Survey On Alternative Performance Options

Almost two weeks ago, SDUSD announced the decision to start the school year in a full distance learning format until there are significant improvements in our area’s coronavirus numbers. Since then, there have been no other updates or announcements. However, district leadership, school administrators, and teachers across the district are communicating and brainstorming on how to best serve our students with the district announcement in mind, and no foreseeable end date for full distance learning at this time.

In order to guide my planning for the MMS Instrumental Music program, feedback from both parents and students on two alternative performance options that I have been thinking about would be most helpful. The survey is short, with only six prompts requiring a response, and an optional seventh prompt. Before you take the survey, please understand the following:

  1. There is absolutely NO guarantee that the district will permit us to enact either of the alternative performance options mentioned in the survey.
    • Students: the hidden message here is to NOT get excited about these possible alternatives to traditional performances until I confirm one or both of them.
    • Also, it’s entirely possible that neither of these options will be approved, or the restrictions placed on any approvals might be too impractical to implement
  2. The sooner you take the survey, the more you assist myself and MMS administration in planning for this upcoming school year.
    • I will leave the survey up for awhile, but if you take it on or before Friday, July 31st, that is the timeframe in which your feedback will be the most helpful.
  3. You will be asked to enter an email address and state your name, however, the results of the survey are totally anonymous.
    • By asking for your name and email address, I am protecting the integrity of the survey results.
    • With the open-ended and optional seventh prompt, if your entry requires a response, I will be able to do so with your name and email address.
  4. You are NOT limited to one response per family.
    • Each student enrolled in the MMS Instrumental Music program may take the survey once
    • Each parent may take the survey once
      • Yes, multiple parents may take the survey (not just one per student)
      • No, your answers to the prompts do not need to be the same as the other parent’s

By taking the survey, you are acknowledging the above points regarding these potential alternative performance options. Now, without further ado, please click here to begin the survey. Thank you for your assistance!

Checking In

Hi everyone!

Well, it’s pretty depressing that four months after we closed schools to help defeat COVID-19, we’re actually in worse shape now than we were in mid-March. However, since SDUSD announced a week ago that we would begin the year with full distance learning with no on-campus learning whatsoever, the performing arts teachers at MMS (Mr. Russell, Mr. Schulze, and myself) have been communicating with each other and our administrators a lot to make sure that the 2020 – 2021 school year is meaningful for our students regardless of the circumstances. I don’t have any answers or statements to make at this time other than the fact that we’re definitely thinking and working on solutions everyday to make this year as positive an experience as possible for our students. I know that the sooner we are able to make any announcements, the more comfortable we will feel during these uncertain times, but while I don’t have any answers at the moment, I can confidently report that we doing a lot of behind-the-scenes work and advocacy for the performing arts students at MMS right now. As far as the instrumental music program goes, I am hoping to send out a survey for students and parents as soon as possible, so please be on the lookout for that in the next week or two.

I also want to invite all MMS Instrument Music students to a Zoom check-in discussion on Monday, July 27th at 10:00 AM. I want to know how you’re all doing, and I want to hear your thoughts and opinions for the upcoming school year. The discussion will go as long as it needs to go, so if it’s short and ends in 20 – 30 minutes, then that’s when we’ll be done. If the conversation ends up going long, we’ll pause around 11:00 AM and schedule another Zoom meeting for the following week if we need to continue exploring certain topics. Here’s how to join the discussion:

  • Click here to RSVP to the discussion
    • For security purposes, meeting details will be sent out via email approximately one hour prior to the start of the meeting
      • If you enter your district email, you will not receive the meeting details as your district Google accounts block any and all incoming messages
      • Use a parent or personal email address in order to successfully receive the meeting details
    • You may optionally enter your cell phone number in the RSVP form to receive reminders via text message for the meeting

I am very much looking forward to seeing and speaking with you next Monday! In the meantime, I hope to gather as much positive news and answers to common questions as possible.

See you soon,
Mr. Brown

End of ‘19-‘20 School Year

Hi everyone,

Please forgive me for the amount of time it has taken me to write this message. It’s been just over two weeks since the school year ended, and it is long overdue. In general, I have three things to say about this past spring and the COVID-19 school closure: (1) I tried my best to provide as enriching a distance learning curriculum as possible for band/orchestra students given the circumstances, (2) many students rose to the challenge and put forth some terrific work, and (3) despite my pride and confidence in my efforts as well as those of many band/orchestra students, it was overall a negative experience, and in certain ways traumatic, with very few positives in the mix.

