Thursday, February 23, 2023

The Making of a Community Music Project called: “The Notebenders"

    The history of the Notebenders starts with a solution to a problem, as does many successful community music projects. The problem was that of a desire of five individuals and their instrumental teacher Andy Hamilton, MBE, to prepare a concert of published music. Their combined deficiency was a weakness in their ability to read music. The first step in solving this problem and making this project a success, was to come up with a plan of attack. One that would define the problems, present ways of fixing the problems, while at the same time providing tools that would make the next project more successful that the past ones.

    We started by agreeing on a day of the week that we would meet at an agreed on venue. Once this was decided, there was a set of objectives created to provide the tools necessary for the group to prosper. Objective one, creating a rhythm vocabulary that would allow the members to develop their skills long after leaving the performance sessions. We spent several sessions developing and honing this vocabulary in order to make it easier for any new members to just walk in and comprehend the method.  

    Since the members that joined up had a sufficient knowledge of their selected instrument, there was not much need to concentrate on instrument pedagogy, but we included it in the set of objectives in order to provide a more well-rounded education. We started scale studies, and interval pattern drills to support the pedagogy instruction. In doing this, I noticed an improvement in the group’s ability in ear training, and chord recognition.

    The group started to get larger, from a beginning of just five performers to a larger group of between 15-20 individual performers, 20 saxophonists, 1 trumpeter, 3 singers, 1 bass player, 1 electric guitar player, 2 drummers, and 2 piano players. At this point we received a grant from an English based grant provider called “The Scarman Trust”.  A decision was made to move to a larger venue. We had the makings of a true community based music group.

    After three months of preparation we had an opportunity for a performance. It was a community parade held in Kingstanding Housing Liaison Board, Birmingham, England. We put the entire group on a float and rode thru the community. This was a first for a lot of the members, to perform in public for the first time, in a fashion that was not intimidating them.

    Two months later we were finally ready for our first public performance in a true, formal “concert” setting. The venue was the Bearwood Corks Club; the audience was family, friends and the jazz loving community.

    Here we were, almost six months from the day we started the project, the culmination of a lot of hard work and overcoming a lot of fears being presented to the public. The concert was a big success; the group played wonderfully, everybody was happy, especially our chief sponsor and driving force behind the project, Andy Hamilton, MBE.  

    The overall success can be measured by the external support and sponsorship from the professional music community, musical educational community, and the local community at large.


“Repetition creates perfection,

the more you do it, the better you get”


By All Means, Do What You Love - NO MORE EXCUSES!!

     In a blog posted on the talk platform titled “Building Personal Brand Within the Social Media Landscape”, Gary Vaynerchuk, from Wine Library, delivered a brilliant speech tittle “do what you love, no excuses”. Personally, this speech was very motivating and helpful in the development of a deeper understanding of life, business and business storytelling.


    It was wonderful to see how Gary inspired the audience, He spoke in tee shirt and jeans, presenting a very casual atmosphere, but he started out very intense, very focused. As he expressed to the audience that he had no doubt that everyone in the audience was going to “kill it”, he was creating an atmosphere of trust.


    In a world that places too much emphasis on wanting it now, it was a pleasure finding out that there are still people in the world who believe that “Patience and Passion” are the two most important traits that should be practiced in creating a brand name for yourself. Gary states that, “Too many people in the room are doing stuff they hate”. That is oh so true. You have to “please stop doing that,” as Gary says.


    Remember the fun days when you used to play a musical instrument; life will always be good if you remember how good you felt when you played your musical instrument. I agree with Gary when he says, “There is no reason for people to be doing stuff they hate”.


    How about creating a new way of life? If took Gary until he was thirty to figure out that there was a portion of his life that he didn’t like. Gary makes a brilliant suggestion, he says “look yourself in the mirror and decide what you want to do every day for the rest of your life”. And when you start thinking about that, remember how music was an important part of your life.


    “Keep Hustling” as Gary likes to say. It is important to remember that the main goal of your entire remake of yourself, and that is to “build a business out of what you love to do”, learn to monetize what you like. If you put out a good product, people will come to you, but as Gary says, “If you don’t believe in what you’re doing, your personal brand or the product you represent;

“Repetition creates perfection,
the more you do it, the better you get”


Create a Rhythm Vocabulary for improving music reading skills.

