No Longer a Standard of Excellence

| May 8, 2011

Since becoming the high school band director I have made an effort to visit the three middle schools that send students to our music program.  All of the teachers have been welcoming, friendly and have even allowed me to meet and work with their students.  After visiting one eighth grade class, I asked what method book the students were using.  The teacher told me she had used the class Standard of Excellence for some time (I used SOE in beginning band!) but that the publisher was discontinuing it for a new title.

The new book by the same author, Bruce Pearson, is called Tradition of Excellence.  In a field where the word tradition can have a multitude of positive and negative connotation, I think the title is befitting.  Flipping through the book I found many of the same songs from the Standard version: Hot Cross Buns, Jingle Bells, etc. etc.  There were a few new obviously multicultural songs but the idea was exactly the same.

The most striking thing was that there were now little blurbs of a sentence or two about composers.  It’s tough enough to write a book about Beethoven, how do you write just two sentences?  And why does Bruce Pearson get three sentences?  It’s cool that Bruce played hockey in college but I’m not sure why that is relevant to a 4th grade baritone player.

They certainly made an amazing effort to introduce technology.  All exercises were fully integrated with Smart Music, there were dvd help videos and professional examples not to mention online resources and further downloads.  This brings me to why the title is so fitting.  They are carrying on the tradition of band.  Yes there is technology, but I don’t think the power of modern music technology is in Smart Music, I think it’s in the creativity it fosters.  At the end of the day, Tradition of Excellence is no different than the Freeman Whitney, the Fred Weber, Belwin, or Essential Elements.  At least its name is a little more accurate.