I subscribe to 131 RSS feeds in my Google Reader, and in the past month have “read” over 2,500 feed entries. I say “read” because I generally skip over articles whose titles don’t interest me. I do, however, make it a point to read all the posts from some feeds I subscribe to, and the fantastic blog that Thomas J. West writes is one of those feeds. I came across an article Tom wrote this afternoon that sums up my feelings on the topic of Technology in Public Education, and wanted to share it. [Read more...]
In all the hubub of my internship, I forgot to announce the very exciting news that #MusEdChat, the weekly Twitter chat for Music Educators, celebrated its’ first birthday on April 1! It has been an incredible year for #MusEdChat, which has grown into a worldwide weekly phenomenon. I wanted to take this opportunity to provide a few updates about the chat: [Read more...]
For some, the next logical step is graduate school. For others, it’s time to start your teaching career. The great thing about getting a teaching position is that, from now on, you can expect and demand to be paid for your services as a music teacher. But, the real challenge is getting hired.
As a professional music educator for the past 12 years, I have changed teaching positions four times. I was in my first job for six years, then have jumped jobs quite a bit the past six for a variety of reasons. This process of applying and interviewing multiple times has given me a pretty good handle on what it takes to get hired in American public school systems. [Read more...]
A couple of weeks ago on April 22-23, I had the privilege to attend the 2010 PMEA State Conference in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. There were so many beneficial sessions for attendees to participate in. This presentation on instrument repair, however, is one that many music educators are not proficient in. Further, future music educators are not necessarily getting educated in this aspect of music education either.
This session, entitled Band Instrument Repairs You Can Do, was given by band director, Robert Woodbridge. His goal for this session was to show educators, especially band directors, how to do simple repairs on an instrument, as well as recommended a few things to watch out for to prevent the need for small repairs.
Mr. Woodbridge began the session by stating that knowing how to do these basic repairs will not only save your department money, but will also prevent taking the instrument out of the student’s hands for an extended period of time. He started by giving a couple of pointers to consider in general when dealing with simple instrument repairs. The first was to always work over a towel, because it will catch small parts that might be lost otherwise. He stated that in order to shine brass, you can apply Windex and wipe it off (like washing a window). This tends to make the brass really shiny. He also suggested to never do repairs in front of students. If the students see their teacher repairing their instrument, they may try it and cause serious damage. Mr. Woodbridge then approached the simple repairs one family at a time, starting with brass.
The main problem with brass instruments is dirt that builds up on them. One of the dirtiest of the brass instruments is trombones. Dirt often builds up in the slide and causes slow response. To avoid this, Mr. Woodbridge suggested to clean the slide regularly. To clean the inside of the slide, he recommended to get cheesecloth and wrap it around a rod. Then work the rod into the slide of the trombone to collect dirt that is built up in it. Then to clean the outside of the slide, he suggested using a small amount of Brasso, and then wiping it off. He also said that some professionals suggest using a bit of pledge on the slide to make it move easily.
Another common problem on brass instruments is a stuck tuning slide. I think most of us have experienced using a school-issued instrument where the slide hasn’t been moved for 20 years. Mr. Woodbridge stated that the method that works most of the time for these slides is penetrating oil. Just apply penetrating oil to the place where the slide should be moving and wait. He was also sure to state that penetrating oil takes a while (we’re talking multiple hours.) On larger slides, if the penetrating oil doesn’t work, Mr. Woodbridge suggested using a roll of electrical tape and a hammer. Simply place the roll of electrical tape in the curve of the slide, and tap the roll of electrical tape until the slide begins to move. Once again, the biggest culprit of stuck slides is dirt on the slides. The easiest (and safest) way to remove dirt from the slides is to use some dish soap and a washcloth. If some corrosion is still left, a Scotch Brite 3M pad works well. It is important to remember that this has the potential to damage the slide and should be used gently. NEVER USE A SCOTCH PAD ON VALVES OR ON A TROMBONE SLIDE! This could cause scratches and damage the overall sound of the instrument.
Stuck valves are also a large problem. If it is just the valve cap, then penetrating oil and a rubber gripper (like the kinds found in grocery stores used to open jar lids) usually do the trick. If the valve itself is stuck in the valve casing, it is a bit more complicated. The example that Mr. Woodbridge showed was a trumpet. He suggested to remove the bottom valve cap of the stuck valve. After you do this, take one of the other valves and push it into the casing of the stuck valve. Gently push until the other valve comes out.
Horn rotors are a completely different story as they involve strings. As any horn player knows, these strings become untied (usually right before a concert.) Mr. Woodbridge suggested having a needle threader and 50 lb fishing line in your repair kit. If a string happens to come loose he recommended just using the other valves as a guide to restring. If you are in an emergency and have no string, you can use 50 lb fishing line as a temporary fix.
Mouthpieces and Water Keys
Stuck mouthpieces also prove to be a problem. Mr. Woodbridge’s advice on this matter was simple; invest in the Bobcat Mouthpiece Puller. This device will attach to any size mouthpiece and gently pull it out without damage to the instrument. If the cork in a water key happens to fall out, air will leak out of the valve and it will be harder for the student to get a good sound out of the instrument. Replacing one of these is fairly simple. Just clean the residue out of the cork holder, apply some Elmer’s Glue, and press the cork back in. Mr. Woodbridge also said to be sure that you adjust the cork and water key so that no air leaks out when it is closed.
Mr. Woodbridge then went on to explain some simple repairs that can be made on woodwind instruments. He began with a warning: Never attempt repairs on piccolos or bassoons. He stated that Bassoons are just too complicated and piccolos have too many tiny parts that are easily lost. Some general problems to check for on woodwinds were then covered. The first was to check all of the screws. They should be tight, but not too tight.
Mr. Woodbridge covered some key things to look for on the flute. He first stated to make sure that springs are in place or sticking out and adjust them accordingly. Bent keys are also a problem. If a key is bent so that it is causing a problem, it is soft enough to be gently bent back into place. Mr. Woodbridge then warned that the head cork (the closed end of the flute) should never come out or be adjusted. Adjusting this can completely throw the flute out of tune.
He then went on to explain quick fixes for clarinets. Pads can cause a major problem with clarinets. To test to see if one of the pads are leaking, Mr. Woodbridge suggested plugging one end of the body shut while blowing in the other. If you hear air escaping, there is a leak in one of the keys. After identifying which key it is, you can do a quick fix by wrapping a small piece of paper around the cork to make the seal more snug.
Mr. Woodbridge briefly touched upon a key problem with saxophones. He stated that the octave key is often the problem here. If the student cannot play in the lower register, then you can gently adjust the octave key with your thumbs until it is in the correct position.
Robert Woodbridge’s pointers and suggestions are quite valuable. Having the ability to make minor repairs on instruments has the potential to save your department a significant amount of money, and keeps an instrument in the student’s hands, instead sending it out to get repaired. It is important to remember though that if something is wrong with the instrument and it isn’t a simple fix, it would be wise to send it out to someone who knows instrument repair.
You can see the complete list of notes on this session (and many others) on the PMEA 2010 Cover it Live feed hosted on Thomas J. West’s website.