Practicing at home

My wife’s violin teacher, Raphael Spiro, told her the definition of practice is “correct repetition”.  Here is how to make the best use of your time!

– having regular practice times is best
– 100 minutes per week is the goal (unless you can play the assigned music correctly and with a beautiful sound in less time 😉 )
– When you are playing and make a mistake (EVERYBODY DOES!!!), don’t go back to the beginning.  Go back a few notes and play through the notes you had difficulty with until you can play the passage correctly
– Don’t always start at the beginning.  Start by playing the last two measures, then the last four, then the last eight, . . .

(with help from violinist extraordinaire and master teacher, my wife Nancy DiNovo)

The goal of this practice method is to create mastery and confidence in your playing.  At any point, if you move on from one step to the next and find you’re not ready, repeat the previous step before moving forward.

  1. Name the notes – say the letter name of the note out loud
  2. Name the notes in rhythm
  3. Name the notes in rhythm while fingering the notes (even better if you can sing the correct pitches at the same time!)
  4. Play the passage very slowly three times.  Pay attention to what your muscles have to do to make the passage work smoothly and efficiently.  Include all accents and articulations.
  5. Then, play the same passage four times under tempo with full musicality: dynamics and markings as well as musical expression while paying attention to the connections between notes where appropriate.  Strive to improve each one making each repetition more fluent and tonally beautiful than the previous one.
  6. Perform the passage perfectly ten times in tempo.  You will probably notice that after five or six repetitions the passage will start to sound even more fluent.

FYI – apparently the magic number for you to have mastered ANY skill is to do it 17 times in a row without making a mistake.  Yes, numbers 4 through 6 add up to 17!


And, two quotes from Carrie Brownstein, musician, actor, and author
“I found community and belonging through creativity and music”.
And, on being able to do both comedy and music, “I think I wouldn’t have come to comedy and been able to do a lot of improvisation if it weren’t for music.  I think that helped me gain a lot of confidence.  It gave me faith in the spontaneous moment, in the unknown, about going somewhere that could be unexpected where you might fail.”

Keep practicing – you never know where it will lead!

2018 Squeak and Squawk concerts

Dear parents of Mr. Denroche’s Band Students,


What:           “Squeak and Squawk”/meet the teacher concerts  

Dates:           Monday, December 10th at Nelson Elementary – 4850 Irmin Street 
                        Tuesday, December 11th at École Seaforth Elementary – 7881 Government

Time:             6:15 p.m. arrival, 6:30 p.m. concert (until approximately 7:00 p.m.)


The students and I invite you to attend either or both of these informal concerts to demonstrate what has been learned in Band this year.  Attendance at either or both evenings is encouraged but not mandatory.  I will be seating instruments together, not in school groups, so this will provide a great opportunity for your child(ren) to meet other young musicians!  Please arrive at your chosen location at 6:15 to facilitate the set up.  Help stacking chairs at concert end is appreciated. 


I thank you for your support in making this experience possible for your children by renting or obtaining an instrument.  I trust you have heard the development from those sounds to a level that enables your children to be part of a whole which I think may well surprise you. 


Concert dress is casual.


Please bring a music stand from home

or make arrangements to bring one from school.


I hope to see you there,                      

Mr. D


BTW, a special thank you to those of you who have paid for your method book and/or instrument user fee if you got your instrument from School District #41 through me.  For those who haven’t yet paid, please send cash or cheques payable to Nelson Elementary.  Thank you. 


Please fill in, detach, and return the following form by Wednesday, December 5th

Please indicate whether your child will be attending and

approximately how many people we can expect to join us in the audience


– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – tear here, please – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –


Name of school: _______________________________________________


My child, ______________ Instrument ___________________  will be attending:


 “Squeak and Squawk” at Nelson El. Monday night          Yes _________

We plan on having __________ family members and friends attending the concert


 “Squeak and Squawk” at Seaforth El. Tuesday night        Yes _________

We plan on having __________ family members and friends attending the concert

Students should have:

September, 2018

A reminder; students should have:
Essential Elements 2000 Book 1 method book for your child’s instrument
a 1″ three-ring binder or folder with pockets is ideal.  All the music your child will be getting over the year is much easier to organize if it’s in a 1″ binder or folder; the key signatures and some notes on the left side of the page get covered when using a Duotang.
– WITH VERY FEW EXCEPTIONS, MUSIC SHOULD NOT BE KEPT INSIDE THE INSTRUMENT CASE.  Cases seldom have room for music as well as the instrument and jamming music into the case can result in bent keys, etc.
– (optional, but recommended) a folding music stand for home (and school in some cases)

Practice schedule

Like all subjects, students will require different amounts of time to learn the assigned skills and assignments.

10 minutes of practicing per day, three days per week is a good start (of course, more is better!) toward achieving a reasonable standard of performance and will make a huge difference in your child’s progress and the quality of the experience.   Band builds upon previous skills and it’s very difficult to catch up once a student falls behind.

Please set up a regular practice time with your son/daughter.


Method Book

When you are renting an instrument, please buy a copy for your child’s instrument of Book 1 of Essential Elements 2000.  If you can find a used copy, that’s fine with me; it doesn’t have to be a new book.

Buying an instrument

I recommend renting an instrument for the year.  However, for those who prefer to purchase an instrument for their child’s use, I highly recommend making a purchase from a reputable music store that can repair the instrument.  Although some instruments can be bought for a price that seems too good to be true, they are often more difficult to play and can be expensive or even impossible to repair.  Feel free to contact me if you have any questions regarding recommended brands to either purchase or rent.


