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Honor Groups 2024-Nothing Succeeds Like Success

The results are in for Honor Groups 2024, and let me tell you, nothing succeeds like success. It's time for a shout out to three hard working young musicians who have put in the time and effort over the last year and who achieved their goals of making it into these various Honor Groups. What fun they will have participating in them during this 2023-2024 school year!!

It's always gratifiying as an instructor to watch over your pupils and see them grow and prosper. Honor Groups are indeed an honor to participate in. They are challenging musically, build friendships for a lifetime and help a student gain some insight into a musical world beyond their own school music programs. I know from first hand experience how much fun these groups are and I did have my share of successes with these groups. I was an All County saxophonist all 4 years of high school, All State and All NorCal my last two years in high school, and was part of the County Honors Jazz Ensemble my last two years of high school. It was through participating in these extra curricular groups that I began to understand how to function in an ensemble, and it was inspiring to play in these fabulous groups with so many talented young musicians, many of whom have gone on to well deserved success in the professional ranks. Although I am changing their names to protect their identity, please help me to congratulate these youngsters on their fine accomplishment.

James, a 7th grade clarinetist at a middle school in Cupertino, began studying with me about a year ago. I had not met him in person until earlier this year when I took over at his school as their Clarinet Coach; he had been studying exclusively with me virtually over Skype for about a year. I do get some push back from parents at times regarding online lessons, and I'm here to tell you parents, get over your preconceived notions about online lessons. A great online teacher, who's dedicated and sincere, with multiple decades of experience, is far better than a rookie part time instructor teaching as a side hustle. There is a lot of bad instruction out there. Don't be fooled. Ok, I said that, I'm done with that soap box speech. At least for now.

James was rather inexperienced when I began teaching him, but I fed him a steady diet of scales, etudes and encouragement. He showed an honest interest and obviously made time to practice his weekly assignments. It wasn't long before we had transformed his playing tremendously, and it became obvious that he was advancing at a rapid rate. We spent a couple of lessons on the All State music, and then I recorded him myself at his home in an hour using Logic on my laptop. This was the first time I'd met him in person, and he did a great job that day. I think it was a very good decision for me to coach him through the recording process. Using my decades of experience I am able to pull the best perfomances out of my students, and he responded exactly as I'd hoped. I was reasonably confident that he would be accepted, but you never know with these recorded auditions. I've had students send in great recordings only to be rejected, and I had a student once on bass clarinet who left off the final excerpt of the audition recording and was accepted. As they say, you pay your money and you take your chances, literally!

So let's say it here now... Congrats James on a job well done. Enjoy your time with that fine California All State Middle School Honor Band. Well deserved recognition for a fine young musician. Bravo.

Bobby, a high school freshman alto saxophonist, has been studying with me for a little more than a year now. He's talented and smart, and he loves to play things fast. At times a bit too fast! Gradually I began to work with him in his lessons on slowing things down, getting rhythms and articulations corrected and accurate. It didn't take long before his playing started to show a new level of skill and maturity, and he's continued to develop rapidly on a weekly basis. He's another that has shown that talent and hard work are the requisite skills, and I suspect he has a little of that competitive killer instinct. He did express an interest in auditioning for All State at the High School level, however I felt that might be a bridge too far at this point and suggested we focus on All County first. I do believe that there is a typical natural progression and that this is the first step. I just received word that he made it into the Santa Clara All County Honor Band, which is a huge accomplishment for a freshman. I worked with him the evening before the audition and took him through the material, which he had done a nice job preparing, and I did slow him down a bit in spots. I also coached him how to warm up and prepare for the audition, which was live, in person. Apparently it all worked out just fine, so although he mentioned to me in an email that it didn't go quite as well as he'd hoped, he did find his way into the band. That's typical of the audition process in that it takes experience and preparation to really know what to expect and play your best. I am thrilled for him that he made it this far and will be getting more valuable experience with this new opportunity. I fully expect a California All State selection is in his future in the next few years.