For the 8th graders, depending on who you are and your depth of emotions, I feel that the loss of your special experiences like hosting our festival, going on our spring trip, and performing our pops concert with all of its traditions could range from something as small as a major bummer to as large as a total heartbreak. Not being able to see and interact with all of you, as well as make live music with you on a daily basis, was profoundly detrimental to my mental health as well. I missed out on presenting your class with awards and honoring your three years’ worth of work, growth, and accomplishments in the MMS Instrumental Music program, and you all missed out on being the recipients of the accolades which you are due. As a person that struggles with leaving tasks unfinished, it will take some time to learn how to close this chapter in my heart and mind. As you all know, I am deeply passionate about music education, and to not be able to put the finishing touches on your middle school music careers the way it should’ve been done fills me with sadness, and please know that I am grieving along with you for the loss of the final third of your 8th grade school year.

As it pertains to the health of the MMS Instrumental Music program over the next few years, the next part of my message is most important for those of you who just finished 6th or 7th grade, however, it’s also worth noting for those of you moving on to high school. While we’re still in the midst of this excruciating experience caused by COVID-19, it is more important than ever for us to have perspective and think about what this period of time will and should be as a phase in our lives. At some point, we will have a vaccine for this virus, and life will resume as normal. What I would hate to see happen is for the time and experience lost during the coronavirus period to define us and our world for years to come. It will be easy in the next few years to lean on COVID-19 as an excuse for being behind or underdeveloped in your education. In some ways, this will be understandable and appropriate, especially in the first 6-12 months following the proliferation of a vaccine. But if we let this continue as a crutch for us to explain away shortcomings or enable laziness for several years, the coronavirus will have defeated us in some way.

It is my sincere hope that this experience will help Americans appreciate our general way of life a lot more after we find a cure and things return to normal. Sure, school and work can be a drag at times, but we’re quite lucky and blessed to be able to receive a free public education and choose our line of work. Especially for kids, it’s good to know the value of being able to interact with teachers in person as well as socialize with friends and peers. Connecting with others is a crucial part of education and our maturation as human beings that isn’t necessarily taught in classes but is facilitated in the American public school setting. Also, while technology is obviously essential to our modern lives, and it’s what made some form of learning possible during the school closure, it’s also important to note that something is still missing from human-to-human communication if you can’t be there in the same room or space as the other person(s). My parents always taught me that relationships were the most important thing to take care of in life, and I hope that because of what we’re experiencing with COVID-19 and other current events taking place in our country right now, we become a more compassionate and supportive society after experiencing these difficult times together.

In closing, I think we can all agree that the sooner things return to normal, the better. However, until that becomes a reality, I want to encourage students to do the best with what you have rather than complain or worry about what you don’t have. Other than follow health protocols and recommendations, there’s very little that we can do in our current situation to make things better. Since we closed school on March 13th, I’ve gotten better at setting aside my worries and anxieties about certain things until I know more about them. For example, what I’d like to be doing right now is preparing for whatever next school year is going to look like, as well as planning for the upcoming marching band season. However, I’m not stressing about it until we’ve been given a clear framework for the 2020 – 2021 school year. Until you can plan or act on certain things, save yourself the stress, unease, and feelings of helplessness by simply being patient and waiting for those decisions to be made and presented to you. In the meantime, take care of yourself and pursue your interests. I have personally been working on maintaining a healthy sleep routine and improving my piano skills, and I’m proud of the strides I’ve made in those areas. Now is the perfect time to invest in yourself and do the things that keep you physically healthy and emotionally fulfilled.

I’m not checking emails everyday, but I am checking them, so if you want to drop me a line and say hello, I’d love to hear from you! I’ll also set up some check-ins on Zoom during the summer, so keep updated on those here on the blog. I wish you all as restful, fun, and safe a summer as possible!

Best wishes,
Mr. Brown

Food for Musical Thought


If you find yourself bored and needing a good article or two to pass the time, here are a few from my good friend, Dr. Noa Kageyama, a.k.a. “The Bulletproof Musician.”

What to Ask Yourself After a Failure or Setback

8 Things Top Practicers Do Differently

“Perfect” Practice May Be Preventing You from Learning that Tricky Passage

Why Listening to Reference Recordings is an Important Part of Practicing

The Importance of Writing Notes in Your Music (one of my favorites!)

For more delightfully thought-provoking articles about music and becoming a better musician, feel free to browse Dr. Kageyama’s blog, and feel free to email me with any articles you don’t see above that you found to be applicable to middle school musicians.