Dan Welch, Assistant Band Director, Campbell, Ohio Case Study
A brass player himself, Dan has taught Campbell Elementary and Middle School for three years. Dan teaches kindergarten to 3rd grade general music, 4th grade percussion performing arts and is assistant band director for grades 5-7.
The school is located in a community with many economic challenges. Additionally, the community is very diverse, with a number of residents and students where English is their second language.
Dan’s pBuzz journey began when a local not-for-profit foundation in nearby Youngstown offered grants for innovative classroom projects enhancing reading or mathematics. Dan, knowing the obvious correlation between the ability to read music and reading comprehension and phonics, applied for the grant.
Dan runs a class with his 2nd and 3rd graders called ‘instruments of the orchestra’, where they try out different band instruments. The students struggle to hold regular band instruments such as trombones and tubas, the students are simply not big enough yet – to Dan, the grant seemed like the ideal opportunity to combine an activity the kids were interested in with a method that would improve literacy.
Selected as one of 11 recipients, and with a little extra funding from district, Dan was able to purchase a pBuzz for every 2nd-3rd grade student. Dan had a deadline of a concert in the coming weeks, where his 2nd and 3rd graders needed to be able to play several songs for parents and staff!
Teaching methods and resources
When he began implementing the programme, Dan’s goal was to get every student producing a sound – something that he achieved quickly. Typically it’s easy with percussion and more challenging in a recorder class. With pBuzz, Dan achieved his target within the first week.
Dan utilised lesson plans and resources from the website and ordered the Learn to Play pBuzz book, which includes suggestions around encouraging buzzing. He found this prepared students quickly and efficiently for buzzing, and they were ahead of his expectations in this respect.
When developing teaching materials, Dan downloaded what was available via the website and in addition to this has created posters showing different slide positions, ‘note of the week’ and ‘pBuzz rules’ as well as pBuzz karate!
The next step presented more challenges. Dan slowed the pace down when it came to evaluating how much music theory was necessary for the 2nd and 3rd grade. He was reluctant to move into playing songs before his students had a better grasp of some of the theory basics. Therefore, beyond buzzing, they didn’t meet expectations as quickly – Dan decided to place more of an emphasis on teaching proficiency in music theory.
The next step for the students was to get them playing music, even if they weren’t reading it. Dan worked with them to enable the recognition of staves and notes, but translating this to playing music proved more difficult. Dan found that pBuzz allowed the teaching of different avenues in order to achieve that fluency – for example, teaching them to read music by letter, number or colour.
Successes and challenges
Dan’s overall aim is to equip his students for later in their musical journey by giving them some level of familiarity with reading music, and having mastered embouchure and pitch. His teaching style incorporates variety which he finds to be effective – including visual elements, demonstrations, singing and kinaesthetic activity.
The advantages of pBuzz
Overall, Dan is enthusiastic about getting pBuzz into more US classrooms following his experience. It gets instruments into the hands of kids at a younger age; it gets them reading music sooner; the flexibility of the programme means it’s easy to adopt. Dan is a firm believer in the instrument and in the programme.
Dan is excited for his 2nd and 3rd graders with pBuzz experience to reach band age as they will have a real head start with their foundational knowledge of buzzing, breath support and what a good sound is – even if they go on to play wind instruments!
For more information and help introducing pBuzz into your school, please contact us on email@example.com.