I had just finished talking to 7th and 8th grade students at Shadow Hills Middle School in Palmdale, CA, and was driving home. I passed Cactus Middle School and decided to introduce myself to the band director, Garson Olivieri.

When I walked in he looked up in surprise and stopped the band from playing. He introduced me like I was a world-wild celebrity, citing my background as a former professional trombonist, and my many years spent in the Palmdale School District as a band director.

The well-balanced beginning band consisted mostly of seventh graders who had only been playing for about two months with school instruments. As I walked in I realized immediately this was a well-trained band with an equally good young director.

His approach to teaching band was similar to mine, with high intensity, but with patience. He asked if I would critique the group while they played a few exercises for me from a very good beginning band method book. Of course I obliged.

My method was to walk around, observe and listen, as the young musicians played their respective parts. I was truly pleased with all sections of the band. They were doing new material so I got a good idea how they were really progressing.

When they finished playing I spoke to the trumpet and trombone sections, explaining carefully how they could improve their playing. I also made comments to the clarinets and percussion. The sole tuba player who had only been playing for a couple of weeks added greatly to the ensemble.

The total maturity of the band with an open sound truly left me with a lasting impression. I’m looking forward to hearing both this group and Mr. Olivieri’s advanced band during their spring concert.

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