Friday, December 17, 2010

North Albany Middle School Jazz Fest - Jan 29 2011

The Early Bird Jazz Band will perform at this fun festival on Saturday, January 29.  It's at the North Albany Middle School in Albany, Oregon.

Our exact performance and workshop time TBD, but probably sometime between 10am and 2pm.

Be sure to come early or stay longer to hear the other bands from all over western Oregon.  The director's show their stuff in a "director jam" at noon - which is always fun!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A List of Bands that Feature Good Horns by Jackson

Early Bird Jazz guitarist Jackson S. (an 8th grader in the Early Bird Jazz Band class of 2009-2010) gave me a handwritten list of what he deemed bands with "good horns."  He wrote it on a little piece of paper in front of me, in about a minute, every band named exactly correct.  I've had his list for some months now and before I archive the paper, I want to transcribe it as it seems very interesting and worthy of exploration:

Good horns:
Good rhythm section Ska (per Jackson, "many edge towards punk"):
I had the sense that Jackson was merely scratching the surface of the bands he could have named.  I won't be surprised when I add his own band to the list someday.

Jackson's love of Ska music was one of the main inspirations for my tune Freeway Ska.

Rob Birdwell

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Big 12 Major Scales

I love scales - not so much the scales themselves but the world of melodies they opened up for me.  Having them under my fingers makes many things much easier - like sight reading, improvising and even composing!

But I recognize that not everyone likes scales - they can be viewed as tedious and boring.  But once we recognize that scales serve as the fundamental building blocks of melodies, chords and other great musical things, we begin to get to know them and see them for what they are:  cool!

So take some time in your daily routine to befriend these 12 major scales on your instrument - each one has a  unique character.  Some have a few more flats and sharps than others, but they will be there for you someday so get to know them well!  Good things start to happen once you have these under your fingers!

The Big 12 Scales - Alto Sax
The Big 12 Scales - Baritone Sax
The Big 12 Scales - Bass
The Big 12 Scales - Clarinet
The Big 12 Scales - Flute
The Big 12 Scales - Guitar
The Big 12 Scales - Horn in F
The Big 12 Scales - Piano
The Big 12 Scales - Tenor Sax
The Big 12 Scales - Trombone
The Big 12 Scales - Trumpet
The Big 12 Scales - Tuba
The Big 12 Scales - Vibes-Drums

My junior high music director, Bill Wicker, introduced me and all the students to the big 12.  He had posters on the wall that said things like:  "Practice makes perfect?  Phooey!  But perfect practice makes better!" and other helpful quotes.  He had a challenge that very few students took him up on called the "Super Big 12" - which was to play all 12 major scales in two octaves, including the arpeggios!

The beauty of learning your major scales is that the minor scales are included, for free!  A couple examples:
  • Play a C scale but start on A - that will give you the relative minor scale (A minor)
  • Play a C scale but start on D - that will give you a dorian mode minor scale
  • Play a C scale but start on B - that will give you a very cool locrian mode minor scale
Most of all, have fun and enjoy playing your instrument!

Rob Birdwell

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Early Bird Jazz Band - 2010-2011 Sign-up General Information

Early Bird Jazz Band 2010-2011
Rob Birdwell, Music Director

General Information for the 2010-2011 Early Bird Jazz Band Season

Early Bird Jazz Band is a before-school music enrichment program open to students who meet the basic Musicianship Requirements (see below).  Rob Birdwell is the music director for the class - this year will mark his 8th season leading and directing this music program.  For more about Rob, visit

Start Date:  Wednesday, September 15, 2010, 7:45am, Linus Pauling Middle School Band Room

Monthly Student Tuition:  $30 per month

Musicianship Requirements: One year (or equivalent) playing their primary instrument; some ability to read music; some experience playing in an organized group (band, orchestra, choir, rock band, private or self-study, etc.).

When and Where We Meet: Wednesday and Friday mornings, 7:45am to 8:45am - Linus Pauling Middle School Band Room.

