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Volume 1 | Issue 1

TODA JOURNAL Publication of the Texas Orchestra Directors Association

February 20, 2017

New Look, Bigger Purpose In this Issue: • Ask Rick, The

Technology Guy

• Why We Matter • Notes From our Members

Welcome to the first edition of our new publication, TODA Journal. Along with our email blasts that keep you up to date with convention news, this newsletter aims to bring a new dimension to your membership in TODA by bringing you pedagogical ideas, inspiration, and reflections from our members. We are starting small, and we are looking forward to growing to meet your needs. If you have ideas, let us know! This is your publication! Lamar Smith, TODA President

• TODA College Scholarship

• The Art of Communication

• Message from the Past President

2016-2017 TODA Board of Directors


Ask Rick, The Technology Guy Dear Rick, The Technology Guy: I’m hoping you can point me in the right direction. My orchestra program is rather “low tech” and I’m concerned that we’re missing out on opportunities to enhance our students’ learning by using some of the new gadgets and tools that are out there. It seems like I hear about something new every day! I’m not very savvy when it comes to technology, although I’m also not afraid to learn. We have a small budget to spend and even less time in the school day to learn something overly complicated. Do you have any suggestions for getting started with technology that will give us a quick boost and early success? Low Tech in Lubbock Dear Low Tech: What a wonderful question! I’m encouraged that you’re not afraid to learn and add something new to your teaching. I think you’ll find that many of the gadgets and tools currently out there can, in fact, positively enhance student learning…if used wisely. I’ll give you two of my favorite technologies, but you have to promise me something, OK? Always, always, always match your technology choices to your content and pedagogy, not the other way around. Promise? OK, great. Now that we’re on the same page philosophically, let’s get to the tech! One area of music technology that will give you lots of bang for the buck is notation software. Generating highly legible custom-made practice exercises for your students could certainly enhance and focus their learning. You’d be surprised how quickly you can create and share good-looking scores with just a short amount of practice. There are many notation programs to choose from, however, I’d recommend that you check out Noteflight ( It’s low-cost, easy to use, and produces beautifully formatted scores without a lot of fuss or bother. I find the bowing and articulation tools especially easy to navigate. Since Noteflight is web-based, you can access it just about anywhere. Warm-ups and practice exercises are just the beginning with notation programs. Once you get comfortable using them, there are plenty of ways to get students involved in composing, arranging, and enjoying theory activities using, but that’s a topic for another discussion. If notation software doesn’t fit your immediate needs (remember our content and pedagogy agreement?) then maybe high quality audio or video recording might be better for you. Allowing your students to hear what they really sound like and see what they really look like can bring their attention to both positive and negative aspects of their musicianship. While recording from a smart phone works in a pinch, you’ll get a much more accurate recording from equipment designed to capture more detail. Recorders from Zoom ( and Tascam ( are reputable. Check out for specific recommendations. Since cost seems to be a concern and your time is precious, I highly recommend that you look for trial versions and demos of anything you might want to try out. Many of the newest web-based tools provide a free or low-cost trail version. Perhaps a nearby colleague has a hand-held recorder they like and would let you borrow it for a week. This way, it you find you don’t like how a certain feature works or the program just doesn’t fit your needs, you aren’t too invested to make a change and try something else.


As much as I’d love to send you a magic “easy button” so that all of your technology integration efforts work perfectly the first time, that simply doesn’t exist. Expect that you’ll have an adjustment period and learning curve with any new technology that you integrate into your teaching practice. Just like I’m sure you worked out a basic four pattern on your own before inflicting it upon an unsuspecting orchestra for the first time, you should plan on experimenting with these tools well in advance of introducing them to students. That being said, last, but not least, always be sure to check out many of the fabulous technology presentations and clinics at the TMEA convention held every February. I hope to see you in one of the future sessions! Best of luck, Rick The Technology Guy Rick Palese is a veteran public school music teacher and college instructor. He is currently pursuing a PhD in Music and Human Learning at The University of Texas at Austin.

Join us at the TODA Convention! July 20 – 22, 2017 Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center San Antonio, TX Pre-register today!

