July 28: Band 2020-21 Announcement

Mr. Morgan’s email from July 28:

Hello everyone,

Again, FCPS hasn’t moved us into the next school year in Charms yet, so if you are getting this email but are not taking band next year please excuse this note and feel free to delete it.  I am hopeful this is the last email I will send before this gets updated.

I have a few updates, but still a lot of unanswered questions.  Please understand the unique difficulties FCPS faces in not only opening schools, but dealing with all of the particular programs, such as band, that go along with them.  

First, I’d like to welcome Mr. Noah Freeman to the faculty here at Woodson as our new Assistant Band Director.  He will be primary teacher for Symphonic Band this school year.  He joins us previously from Poe MS and Bailey’s ES.  He is a alum of Indiana University and also an alum of Woodson!  

Now onto Marching Band…. in case you haven’t been following VHSL, they voted recently to move all school sponsored Fall Sports to begin in February.  This includes Football.  As we are starting the school year in distance learning and there are no fall sports, it does not make sense to try to push forward with a marching band season this fall.  That includes band camp which was orginally slated to begin on Aug 4.  This presents many unique challenges for a lot of reasons.  Marching band is unquestionably the most visible and arguably most important component of this program; not running it for an entire year could prove catostrophic for the band program.  To add to that, marching band is a co-curricular activity which means it comprises a portion of grades for the year, and it s a requirement for the advanced band course – this makes it difficult to simply eliminate from the curriculum.  We have gotten no official word about the status of marching band from the central music office or from Woodson in terms of the whole year.  While this may mean FCPS will provide meaningful alternatives once restrictions are lowered and we return to school, I have no idea if they will or what that may look like.  The only thing I can offer for sure is that there will not be a band camp this summer, or a traditional marching band season this fall.  We will do what we can, when we can, once we are able to.

Now onto band class…. As I mentioned previously, band class will run this school year.  Beginning the year in distance learning will obviously change how we run the program.  Students, band class will operate with significant differences to this spring.  Instead of one large project, there will be several smaller projects.  The music office is also constructing materials to supplement our curriculums, but I have yet to see those materials.  Given that this annoucement just happened last week, we are still considering what materials and methods will be best suited to the unique challenge of band through distance learning.  The biggest change will certainly be a shift away from performance based instruction.  Without upcoming concerts, it means that instead of prepping material for performances, the course will become much more focused on providing relevant feedback and material to improve individual playing and understanding.  While this may sound easy enough, maintaining student interest and engagement will be a challenge as we all shift gears here.  

Some changes I am making to better serve student instruction will be to move ALL percussion into a percussion class.  My current plan is to heavily supplement instruction with guest lectures and material to promote the development of skills and interest.  Another not as important change will be that we must move Symphonic Band to 7th period (or maybe 8th?) based on Mr. Freeman’s schedule.  This shouldn’t impact too much, but as conflicts arise we will do our best to make things work.  

Once school returns ‘in-person’ we plan on offering workshops for guard and marching percussion.  Depending on the time of year, we may even explore competition and performance opportunities.  Jazz Band, small ensemble music, and other opportunities will be assembled for students based on interest.  I can’t say exactly how and when that will work but once we are given a way we will do it!

Students, I miss you all terribly.  It seems like a lifetime ago that we were having rehearsals and preparing for assessment.  I can honestly say that I never thought this was something that might happen when I became a teacher, but it’s happening.  I think it’s important to remember that band and things like it are what define a student’s experience.  While all subjects are important and relevant, arts courses offer something important and unique.  I can understand the urge to remove yourself from band for a year – but consider what positive things music and it’s experience in school band programs can offer.  These restrictions will not last all year.  I so look forward to making music with you all as soon as we can.