm a certified That is what that
means. My first kiss was in, yeah, it was in the band room. Ninth grade. Ninth grade year. I don't know, I think I was a pretty, by the time I joined percussion, I was pretty serious about it. So in. Middle school, I played clarinet, noboe, and in ninth grade I played clarinet noboe in, I'm sorry, I played oboe in, in the concert band, but I played drum line and marching band cuz you can't march a noboe.
So I did. I did drum line instead. So I wasn't like a, like a real percussionist, I just beat the bass drum or whatever. And then my band director and I, we did not get along like at all. We had a huge falling out the end of my ninth grade year and I quit band. So my 10th grade year, I did not take band at all.
I still did marching band cuz I, I loved playing with my friends in the drum line, but I could not stand my band director at all. And my 11th grade year, I decided, you know what? I like playing music more than I dislike him. So I'm gonna join the percussion class. So I'm gonna make a switch from OBA to percussion.
I'm gonna join the percussion class my junior year and get real serious about percussion. And so I jo, I joined the percussion class. The percussion class had about 10 people in it, all of whom played other instruments and not percussion. And my band director played solitaire on his computer in his office every class period
the entire year.
literally sat in his office and played video games. And let me teach the class, which was weird because I wasn't a percussionist player, but that's why I, I'm so grateful for people like Mark Wessels because I, I just went online, and this is in the days of Napster, by the way. Napster, if anyone knows what that is.
Any, anyone you know over the age of 35. So I would go on Napster and I would download like drum core recordings, like 99 Blue Devils was amazing. I downloaded that and played that for the kids in class. I downloaded whatever sheet music was online, which was not a lot in 1999. Downloaded whatever sheet music was available.
And then I brought it into class, and then I would teach class. I'd be like, all right guys, here's what I found. And then we would just figure it out. So like it was really amazing and I loved doing it so much that I was like, I think I want to teach music for a living. And I was like, I can surely do a better job than that guy.
have, that's similar
to why I wanted to do it. My band director also was just malpractice
practically, you know, and I'm like, I,
fix this. Yeah. And you know, it's kind of funny, like if I, if I had a competent band director, I don't think I would've majored in music. I probably would've been a computer engineer, like all my friends are.
But I, I like teaching so much and I had the opportunity to do it cuz my director wasn't I was like, this, I, I think I wanna do this for the rest of my life. And I went majored in music and, and loved it. So, so long answer to your question, but by the time I was an actual percussionist, I was a junior and I was real serious about learning to get good.
So I wasn't causing a lot of trouble in the back in those years. Had I been a middle school percussionist and not a middle school oboe player, I probably would've done all kinds of crazy things. But, but not so much. By the time I was a, I was a real right. Dude, I
And that's a real story. That is a real story.
I think everyone listening to this podcast is now gonna go get those like infant outlet protectors and
put 'em in all. They'll need them in the back near the percussion. Yes.
Yes. They'll need them. Yeah, I'm sure kids are doing way worse than that too. I was, you know, that was great. Next to some, some people
gosh, that sounds crazy, man. Oh, well I'm glad you're still alive. That sound that could've, that could've gone south real quick.
All right. So once again, thank you so much for sitting down and, and getting so many great things out. You know, I really, you, you hit on a lot of awesome
Well, thank you.
I, like I said, I did put together a conference proposal to talk about some of this stuff, to educate the band directors who want to learn more about percussion, who wanna be more well versed in that area. They're, they're not making calls on what's gonna get picked for conference for another couple months, so hopefully get selected.
I would really love to talk to the directors of my state about that sort of thing. But yeah, I kind of came prepared for the interview, having already put that together of like, kind of some of the things I feel really strongly about. So thanks for inviting me on the show and, and let me a chance to talk about some of this.
Yeah. Absolutely, man.
Absolutely. It is been a pleasure. Thank you so much,
Charlie. Have a good night. Yeah, you too buddy.