Last Minute Planning in a Pandemic Year

As we slowly creep into a new normal, music educators still seek performance options for young musicians.    

Never fear!  There’s still time!

Give us a call – With our experience and ideas, you can plan an outstanding experience that includes all the essentials – learning, fun, and performance!  After all, we’ve been developing terrific resources for 27 years.  A great festival trip to your choice destination is just a phone call away.

How about five tips to get you started?

  1.  What will your school administration allow? It’s an ever-evolving set of guidelines but by doing a little homework up front you’ll increase the likelihood of making a festival trip happen.  Start with this first step.
  2.  Be flexible.  You couldn’t start planning early.  So, give us a range of dates that will work in your schedule.  Friday festival dates fill up quickly, however we offer many Saturday morning options.  Have an open mind and let’s get started!
  3. Explore alternate activities.  Maybe this is the year to explore different activities because of social distancing. 
    For instance, most theme parks include outdoor rides, shows, and dining. Miniature golfing, going to a sporting event, or head to the beach for a group picnic. Enjoying a group meal outdoors might be just the thing to develop teamwork in your group.   Let’s team up to find the right activity for your group given the world in which we now inhabit.
  4. Don’t delay decision making.  Because time is not on your side, be prepared to make quick decisions so you don’t lose out. Making speedy decisions may not be in your comfort zone but collecting everyone’s opinions at this date may impede the possibility of making a festival trip happen.
  5. Explore safety protocols and concerns.  This may be the number one aspect that makes a trip sound more comfortable to administration and parents.  We can help you with your specific concerns.
  6.  

Best way to stay up on the news?  Sign up for our e-newsletter or include us in your Facebook posts.

You might be getting a late start, but you can still WOW your students with a fantastic and rewarding trip this year.  We’re only an email or phone call away and invite you contact us to get started. 

1-888-76-FORUM

www.forummusicfestivals.com

Making Practice Fun!

Learning any new skill is a challenge. Doing it in front of your friends and classmates is extra-challenging. The school music teacher has the work cut out for them.

Experienced music teachers know the frustration of unpracticed students in their ensembles. Encouraging at-home practice can be problematic since the teacher is unfamiliar with the student’s home support, other obligations (academics, chores, jobs), and their physical set up.

When I was a young piano student, my wonderful mother nagged me to practice. The day before my weekly lesson, though, filled me with dread as I was sure I hadn’t practiced enough to suit my teacher. I was learning to play the piano – what I wasn’t learning was how to practice for improvement.

When my own daughter started the flute with her band, she had a delightful teacher who approached practice differently from my own childhood experience. Key word here … FOCUS. Her teacher concentrated on improving specialized qualities of playing – intonation for a while. Then rhythm. On and on. But even more, she shared specific ideas for improvement. And she recognized that the whole picture had to include fun.

From these experiences and from adjudicator feedback, I share a couple of tips to motivate your students to practice:

Explain the difference between practice and rehearsal.

When you play a sport, you go to practice, then to the game and that’s it. Music study requires a bit more than just playing with the ensemble. Preparing for the rehearsal can be difficult for young musicians to grasp.

Choice

Did each student select their own instrument? Is he/she comfortable with sticking with that choice? Since most directors face gaps in instrumentation, how about a “viola” day or “tuba” day where each student tries out an instrument other than his or her own? If the student realizes that he/she prefers a different instrument, it may improve the practice.

Talk it up.

Talk about practice in class every day. Assume that each student is practicing at home. (Yes, we realize this isn’t the case.)  Without pressure, ask students where and when they practice and if they will share practice tips to their fellow student musicians. Make it sound like everyone is doing it.

Sidestep frustration.

Music students are easily discouraged with their results. Be encouraging, but honest. It takes a long time to learn an instrument, just like math builds on earlier concepts and baseball starts with T-ball. Sure, gifted, and talented student musicians exist, but doesn’t everyone need to feel that they are making progress?

Set personal practice goals.

Ask students to write down a realistic musical goal for the week. For example, if a difficult passage is tripping up the student suggest they practice it ten times slowly in a row without making a mistake. If they make a mistake, start over. Most of us love playing or singing the parts that we do well while avoiding the tough parts. (I speak this from experience.)  Key word here is REALISTIC. A fine line exists between achieving realistic outcomes and making practice too discouraging to even begin.

