Elementary Band Song Suggestions from January to June

In my previous blog I presented some elementary band song suggestions for the first half of the school year using the Yankee Collection as a replacement for the traditional band method books. As an elementary band director myself (many years ago), I found those books full of clutter and quite confusing and overwhelming for beginners. So I started writing out complete songs by hand which eventually evolved into the Yankee Collection. The band methods, to me, became unnecessary and we rarely used them.

Now we are back from the holiday break. If you used the Yankee Collection, the retention rate of your returning students rose from the traditional 50% up to maybe 80% due to the enthusiasm generated by the book. That was my experience!

Fall through Christmas was very predictable and easy to organize lesson plans because of each holiday, but now in January, you, as the band teacher must have an idea what the school curriculum is in all the grades. Do they have a Cowboy unit, or a unit on the Boston whaling industry, or the Civil War? The Yankee Collection has sections: Songs Of The Sea, Railroad Songs, Cowboy Songs, Civil War Songs, and Patriotic Songs as well as Folk Songs, and Spiritual Songs all of which can be plugged into any month from January through June.

Now let’s look at January (the dead month). The holidays are over, the day light is short, and nothing exciting is happening except looking forward to the winter break in February, so I would choose tunes like “Aura Lee” Pg. 8 “Cotton-Eye Joe” Pg 12, “Standing In The Moonlight” Pg 23, “Michael, Row The Boat Boat Ashore” Pg 52, “Ode to Joy” Pg 53 and “When The Saints Go Marching In” Pg 55. All of which are a nice review of the original six or seven note range and should supply incentive to practice and experiment with new songs to learn.

After about two weeks try introducing middle B flat concert, everything closed on clarinet (difficult, but we have to start some time!) Great familiar songs are: “Grandfather’s Clock” Pg. 12, “Erie Canal” Pg 13, and “On Top Of Old Smokey” Pg 19. If students can’t pull off the new note don’t despair, but it sure would be nice if they can.

Remember, when you introduce a new fingering, everything else stays the same, so maybe you could focus on counting as well. (I always recommended using the down and up motion of their heels on quarter and eighth notes to start because the heel is much more quiet. The co-ordination also prepared them for marching band in future years.)

January is brought to you by the fingering for clarinet middle “C”……and quarter and eighth note values!

Actually, I would isolate and teach a new technique first, then add what they know to it.

The next three months are pretty much interchangeable.

February: Railroad Unit “Down In The Valley” Pg. 58, “Get On Board” Pg.59, and “Kum Ba Yah” Pg. 60, and the first half of “I’ve Been Working On The Railroad” Pg. 58. If your students can handle it (maybe just the alto saxes), “John Henry” Pg. 59. Keep reviewing previous songs you were working on in January. If you haven’t already, focus on tonguing !

March: “Boston Whaling Unit”. The art department might do a mural of ocean life. So….. the band will follow suit! Go to Songs of the Sea in The Yankee Collection.
“Hey, Ho, Anybody Home?” Pg 55, “Blow The Man Down” Pg. 54, “The Sailor’s Song” Pg. 54 (easy for altos). Band students could give mini performances right in the classrooms. SWEET!

April: “Civil War Unit” By now the clarinets have crossed the threshold of middle “C” and will learn “D” and “E” very easily allowing the band to play “Tenting Tonight” Pg. 67 “Goober Peas” Pg. 64, and “Battle Hymn Of The Republic” Pg. 64. Still have fun with songs from other sections.

May should be obvious, “The Patriotic Songs” section. “Yankee Doodle” both versions Pg. 72, “America” Pg.68, “The Caisson Song” Pg. 69, (isolate eighth, quarter, eighth pattern with beat and practice), “The Marines’ Hymn” Pg. 70, and “Tramp, Tramp, Tramp” Pg. 72.

June: Anti-climactic after Memorial Day! Have fun reviewing songs of the year while winding down for summer if students haven’t already returned their rented instruments.

By the way, it might not be too late to jump in and use the Yankee Collection for the last three months of the 2018-19 school year. The books won’t become obsolete as they will be useful for rotating holidays in the future.