MPA Ensemble Stipulations

Buckhorn Band Students and Parents:

The following is a new development this year and is important to understand as our program continues to increase not only in size, but in levels of expectations and standards of achievement- to provide each student with fair involvement in our activities, and in order to best motivate and scaffold each student for his/her individual instrumental growth needs: Students must be able to demonstrate an adequate and appropriately corresponding level of proficiency in order to perform with the band at the Alabama Bandmasters Association District I Music Performance Assessment (MPA) in March. While this “adequate and appropriate proficiency” is ultimately the director’s discretion (based on what I know of each student’s circumstances – instrumental proficiency level, behavior, attitude, history, etc.), it will also be based on generally-accepted standards of what each level band student should have achieved by his/her grade level. (A senior – 6+ years of study – generally ought to “perform” (have a deeper understanding technically and musically) at a significantly higher level than a freshman – 3+ years of study.) In other words, assuming a student has participated in 3 years of preparatory instrumental music training (6th, 7th, & 8th grade) – 9th graders (Level 1) through 12th graders (Level 4) will be expected to demonstrate a proficiency corresponding to their experience in band (in consideration of our middle school standards as a starting point, which have been and are evolving) as well as fair and equitable standards of personal accountability.

It is not fair for a student to receive an A simply for being present, much less to receive the opportunity to perform in extracurricular activities like Indoor Percussion or Jazz Band or Wind Ensemble, and go to MPA (or other extracurricular competitions/performances) without being an equally contributing member of the team, in our class rehearsals every day, and in personal practice, as needed. I want our students to enjoy their time in band- while having fun is a goal in our studies, it can’t be at the expense of our ultimate priority – music education – or to the character education that is paramount in my educational philosophy. The final consideration I must make for the ensemble we take to MPA is based on sheer size of the ensemble. We simply cannot fit everyone on most auditorium stages. The number of students in each section will depend upon student proficiency and ensemble size and instrumentation. Any students not performing at MPA will participate equally in day-to-day class and after school rehearsals. As MPA approaches, perhaps 1 to 2 weeks prior to our scheduled performance, students not performing at MPA will be excused from after school rehearsal.

Finally – you may be wondering why not just have two separate bands. For personal reasons as well as our band class schedule (one class with ALL students and one director), I have decided not to create two separate ensembles for which I would need to prepare two separate curricula of study and create two separate schedules for each band, ultimately taking already limited time away from each group. We did this a couple of years ago when our rehearsals were longer and it worked with that particular group. However, while I’ve tried different things over the past few years, I’ve decided that we are ultimately more effective as one ensemble – until I can work with the school to create two different band classes without creating other master schedule issues within school course offerings. *Any student who so desires to “challenge chairs” in to the MPA performing ensemble may do so on a case-by-case basis up until three weeks before MPA. After that time, no changes to the ensemble will be made. This ensures all students have a fair opportunity to earn a placement in our MPA ensemble.


Our students are very familiar with the issue of talking during class/rehearsals. As a teacher and conductor, I have extended a great deal of patience, understanding for the size of our class, and have taken the time to teach the importance of quiet focus while considering teenage attention spans. Yet, the talking and disruptive behavior has become a disease in many of our rehearsals. It affects the whole system and like the aforementioned changes, we must improve the situation for the sake of those who are tired of the few who don’t contribute fairly or who blatantly disrespect class time and hold us back. Therefore, students who are disruptive during class, after an initial warning, will be removed and will not be permitted to return until a parent signature on a disciplinary form is returned. They will receive a zero for their daily participation grade each day the form is not returned. (They will sit in ISS or Dennis’ office with no digital technology access and copy from a music education text book or honor codes.) Additionally, a student who is removed from class for being disruptive will forfeit their chair placement. If the student continues to exhibit the inability to control him/herself, they will be conditionally removed, and will copy from a music education text book every day until they can convince me they are deserving of participation in band rehearsal. To ensure the student is ready to be an active participant in our group, a parent-teacher-student conference may be necessary. As an educator, my priority is the fair and equitable education of each of my students. This can only be accomplished if each student abides by what I believe are very fair expectations. You may recall that these expectations are listed on page 3 of the handbook/syllabus which all students and parents have signed (if you were in marching band) or will need to sign and turn in with the other forms, for concert band. I will go over this letter and those expectations with our students in class. Parents, thank you for your help and support in raising our students to be positive and contributing members of society – and good musicians, too!

(As a side note: Like last year, I will let students decide if they want to have a “Wind Ensemble” after MPA. For those new to this, a Wind Ensemble typically consists of 1-2 students per part. E.g. 3-4 flutes, 4-6 clarinets/trumpets, 2-3 altos, 1 tenor/bari/oboe, typically all horns, 2-3 trombones, 2 baritones, 2 tubas, 6-8 percussion…)

Jacob Souder
Director of Bands
Buckhorn High School