Who Can Join?
Interested musicians should meet the basic Musicianship Requirements (see above).  Home-schooled students and students from other area middle schools are also welcome to play in the band.
Primary Instrumentation:

  • Trumpet, Clarinet, Alto Sax, Tenor Sax, Baritone Sax, Trombone/Baritone/Euphonium/Tuba
  • Guitar, Bass*, Piano*, Drums*

Students playing or doubling on other instruments can and are encouraged to play them in the Early Bird Jazz Band - including: Flute, Oboe, Bassoon, Violin, Viola, Cello, French Horn, Mallets. However there will be times when the student needs to transpose an existing part for their instrument.

When we have multiple Pianists, Bassists, and/or Drummers parents will need to ensure their student has their own instrument to play in class as well as their own amp/cables, etc..  (There is only one drum set and one piano in the band room.  The bass amp can handle two players at once.)

Performances:  We will play at least two concerts during the year for parents, family and friends (Winter and Spring).  Additionally, we will play at the NAMS Jazz Festival (scheduled for Saturday January 29, 2011) and the LPMS 8th Grade Celebration (June 2011).  We will also perform a couple “Cafeteria Jams” during the year (at our regular morning time) for students, staff and family.
Scholarships:  For those who qualify, a limited number of reduced tuition or tuition scholarships are available.  Sibling discounts are also available.

For more information, contact Rob Birdwell

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Benefits of Music and Music Education

This PDF document is pretty much what every student, teacher and/or parent actively involved in music/arts programs already knows - but it's worth a second glance:

And if such an important and valuable thing, why then would cuts in music and arts programs from our schools even be considered?

It seems to me that it's not merely a lack of resources or dwindling budgets, but a question of values.

Rob Birdwell

Monday, May 3, 2010

Spring Concert May 5 2010 at Linus Pauling 7:30pm

Hope you can all make our concert this Wednesday - here's a sneak peak at our set list...always subject to change!

  • Percussion Prelude
  • All Blues
  • Mission Impossible 
  • Jump, Jive and Wail
  • St. James Infirmary
  • Well You Needn't
  • Freeway Ska

I'm hoping to get a good recording - treats and mingling after.  Should be all done before 8:30pm!


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

NAMS Jazz Festival 2010 - Audio

Here are the performance audio tracks recorded at the North Albany Middle School Jazz Festival (4th annual - 2010!)

Call And Response
Watermelon Man
Rock Around The Clock
Bag's Groove

Congratulations to all on your hard work in learning the music and putting together an exciting and spirited performance!  We will likely reprise some of these tunes again, but it's good to have these recordings to listen back to.  Thanks to parents and families for all your support!

Rob Birdwell

NAMS Jazz Festival 2010 - Photos

Terry Poe Photography took photos of our performance - you can view and order your own photos from this link:

The photos are excellent - have a look!

The instructions on the handout were to click the "clients" page then the "Jazz Festival" link - you'll be prompted to enter a code to access the photos.  It is: jazzfest2010

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Freeway Ska - New Tune for Early Bird Jazz Band

Here's a link to a slightly produced version of the score to Freeway Ska:

Freeway Ska (MP3)

If possible, download the audio file and copy it to your MP3 device and play along at home with your own part.  You might find that the tempo on this recording is challenging to play with at first - that's okay.  Simply take a bit of time to to practice your part slowly at first so you can work up to playing along with the recording.  It might take some time but you'll get it.  We don't necessarily need to play it this fast, but the tempo is about what I'd like to aim for.

Recall that "G.P." means Grand Pause, D.S. al Coda means Dal Segno: in other words, go to "the sign" at letter "B" until you hit the "coda" sign, then jump to the "coda".  These are short-hand musical terms that actually help to save ink and paper!

Finally, keep in mind that the written note is nothing without a real musician (you!) to breathe/pluck/drum life into it.  So strive to understand the original intent of the written notes (articulations, dynamics, phrasing, etc.), but don't forget to add your own sense of musicianship and expressiveness to the mix - that's called making music!

Have fun and enjoy playing your instrument(s)!