Headliners include:

Joanne Erwin Oberlin College & Conservatory

Gail Barnes University of South Carolina


Why We Matter Lamar Smith, TODA President We are teachers. We do battle every day. We fight every day for what we believe is right. We fight every day to give our students a voice in a noisy society. We fight every day to put something beautiful in an often uncertain world. We don’t always get it right, but we keep trying. We don’t always win, but we keep fighting. It seems like the whole world is in some kind of fight right now. Not in recent memory has there been so much division and angst about the future. For me, the current climate has led to an examination of the importance of my vocation, my place in our culture, and what I can do to contribute to society. As educators, we hold a special place at the center of democracy. Think about it: without school, how do we educate our electorate? With school comes the opportunity to learn and grow and to make meaning out of the world. Sometimes that opportunity is squandered, but we offer it just the same. When you think about it this way, we keep alive the notion of freedom every time we teach and encourage young people to think and work. So why do we have to fight to be valued? We all know someone who has no clue what we do every day. It’s the friend that says, “It must be nice. It must be nice to get the entire summer off, it must be nice to finish working before 4:00, it must be nice to just play with kids all day, etc.” You know the one. There are many people out there who think this way, and they often blame us for the ills of society. So, we fight. We fight to be heard and understood so we can continue to do the most important work in the world. Yes, seriously. The most important work in the world. What about surgeons? Rocket scientists? Software engineers? Inventors? Jurists? Don’t they do important work? Last I checked, they all went to school, and a lot of it. Brilliant minds do not exist in a vacuum. They need cultivation, encouragement, and redirection, all jobs that teachers do willingly and passionately. As music teachers, we might be tempted to sell ourselves short because we don’t teach calculus or physics or anatomy. True, we do reinforce some concepts found in those disciplines in our teaching of music, but we can honestly say that we don’t spend time in our classrooms doing geometric proofs and scientific experiments. We certainly don’t have to prove our worth by explaining how music “makes you smarter” because it connects to other (tested) subjects. I’m sure that it does, and those connections are really cool, and a lot of our students do really well on the SAT, but that’s not why we matter. The tension and insecurity surrounding the immediate future of public education in the United States is palpable. One need not fall on one side of the political spectrum or the other to understand that many of our leaders and representatives appear to have questionable regard for the value of public


education. Many teachers are scared of losing employment, and many others fear a decline in the support of education will contribute to larger societal problems. Truth be told, we don’t know what the future brings, so we have to be ready to fight. We will have to fight in new ways that aim to place music education as essential, not as an accessory, to the “core” subjects. So, TODA member, why do you matter? Why does your orchestra program exist? Music education philosophers (yes, they are real) have a host of answers to that question. Some say that music must be taught so we can continue to use it in the functions and rituals of life (like playing Pomp and Circumstance a zillion times at graduation). Others say that understanding and taking part in music helps us to make meaning of what we encounter in life, from the mundane to the extraordinary. Still others say that, because music is present in all cultures, it is one of the few ways that people can actually become more connected and more human. There is no correct answer, but it is important for you to have an answer. You are at the heart of your orchestra program. The kids come, grow, and move on, but you are the constant. You are the standard-bearer for your beliefs in music education. What matters most to you? What fuels your fight? To be an advocate, several things are crucial. First, you must have a strong philosophy that informs why you choose to teach music and why it is important. If you’ve never thought about it, now is the time—and write it down! Second, tell your story, and have others tell their stories too. It is one thing for us to say why we think our jobs are important, but what do your students have to say about it? Written and video testimonials given by our students speak volumes about the value of our work, and they often end up being priceless mementos. The stories of parents and other stakeholders in the community might carry the most power of all. A show of support from those who pay taxes to fund your school can speak directly to those in power, especially at the local level, where those difficult decisions are made with limited resources. Third, be a shameless self-promotor of your program! Nobody will ever know what you have to offer if you keep it a secret. (Remember, your successes go far beyond UIL ratings and the fact that you have an annual trip to a water park.) Finally, be proud enough of what you do to value it for its own sake. Playing an instrument alone and in a group is unique and wonderful, and it doesn’t have to be legitimized with correlations to test scores or connections to “being smart” in other subjects. TODA is a special organization, and one of its intrinsic benefits comes in the cohesion of its members. Help each other, lift each other up, and be good examples of everything that is right and decent in education. Lend a hand in someone else’s fight. Together, we will do battle to bring light to the world by making music with our students. What could be more important than challenging and encouraging young minds to think and grow? What could be treasured more than furthering the ideals of liberty by giving our students the opportunity to do something that connects us as human beings, that forces us to consider the thoughts of another person? Who could deny the sense of joy and accomplishment felt by a young person making good music? This is our work. This is why we matter.