Set up a custom practice schedule.

In class, have students write down a schedule that suits their life and timelines. Ideas to share…

  • Schedule a “practice-free” day every week. Choose your own practice-free day. Or set the practice-free day around other obligations. This offers a needed break AND promotes time management skills.
  • Break up the practice time. Instead of a 30-minute session (or more), break the time into smaller increments. Using a timer is simple and helpful.
  • Change the practice routine. Is right after school the best time? Or does getting up 15 minutes earlier to practice work better? How about after dinner when Mom and Dad can listen? So individual, but the keyword here is CONTROL. And the student has it.

Change the practice location.

Suggest they take their instrument to the bathroom, to the dining room, outside, or to the park. Changing things up often garners a new perspective on things.

Give students real-life tips for practice.

Suggestions could include…

  • Singing the part to themselves.
  • Playing a couple of measures, then once that unit is mastered, add a measure.
  • Pencil in trouble spots in class to concentrate on them at home.
  • Playing with a friend. Who in your ensemble who could practice with you? Join in on a joint practice session. Sociability during practice – what fun!
  • Offering “bonus” sheet music as a reward for learning ensemble music. It develops interest and rewards good practice.

A friendly competition as a great musical motivator.

  • 30-day Practice Tournament – Who can log the most practice in a 30-day period? (Yes, based on the honor system and the obvious results.)
  • Create a “streak” contest – who practiced the most days in a row?
  • Use text messages or classroom signs to reward musical accomplishments. (“Shout out to the clarinets for a great sectional!”) OR (“Hats off to Cindy who practiced 7 days in a row”)
  • Beat the teacher. Who can practice more than the teacher? The winning student teaches the class for a day.
  • Plan a celebration when all students have learned a piece of music.
  • Post a chart of Practice Champs. (Again, honor system and results)

Include performance opportunities.

Practicing without performing is monotonous. Plan performances throughout the school year. At Forum Festivals, we see the results from student engagement. Not every ensemble is world class, but every student is excited to show their stuff and wants to hear other groups. Using performance as a motivator gives students a reason to practice.

As the old joke says, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” (or fill in the venue). Practice, practice, practice!

Be positive about practice and have FUN making music.

You are teaching far more than music by developing life skills through music:  cooperation, civility, teamwork, and goal setting! At Forum Music Festivals, we celebrate music educators and music students at all levels and abilities! Take pride in your students’ accomplishments this year – remote learning hasn’t been easy for anyone, and your students hung in there!

We can’t wait to see you at a festival!

Becky Norman – Forum Music Festivals

Best Lines from 27 Years of Festivals

For 27 years, Forum Music Festivals has hosted thousands of student music ensembles and directors.  Over the years, students, judges, and directors have shared some insightful comments at festivals.  We’ve chuckled from some and learned from them all!  As we launch our 27th year, we extend our appreciation and gratitude to the music students and directors that have joined us over the years. Here’s the best lines we’ve heard from 27 years of producing festivals.

Best Lines from Students:

  •  “Is this like a college theatre or something?  I could see myself here. “
  • “This festival is actually festive!
  • “I can’t wait to take our award back to school!”
  • “Do you happen to have an extra reed laying around?”  (Also, a spare guitar string.)
  • “I loved the excitement of the awards ceremony. I jumped out of my seat when our school was called.”
  • “We get to miss school, play music, and go to Disneyland? Best! Day! Ever!”

Best Lines from Adjudicators:

  • Choose music that plays to your students’ strengths.”  (Judges’ most frequent advice)
  • “Step away from the mouthpiece.”  (Judge advising saxophone players)
  • “Beautify the tone.”
  • “Look like the music! Where the body goes, the mind goes, and where the mind goes, the voice follows.”
  • “Posture is everything! “
  • “Conduct the band that is in front of you – not the one in your fantasy.”
  • Choral music can change the world!”

