Junior High Band
Organizational Tips

Recognize the Value of Concerts, Festivals and Tours

One thing that kept me on my toes, kept the students practicing, and kept the parents happy was having quarterly concerts. We were always scrambling to find the right music and get it prepared for the next performance. In addition to the quarterly concerts we had district and state festivals and an annual concert tour.

It always bothers me when a concert starts late. When I was at BYU the concerts started at exactly 8:08PM, perhaps to give those who thought they started at 8:00, a little buffer time. At the junior high we had a tradition of starting concerts on time. I told the students to arrive early enough to warm up, check a few notes on the strobe, and be in their seats at least five minutes early. One band would be on stage and the other students would be in their assigned seats in the auditorium. I would briefly warm up the band on stage, sit down for a minute of two, and then start the concert. Occasionally we started a minute or two early, but we never started late.

I tried to keep the quarterly concerts to less than an hour. Four bands would have 15 minutes each to set up, play three or four pieces, and get off the stage. Since the first band was already set up and the last band didn’t have to leave quickly, we had a little wiggle room - - plus the 7th-grade tunes were considerably shorter than the 9th-grade tunes.

For many of our high school students the carrot that kept them in band was the annual concert tour. In the spring, before the annual festivals, we would take a ten-day trip around neighboring states and play 15 to 20 concerts. It was a lot of fun and it put a polish on our playing that would have been difficult to achieve otherwise. This was in the 1970’s. Since we stayed with families (not in motels) the cost per student was around $100.

Organizing the tour took some time. In November I would send out letters to schools and churches along our selected tour route. I followed up the letters with phone calls - - there were times when I was on the phone making final arrangements the day the tour started. We offered to put on a quality music performance in exchange for an evening meal, housing for the night, and breakfast the next morning. Our typical morning concert was an exchange concert in a school with the local band, orchestra or choir. After lunch on the road, we traveled to our evening performance location. The students would go home with their host families, eat, change clothes, and return for the evening concert.

At the junior high the tour was abbreviated. We took two days and put on a recruitment concert at three of the feeder elementary schools each day. We demonstrated the instruments and played music the elementary students recognized and enjoyed. This was done just before the in-coming seventh graders registered for junior high. They were required to take at least one-half year of some music class, band, orchestra, choir, or general music. We ended the concert with the Jazz Band hoping to excite many to take band, even though it was a full-year class.

Sadly for my students but happily for the elementary students, the cost of transporting the band around town eventually became prohibitive. It was much cheaper to bus all the elementary students to the junior high and put on one concert. We did convince our principal to let us go to the mall for lunch after the concert - that was my students’ favorite part anyway.

Video Disclaimer

The attached videos are not perfect examples of how each tune should be played. They are recordings of junior high students, some of whom have had their instruments for only a few months. Also, they are not professional recordings. They were taken by band parents using home equipment and naturally focusing on their own children.

I include them for two reasons: (1) To give you an idea of what the arrangements are like, and (2) To illustrate the kind of performance you can expect from your junior high students.