Hear from TODA Members!

Less Stress Equals Greater Success Let’s face it! When you’re at that February TMEA convention, you’re a little stressed out.UIL is on the brain and thoughts of how to fix “that one spot” creep into your cluttered mind as you sit through your third concert or session. I have none of those concerns every summer, however, when the TODA convention rolls around. I am in the midst of summer break, which means no All-State, no students and a much more relaxed atmosphere. That summer break always gives my brain a chance to reboot, and when the brain reboots, my creativity starts to flow. The reading sessions, clinics, conversations and network of amazing colleagues, enable me to channel that much needed creativity. Usually I leave the TODA convention with an entire year of repertoire planned out, fresh new ideas to tackle everyday problems, and new and renewed friendships that I can rely on when the going gets tough. to mention that it always feels like a working vacation. You can’t beat that. Mark your calendars for this year’s convention July 20-22, 2017. Clint Capshaw James E. Taylor High School Katy ISD

What Does TODA Mean to Me? Personal connections make the world go around. Teaching would be a very lonely job if I had no friends or colleagues I could reach out to - and not just in times of need (new ideas and approaches to challenges) but also to celebrate the daily moments of joy. For me, the most valuable aspect of TODA is the opportunity to connect with others from around the state who have been in my shoes, or will be in my shoes, or may be in totally different shoes entirely, but they all have great stories that help me in my personal journey. Some might call this networking, but it’s so much more than that. The friendships that I have developed at TODA are some of my most cherished. TODA members already have something so unique in common that it is easy to strike up a conversation with someone in a reading session or in the exhibit hall, and walk away with a new ally, a resource, or a new friend. Nicole Brown Cockrill MS McKinney ISD


Helping Our Profession Grow: TODA Scholarship Fund Christina Bires TODA Vice President/Treasurer Who needs money? Our college bound music majors! As college tuition and living expenses rise for all colleges and universities, we need to do whatever we can to help our students with rising costs. A scholarship, however big or small, can help with books, parking permits, music, strings, and the list goes on and on! We can make a difference in a young music major’s life. DONATE to the Texas Orchestra Directors Memorial Scholarship Fund. You can help make the freshman year a little easier by offsetting a few expenses for a future TEXAS ORCHESTRA DIRECTOR! I am a proud parent of a past scholarship winner and the scholarship funds definitely helped lessen the burden of some costs associated with a first-year college student. My son and I were so happy to have a little more financial support. It truly makes a difference in a family’s life. Send in your donation now and use it for a tax writeoff on this year’s taxes. The more we donate, the more students and families we can help! These scholarships ARE helping our future TODA members. Pay it forward for our future!

Scholarship Application Deadline: April 1st

Appreciation for Financial Support… I could not be more grateful for my TODA scholarship! It has already helped enormously in paying for college. Textbooks are EXTREMELY, and the TODA scholarship paid all of my books this semester and left me enough to buy books for at least one more semester. College is, in and of itself, expensive, and scholarships make it feasible for people like me to pursue my passion in music. Without financial aid, it would not have been possible for me to attend Baylor University for my music education, and I am extremely appreciative there are organizations like TODA that make it possible for students like me to go to college without worrying about how I am going to pay for things like textbooks and other supplies. I would recommend that anyone going into music education apply for the TODA scholarship because you can win it and it will help make college feasible. I am grateful for all that TODA does! Trey Thompson, Baylor University 2016 Scholarship Recipient

WAYS TO DONATE TO THE SCHOLARSHIP FUND: Online: Go to, and click on “Giving Opportunities” Mail: Mail checks to TODA, 7900 Centre Park Dr. Suite A, Austin, TX 78754. Include “TODA Scholarship” in memo line During Membership Purchase: Now, when you join TODA, you have the option of making a donation to the scholarship fund as part of your dues. Every dollar helps! Silent Auction: At the TODA BBQ, bid on items at the silent auction. All proceeds benefit the scholarship fund!


