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Meet Tradition of Excellence: An Innovative New Band Method

by John Kuzmich Jr.


Meet Tradition of Excellence: An Innovative New Band Method
By John Kuzmich, Jr.
September 14, 2011

This isn’t your grandpa’s band class anymore. Technology has brought exciting advances to modern instruction; making it more effective and interactive. Here’s a warm welcome to Tradition of Excellence by Bruce Pearson and Ryan Nowlin, published by the Neil A. Kjos Music Company. This is not an updated version of the prestigious Standard of Excellence for it combines new teaching techniques with technology enhancements. The flexible, performance-centered curriculum seamlessly blends classic and contemporary pedagogy with cutting-edge technology. Fundamental to this method is differentiated instruction that allows you to customize your teaching with three unique starting systems: for private lessons, instrument class instruction and the heterogeneous large ensemble and is also designed to address the varied skills levels of your students. Pedagogically, it uses a clever two-page lesson format and sound-before-symbol rhythm introduction, all based in a comprehensive Standards-based, comprehensive musicianship curriculum. The method itself is loaded with supplementary materials, like: theory, composition, orchestration, arranging, improvisation, ear training, conducting, sight-reading, chop builders, scales, history and more in every student book found in this publication? It is a must “see” item to say the very least about it.

Tradition of Excellence includes an attached instrument-specific DVD disc containing excellent video tutorials, state-of-the art accompaniment recordings and importable audio files. The videos provide instruction by master teachers addressing specific challenges young band students will encounter. There are nearly 200 tutorials in the book 1 series alone. The videos are also particularly good at helping students get started teaching important basics such as putting your instrument together, proper posture and hand position, how to form a proper embouchure, and the technical challenges of every instrument. The percussion family of instruments, alone, has 41 instructional videos in Book 1. The percussion books also offer creative ways to begin instruction on the drum-set and timpani even though students may not have access to these instruments.

The disc also includes audio recordings for every full-band exercise in their Tradition of Excellence book performed by exceptional musicians modeling superb tone and outstanding technique. A testimony regarding the quality of the video tutorials was when a beginning flute student started private lessons with me. She experienced some typical embouchure problems. During her home practice session, she began watching the DVD tutorial. They were particularly helpful in her embouchure development, articulations and playing different octaves. By the fourth lesson, she was playing most of the beginning flute book with confidence and quality.

This method is full of today’s best practices and instructional trends. You will like the bright color-coding that visually links new concepts with the music exercises. The rhythm introductions are adaptable to any counting system. Ready-to-use lesson plans and multiple-option ensemble scoring are helpful instruction features.

Every band method today needs a definitive companion text to expand the methodology. Teaching Band with Excellence: a Comprehensive Curricular, Pedagogical, and Administrative Resourceis an indispensable aid to the teacher. It’s that good! Kjos has created the must-have accompaniment to any and all band methods. Its four sections focus on: Curriculum, Instruments, Administration, and Personal and Professional Growth.

Students who purchase this method are given an access code, unique to each book, that allows them to download the ” Interactive Practice Studio (IPS)” to their computer or iPod. The IPS software provides instant access to recorded accompaniments, video lessons, biographical and historical information, reference recordings, and a map illustrating the geographical location of the world music found in Tradition of Excellence. It also includes a metronome/tuner, notation software and more. For teachers, it works perfectly with interactive whiteboard use. The Interactive Teacher Studio (ITS) provides access to teacher assistants that provide line-specific reminders from the authors dealing with challenges, objectives and enrichment opportunities. In addition, it includes full lessons plans with objectives, national standards, evaluation and enrichment studies, plus answer keys to comprehensive quizzes, rubrics, and country and composer worksheets. The Interactive Practice Studio (IPS) is included in the price of the book and DVD, which is $9.95. The expanded horn book, with F and Bb fingerings, and expanded percussion book are $10.95 and $12.95 respectively. Tradition of Excellence is supported by SmartMusic providing far more than just an assessment tool for method books. It also includes much of the sheet music or band literature being played in class.

Did You Know. . .

1. To access the Conductor Score’s Interactive Teacher Studio (ITS) you simply tear open the flap on the inside of the back cover of the conductor score and follow the instructions. This involves downloading the software at Follow the on-screen instructions and use the sixteen-digit code located to the left to get started. This sixteen-digit code is unique to each and every book. The Interactive Teacher Studio allows access to the Tradition of Excellence Interactive Practice Studio.

2. As soon as you have installed the software referenced in your first question, the Media Downloader, History and Culture, Listening, etc. are all incorporated in Tradition of Excellence.

3. Tradition of Excellence allows students to record their performances and place that recorded performance in an electronic portfolio that can be sent via e-mail to their teacher for their assessment or to any friend or relative for their enjoyment, support, and encouragement. Teachers are encouraged to consult with their district’s policy regarding student and teacher emails.
4. Tradition of Excellence Includes Music Writer Touch, a basic music notation software that let’s students and teachers compose, notate and play back the composed music. Teachers can integrate this composition tool with an interactive whiteboard.

Closing Comments

Book 2 will be released in March 2012 and there will be four books in this series. The amount of customizable instructional material is significant, representing an extremely helpful method of instruction. You will appreciate that the book 1 also contains music appropriate for three concert selections. This comprehensive method, going from rehearsal to practice to public performance, within a systematic comprehensive-musicianship curriculum, is second-to-none. And because it incorporates tomorrow’s technology today, it allows the teacher to enter the “students’ world” offering unique, intuitive, and creative teaching environments that will elevate your instrumental music instruction to a whole new level.