 "Music is Mathematics"

          While in the process of creating your community music project, it is extremely important not to forget that there are several essential goals that must be accomplished; all under the umbrella called “Musicianship.” How frustrating it will be to your participants to sacrifice their time and money to come to rehearsal once a week and not be able to participate because of something as simple as an inability to read the music being played.


          To start with, develop an ensemble routine that includes the ability to read arrangements correctly as they perform it for the first time, otherwise known as “sight-reading”. Failing to be able to count music can be the end of your ensemble before you are able to present your hard works skills in a performance setting. Devote the first part of your group ensemble rehearsal to developing a counting vocabulary-based system of reading rhythms. There are several excellent methods that use vocabulary to teach reading rhythms, such as The Sight-Reading Book for Bands” and “Band Rhythms” These books utilize a simple method to reading music that can be adapted to any type of community music ensemble. Start simple, use large value notes first and then progress to the more complex rhythms. Develop a routine of using vocabulary such as 1,2,3,4 for whole notes, half notes and quarter notes. Use 1-&-2-&-3-&-4-& when reading eight notes. When the time is right progress to 1-e-&-a, 2-e-&-a, 3-e-&-a, 4-e-&-a, when using sixteenth notes. Then the fun begins by combining the vocabulary.


          Always remember that the act of reading rhythm should be described using mathematical genre. The understanding of fractional-based time signatures should be side by side with the teaching of reading rhythms associated with that time signature. Make sure that the parts of the notes are covered also. Teach the three parts, the note head, the stem, and the flags. Try not to get hung up on note on staff positions, which can be covered when your focus is on scale exercises and ear training.


          One of the most important goals to remember is that there needs to be a way for your community music participants to develop a way to decipher the reading of rhythms. Using a vocabulary to read rhythms provides a sound foundation for the development of the music reading ability of your community music ensemble while still creating an atmosphere of personal confidence.

"Repetition creates perfection,

the more you do it, the better you get”


Do Not Forget To Add Others To Your Local Music Festival

By now you should have an idea of what show will we do, or what type of show should we do. It is at this time that you look to accompanying someone else and their act. A community music group should have the flexibility to act as a backup to another act.


            A good way of doing this is to sponsor a small music festival. Start out for a Saturday/Sunday Festival. Do you know that according to professional services consulting firm Deloitte looked at the highest grossing performing acts in the United States from 2000-2009 and found that 40% of the top twenty lead singers were 60 years old or older, 19% were in their 50’s, 35% were in their 40s, and just 6% were in their 30s, while none of the lead singers were under 30 years old. The most attended venue by these performers is the local festival venue.


            Why did I mention this, besides the fact that it just kind of showed up for the party in my head, because it these ages that matter as far as what kind of music to try and perform. Those 60-year-old singers have a music catalogue that has spanned the length of time. Plan a festival of music that might feature selections from our 60-year-old performer, art from the local painter, crafts from the local craft maker.


            The bottom line is that anything, and idea, and plan that get musical instruments in the hands of the community for the sole purpose of healthy entertainment is worth any story about 60-year-old famous singer.


“Repetition creates perfection,
the more you do it, the better you get”


Resources: (2013). New Business Models in the Music Industry.

Retrieved from



How To Think About What Level Your Community Music Group Is

    If you are considered a musical leader by the members of your community music group, you must be able to provide qualitative instruction and direction to the growth of your community music group. Try thinking about the members’ ability in terms of levels with accompanying group targets goals. These levels, adapted by the Royal Academy of Music, can be a great start for the community music group leader or group member.


LEVEL 1 Term

At this level your community music group member will show proficiency in repeating short rhythmic melodic patterns and will be able to visually identify simple repeated patterns and take account of musical instructions.


Group Target:

To develop their ability to organize sounds, shape melodies, improve their performance skills, and acquire self-assessment skills.


LEVEL 2 Term

At this level, your community music group member can recognize how sounds can be organized. They can perform simple patterns keeping a steady pulse, sounds with symbols and recognize how the musical elements can be used to create different moods and effects.


Group Target:

To develop and improve their rhythmic performance skills, and start to acquire improvisational skills.


LEVEL 3 Term

At this level your community music group member can perform rhythmically simple parts using a large range of notes.


Group Target:

To develop their ability to improve your community music group member’s proficiency in performing by ear and from simple notations, and acquire better improvisational skills.


