Welcome to the MHPS Band Program. The program was established in 1994, in response to parents and teachers who saw a need to have an outlet for musical expression for our children. It’s an excellent opportunity for learning an instrument and, with consistent application, children progress quickly and have fun. The twice-weekly band practices, band workshops, band camp, festivals, assembly performances and special days all contribute to the pleasure of being part of the band ‘team’.
Students do not need any previous musical experience at all for training band. The majority will never have played their chosen instrument prior to the year they joined the Band.
In term 4 of each year the forming of the next year’s training band take place.
The current year’s training band all automatically progresses through to the senior band for the following year.
A check-in session occurs at the beginning of each year offering each child positive individual attention regarding their band and musical journey. Together with the check in sessions and feedback from the conductors throughout the year, the senior and concert band are also formed. See more about the check-in sessions below.
It is expected that if a child has started from year 3 in the band programme and has kept up their practice and attendance, the likely progression through the band programme is for students to complete the following (dependant on the right instrument/band balance):
- 1 year in Training Band
- 2 years in Senior Band
- 1 year in Concert Band
The process to form the bands is as follows
Matching a Child With an Instrument
Over the years a lot of trial and error and research has gone into how to match a child with an instrument in the best possible way to make it a positive and lasting exercise. The band formation process steps listed above require a huge level of coordination for the school, the committee and the director of bands and is all an effort to try and match the right instrument with each child. It’s often the start of a long journey with music and you want it to start out on the right note so to speak. While all music ability can be learned given time, it’s no good if the child/parent blindly chooses an instrument only to find that at their first few lessons they really can’t make a noise out of it (arms/fingers not long enough yet, mouth shape not suited to that instrument etc) then loses enthusiasm and it becomes a struggle – no fun.
We want all kids to click with their instrument and that’s why so much effort is put into this process. The factors considered when matching an instrument to a child are firstly their own preference – what excites them. It is also recognised that most of us haven’t really had any exposure to the wide range of instruments available and this initial preference can be limiting, so we dig further. The following factors are also considered to make a good match – (a) experience in playing any instrument (none required but taken into consideration if it’s already there), (b) ear test (a musical aptitude guide showing a leaning towards rhythmic or pitched instruments), (c) the student’s physical features (mouth/teeth size and shape, hand/finger size), (d) ability to make an initial sound from the instrument as well as (e) the overall balance of instruments within the band (balance between woodwind, brass and baseline instruments to enter festivals and balance the sound). The whole point of the exercise is for each child to have the best possible experience of playing music.
The administration of the band is by a volunteer parent committee.
The committee consists of:
- Overall Band coordinators
- Training Band coordinator
- Senior Band coordinator
- Concert Band coordinator
- Band camp organiser
- Workshop organiser
- Other Committee members (as required)
The committee meets on an as needs basis. Parents are often asked to assist in the organising of events.
Band tuition fees
Band fees are payable by direct debit by the beginning of the year. The fees cover the Band Master fees for the twice weekly rehearsals and all events as well as attendance at an intensive workshop and band camp, as well as sheet music, photocopying, workshop and general upkeep of band equipment.
The end of year activities, for example, the Taronga Zoo Twilight Safari and the Lunk Park visit are extra activities and are charged separately at the time of the snooze (partly subsidised by the band).
Children entering the band program make a commitment to the band for the entire year. We encourage parents and children to keep up an open dialogue about their band experiences so we can help where required most queries are easily resolved.
Band fees for the full year are payable up-front. Should a band member decide to discontinue with a band, due to the up-front costs associated with organising the band camp, a pro-rata refund will only be available if the discontinuation is advised by the end of term 1.
Band Practice Folder
A yellow folder is handed out either at the beginning of each year with the child’s name inside. Every time a new piece of music is issued the children will be asked to file this in their folder. To comply with copyright regulations we cannot make multiple, unregistered copies of the music and consequently some of the children may have originals in their folders. The children are responsible for the folder AND the music in the folder. At the end of each year the children will have to return the folders AND the music for it to be refiled for possible later use.
