How we used BRIM-Breath Impulse Method-Division of Beat, Solfege along with Bruce Pearson’s Standard

How we used BRIM-Breath Impulse Method-Division of Beat, Solfege along with Bruce Pearson’s Standard of Excellence Method to help propel our band program to the Midwest Clinic (Chicago, Il) Invitation/Performance: (Irmo Middle School Honor Band-David C. Woodard, Jr. and Kenneth D. Turner, directors Columbia, SC) as well as the Sudler Cup in 2000 from the John Phillip Sousa Foundation.

Although I began teaching middle school band in 1979, it took me some time to be brave enough to sing Solfege with my band students, especially when teaching older middle school (grades 7-9). During my first 12 years teaching, the grades and groupings of students varied greatly; therefore, I had mixed results introducing band students to singing. Finally, in 1992, I was assigned all 120 Irmo sixth grade beginners. After that, I always began my band classes each year with singing, utilizing both the Division of Beat (Eastman Counting System-BRIM- Breath Impulse Counting along with Basic of Solfege Singing the C-Major Scale. Starting with unchanged voices in 6th grade as part of initial instrument matching made all the difference from starting with older students, especially if taught by different teachers & methods. I believe BRIM (really any counting system) is best taught singing on pitch ('count-singing'). This became clear to me after attending Tom C. Rhodes’ Division of Beat clinic at U.S.C.- Columbia, S.C. around 1985. I immediately ordered a Division of Beat, Bk. 1A: Beginning Conductors' Score and MOST IMPORTANTLY, the Division of Beat Tape, which slowly began to revolutionize my teaching. Initially I applied the method to my small 7th grade band classes during the mid 1980's. Later, when 1992 zoning and school organization changes mandated, I was assigned, as was mentioned earlier, all 120 beginners. At that time, I fully instituted the BRIM method, along with simple Solfege singing as we began mouthpiece matching for all Irmo Beginners. I began to insist that we sing on solfege as well as count on pitch every method book exercise through page 12 or so (of Bruce Pearson’s Standard of Excellence Book I ). We could then (sometimes) sight-sing full arrangements somewhat on pitch. I should interject here that around 1987, a concert festival sight-reading room judge, who had been a former classmate at USC, took me to task for clapping & counting, which she said caused my bands to constantly rush. Nonetheless, soon after listening to those sight-reading room tapes with my students, I began to insist we sing while fingering or sticking every method book exercise. Over time this ability enabled us to often sing through a piece in the sight-reading room at state concert festival, amazingly, somewhat on pitch, especially if we figured out the tune-main theme. Keep in mind this was usually grade 1 or 2 sight-reading which our bands read during much of my 1979-2005 middle school band career.

More to come. We continue to focus on how to make this more easily accessible for teachers from a variety of backgrounds, especially as teachers are increasingly assigned music classes without majoring in or sometimes even studying music.

Please send comments, requests and suggestions.

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