Best Lines from Directors:

  • “Thank you for providing such a light in a child’s life that is riddled with obstacles.”
  • “I’ll pray harder to the bus gods next year and maybe we’ll make it on time. See you then!”
  • “The entire clarinet section forgot their mouthpieces.  Can you help?”  (We did.)
  • “I really appreciate the extra mile Forum goes to support public schools’ music programs.”
  • “Thanks to everyone at Forum for making a special day for our kids and a terrific music celebration.”
  • “The venue is outstanding. If art has value, why do our kids have to perform in a lunchroom – EVER?”
  • “Your letter arrived at the perfect time, just as parents and students had formed a group to fight for our music program!!! We are now able to keep both our instrumental and choral program going!”

Taking registrations for the 2022 spring season! We’re performing and learning. You and your student musicians are invited to join us.

Thrilling Adventures…Close to Home

Did you know that awesome excursions are right here in your own backyard?  Or at least within a days’ travel?  Shorter trips still offer the features and feeling of a retreat, while keeping students closer to home.  Forum Music Festivals can be combined with a variety of appealing close to home travel for students.

Theme parks have re-opened – always a big hit for students.  Take a look at the many options for student groups.  Extra cleaning precautions ensure the safety of their guests, making theme parks among the safest places for student groups.

  • Musical performance opportunities and workshops.  Many parks offer space to perform or private workshops.
  • Outdoor attractions and activities. Which parks have plenty of outdoor rides versus indoor activities?  We can help with suggestions.
  • Great value for student groups.  Our theme park packages are an economical way to deliver adjudication, fun, and team spirit within your group.
  • Proactive about health and cleanliness  
    • Hand sanitation stations
    • Routine cleaning and sanitizing restrooms
    • Contactless payments in shops and dining locations.
    • Wiping down handrails and rides in an enhanced cleaning schedule.
  • Pre-ordered food options minimize standing in extra lines.  Theme Park meal vouchers are an easy way to feed the group.
  • Attendance monitoring.  Reservations may be required in some parks.   At Forum Festivals, when you purchase our festival package, your reservation is handled.
  • Virtual queues that emphasize social distancing or reducing wait times are becoming popular. 

Outdoor Experiences are also wonderful alternatives for student group outings.  Combine a Forum Festival with one of the following:

Theatre and Symphony performances go hand-in-hand with music education.  In California, this means that theatregoers must prove vaccination status.

  • Most theatres in California are now requiring proof of vaccination or possible proof of a negative COVID test, making indoor seating safer.
  • Masking is required in theatres.
  • Group seating, when possible, helps with social distancing inside the theatre.   

Creative alternatives for fun student festival outings could include:

  • Beach Day with Boxed Lunch – we can arrange box lunches to make it easy.
  • Step-on Guides on your bus will take your students on a guided tour of a new destination.  You select when the group can hop off the bus to explore a specific site.
  • Let’s book a Scavenger Hunt in a new city.  This is a great team-building activity.  For more details, contact us.
  • If a hotel stay is in your plans, schedule a trivia night.  Contact us for hotel rental space to host your own game night.
  • Let us book a night of bowling. Fun and competition while your students interact with each other.

As we inch towards a “new normal,” directors are re-building music programs, opening new doors for students, and deciding how music travel works in a post-quarantine world.  When your group is ready, we’re ready to help with support and assistance.  Close-to-home travel is a definite step in the direction of a well-rounded music education.  Let Forum Music Festivals help you get started.

Disney Imagination Campus Update

Dear Forum Friends,

Applications are now open for Disney Imagination Campus programs. This is the newly re-named program (formerly Disney Performing Arts) for performances in the park and performing arts workshops. They are also offer education workshops as well.

To apply, visit https://planears.disney.com to submit an application. To combine a workshop or performance in the park with a Forum Music Festival, you must submit your festival registration through Forum AND an application for the Disney Imagination Campus portion of your trip.

Tickets and “experience fees” must be purchased through Forum Music Festivals. For more details, contact us at office@forummusicfestivals.com.

Thank you. We’re so excited to welcome you and your students back for a great year of music!

COVID-19 Festival Policy

Updated 12/28/21

All destinations and suppliers have their own rules related to COVID-19. For example, you may be required to quarantine upon arrival in some locations. Some locations may require masks or social distancing, or they may require you to provide proof of vaccination or negative testing. While Forum Educational Travel will try to assist you in understanding these requirements, you are responsible for understanding these requirements and must not rely on any representations made by Forum Educational Travel. Should you be denied entry to any destination or attraction, Forum Educational Travel will not be responsible for any such denial, or any cost associated therewith.