So let's say it again, Go Bobby....Congrats on a job well done and enjoy this amazing experience. I know it's the first of many for you, young man.

Terence, a high school sophmore clarinetist whom I've been teaching for several months now online via Skype, was obviously a talent upon my first meeting with him. He had past experience stydying with other instructors, and he already played well above his grade level. I would call him a beginning advanced level student at this point, ready for the more difficult and challenging things I have for students of his calibre. He clearly wanted to find his way into the All State Honors Groups, and he learns things really fast. Smart kid, no doubt in my mind. I would find out rather quickly just how smart he is! He began preparing the audition piece, the Pouenc Sonata, and it came together pretty quickly. Note, I really don't like this piece and find it a really poor choice for this audition, but I digress.....I mean the kid has got this thing really worked up and it's sounding great, the only issue is how are we going to record it? I offered to drop by with my laptop/Logic rig, but was declined. So one day we're in the middle of his lesson and the light bulb goes off in my head, this kid is super smart, I should teach him how to do record this thing in Garage Band. It took all of about 20 minutes to get him going on some basic recording concepts with Garage Band, and over the course of the next several weeks he made various demo recordings for me to critique, and he then put together a dyamite recording of the various elements to submit to CBDA. That shows some serious smarts, but musically and intellectually. Now he's off to play in the #2 Honor Group, the Symphonic Band. Again this is a tremendous accomplishment for a high school sophmore, and I am very proud to have helped him to achieve this goal.

So let's say it here, loud and proud....Nice work, Terence, go get 'em. Congrats on a job well done.

Who is Squidward, by the way? I think this is one very hilarious pic. Remember not to take yourself too seriously!!!

Admittedly I am a bit testy with some parents telling me that they "prefer" in person lessons to the work I do online with my students. These are generally parents with little to no musical experience, who don't seem to understand that 1. the workplace has changed for workers worldwide as a result of the pandemic and 2. that there are some very real advantages to online learning. Scheduling is the first obvious thing that is a whole lot easier. That is a given and is not something that should be taken lightly. Also, lesson time is expanded, by which I mean this: Usually in the teaching studio the student takes 2 to 3 minutes to set up and take apart their instrument. If they are really slow this can take longer. If they are late then more time is lost. It's often the case that a student loses up to ten minutes of lesson time PER LESSON because of their own negligence or lack of promptness. Now multiply that over 4 lessons a month, and 40 minutes can be LOST!!! Talk about inefficient. With online lessons I ring in at the appointed time and if the student is ready to go we begin at exactly that appointed time. I teach right up until a minute before the lesson ends, at which time I make notes of their next assignment and conclude by asking if there are any questions. Throughout the lessons I have full access to my library of materials on my computer and am able to forward anything that I feel is relevant to our lesson via email, and it arrives in literally seconds. You can't beat this methodology and again, speed and efficiency are the points to understand here.

Additionally long Covid is a real concern, and I'm fully capable of doing a terrific job with literally any student online, as the above successes demonstrate. I'll say it again here, a great experienced, dedicated instructor online is far better than some rookie part timer teaching as a side hustle in person. At the very least, when searching for an instructor, give that instructor the benefit of the doubt regarding his/her expertise and TRY ONE ONLINE lesson, if for no other reason than to have a basis for comparison with anyone else you might try. It seems pretty literally have nothing to lose by doing this. Above all don't presume you know more about how to work with a student than the teacher. You wouldn't do that with your students school teachers or college professors I don't believe....

And to hammer home one more point, here is a program from over 20 years ago, the 2002 Central Coast Section County (CA) Honor Band, that features a whole lot of my students, 17 to be exact, from that year. Red dots mark my participating students. Need I say it again? Nothing succeeds like success. I estimate I've coached 200 plus students to Honor Groups over the past 35 years.

I hope you all have a great Holiday Season and best of luck with all your musical pursuits in 2024 and beyond.

As always, thanks for stopping by my blog...Markos

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