The Art of Communication Danielle Prontka, TODA Member-at-Large People who know me know that I enjoy a good conversation. My amazing daytime partner-in-crime constantly tells me that I am too talkative in our tiny office. However, I think a great conversation is everything, so much so that sometimes I even enjoy a conversation with myself (as if you don’t talk in the car or mirror to yourself!). Growing up, I was taught that the most important part of conversation is listening to the other person and looking directly into their eyes. My mom always let me know that I needed to not only ask the right questions, but give a complete answer to questions I am asked. Being told this throughout my life, I am always shocked when I have students who not only will give no more than a nod or a oneword answer to a conversation, but also rarely look up from the cracks or fuzz on the floor. How can we expect students to communicate with us as the conductor, with each other, or with the audience if they cannot give more than a one-word answer when asked a question? An ensemble can have great intonation and rhythm but the audience can feel no passion or emotion from a performance where there is no conversation within the ensemble or between the ensemble and the audience. Of course, the ultimate goal of the ensemble is to make the audience feel something during a performance. How do we as the leader of our ensembles achieve this? How do we engage our students and create communication throughout the group? The communication of an orchestra must begin with the conductor. The book Teaching Music with Passion: Conducting, Rehearsing, and Inspiring by Peter Boonshaft is a great read for any conductor. The book includes techniques, anecdotes, and tools along with great ideas on the role of a conductor and how to lead your program. To be able to communicate with our ensembles, we must first have a complete understanding of the score before rehearsals. Teachers must write out a plan for rehearsals whether it be a list of measures to work on or a timeline for the music. Conductors must look up out of their stands so that they can give their ensemble the benefit of expression. As conductors, we need to make sure that any insecurity or shyness is overcome so our students feel they can watch us throughout rehearsals and performances. My best orchestral experiences are those where the conductor is engaging while we are performing. There is eye contact, facial expressions, and a conversation between the person on the podium and those playing the music. A great practice is to try staring into someone’s eyes for five seconds. Does it seem awkward? Unnerving? If this is difficult, first try staring at yourself in the mirror. I like to not only stare at myself, but also make faces at myself: Smiles, laughs, anger, frustration, sadness. I know what each of my faces look like, and so I also can see what my students are going to look at during a rehearsal. Plus, I am able to see just how adorable I am! This has helped me over the years to make sure that I am not showing too much anger, or to make sure that when I am showing frustration I know to follow that up with a calm look that will keep my students engaged. During concerts, I make it a point to lock eyes with my students. They are so nervous on the day of the concert that I know that I need to calm them. My smiling eyes during the concert helps calm them. Conversely, when you are able to look at someone, if they are in the middle of the concert and making a few mistakes, locking eyes can often help to get your students back on track. Before any student can begin communicating in our orchestras, they must feel comfortable and safe. This can be accomplished in many ways. In my orchestra, we begin by finding out little details about our students. During the first week of school, we ask them to share their favorite food along with their names.