It is mandatory that all band members have private tuition. Without the tuition it is difficult to progress at the same rate as other band members. Tutors should be asked to spend at least 10 minutes of each 30 minute lesson on music pieces from the band. It is important that band members bring their band practice folders to their private music lessons.
It is up to the band member (and parents) to organise and pay for their own private tuition in addition to joining the band. The band committee will provide a list of tutors that will be available at the school.
At all performances the FULL winter uniform or FULL summer uniform are to be worn (season dependant) with hair neat and tidy.
- TRAINING BAND: Monday at 7.45am and Thursdays at 12:45pm
- SENIOR BAND: Tuesday at 12:45pm and Thursday at 7.45am
- CONCERT BAND: Monday at 12:45 and Wednesday at 7:45am
Every practice session MUST be attended by all band members, as they are part of a team. An attendance roster is maintained. If for some reason a band member cannot be present, they should explain to either the Band Master or relevant Band coordinator as soon as possible.
If a band member forgets his or her instrument, attendance is still required at practise. It is a learning opportunity to hear the other band members play.
Set up for and Pack Away after Band Practice.
Band members are expected to assist with setting up equipment and packing away. Set up should be completed before students unpack their own instrument. Members should not leave a practice session until all equipment has been packed away.
Roster Parent’s responsibilities at band practices.
A parent is required to be present at each band practice session. If a rostered parent does not attend the practice session, the Band Master may be obliged to cancel practice. If a parent cannot attend on their rostered day it is THEIR responsibility to find a substitute.
The rostered parent is empowered to manage the band members. They are required to:
- help set up – parents are not expected to set up on their own, this is the responsibility of the band members
- sit in the hall during the entire rehearsal,
- ensure instruments, chairs and music stands are packed away in the correct location, after the session
- ensure the attendance roster is completed at each session and mark absences and lateness.
Required Behaviour of Band Members at band practices
A high standard of self discipline is required of each band member. This includes:
- remembering to bring their instrument
- being at the Practice sessions on time
- assisting with set ups and pack-aways
- developing good listening skills as well as team work
- A high level of respect for the band conductor, fellow band members and the parent helper
- Only playing their instrument when asked
Parents need to actively discuss the need for respect in band with their children. If the Bandmaster becomes concerned about the ongoing behaviour of a band member, he will either speak with the principal or overall band coordinators.
Typical activities throughout the year
- Orientation into the relevant Band
- Band Workshop (Intensive session #1)
- Grandparents’ Day
- Music Camp (Intensive session #2)
- Sydney Band Festival (at University of NSW)
- School Assemblies
- Education Week
- Other events/festivals as invited or requested or successfully auditioned
Details of these events will be advertised in the school newsletter / Skool App and emailed to parents.
Parental assistance is often requested. If you are able to help, please volunteer. It’s great to see the children perform.
At MHPS we hold a minimum of two intensive Band sessions each year. The first is a workshop which is usually held in term 1 for a single afternoon. The second is a Music Camp that runs for two days over the weekend. These intensives are compulsory and an essential part of the Band Program. They are also very enjoyable and are a real highlight of being in the band.
- Parental involvement is essential for the successful running of both events and all band members are expected to be present for the entire session. Special music tuition with the Band Master and tutors, as well as outdoor and social activities, are included.The music camp is a great weekend and finishes on the Sunday afternoon with a concert for all the parents and special friends. The camp is entirely reliant on family members volunteering for roster duty and supervision of activities.
All children are encouraged to purchase or hire their own instrument. Purchase does lead to a greater commitment. We do have some instruments available for hire for 12 month periods.
Instruments – To Hire or To Buy?
Good quality instruments are an investment and do hold their value, if well looked after. While there are many reputable brands available, Yamaha have developed a line of “student instruments” that are designed for more robust use. They hold their value well and can be easily repaired and maintained through most music shops. Don’t rush into a second hand purchase without having the instrument checked out by a qualified musician. When you purchase an instrument, either new or second hand, make sure your insurance policy covers the instrument, and also take special note of the serial number.
