Beat the Heat


the following is an article I wrote in 2011.

The summer of 2011 has proven to be one of the hottest and driest ones on record.  Having taught in Phoenix for most of my career,  I am well aware of the obstacles associated with rehearsing in extreme temperatures.  Not only do triple digit temperatures pose health risks, they also provide for a less than desirable learning environment.  Anyone who has ever seen me teach knows that I am not one to advocate the "easy road" but I think we can all agree that working smarter stands along side working harder.  

I know you are already encouraging the students to hydrate and apply lots of sunscreen, but in addition to that, I wanted to share a few tips I learned from teaching marching band in the face of the sun.

    1.  Bon Jovi basics:  I always spent the first week of camp rehearsing basics in a gymnasium to the music of Bon Jovi.  This provides the kids with a respite from the heat and allows for them to focus on technique and style instead of survival.  It also gives the new members a week to acclimate to the demands of marching band.  Plus, they loved watching me rock out to 1980's hair band music.  (Every upbeat tune Bon Jovi has a metronome marking of  quarter note equals 126, which is perfect for basics.)

    2. Rotation run around:  If you have large rehearsal blocks schedule, consider breaking them down into smaller blocks.  Instead of two hours outside and two hours inside, break it down into one hour blocks that alternate.  Yes, you will lose some instructional time to the transition, but you will gain it back with refreshed and re-energized kids.    

    3.  Conceptulaization:  Certain concepts such as spacing and visualization are best taught without yard lines and dots.  Use shaded or interior spaces to teach these concepts so as to maximize student focus in a quiet learning environment.   Consider school hallways, music rooms and the auditorium stage as alternative teaching environments.  Rotate the kids between instruction centers every 45 minutes.

    4.  Create your own water park:  Set up a slip and slide, some sprinklers and a couple of garden hoses for instant relief.  These "water breaks" will refresh the students and quickly help them to lower their body temperature.  Super soakers and water balloons may prove to be too much ammunition against the director but are good for an end of rehearsal laugh.

    5.  Crazy hat day:  Not only does it create a spirited environment, but provides an incentive for wearing sun protection.  Also, ask the kids cover more of their body, and wear light colored tee shirts.

   6.  Lighten the load:  When appropriate, let the kids march/move without their instruments.  This won't be a big deal to the piccolo player, but will make you a hero to a bass drummer.  Twenty extra pounds does make a difference in these temperatures.

    7.  Read, react and respond:  These are not typical conditions, so don't stick to a typical rehearsal schedule.  When you see/feel the kids starting to break down, switch it up and make a change.  

Again, I am not advocating a "softer" approach but a "smarter" approach.  Setting aside the obvious health concerns, extreme environments inhibit student learning and the best bands are the ones who optimize each and every teaching opportunity.

Hope this helps.  If you need a break, my swimming pool is full and I am on the road.  Come on over!