LEVEL 4 Term

At this level your community music group member has shown proficiency in performing by ear and from simple notations, they maintain their own part with awareness of how the different parts fit together and the need to achieve an overall effect. The member also proves to be quite successful in improvising melodic and rhythmic phrases as part of a solo/group performance using appropriate musical vocabulary.


Group Target:

To develop the community music group member’s ability to identify and explore musical devices, improve his/her proficiency in performing significant parts from memory and from notation, and to be able to analyze and compare musical features and evaluate how venue, occasion and purpose affect the way music is created, performed, and heard.


LEVEL 5 Term

At this level your community music group member can identify and explore musical devices and how music reflects time and place. They can also show proficiency in performing significant parts from memory and from notations with awareness of their own contribution such as taking a solo part and providing ensemble support. This level tends to present your community music group member as being successful in improvising melodic and rhythmic material within given structures, use a variety of notations and compose music for different occasions using appropriate musical devices such as melody, rhythms, chords and structures.


Group Target:

To select and make expressive use of tempo, dynamics, phrasing and timbre. And also improvise and compose in different genres and styles, using harmonic and non-harmonic devices where relevant.


When you teach music there is no need to teach older community music group members with different methods than the younger members. Although you will need to adapt to the differences in maturity levels, the methods you can use will be the same.


“Repetition creates perfection,
the more you do it, the better you get”



Chidester, B. (2014). Teaching Music to Adults and Children - Why Use Different Methods to Teach the Same Subject? Retrieved from


Royal Academy of Music (2014). A Step Ahead - About us - Royal Academy of Music. Retrieved from




Sunday, March 23, 2014

Where to get music from – “fit to your ensemble

            Today in our community music group forum discussion, I want to talk about POD services, those are Print On Demand services that take sheet music and make it available to print from any computer. Of course a purchase has to be made before you can print the music, but that’s not important at this time, unless!

            You are probably wondering why am I talking so much about the business side of community music groups lately and not the performance side of the industry. I am trying to develop an attitude of the complete community music musician. This can also be applied to the group of community music musicians.

            The movement is designed to foster and develop the art of being a musician, for the rest of your life. Attached to this attitude is a sparkle of fellowship; the getting together for the purpose of creating music together. The development happens when you start to include an attitude of business professionalism.  

            POD services have several strengths. One of its strengths is a 100% Guarantees policy. I was impressed with the issues covered in its Guarantees policy, which guarantees 100% that all transactions will be safe. There is also a 30-day return policy that is in place to makes consumers comfortable with the purchases of product.

            Another strength is its Viewing and Printing policy.  There are several considerations as far as the ability to access the product that makes this POD interesting. The buyer has the option to View and Print the product through the aid of Internet friendly players and sheet music applications.

            The existence of your community music group depends on quality of music performed. When it comes to getting your music library organized, take advantage of some of the POD sites that are out here. There are several PODs’ that cater to various ensemble configurations, and this is music written by talented composers and arrangers. Sometimes the big guys forget about the little community musicians groups that are thriving out here in “music world”.

“Repetition creates perfection,

the more you do it the better you get”
What Can You Look Forward To – “you can do this as a profession, but you will have to gain knowledge

            At this point in your community music group’s growth it would make sense to consider the possibility of making your music world known, and possibility for a little profit. Start looking for a seasoned representative, such as an agent, entertainment lawyer, or musical manager to represent yourselves and to help you with record labels. You can’t go into the ring “unsolicited”.

            Look for a representative that is knowledgeable about the genre of music your community music group performs. Not all agents support all types of music, so make sure the have your musical style “definable” by a reputable music agency. Don’t forget to look up the government occupational sites in order to get good task oriented descriptions.

It is time to consider your material, how to promote and protect it.

            There are several music-publishing models out that you might want to try, but there is one model in particular that appeals to the community music geek in me. The New Self-Publishing and Distribution revolution is proving to be a good way to get your music out to the community music industry, especially if you put it into print music. This new revolution of music publishers is totally self-sufficient, having a thorough knowledge of the standards of the industry.

            Make sure that your group has a “product”. You should have enough music to cover several CD’s. It should be music that reflects the heart and soul of your community music group. Although your group may be comprised of weekend instrumental musicians (vocalists included), the fact that you have committed to giving up time and energy to perform a musical instrument has a natural spark to it that must be cultivated. So, record it, promote it, and get it out into the world of music, for all to hear.

“Repetition creates perfection,

the more you do it the better you get”