All medical costs associated with a COVID-19 infection during the trip are the responsibility of each individual traveler.

Original Post

As we plan our Forum Festivals Spring 2022 season, we have developed guidelines for participants regarding our safety plans regarding COVID 19.

  • We will follow both CDC and State of California guidelines governing requirements surrounding the COVID 19 pandemic.
  • Each festival venue may establish requirements relating to events and gatherings.  We will update our participants of those changes, accordingly.
  • Because circumstances change very rapidly, we will notify directors about any policy changes closer to each festival date.
  • Changes to our normal festival format may occur. As we get closer to the actual festival dates, we will have a better insight of changes at the festival.
  • For overnight travelers, our hotel partners are dedicated to the highest protocols. These protocols may include increased frequency of cleaning in public spaces, disinfecting surfaces in guest rooms, etc.  Charter bus companies have also implemented advanced sanitation protocols which include enhanced air filtration, hand sanitizers, and daily disinfection.
  • Revised itineraries may be necessary as sites and attractions update rules for social distancing, masks, etc.  We will continue to monitor how these updates may affect your trip.
  • The safety of our participants and staff members remains our primary concern.  If you have any questions about our COVID 19 Festival Policy, please don’t hesitate to email us directly.

We are working remotely, so email is still the quickest way to reach us. Our Facebook page and our e-newsletter provide timely updates, so we encourage you to sign up for those. As we navigate through extraordinary times, we appreciate your patience and support. As we await young musicians’ return to a Forum Festival, we envision that each festival will be great day of music! That’s our goal and our focus.

San Diego Dates Added to 2022 Season

So much to do. So much to see.

Forum Festivals has added San Diego dates to our 2022 festival schedule. Join us in San Diego for a morning festival with the remainder of the day or weekend to enjoy all the sights!

Fabulous weather aside, San Diego offers historic, cultural, and fun things to do! Check out the following options as you consider your festival trip to San Diego.

San Diego is a perfect first overnight for So Cal festival participants because it’s easy to get there and easy to enjoy.

Festival dates are posted on our website. Choose all-in-one-day packages or contact us for an overnight itinerary chock full of fun & education. They don’t call it the City in Motion for nothing! Join us this spring!

Growing Your Program

Rebuilding & Recruiting in School Music Programs

It’s time to consider the next steps to grow your program.  The world of remote learning was tough on everyone, but particularly on music teachers.  Student music programs that, by their very nature, are designed to teach a performance art had to test the boundaries of creativity and resourcefulness. As a student music festival company, we want to be part of the solution.

As we all re-start, here are some tips for building or re-building a school music program.

  • Don’t be afraid to start small.  Make it matter to the students and watch it grow.
  • Be visible to the students who will feed into your program. 
    • Visit your feeder school to introduce yourself to those students. 
    • Take your musicians to perform for the younger students.
  • Invite the younger students to join you at the high school. Your students can teach a pep song to play at football games.  Assume that they are part of your program, so they will assume that too.
  • Plan some experiences just for the upper-level students.
    • (A Forum Festival trip?)  The younger students will have something to work towards as they build their skills.
  • Guest conduct at your feeder school
    • Remember an encouraging word!
  • Swap places with the feeder school director for a day (if admin agrees)
  • Gather statistics for school counselors about the advantages for music kids.
    • Higher GPA overall for music students
    • Successful alumni who performed in the band/orchestra/choir program
    • Quality colleges that pursue students from your music program
    • Access and visibility to college-level professors at music festivals
    • Better attendance and lower drop-out rates among music students
  • Open the band or choir room doors before school, at lunch, and after school.
    • This is the place for your students. Make it their home away from home – a safe haven and their “special place.”  New students & friends welcome!
  • Enlist the support of the whole community
    • Enlist the local newspaper as your group performs at a student music festival or other events.
    • Perform at local events, store openings, concert halls.
    • Invite community leaders to your concerts. (A boost for fundraising, too.)
  • Music students must perform
    • The word is out – the band or choir is going somewhere!  Building your program will be the result!
  • More recruitment tips are available through the following links:

At Forum Festivals, we welcome music students from throughout the country.  These music programs are moving and growing and making things happen.  It is time for all of that to happen again. Contact us for details.

