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.

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