We then offer a prize to the first student who can recite all of the students’ names. This year, I was impressed by one of my students who not only told the name of each student, but also named their favorite food. He now refers to students during class by both their first name and the food. It is always fun to hear “Suzy Pasta” during class time. I am a firm believer that one of my jobs is to make sure that students are able to smile or laugh at least once during my class, even during the most stressful time of the year. Whether I tell a joke at the start of class or make it a point to put in a quirky comment I know will get a smile, I make sure that they get to feel joy during orchestra. I know they have enough stress, anxiety and overwhelming moments during their normal school day. My next goal is to get my students moving. One of my friends told me how he is always trying new ways to get his ensemble to move. He even has them warm up with stretches before he begins his rehearsals. These stretches help his orchestras relax and lets them feel they have full motion of their bodies. When watching a sectional coach work with my violinists one day, I learned a great movement exercise for my upper strings. I have them play whole notes while moving from a sitting position to a standing position. They must keep their instrument in the correct position but also engage their bodies from the waist down to their feet. Another exercise I use is, while my students play half notes, they move with the direction of the bow stroke so they get used to the feeling of movement. When the entire group is doing the same thing, they begin to feel more comfortable in the idea of movement, thus allowing them to open up communication with each other. One of my favorite activities is to have the entire orchestra give a preparatory beat together. We start with the first note of a piece. I demonstrate what I want for a preparatory beat, and then we do this together. Not only do we practice motion, but we also practice breathing. We build on this by allowing students to volunteer being in charge, while still having all students give the preparatory beat together. In my orchestras, I have the students write into their music each entrance on which they can cue or breathe. There is nothing more powerful at teaching students to communicate than through chamber music, and there are many tools to show the importance of communication. In Houston we have several ensembles that will volunteer to show the students how they rehearse. Axiom Quartet and members of the Houston Symphony are two of these groups. Look into groups in your area to see if they would be willing to perform for your orchestras. There are also several videos which are wonderful for showing your students how professional ensembles rehearse. One of these is A Far Cry. They have a video in which they are rehearsing Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings. They show not only ways they rehearse in their ensemble, but explain the reasons behind why they are rehearsing sections of their music. The practices of chamber music, cueing, moving, and breathing can help the orchestra start conversing with each other. I like to have my students write in their music the questions and answers within the phrases. Many times after we play a phrase, the students are asked to identify who is playing the melodic line. We work on watching those playing the melodic line, and allow those who have the melody to direct the music. Having students use their own emotions when they are having challenges playing certain passages is a great way to expand their ability to communicate, not only with each other but as a way to emote with the audience. Communication is how we take music from notes on the page to a feeling or emotion for the performer and the listener. As the conductor it is not just our job to know how to communicate with our ensemble, but it is also our job to teach students how to converse in different ways. Conversation through music, listening, movement, and cueing can make a perfect moment for the performer and the audience.


From the Past President Sandra Vandertulip, TODA Past President It has been my privilege to serve the Texas Orchestra Directors Association for the past four and half years. I have grown as a director, a teacher and a person, and I’ve learned so much about the mechanics of TODA as well as the rich history of this great organization. In addition, I have learned about all the wonderful people who make our organization run and the volunteers behind the scenes that really make our convention happen. To all of you who work for and volunteer for this great organization, thank you so much! You make our convention literally the envy of every state and every country! As our organization moves forward into the 21st century, we must move and change with new innovations and ideas. For some of us, change is difficult (gee whiz, I remember when the TODA Barbecue was at Pearl Brewery)! But change is also healthy and stimulating, challenging our methods and ideas! We can hold dear to all our sweet memories of “how we used to do it” and still move forward with inventive news ways to serve our great membership and the students that we teach. How can you as a member of TODA make the next convention more enjoyable and meaningful? Submit to present a clinic! Volunteer to preside over a session! Offer to help with registration; you get to know lots of members – how fun! Serve on the Hospitality Committee! Play in the reading sessions! Visit with the vendors! Help with the music sorting committee! The list goes on and on! Your contributions make our convention awesome! Last but certainly not least, please consider running for the TODA Board. Every member of the board serves every position moving from Member-at-Large to Secretary followed by Vice President/Treasurer and to President and immediate Past President. You are always in training for the next position so that you learn along the way. Board members also have the support of the entire Board throughout tenure and the great support of Sharon Lutz, our wonderful Executive Director, and Hallie Boone, our Membership Services Coordinator. Many of you are excellent candidates with the expertise to move this organization forward, so please consider this my personal invitation to run for the TODA Board! Have a wonderful spring semester!

Renew your TODA Membership! You must be a current 2017 TODA Member before you can pre-register for the convention! (pre-registration ends on July 1st)

Interested in participating in the 2017 Composition Contest? Submit your original unpublished composition suitable for a STRING ORCHESTRA by April 1st. More information on the website!

TODA Journal Feb 2017  
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