You must promote your music program and students.  It may well be that no one else will.

Forum Festivals & Disney Imagination Campus!

Graphic for Disney Imagination Campus

At Forum Music Festivals, we’re delighted to highlight Disney Imagination Campus. Our friends at Disney have re-imagined their iconic workshops and performance opportunities. These beloved Disney programs mesh perfectly with your Forum Festivals weekend – fun, learning, and enthusiasm!

The popular vocal & instrumental Soundtrack Session workshops & performances are back and even better! Young dancers or musical theatre students may choose Dance Disney and Disney Broadway Magic workshops. Or showcase your Marching Band with the enduring tradition of a march down Main Street.

New to Disney’s impressive workshops are…

Designed for students of every ability and interest., creativity and imagination should be part of each student’s educational experience!

Can we coordinate your Forum Music Festival with your Disney Imagination Campus event? Absolutely! Let’s partner to bring the excitement of a festival with the magic of Disney. We’re raring to go! Let’s get started with an eye for spring 2022.

Look for pricing & applications to come in the next few weeks. Applications are accepted starting August 2, 2021. Programs commence in January 2022. Head over to www.disneycampus.com for more details. Or better yet, sign up for our e-newsletter and Facebook page here so you don’t miss a thing. Contact us here for an “At-a-Glance flyer” for your administration or booster clubs, Request DisneyCampusFlyer in the comments.

Linking a festival with an Imagination Campus package means that Forum Festivals coordinates your schedule. Request a quote with lodging, festival, workshops, and more! . Or give us a call at 1-888-76-FORUM. We’d love to hear from you.

Imagination. Learning. Inspiration. – the best educational experience for your students!

Traveling Green

10 Ideas for Sustainable Student Travel

As we wait for a green light to student travel, let’s consider the impact our travel has on our students, the destination, and the planet. Our teens live in a world where reducing their footprint on our planet is incredibly critical.    To promote sustainable travel, meet your students’ ideas with your own tips.  Together, you can incorporate these ideas into the fun of planning your next trip.

Go lightly! 

Ask students to assemble a packing list that includes only the essentials.  By packing light, you avoid burning resources with heavy baggage.

Explore public transportation

Feel adventurous?  If your group is small enough, you can do it!  Trust that your entire group can fit on one bus, subway, or train, but chat up a Plan B if your group gets split.  Until the next bus or subway comes along, a couple of chaperones can stay with students. Then you can all meet up at the next stop.  Is public transpo the answer for the entire trip? Maybe not, but in many destinations, it’s an easier way to get around.

Walk On!

If your hotel is near your sites, walking saves money, is healthy, and makes the planet greener.  Before you go, decide whether your group can handle short walking trips. Talk to your travel planner about the proximity of sites to your hotel.

BYOWB

That is, bring your own water bottles. Clearly, buying disposable beverage bottles is a problem for a green-loving group. Ponder other ways to reduce plastic use.

  • Bring reusable bags for shopping and laundry.
  • Sidestep one-use straws when eating out.
  • Avoid plastic utensils, if possible. 
  • Leave recyclable trash in the proper container. 

Note: Plastic takes between 100 and 400 years to break down in a landfill. 

RIP Hotel Toiletries

Once considered a luxury, these cute little bottles often go half-used before being tossed and ultimately living in a landfillBring soap and shampoo in reusable bottles.  To avoid plastic waste, bring your own.  Many hotel brands are cutting these items to reduce their clutter footprint. 

Tip:  If you must use the hotel toiletries, take the balance to finish off the shampoo and to re-use the container for your next trip.

Power Down

Turn off lights, TV, and electronics to conserve energy.  Close the drapes to keep out the heat or insulate from the cold.

Go paperless. 

Technology, (with which your students are quite familiar), is an obvious starting place.  Encourage electronic notetaking.  When corresponding with parents, use email or text message – far more effective than the bottom of the backpack notice. 

Re-use towels and bedding! 

Most hotels encourage this – hang the Do Not Disturb sign on your hotel door or use the folded sign the hotel provides.  For just a few nights, this is a no-brainer and minimizes water and energy used to launder towels and sheets. Easy, but key way to promote sustainable travel.