All clarinet and saxophone players should have FOUR #2 REEDS in a reed guard.  A reed guard is made of hard plastic and is designed to store reeds flat and keep them from warping and being damaged in the case.  It does not have a rubber band holding the reeds in place.  (Good reeds should not be stored on the mouthpiece.  However, you can use an old or damaged reed on the mouthpiece to keep the ligature from bending).  I usually have reeds on hand for emergency use that I will sell at the beginning of class for close to cost ($2 for clarinet reeds, $3 for alto sax, and $4 for tenor sax).  For the best in sound and embouchure development, most clarinetists will be using #2½ early in the term.  If you want to buy a box of reeds for clarinet, please buy #2½ along with four #2 reeds to start.  For saxophones, please buy a box of #2 reeds.

Folding music stand

If possible, please buy a folding music stand for your child’s use at home and school.  It simplifies practicing at home and helps promote good posture and playing habits.

Band, like any other subject in school, requires effort.  A band is a team and its success depends upon the active participation and co-operation of everyone in the class.  Should a student fail to follow through with the expectations outline below he or she may be transferred to an alternate music program.  Parents/guardians, please discuss with your child the following rules/expectations which are essential in creating an enjoyable experience for all.


  1. I will bring my instrument, music (sheet music in a three ring binder or folder with pockets), and pencil to all classes.
  2. I will neatly put away my own music stand and chair at the end of every class.
  3. I will participate in a manner which promotes learning.
  4. When the teacher stops conducting, I will stop playing and wait for instruction without talking.  If I have a question, I will raise my hand and wait to be asked before speaking.
  5. I will listen while the teacher is talking.  This means “eyes on the teacher” with my instrument in rest position.
  6. I will play my instrument in a respectful manner.  This means I will never aim my instrument at someone and make a loud sound.
  7. I will respect my and others’ instruments.  This means I am the only person to touch or play my instrument and I do not touch or play other people’s instruments.
  8. After permission is given to go to the bathroom or to get a drink of water (one student at a time), I will put my instrument flat on the floor or in its case.  I will not rest it on my chair or music stand.

OUT OF CLASS (not a rule, but a clear expectation)

  1. I will practice my instrument until my assigned music is learned or a minimum of 30 minutes per week.
  • Music is a subject where working with others is desirable – and can be a lot of FUN! I give bonus marks to students who practice in groups of two or more for a minimum of fifteen minutes and record what they have accomplished.  I will hand out the sheet to students who ask for it.If you have any questions, please contact me through the school or at

Musically yours,

Mr. D



Social and cognitive benefits of being enrolled in Grade 7 Band

Greetings to parents of Grade 7 students,

In May of 2016 my wife, violinist Nancy DiNovo, was a speaker at a convention of crown prosecutors.  A musician – speaking to lawyers!?!  She was asked to speak on ways of dealing with stage fright – the nervousness that can occur during a performance (such as speaking to a judge and jury!).  From her experience as a musician, she was able to offer them practical ways of effectively dealing with their anxiety.  What I found fascinating from my conversations with many lawyers following her presentation was how many of them had been involved in school music programs, that some had university Music degrees, and that many still play an instrument for pleasure and social reasons.

By now you should have received a letter from SD41 asking whether or not you will be enrolling your child in the Elementary Band Program in September 2016.  With more and more research showing the positive benefits music education has on the cognitive and social development of a child, if you are under the impression, as some people are, band is only a “fun” class, I ask you to read below and check out some of the following links:

Dr. Lee Henriksson, University of British Columbia Faculty of Commerce and Business Administration, 1998 
“There is a growing body of research that suggests that when arts are developed and included as part of the core curricula, students have more and better chances of achieving their greatest potential.”

Upitis, R. (2011).  Engaging students through the arts.  The Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat, [Monograph 33].  Toronto, ON: The Royal Conservatory of Music.
“Student engagement is central to learning.  Those students who are fully engaged are ready to learn in every way – physically, socially, emotionally and intellectually.  The arts play a vital role in ensuring that students remain engaged by encouraging them to learn in physical and embodied ways, by inviting them to collaborate with peers, by requiring them to respond emotionally and by calling upon their cognitive capacities as they learn in, through, and about the arts. . . . The arts add enjoyment to the day and make students more alert to other kinds of learning.”

Kuzmich, N (2010).  Brain-music connection: Activations that continue to amaze.  The Canadian Music Educator, 52(2), 8-9
“Regular engagement with music can exert lasting effects of brain function, on brain malleability throughout life.”

Moreno, S., Bialystok, E., Barac, R., Schellenberg, E.G., Cependa, N.J., & Chau, T. (2011).  Short-term music training enhances verbal intelligence and executive functions, supporting the possibility of broad transfer between high-level cognitive abilities.”
“Our findings demonstrate a causal relationship between music training and improvements in language and executive functions, supporting the possibility of broad transfer between high-level cognitive abilities.”

Daniel Pink, author of NY Times and Business Week bestseller, A Whole New Mind – Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future. 2005
“The era of “left brain” dominance, and the Information Age that it engendered, is giving away to a new world in which “right brain” qualities – inventiveness, empathy, and meaning, predominate. That’s what business is about today. This is a hard-headed argument that arts education is not ornamental but fundamental for economic reasons.”

Music MakesUs website:

Learning music . . .
– Music programs improve the atmosphere for learning
– Music programs help students achieve in other academic subjects like math, science, and reading

– Music programs keep students engaged in school and less likely to drop out
– Music programs help communities share ideas and values among cultures and generations

– Music programs provide students with opportunities to:
~ express themselves in verbal and non-verbal ways
~ appreciate diverse perspectives, openness and flexibility in thinking
~ develop a high level of self-awareness and self-confidence
~ develop a rich and healthy sense of beauty and imagination

– Music develops skills needed by the 21st Century workplace
~ critical and analytical thinking
~ creative problem solving
~ effective communication

5. IS FUN!!!

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