Brad Seagraves, District Department Chair for elementary band in Gilbert, Arizona
Brad has taught in the district for 28 years. He teaches grades 5-6 before they progress to junior high level, and sees his students 2-3 times a week for 40 mins. In his time as a music educator, Brad has seen Gilbert grow from a small district with one high school to five high schools – and subsequently the number of band students too.
- pBuzz is good for encouraging early success
- Helping achieve correct posture from day one is a major benefit
Brad already had a couple of pBones that he uses mostly for demonstration purposes, or for students to play on as a reward. He has also found them to be a good option for kids who couldn’t handle the weight of a brass trombone.
The students that Brad teaches use a mixture of rental instruments and loans – it differs from school to school. The students are expected to maintain and take care of their instruments.
When Brad had the first set of ten pBuzz sent over, he did an introductory session with all the elementary music teachers. He demonstrated how to incorporate pBuzz alongside the instruments they were already using in their lessons in order to make integration into the curriculum even easier.
Schools generally have percussion instruments and recorders in 3rd and 4th grade. There is a strong Orff association in the state, so that method is employed a lot with younger students – pBuzz was a nice transition along this theme as it is coordinated with Orff colours and Boomwhackers.
Since, Brad has been using pBuzz with 4th graders in particular. They can find out what it’s like to buzz on a brass mouthpiece, and for the most part, have quick success in sound production whilst having fun learning how to change pitch and produce matching sounds.
Teaching methods and resources
Brad didn’t find that he needed any resources in advance for how he planned to use pBuzz in his lessons, which focused on practicing brass sound production. He made the resources available more widely to general music teachers, however, and one teacher who used pBuzz during the 3 week trial went on to purchase a class set. So far, most of the teachers’ use of pBuzz has still been at an experimental level.
Brad has found state conferences and word of mouth to be the most powerful method of sharing resources amongst teachers.
Successes and challenges
At the beginning of the school year, Brad used pBuzz successfully with his beginner band students who had no brass experience. This was as part of a trial where each student tried a reed, flute head and mouthpiece to help find a good instrument fit for them. Getting a good fit early on, Brad finds, means success for the students from day one and this is a powerful motivator.
pBuzz worked as a useful teaching tool in this respect – with a class set, and one for each student, they learned to buzz quickly, match pitch and have fun. Brad enjoyed being able to use it as a new, different tool when accustomed to teaching regular brass, woodwind and percussion instruments.
The advantages of pInstruments
When it comes to the advantages of pBuzz – for example, the drop safety element or the ability to have correct posture as the instrument is so light – for Brad, the standout feature is the benefits around posture. Correct posture is something that Brad feels is really important to have mastered from the beginning.
Brad sees a real issue with recruitment for brass playing in the area, perhaps stemming from the fact that kids aren’t as familiar with the instruments. There is also often a misconception that you need to be a certain size for trombone – this is true in some cases, but not most of the time. Size shouldn’t be a factor – if you want to, you can!
Adding pBuzz to the choice of instruments helps address this over time – for parents as well as students – and helps with the overall issue of brass recruitment.