Enlist your travel planner! 

At Forum Festivals, we can suggest many green travel ideas.  We’re happy to inquire about the hotel’s recycling policies.  We can book local eateries that are walkable from the hotel.  As we design your itinerary, we’ll explore transportation options that can save you money AND save the planet.  

Enjoy the green journey! 

Students will likely be one step ahead of you, but when you incorporate sustainable travel in your planning as a challenge as well as a fun, educational experience, it will add to the journey.  We’d love to help!

Bon voyages!

Just a Note About Appreciation

Well, 2020 is over and there’s probably no one on Planet Earth that wants to re-visit that year.  As we dust off those cobwebs, I can’t help but start 2021 with a spark of hope and a bucketful of admiration.

Although we missed you in 2020, there’s no doubt that music teachers have really stepped up to the plate to show grace, flexibility, and creativity for their students.  Pretty sure that none of you went to college or conservatory to learn how to teach via Zoom or to teach a socially distant performance group.  As a business that supports music education, we admire all of you out there who are making music happen in your students’ homes and schools.  You are heroes!

Essential workers – how familiar that term is to us now.  Having spent months in quarantine depending on those who make our society plug along, let’s give a round of applause to those who fall under that huge umbrella of work deemed essential.  Of course, this includes health care, but it also includes those in retail grocery chains, agriculture, childcare, plumbers, mechanics, transportation, first responders, and the list goes on and on.  Can we ever say thank you enough to those who keep us going? 

Finally, we must admit that we all have a much more expanded appreciation for time – time by ourselves, time with those we love, and time spent discovering new talents and re-visiting old interests.  For music teachers (and those of us in that world), that can also mean the simple pleasure of practicing and enjoying music.  We look forward to the time when we can welcome you and your wonderful students back to a Forum Festival to enjoy, support, and encourage young musicians.

So, What’s Happening with Forum Festivals?

2021 is finally here and it is only natural that questions arise about what is going on with Forum Music Festivals.

We are here and we will be ready to go when you are.  However, let’s be realistic about the possibility that 2021 might not look like the Forum Festivals of previous years. Right now, California is in a dark place with ever-rising COVID 19 infections and deaths.  As of this date, we are less than 60 days from what would normally be the first festival of our 26th festival season.  Truthfully, that’s probably not going to happen.  But we are holding out hope that we will be able to welcome groups late May or June.  We simply must wait and see.

Meanwhile, a couple of things for you to know for the future…

  • Safety is our main concern for teachers, students as well as our staff.  We are taking steps to create a safe and healthy situation for groups to perform, once we’re all back together.
  • Money is going to be tight, so we will encourage groups to enjoy Forum Festivals on a local level with budget-friendly, yet fun alternatives for students.
  • Festivals may look a little different. We’ll follow CDC and State guidelines to keep gathering to a minimum, so we’ll pay attention when scheduling awards ceremonies.
  • Forum Music Festivals has always offered a “comments only” choice as well as a rated festival.  We understand that your ensembles may not had much classroom or rehearsal time this past year, so this may be a good option for your students.  Recruitment and retention, though, is also important. The opportunity to perform for adjudication and enjoy some camaraderie is a huge part of that.

Teachers and students want to travel when districts give them the green light.  We are hearing that from you, and we will be here when that day happens.  Our 2022 festival dates will be posted on our website very soon.  Please keep in touch (office@forummusicfestivals.com) and know that we are wishing the very best to you and your students as we all begin the journey of moving forward.

Great News from A Friend!

A familiar face (and voice) from Forum Music Festivals shares some very exciting news, particularly for students of Big Band Drumming! Matt Johnson, longtime announcer at Forum, has published a new book. Check out details below – you’ll want to have this important resource in your educational tool box!

DRUMMER/MUSIC EDUCATOR MATT JOHNSON ANNOUNCES RELEASE OF BIG BAND LOOPS VOLUME 1 – AN INSTRUCTIONAL PLAY-ALONG BOOK FOR DRUMMERS 

Drummer and music educator Matt Johnson announces the release of his new instructional play-along book for drummers, Big Band Loops Volume 1, containing 13 fully-orchestrated big band play-along tracks by renown composer and arranger Tom Kubis and over 30 chart-specific practice loops with performance insights designed by Johnson for drummers with novice to advanced jazz drumming experience.

