The most important thing I want to communicate to you parents is that your students are also MY students; anything and everything I do is first and foremost to ensure their success in this world and in band class. When parents work with me for the success of our students, INCREDIBLE things happen.

    On that note, I have included below some announcements and an overall check-up your student should do on their instrument BEFORE bringing it to school. 



    When we start playing will be decided on a class-by-class basis; our first goal at the beginning of next is to get familiar with the program, figure out who plays what, complete contracts for school instruments, and other odds-and-ends. 

    Students WILL be able to keep instruments in the band room locker room during the day/week. They do NOT need to carry them from class to class. The first day we play as a class, they may stop by my room before school when the first bell rings at 8:10 and drop them off on their way to first hour- again, NO INSTRUMENTS ON THE FIRST DAY.

    Please CAREFULLY READ THE INFORMATION BELOW regarding your particular instrument/section. Skip to the section that applies to you.

    The instrument check-ups below for brass and woodwind do not apply to you but here are the things you will need this year. You will not need these all the first week, but I will give you a due date with in the first month of school to have all these materials rented/purchased and checked-off:

    - A bell kit for home practice (rented from a music store).
    -a practice pad/drum pad for home and school
    - a pair of concert snare sticks; Vic Firth brand, Ted Atkatz are my preference. YOUR STICKS MUST BE A MATCHING SET.
    - a pair of HIGH-QUALITY, birch-handle yarn mallets, medium hard. Mike Balter is a good brand I recommend. These will run you about $30, but if kept in their plastic bag and the yarn never touches anything but the bag and the xylophone (no hands!) they will last a VERY LONG TIME.
    -A stick/mallet bag with your name on it (and your drumsticks and mallets inside)
    - PUT YOUR NAME ON EVERYTHING. Duct tape and luggage tags are great for this.

    I wanted to send out a quick note that will help with getting the bands up and running as smoothly as possible.This will preclude a lot of students coming up to me during the first week of playing with mystery problems that I am not qualified to diagnose or repair. I WILL NOT ATTEMPT TO REPAIR INSTRUMENTS DUE TO TIME CONSTRAINTS AND LIABILITY ISSUES.

    Please have your student pull out their instruments and carefully play through all of their notes to make sure the instrument itself is working properly. 

    A few things to note: If it doesn't move easily, DO NOT FORCE IT. The end.

    BRASS INSTRUMENTS: If it doesn't move easily, DO NOT FORCE IT.
    1) Brass instruments: valves will often "freeze" if left sitting for two long. Try holding the valve casings (the tubes) between your hands to warm them up, and carefully work the valves to get them moving again. Putting a few drops of valve oil into the hole in the bottom of the valve casing often helps. If it's stuck, don't force it.

    2) Brass instruments: remove the valves ONE AT A TIME (so you don't mix them up!) wipe the piston with a clean, soft cloth and brush out the inside with a valve brush. If there is a spring inside- DON'T LOSE IT! Apply more valve oil and replace the valve, lining up the guide and working the valve up and down to lubricate it well.

    3) Brass instruments: Clean. Your. Mouthpiece. If the inside of the tube looks like a science experiment or anything less than a beautiful, shiny, clean tube, CLEAN IT. 
    HOW TO: 
    a) Get a happy grown-up helper.
    b) Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. (Try not to use a nice one)
    c) Use a big, slotted spoon and CAREFULLY set the mouthpiece in the pan (don't ruin Mom's Revere Ware)
    d) Boil 1 minute
    e) Remove with spoon, CAREFUL- IT'S HOT
    f) hold with towel or hot pad and use a MOUTHPIECE brush from your cleaning kit to clean out the inside. CAREFUL. IT'S STILL HOT.
    g) if your science experiment refuses to budge, repeat steps c-f again.

    4) Clean out your case and put your name on it somehow. Duct tape and luggage tags are great for this.

    5) Practice! Yay band!

    WOODWINDS: If it doesn't move easily, DO NOT FORCE IT. The end. 

    1) Clarinets and Saxophones: grease all of your corks- work the grease into the cork really well. If the cork is too loose, a small strip of paper can be wrapped around or partially around the cork until a more permanent solution can be found. If the cork is too tight, grease it today, rubbing in the grease well. Do the same thing tomorrow and then find someone with big hands who can CAREFULLY twist and push the pieces together (KEY- twist AND push). If you push too hard without twisting, the cork WILL rip off. Leave the pieces together in a SUPER SAFE PLACE overnight. Grease the cork again the next day. Missing corks need to be replaced BEFORE you show up to band class.

