DIRECTOR'S LETTER

August 2020

 

Hello JICHS Band Family!

 

I hope this long overdue email finds you all safe, happy, and healthy.  I know the past five months have been so different than any one of us could have imagined this time last year.  I do not think there is any way we could have predicted what has transpired.  But I also truly think this is a great opportunity for us to redefine, not only how we teach band, but the new possibilities that exist because we have been forced to think in a new way.  I think band students are some of the most resilient people out there.  We are used to overcoming and adapting to what gets presented to us.  A former student of mine gave me a gift a few years ago, a decorative rock that she painted on it: grow through what you go through.  It is something that has resonated in me since then, and I think it is a perfect mantra for us this year.  We are going to grow through what we have all gone through, and we will come out stronger and even more resilient than we were before.  I have no doubt the James Island Charter High School Band program is going to thrive this year!  So let’s get to it!

 

I would be remiss if i did not take a moment to introduce myself, and our new assistant band director to everyone, especially our freshman.  My name is Gretchen Bowles, my students call me Dr. Bowles...or actually most call me Dr. B.  I am so excited to be joining the James Island Band Family!  I am coming to JI from Hanahan HS.  I was the director of bands there for 13 years.  Our assistant band director is Mr. Josh Sherman who will be splitting his time between JICHS and Camp Road Middle School this year.  He is coming to JI from Wisconsin where he has taught for twelve years.  I am very excited to begin this journey with Mr. Sherman, and Ms. Spitzer at the middle school.  We all have the same goals and ideals when it comes to building a band program, so I have no doubt that great things are about to happen.  

 

As we are quickly approaching the beginning of the school year, I have a lot of information to give to you all.  I will do my best to keep it brief...but I will tell you I am not known for that.  Lol

A lot of this information, in a “normal” year you would have already received.  But as we know it is definitely not a normal year.  So I am getting this out to you all at the first moment I have been able to.  Bare with me...everything I am sending out is fluid...and oftentimes changing from one day to the next.  I will hope to keep you informed of changes as they are occurring, but sometimes changes are out of my control.  I am not one to like to cancel, change, or adapt a schedule once I have put it out there for everyone to see.  But I feel this semester at the least will be an experiment on my patience when it comes to overcoming and adapting.  


 

Ok...now it is time for the real reasons I am emailing you today.  The who, the what, the when, and the how of the 2020-2021 school year!

 

2020-2021 JICHS Band Registration - Registration Form

This is probably the most important form for you to fill out.  It will give us all the important information we need from you, and it will give you access to all the forms you need from us.  PLEASE fill it out ASAP.

School Start-up

We are all still forging a new path with school start up.  There are so many unanswered questions, and a lot of uncertainty about what to do and how to do it.  I do not have all of the answers, but I do have some that I am excited about.

First of all, I know that many of you have been struggling with going to school in person or taking the virtual route.  I truly understand that struggle.  But know that regardless of what path you take for the foreseeable future, virtual band students will still be able to take band class.  You will be in class with the rest of your band.  We are lucky enough at JICHS to host our own virtual academy.  And the board has decided to house our virtual ensemble students with each performing arts teacher.  So, even though you will be virtual, you will be “in class” via web cam at the same time your friends are in class.  So you will be able to keep up with the in person portion of the band until we are all back together again.  It isn’t a perfect option, but it is definitely the best option.

At the current moment, it seems we will probably be 100% virtual at the start of the year.  So we will all be the same.  From what I can tell from our faculty meetings, we will follow the bell schedule of a regular school day.  So we will meet online at the same time we would meet in person during the day.  My plan will be to teach from the band room via a webcam.  The first 45 minutes of class will be warm-ups, scales, and technique.  That will always be live.  The next 45 minutes will either be a continuation of live rehearsals, breakout sessions for chamber ensemble rehearsals,master classes with our symphony instructors, or written assignments.  It will just depend on the day.  Our focus for the first few weeks of school will be on the basics- tone production - technique - sight-reading.  All the important building blocks of a great band.


 

Safety measures

We are working together with the administration to make sure we are as safe and as cautious as possible.  Safety is the MOST important thing when it comes to your students.  The band leadership team and I will be working together over the next couple of weeks to establish all of our procedures and protocols to keep the rooms clean, and students safe.  