Big Band Loops Volume 1 will help any drummer expand their ‘fill’ and ‘setup’ vocabulary while they simultaneously practice solid timekeeping with the aid of recorded looped big band figures and full-song play-along tracks,” says Johnson, an accomplished studio drummer and the Instructor of Drum Set Studies at Fullerton College since 1993. “The book also provides drummers with the thrill of playing in a big band outside of the classroom or live performance setting, which makes it a very timely and effective teaching solution during this unprecedented era of remote learning.”

The downloadable eBook – available at www.drummermattjohnson.com/loops –  includes full drum set charts, notated loop examples, instructional text and high-quality sound files for every featured practice loop and song, providing a totally immersive play-along experience.

Johnson tapped his longtime friend Tom Kubis to provide the music for this fun and practical instructional play-along book. Since the 1970s, Kubis’ arrangements have been a popular staple in the music libraries of the top high school, college and university jazz programs, as well as professional big bands around the world, and have been featured on hundreds of CDs.

Adapting the Kubis library for a play-along experience felt natural to Johnson, the original drummer in the Tom Kubis Big Band. “Tom’s music is so fun to play and his charts are so well prepared that I have been using them for years when teaching my college and private students the fundamentals of big band drumming.” This book puts into writing those time-tested concepts and techniques for learning the traditional responsibilities of a big band drummer while reinforcing all-around fundamentally-sound drumming skills. 

Beyond his expertise in the big band arena, Johnson is versed in all forms of jazz, pop and world drumming styles. A founding member of the Tony Guerrero Quintet, they currently tours with Golden Globe- and Emmy Award-winning actress/comedienne Jane Lynch. He is an artist/clinician for Mapex Drums, Paiste Cymbals, Aquarian Drumheads, Roland US and Vic Firth Drumsticks. 

Big Band Loops Volume 1 by Matt Johnson, with music by Tom Kubis, is available as an eBook download for $35 at www.drummermattjohnson.com/loops

Great moments over 22 years…

We’re launching our 22nd season this year.  Lot of years, lot of directors, lots of kids, and lots of stories.  Middle School students who started with us at age 12 would now be 33 years old.  Yikes!  Some bring their own ensembles to a festival.  It’s a sobering thought, but a very gratifying one.

I remember the director who answered his ringing cell phone while onstage directing his band, then ran down the theatre aisle mid-performance to hand his phone to me.  On the other end was a mom looking for her daughter at the festival.  Wouldn’t you know the daughter’s name was Katie?  There were probably 45 Katie’s at that festival that morning.  Yes, we found Katie.

Then there were directors who arrived at the festival teary-eyed because they were retiring and this was their last outing with their students.  They cared so deeply for their students over a lifetime of teaching.  Forum Festivals played a part of their programs for so many years.  I was honored that we were friends and partners.  I shall never forget them and I think of them quite often.

One school’s entire clarinet section forgot their instruments at home a few years ago.  One adjudicator was on the faculty where the festival was scheduled that morning. “Wait just a minute,” he said and he left the theatre.  He scrambled around in the college band room and found clarinets for most of the section. (Yes, they had their own mouthpieces with them – go figure).

I’ve observed many acts of generosity between music students of different schools. It’s so heartwarming when kids just stand up spontaneously to applaud another school’s performance with no nudging from adults.

Last year, in the Bay Area, we welcomed a wind ensemble with a very talented young oboe player.  He really was quite phenomenal which became more and more apparent during the performance.  No surprise to anyone that he was awarded an Outstanding Student Musician award.   Following awards, the other students emptied the theatre and formed two lines in the lobby (no prompting from the adults). As the oboist left the theatre and walked between his classmates, they broke out in spontaneous applause, clapping him on the back as he passed.  It meant the world to this young musician. He will never forget it and I was thrilled to be there to experience it.

So, on the eve of our 22nd season, I’m pondering the stories along with the music that I’ve been privileged to witness.  Over the past 22 years, we think we’ve seen it all – the good, the bad, and the less-than-graceful.  But most of it has been good – and that is for sure.

Becky