I wanted to cover a few long awaited updates that I have completed, and that my web master has finally linked up, to the "Rhythm Masters" web site at www.rhythmmasters.org. The most exciting is the Fennell CD’s, which I have also referred to as the “Madison Tapes”. In the summer of 1975, I was selected to be one of 16 college educators that participated in Dr. Fennells’ first ever conducting symposium, which was held at the University of Wisconsin. To make a long story short, I taped the private session between Dr. Fennell and the 16 conductors (at the begging and pleading of my room mate) which occurred each evening after our group dinner, from about 6:30 to 8:30pm. I had forgotten about the tapes for some time and, in a motivational surge of garage cleaning last summer, stumbled into the tapes once again. They were very old, and several had to be taken apart and re-spooled, but I did save them all long enough to make a set of master CD’s. Contained in the “Madison Tapes” are over 700 minutes of Dr. Fennell’s view of such topics as: the history of wind band, its relevance in the overall field of music, present great wind band composers and new “up and comers” to keep your eye on, the history and in depth analysis of the concert march (both international and American), personal insights into his own musical background as a young cymbal player in Cleveland Ohio, and most interestingly, where Dr. Fennells felt the wind band movement would be 25 to 30 years from that time. THAT’S RIGHT NOW!!!!!!!
I would not do anything with these tapes unless I directly got Dr. Fennell’s permission. It took me a while, but when I finally got a hold of him by phone, he was so gracious. He only met me once, thirty years ago, but it felt like we were long time friends reminiscing about old times. When I asked him if I could share the tapes with my colleagues, he did not hesitate, and gave me permission to share them with whoever might be interested. The only thing Dr. Fennell requested of me, is that I send him his own set of CD’s, which I did right away. He confessed he was rather interested in what his own predictions were back at that time.
So, that’s where I am right now. I’m not very knowledgeable about CD technology, and admit the files are large. There are no tracks utilized, each side of a cassette tape was copied as is. If there is a college director, or school with the appropriate facilities, that may wish to take on the project of re-organizing the CDs’, let me know. I’ll try to burn a set of masters and send them out to you. If your typing a paper, doing grades, or just want to listen to something other than the usual music, talk or sports, you might want to check it out. If you have any suggestions, or just like what you hear, let me know. Once again, you can access the CD’s on the “Rhythm Masters” web site under “Fennell’s Recordings.”
Other new additions to the “RM” site include:
1.) New Sight Reading Etudes for Full Ensemble: Larry McLure did a fantastic job with his All-State Sight Reading book series, but, for years, I tried to get him to adapt his books so the solos numerically matched for all instruments and his books could be used for full ensemble curriculum, as well as individual study. After constant pestering, he told me that he was not interested, but if I wished to take on the project, have at it. I do not want to compete directly with Larry’s materials, so my series is not designed to gradually take students through increasing difficult levels of rhythm reading. I present my own approach and rhythm curriculum in the “Rhythm Masters” book series. Right now the full ensemble “Sight Reading Etudes” use the South Carolina guide lines for region and all-state honor band audition materials. I would love to have band directors from other states to look these over, and give me their feed back in regards to additional areas or requirements that are incorporated in their states. Using this information, I can then expand the series this summer (which will eventually be a section in “Rhythm Masters” book IV) making it a more comprehensive instructional aide for a larger base of music educators. One other interesting component in this series, is it can be used with beginning band students, only weeks after they start their instrumental experience. It certainly cannot hurt to establish a set procedure for reading new material and establishing good habits early on. The sooner we can get students to confidently ”take on” the unknown, the better chance we have of eliminating the “fear factor” that almost inevitably occurs later on. Similar concepts are used in my “No Fear” rhythm clinic, which is becoming more and more popular as I gain experience.
2.) “Check Patterns” of common rhythms, or what I call the “Wind Percussionist.”
This is my first draft, of what I hope to submit to “Bandworld” magazine as a future article. It is designed as an instructional warm up that will evolve your wind students rhythmic reading skills at the same pace of your percussion section. It can be incorporated into your band program very early on, or can be used as quick review materials at the later stages. Other features include; both extensive use of “multi-level tasking” concepts, and each exercise takes only one to two minutes to perform. On the web site you’ll be able to find more information. Your feed back and suggestions would greatly be appreciated as I edit the exercises and “tweak” the text before I submit it as a potential article.
3.) “Scale Torture” and later “Tetra Torture”. This is still a work in progress and the initial links are not quite up yet. The emphasis here is on reading keys, but it is also excellent for teaching scales. It helps a director focus directly on the particular step(s) of any given scale or key giving his or her students trouble. It is designed for the middle school musician, concentrating on the first seven scales, and only using one octave per key. However, its teaching effectiveness is the best out there, at least until your students learn to lock in on those “funky little symbols” to the right of the clef. Many directors already use this material in some form or fashion, I just wrote it down and added a few other little “tid-bits.”
As always, all materials on the “Rhythm Masters” web site are in “PDF” format, so anything you see, print it out (free of charge) and “give it a spin.” Any comments and suggestions are always welcome, and let’s all have a fantastic 2004.
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