As the start of the new school year gets underway and bands across America are having their band camps, of which I have helped out with a few this year, I am reminded of the necessity of good quality fundamentals. Please make good focused warm-ups and fundamental drills part of your band’s routine this fall! Don’t just do mindless exercises, scales or drills. Have a purpose for each exercise you ask your students to play and make sure they succeed at doing them to the level of quality that you expect before you move on. Also, as you get a few days or weeks or even months into the band camp or school year, don’t stop doing these fundamentals, as many of us do when we find we are under the gun for the group to perform. Believe me, if you emphasize fundamentals, the music will be the easy part of what you do.

I am reminded of the famous basketball coach at UCLA John Wooden who would not let his players take a shot until they had mastered how to pass the ball, or at his first practice of the year how he would teach the players for most of the first practice how to put on their socks and shoes properly to avoid blisters. Seems like simple and ridiculous stuff, but certainly it is proven that it made the difference for this legendary coach, so why wouldn’t it work for us band directors? Stress the basics first and establish the level of quality that you expect and don’t move on until you get it. If you just force the music down their throats, what are they really learning? More importantly how are they improving on their instruments and as musicians. So, folks make a renewed effort this school year to make warm-ups and fundamental drills part of your routine, but do them with purpose!