    2) Clarinets and Saxophones: Get rid of ALLLLLLLLLLLLLL of your old reeds. Yes. Even that one. If you used that reed last year, it's time to say goodbye. YOU NEED NEW REEDS. I mean it. All old reeds go in the trash. Period.

    Vandoren Blue Box is just about the only brand I recommend- more expensive, but worth every cent. Ideally, everyone should be playing at least a strength 3. If they feel stuffy and stiff, try a 2 1/2, but plan to move up. Stronger reeds will let you do more and won't squeak as much. Make sure to have at least three good reeds that you rotate through and have at least 3 brand new ones at ALL times in case the others go missing, break, or take a vow of silence. YOU SHOULD NEVER RUN OUT OF REEDS. If they chip or turn colors, you guessed it; time to say goodbye. Yes. I'm talking to you. You can't hide your science experiments from me.

    3) Saxophones and Clarinets: Clean. Your. Mouthpiece.
    a) Rubbing alcohol and a soft cloth will take off most gunk.
    b) Clean out the inside with a mouthpiece brush and sterilize it with rubbing alcohol.
    c) DO NOT use hot water or heat on your mouthpieces!

    4) Flutes: Polish that beauty inside and out. NEVER use any kind of grease on flute joints. If it doesn't fit together easily, clean the joints with a soft cloth. If they still don't fit together properly, too tight or too loose, see an instrument repair specialist (recommendations below).
    Make sure you have a cleaning rod and a soft cloth to clean it- bandannas are cheap and work great; so do pieces of old t-shirts.

    5) Woodwinds: Sticky keys. This humid weather will make them VERY sticky. A quick solution is to take a $20 bill (the crisper and cleaner the bill is, the better it works, but honestly any denomination will work). Saxophones: check your G-sharp key- it's probably stuck. Your lowest C-sharp probably is, too. Slide the bill between the key pad and the tone hole, close the key firmly and GENTLY pull the bill out as you GENLTY wiggle it from side-to-side. Repeat until the pad is cleaned. Again, BE CAREFUL or you owe somebody 20 bucks. 

    6) All Woodwinds: Sometimes, you need to play your instrument for a bit to get all of the keys working again, so if you weren't practicing because you were climbing Machu Picchu or on a spelunking expedition (the only acceptable excuses, of course), spend some time playing chromatic scales and all your favorite pieces from your favorite books that use lots of notes and get your instrument warmed up again. If you find that there are unexpected squeaks or something is not working or sticking, or if you are MISSING something, it's time to take it to the shop and visit your favorite repair-person.

    7) Clean out your case and put your name on it somehow. Duct tape and luggage tags are great for this.

    8) Practice! Yay band!

    Some Repair options: 

    For all Instruments: 

    Stevie Milne 
    Office: 602-995-1959
    Cell: 702-622-8033


    For woodwinds
    Sharon Brown 
    Cell: 480-236-9586
    Home: 480-423-5807
    email: smusickb@gmail.com

    For Brass:

    Perry Lawson



    EVERYBODY: if there is anything that seems wrong with your instrument that the items above couldn't solve (something is stuck, loose, missing, squeaky, bent, broken, discolored, developing sentience or plotting an insurrection), your friendly neighborhood instrument repair-person is the one to see ASAP. Most people wait until AFTER school starts to get their horns repaired, so they are about to be SLAMMED with work. ALL instruments will need yearly tune-ups just like a car or any other piece of equipment you use daily. Anyone with beginning drivers understands that the younger the operator, the greater the opportunity for accidental damage. I treat my personal instruments like royalty and even I routinely have to take my own instruments in for adjustments- the better they work the more fun they are to play!

    Allegro Music, Milano's and Music & Arts all have locations around the valley. I recommend calling for availability- they may or may not have an in-house repair person and they may or may not be there every day.

    Thank you all so much for reading through this and encouraging your students to get revved up for another exciting year of band! Again: NO INSTRUMENTS ON THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL

    Concert and Performance Dates: https://www.dvusd.org/Page/43114

    Happy playing!

    Ms. Blank

    Ms. Sharon Blank

    Director of Bands and Choir - Hillcrest Middle School




     2018-2019 Performance Dates:

    Thursday, October 11th, 2018: HMS Fall Concert, 5 PM

    Thursday, December 6th, 2018: HMS Winter Concert, 6 PM

    Thursday, May 9th, 2019: HMS Spring Concert, 6PM


    "...The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena...who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." -Theodore Roosevelt