Hiring from MHPS
Middle harbour has the following instruments for hire (mostly one of each – although there are two of some) – priority is given to training band:
- Bass Guitar
- Bass Clarinet
- Tenor Sax
Please discuss the hire costs and availability with the band coordinators.
Insurance is covered by the school insurance policy while the instrument is at the school or while involved in a school band activity. Once the instrument is in your home it is not covered by the school policy – it may be wise to ensure the instrument is covered by your own personal effects insurance.
All instruments need maintenance at some stage, whether you own or hire an instrument. You should have it checked either where you purchased or hired it. School holidays are a good time to do instrument maintenance.
Special note about Percussion and Keyboard
Children playing the tuned percussion (timpani, xylophone and glockenspiel), untuned percussion (drums, maracas, whistles) and keyboard use the school’s instruments for band.
Instruments in the MHPS School Bands
Instrumental balance is one of the most important aspects of a successful band. These are all the instruments we have in our band. Please keep an open mind when selecting an instrument for your child, and take into account the results of the ear test and recommendations from the instrument selection process. All instruments are suitable to boys and girls.
- Saxophone – Our bands use the alto sax and the tenor sax
- French Horn
- Electric Bass Guitar
- the keyboard in the band is used as a baseline support with the bass clef (left hand) and is therefore different from ‘piano’ outside of the band setting
- A maximum of two (preferably 1) keyboardists are able to play in each band due to the requirements of the festivals that they play in
- The percussion family includes drums, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg — there are many related instruments which are important to our bands.
- The most common form of percussion in a concert band is the familiar drum set, but our band also has timpani, stand-alone bass and snare drums, crash cymbals, glockenspiel, tambourine, whip, triangle, maracas, whistle etc on the percussion table.
Annual Progress Check-in
At the beginning of each year, the director of bands and the band committee reach out to all students individually to check in on their musical journey to keep them engaged and improving. Whether it be those that really want to be considered a leader of their section or those that are perhaps in-between tutors and need some direction, it is a positive experience for all. This individual attention cannot often be provided to students in the full band setting, so we set aside a couple of mornings before school to do this in the first week of term 1 each year.
At the check-in, students will have the chance to talk about their musical journey and could be asked to play one or more of the following:
- the relevant scales for their level (below)
- a prepared piece of their choice
- sight read a few bars from a piece of music chosen by the band master
Students are encouraged to ask questions – it is a two-way process!
In addition to the ability to check-in with a child’s personal band journey, these individual sessions along with the band experience of a child, participation levels from this year and general band balance, will provide the ability to assign each student to the appropriate band for that year.
The details of the dates and times will be provided just before we return to school in each new year and is often in the first week of school – sometimes on the first day of school. As the check-in will likely be before their first private tutorial next year, students should review the relevant scales and pieces with their tutors before their last lesson of a year and keep practicing over the holidays so they are not rusty at their check-in session and the band can start the year with momentum.
Senior Band Skills
Senior Band children should be able to recognise and to play the following scales:
Concert Band Skills
Concert Band children should be able to recognise and to play the following scales:
Being a good band member:
Band is not just about one individual’s ability to play an instrument. For many children to play the right sound at precisely the right time together (and to not play at the right time as well) requires patience, discipline and respect for their band members and conductor. These are skills children learn in band as well as playing music. Attendance and respect are vital for the band to bring a piece together and we expect all band members to uphold the band code of conduct.
All children in the band programme should also be able to assemble their own instrument, sit with the correct posture for playing their instrument and know how to be tuned for the band. They should also remember to bring their instrument and music to every rehearsal. Students should also keep their music folder in good condition and practice their band pieces at home and with their tutors.
If parents could please discuss these elements of “being a good band member” with your child regularly it will add to all children’s experience and enjoyment.