— A Letter from Kevin McKeown, Director of Bands —

Dear Samohi Band Students and Parents,

Thank you all for waiting so patiently for news of what this year’s program is going to look like for the Samohi Bands. We are still waiting to hear from the district on what the final schedule will be, but I wanted to share some thoughts with you at this time.

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Given the reality of being in a remote learning setting this fall, we will not be able to have traditional concert ensembles, in-person rehearsals, or practices until it is deemed safe by the State of California, Los Angeles County, the city, and the school district. Our students’ safety and health are our main priority, first and foremost. That means we are pivoting to groups that meet virtually, using such platforms as Zoom, Smart Music, Google Hangouts, and other music software for instruction and social interaction.

We are excited to work with your students, and we plan to offer them a well-rounded and enriching program that ignites their energy and keeps their skills sharp. I would like to share some of our ideas, and ask for your help in supporting all of our students in Samohi Band.

Concert Band

We are looking at a potential schedule of two blocks of 80 minutes and one day of 35 minutes per week for concert band. During this time, fellow concert band teacher Terry Sakow and I hope to use several types of instruction techniques, which could include:

  • Traditional guidance for warm-ups, technique, and repertoire over Zoom (there are latency issues, so playing along with a metronome and muting each student may be our best option here)
  • Breaking into small group sectionals where students can play and give feedback to each other while we monitor
  • Individual repertoire projects – we have a large library of music and recordings for the students to choose from
  • Music theory lessons through Tonesavvy.com
  • Music appreciation/history discussions
  • Recording projects
  • Master classes (if we raise funds to provide them)

Our main ask for concert band donations each year is always for coaches, primarily for one concert percussion teacher. Our concert percussion students need an expert who can deliver the percussion pedagogy that most students need at this level so our ensembles continue to shine! Over the past seven years, I have seen this need and watched our students develop into fine percussionists with this approach, and I welcome its continuation.

Marching Band & Color Guard

Viking Marching Band families, I would like to thank you especially for your patience during this time, when our students normally would have been at band camp prepping for another great season. I know it’s been tough to miss out on these routines and rituals, and I (along with them!) miss it tremendously.

First of all, I’d like you to know that I plan to ask the administration to consider marching band as a year-long group this year. This would allow us the chance to use this semester as a foundation for the future, when we could possibly return to campus. The CIF sports have all been postponed for three months, and I would love to see us come together for our “Friday Night Lights” football games in 2021!

I am meeting with our VMB student leaders to find out what THEY would like to focus on for the semester. Some of my initial thoughts include:

  • Teaching our traditional Samohi fight songs/alma mater/pep tunes
  • Working on marching and music fundamentals
  • Providing sectional opportunities to support our new members
  • Creating “Best of” audio/video projects of previous shows

Marching band will still confer a P.E. credit, so there will be movement involved!

Speaking of movement, we are hoping to continue employing our invaluable coaches that bring their expertise to the marching band experience.

Our long-time color guard instructor Juan Gonzalez and technical assistant coach Allison Wyant have served the Viking Color Guard very well in past seasons, and have also taught Winter Guard in the spring under faculty advisor Terry Sakow. Juan and Allison would be providing the core curriculum for our guard class — which is connected so closely to our marching band success — along with helping with the physical training of our band students.

We are scaling back our staff during this time, but we are also in real need of one — preferably two — percussion coaches to work with our front ensemble and battery percussion students. Again, this is a separate curriculum that is necessary to maintain skills for the short- and long-term success of our program.

Jazz Band

Jazz Director Tom Whaley hopes to have two full jazz bands again this year, with the help of part-time instructor Ryan Rowles. Jazz provides college credit as a dual-enrollment class at Santa Monica College. The program is taught after school on Mondays and Wednesdays. Auditions are coming up on August 28 — for more information and to sign up, visit our page at samohiband.com/jazz.

For all of these programs, we need your financial support!

This is a difficult time to request donations, and I fully understand that many families have been terribly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. But any and all donations of any amount are greatly needed to support our student instruction for this semester.

Please click on the button below to register your student(s) for this year’s band program. When you do so, you can also choose to donate suggested amounts for each program. Whether or not you can donate, please fill out the form, as it supplies us with necessary contact information for you, as well as with a photo release form and uniform/equipment agreements. Thank you so much for your support!

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In parting, I realize this is a unique time for our students. I know there will be some challenges to get our programs off the ground, including providing music spaces for students that cannot play in their current environment and finding on-campus opportunities down the road for small groups to meet (outdoors) — especially our percussion students and those that play large (or loud!) instruments and need access to their “tools.”

Regardless, I can’t wait to see our students again, no matter what the format, and I wish everyone a great semester.

Be well, stay safe, and Go Vikings!


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