Here is a list of some of the safety features we implementing:

  • We have purchased masks with slits in them for the woodwind and brass players to wear while they are playing. Percussionists can wear their own mask.  Flutes will have their own special apparatus to fit over the tone hole.

  • We have purchased bell covers that will fit over the bells of all the wind instruments.

  • Percussionists will only use their sticks and mallets - there will be no sharing.  We will give you a list of what to purchase soon.

  • Every day you will enter school through the attendance atrium.  Before entering you will fill out the COVID questionnaire and have your temperature taken.

  • Band students will have to fill out a Waiver, just like the student athletes will have to do.

  • We are working with the administration to build moveable plexiglass partitions to use during rehearsals.

  • We will only play for 30 minutes at a time, and then either change rooms or we will leave the room for 15 minutes to allow for a full cycle of the air to clear out the room.

    • The NFHS recommendations for Indoor Rehearsals - allow for a minimum of 1 air change prior to next use of the room - Based on dimensions, the band room has 5.9 Air Changes (ACH) per hour

  • All students and teachers will consistently maintain 6ft of social distancing (trombone players will be 9ft x 6ft) - this applies inside and outside.

  • Everybody will need to bring their own water bottle.

  • Masks will be worn at all times...no exceptions.

  • We will limit the number of students allowed in the instrument storage room at one time.

There are many more safety measures that we are working on.  I just wanted to assure you we are working on our procedures and are most definitely taking them seriously.  Another good thing is we are having our camp in September, after a lot of other schools.  I will have a lot of friends to reach out to and see what worked,and what didn’t.  We will be as prepared as we possibly can be to greet your students safely.


 

Band Camp 

We have just been approved to have a band camp!  This is so very exciting for me.  I think it is a great opportunity to get started playing again.  And just to be able to be around each other again.  I know Mr. Sherman and I are very eager to meet each and everyone of you.  I am attaching the band camp schedule as it stands now.  Again I have to say things can and very likely will change.  We have created a camp where we are able to be in smaller groups.  We have split the band with woodwinds in the morning, and brass and percussion in the afternoon.  We will also have the ability to have students join us virtually if parents are not comfortable with their child being around other students.  So even if you need to do it virtually...we want you there!

Our focus for camp and the beginning of school will be on warm-ups: technique, sound production, and just being able to play together again.  I think it will be a great opportunity to begin to explore chamber ensembles and work on the fundamentals of playing again.

 

Instrument Pick-Up at Fact and Fee

For those students who are unable to attend band camp in person, or for those who want to get a jump start on playing, we will be able to distribute your school owned instrument and any music we have to hand out to you during fact and fee days.  You will be able to come to the band room door and we will get your instrument to you.  I will need to know before your fact and fee day if you will be using a school owned instrument.  This information will be given to me through the Band Registration Google Form.

 

Other Links

Here is the link to the 2020-2021 JICHS Band Handbook.  This is for virtual and in-person students.

 

And here is the link to the 2020-2021 Master Calendar.  Please keep in mind this is a VERY fluid document.  I have put everything on there as if we were starting school all in person.  This is not going to be the case.  As a result there are events on the calendar we will not be doing...until further notice.  I just do not know when that will be.  I want to give you all the dates so you know now what we should be doing.  That way when I get the ok, we can then start doing them.

 

So as I finish up this very long email, (I promise they will not all be this long), I just want you to know we are all so very excited to finally meet everyone!  Mr. Sherman and I are committed to continuing to build a strong band tradition.  I will leave you with a quote my high school band director used to say to me and my fellow band students when he wanted us to find it within ourselves to push past what we know, and create the us we were meant to be.

 It is the end of Ulysses by Sir Alfred, Lord Tennyson:

Come, my friends, 

'T is not too late to seek a newer world.

Push off, and sitting well in order smite

The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds

To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths

Of all the western stars, until I die.

It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:

It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,

And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.

Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'

We are not now that strength which in old days

Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;

One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

 

I look forward to meeting you all very soon!  

 

Dr. Bowles

gretchen_bowles@charleston.k12.sc.us

 

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