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!

December Concerts

What:              “Squeak and Squawk”/meet the teacher concerts  
Dates:               Wednesday, December 20th at Nelson Elementary – 4850 Irmin Street
                           Thursday, December 21st  at École Seaforth Elem.– 7881 Government
Time:                 6:30 p.m. arrival, 6:45 p.m. concert (until approximately 7:30 p.m.)

Please encourage your child to play the following for you as we will be performing:

14 Rolling Along intro: flutes
17 Hot Cross Buns intro: oboes
18 Go Tell Aunt Rhodie intro: electric basses, bass clarinets, trombones, baritones
23 March Steps intro: alto, tenor saxophones, horns
25 Lightly Row intro: trumpets
29 Remix intro: clarinets
30 London Bridge duet
31 A Mozart Melody
34 Doodle All Day
42 Skip To My Lou
49 Hey, Ho! Nobody’s Home

Machu Pichu
Ode to Joy, arr. B. Wilson
Jingle Bells, arr. B. Wilson

If you can, please join us for our presentation to the school
Aubrey Monday, December 18th 9:00
Clinton Friday, December 22nd 1:00
Confed Thursday, December 21st 2:00
Kitchener Wednesday, December 20th 2:15
Montecito Friday, December 15th 9:15
Nelson Thursday, December 21st 11:20
Seaforth Thursday, December 21st 1:00
South Slope Thursday, December 14th 1:15
Suncrest Monday, December 18th 11:15


September letter home

September, 2017

Dear Parents/Guardians of Grade 7 students,

I do hope your son/daughter has chosen to enroll in Band this year.  Learning this new skill can lead to a life-long pastime and a love for music.  My name is Mr. Denroche and this is my seventeenth year teaching Grade 7 Band for the Burnaby School District.  I have an Honours degree in Music Education from the University of Western Ontario and have done post-graduate work through SFU.  As well as teaching music, I have been a professional horn player for over thirty years: I was member of the CBC Radio Orchestra; occasionally play with the Vancouver Symphony; am a member of the Vancouver Opera Orchestra; and play baroque horn. 

Benefits of being in band/ Mr. D’s blog site

We are fortunate that SD41 places such importance on the musical arts that Grade 7 Band classes continue to be offered at no expense as part of a well-rounded education.  In order to get the continued support of the Board, t is important we maintain levels of enrolment in Grade 7 Band.  If you have yet to decide whether your child will enroll in Grade 7 Band this year, please go to my blog site to read about the social and cognitive benefits that can result from playing a musical instrument.      

Should my child join Band? A decision worthy of a discussion between parent(s) and child

If your child is not yet enrolled in Band and didn’t hand in the attached form last June, please complete and hand in the form on the reverse so I know you have discussed whether or not to enroll your child in Band. 

I can’t take Band because . . .

Part of the reason I love teaching for Burnaby SD41 is that instruments are available at no cost in cases of financial hardship.  Please write me a confidential note if this is the case.  Regardless of your child’s activities or sports (my stepson was a BC all-star football player and is now principal cello of an orchestra in Germany), everyone has thirty minutes per week in their schedule to get the benefits of playing a musical instrument.   

Do I need to know how to read music if I want to join Band?

No. We learn how to read music and develop our listening skills at a pace where everyone can enjoy success. 

Practice schedule

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

My minimum expectation for practice time is 10 minutes per day, three days per week (of course, more is better!).  Since the hardest part of practicing is getting the instrument out of the case, setting up regular times to practice is the best way to achieve a reasonable standard of performance and will make a huge difference in both your child’s progress and the quality of the band experience.  Playing in band is being part of a musical team; the more skill we develop as a group, the more challenging music we get to play! 

What instrument will my son/daughter be playing?

I will soon meet with your son/daughter and together we will choose the instrument they will play in class this year.  If your child is assigned to play an instrument other than their first choice, it will be for musical or physical reasons.  I appreciate the flexibility shown by my students since our collective artistic experience is based on having a full range of instruments in the class. 

Are there lots of rules in Band?

1) the band room is a safe place to make a mistake (nobody can make a sound I haven’t heard before!)
2) nobody is allowed to make a blasting sound on an instrument
3) always bring your instrument and music to class
4) don’t touch someone else’s instrument
5) don’t talk or play when Mr. D is talking

What music do we get to play in Band?

We will be using Book 1 of Essential Elements.  However, a lot of the fun we have this year will be playing other pieces of music. As a member of several brass groups, I have played hundreds of concerts and arranged much of the music we performed.  I now use those skills to write for my beginning bands and have arranged Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean, Dynamite, Timber, I Believe, Beatles Medley, and more.  I welcome suggestions from my students (parents, too!) for new pieces to arrange. 

First Lesson/Instrument Rental Night

SD41’s First Lesson/Instrument Rental Night is from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept 19th at Byrne Creek Secondary School (7777 18th Street, Burnaby).  I teach thirteen different instruments; if many students don’t go to First Lesson and I have to teach students on each instrument the proper way to assemble, lubricate (or not), clean, and play, it makes for a very slow beginning to our time together so please attend, it’s the best way to have a great start to the year!

Information on the September 19th First Lesson/Instrument Rental Night and the District approved music stores that will be there on the evening is on the following District web site:   or the SD41 Visual/Fine Arts website:

** First Lesson: Because so many students play the flute, clarinet and trumpet, some lessons are listed as either A or B on the schedule.  There is no difference between them – go to the room with the fewest students! 

If you have any questions, please contact me via email:
Please check out my blog:                                                   
Musically yours,

Mr. D


Please return the form below only if you did not send me a completed form in June
If you’re not sure, email me at with your child’s name and school  

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –


School: ____________________________________      My Child:______________________________________

  Will be enrolling in the Elementary Band Program in September 2017

  Will NOT be enrolling in the Elementary Band Program in September 2017


Parent’s Signature

Students should have:

September, 2017

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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