October 1, 1996 in Features

Band Basics A Video Series Produced In Spokane Helps New Music Students Get Started

By The Spokesman-Review
 

(From For the Record, October 4, 1996:)

An article in Tuesday’s IN Life section about “Getting Started” band instrument videos included an incomplete telephone number for ordering the tapes. That number is 465-0869.

For a generation of Nintendo kids accustomed to instant gratification, beginning band class can be more frustrating than a box of dead batteries.

The problem, says Spokane Symphony clarinetist Doug Farmer, arises from students rushing out and renting instruments, then having to wait several weeks before learning how to produce anything resembling a musical note.

Farmer’s solution is “Getting Started,” his new series of video tapes specifically designed for novice trumpet, flute, saxophone, trombone and clarinet players.

Each 30-minute video costs $19.95 - about the price of a private music lesson - and covers all the basics, starting with how to open an instrument case.

Other topics include:

Correct assembly and disassembly of the instrument.

Basic care and maintenance.

Proper posture and breathing techniques.

How to form the embouchure, or mouth shape, to produce sound.

Advice for parents on protecting their investment and encouraging good practice habits.

But the videos stop short of teaching scales, note values and other music-making skills.

“We don’t want to do the band director’s job,” explains Farmer, “because each of them does it a little differently. We teach students what they need to know to sit down and make their first sound. It’s up to the band director to teach them how to make music.”

That approach is what distinguishes “Getting Started” from the other instructional tapes on the market - and what may prove to be its strongest selling point. Farmer’s cast of local musicians comes across as well-intentioned assistant band instructors eager to get students - and their parents - off to a good start, while deferring to band teachers on points of musicianship.

Farmer conceived the video idea a year ago, after buying a guitar instructional tape for his 13-year-old son. When he mentioned the idea to Ralph Morgan, an Ohio-based manufacturer of clarinet and saxophone mouthpieces and a longtime friend, Morgan surprised him, saying, “I’ve been trying to get someone interested in this for 20 years!”

With help from Morgan and Washington State University music professor James Schoepflin, Farmer drafted the first script. Schoepflin volunteered to “play guinea pig” for the initial taping, which took a day and a half.

After some revisions, the final production took place in the South Hill’s historic Corbin House, with the other musician/actors in attendance so they’d know what to expect when their turn came.

All five tapes follow the same basic script. Early in each video, the student is told to push the pause button and go find a parent to watch the tape along with his or her child. That’s because parents are part of what Farmer calls the “Musical Team” necessary for success.

Besides teaching students how to hold their new instrument and blow their first note, the videos stress cleaning procedures. (In the case of trumpets and trombones, those include step-by-step instructions for washing instruments in a bathtub filled with soapy water.)

The videos started arriving on music store shelves only several months ago, so it’s too early to gauge reaction nationally. But local response has been enthusiastic.

Northwood Junior High School band director Lee Shook describes the tapes as “awesome.”

“The neat thing about them is that they present all the stuff that’s really vital to getting off to a good start, and they present it in a very sequential, methodical way that’s easy for unsupervised kids to follow,” says Shook. “Even second-year students who watched the tape got reinforcement and learned things they hadn’t been taught before.”

Shook said it’s awkward for band directors to devote too much time to the idiosyncrasies of each instrument.

“When you’re teaching in a school setting, with all the different instruments mixed together, you really don’t have an opportunity to go over things like how to clean and maintain a trombone.

“If you had a private teacher, you might get that sort of instruction,” Shook says, “but the tape really fills in the gap. And you can watch it over and over again, until you have it down.”

In fact, Shook admits even he’s learned a few things from tapes - and he’s been teaching 20 years.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

MEMO: The “Getting Started” video series is available at Hoffman Music Co., Amend Music Center and Dutch’s, or by phone at (509) 456-086.

This sidebar appeared with the story:

COMING UP

“Getting Started” videos for beginning band students sell for $19.95 each. Local musicians featured in the new, 30-minute instructional tapes include:

Dave Matern, principal trombonist with the Spokane Symphony and music instructor at Gonzaga University and Whitworth College;

Flutist Kathryn Paulson Hannibal, an free-lance performer, adjudicator and member of the Westwind Quintet;

Saxophonist Robert Spittal, director of bands at Gonzaga University;

Trumpeter Leslie Ann Grove, longtime Spokane musician and music teacher; and

James Schoepflin, recording artist, professor of music at Washington State University and assistant principal clarinetist with the Spokane Symphony.

The “Getting Started” video series is available at Hoffman Music Co., Amend Music Center and Dutch’s, or by phone at (509) 456-086.

This sidebar appeared with the story: COMING UP “Getting Started” videos for beginning band students sell for $19.95 each. Local musicians featured in the new, 30-minute instructional tapes include: Dave Matern, principal trombonist with the Spokane Symphony and music instructor at Gonzaga University and Whitworth College; Flutist Kathryn Paulson Hannibal, an free-lance performer, adjudicator and member of the Westwind Quintet; Saxophonist Robert Spittal, director of bands at Gonzaga University; Trumpeter Leslie Ann Grove, longtime Spokane musician and music teacher; and James Schoepflin, recording artist, professor of music at Washington State University and assistant principal clarinetist with the Spokane Symphony.


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