Your 2017-2018 Board of Directors

January 2018

Volume 3
Winter 2018

In This Issue...

  1. ODY Nominations - Deadline January 31, 2018
  2. See you at TMEA!
  3. Ready for UIL?  How about a checklist
  4. TODA Scholarships and the Silent Auction
  5. On the Fringes:  A "Band Person" teaching orchestra in Texas
  6. 2018 Membership - time to renew; Convention registration will open February 12.


TODA's Most Prestigious Award,
Orchestra Director of the Year


NOW is the time to nominate that special person to be considered for 2018 ODY.  The form is available online to download HERE.  Deadline to have all the information into the TODA office is January 31, 2018!


  See you at TMEA! by Christina Bires, President

Happy New Year!  I hope everyone is having a great start to their second semester!  We are all busy with sectionals, extra rehearsals, musicals, UIL preparations and the list goes on and on.  But one thing is for sure: stress runs high this time of year and we need to take time for ourselves to regenerate.  A great place to do this is at the upcoming TMEA Convention. Spending time in clinics and rehearsals gaining new ideas and insights is one way to regenerate our excitement for teaching, and as we all know, sharing and learning from our colleagues is a win-win. There is an abundance of knowledge in our TODA directors!

While you are there, please find time in your busy schedule to visit the TODA booth and learn about the great plans for our upcoming TODA Convention July 26-28. And don't forget, during TMEA, we will host a TODA reception on Thursday, February 15th from 7:45pm -10:00 pm at Davenport's (203 N. Presa), just a short walk from the convention center.  TODA will be providing appetizers and there will be a full cash bar. Don't miss it!  

See you at TMEA! 

New Pre-Convention publication coming to your mailbox in early May!  We are excited to bring TODA members a magazine featuring 2018 Convention highlights and information.  This will help you plan and prepare for your time at this summer's convention.  Look for it in your mailbox in May.



UIL Ready? Here's a checklist... by Danielle Prontka, Secretary

Well it is that time of year.  We see each other at TMEA and the first words after hello are, "What are you playing for UIL?", "Are you ready?"  It may be one of the most stressful and exciting times of the year.  It is an awesome job to prepare our students to perform to the best of their abilities.  To challenge our students to do more than they even thought they could.  Sometimes the end result is better than anything you could imagine, and sometimes you see a rainbow, but no matter what, the better prepared you are the better you can feel on that day!

Here are some items to check off your list.

Organizational Check-List

  • Consult Constitution and Contest Rules to refer to any new information
  • Consult Archived lists to make sure you are not repeating music based on the C&CR
  • Submit all forms before the deadline
  • Order scores at least one month prior to contest (Contact colleagues to borrow out of print/stock scores) and number measures making sure to erase any markings
  • Make sure your buses have been ordered
  • Form 1 has been completed (check eligibility) and signed by your principal
  • Complete the correct number of seating charts needed for contest
  • Prepare an itinerary for your orchestra - keep mindful of travel times
  • Have the proper, district required travel/medical forms for each student
  • Before leaving school, check students for full uniforms, music, and instrument
  • Carry extra strings, mutes, and roc stops (decide on bass stools before leaving school)
  • Have a plan in place for tuning (Tune in the warm-up room, on stage, and sight reading room)
  • Decide on Sight Reading Rules (Do you want them read?)
  • Don't leave any items behind at the contest site

Music Check-List

  • When choosing music, make sure you are playing music for your classification
  • Choose music that will challenge your students, and they will be able to perform with success
  • Know your orchestra's strength and weaknesses
  • Play through each part and make sure that you have fingerings and bowings marked prior to passing out music
  • Schedule after school sectionals or rehearsals
  • Bring in Guest Clinicians to work with your students
  • Demand excellence in intonation, rhythms, style, and musicality
  • Spend plenty of time working on the sight reading Process
  • Are you teaching what you are wanting from your orchestra? (tone, phrasing, style)

Final Reminders

  • Remember that judges notice students who are chewing gum
  • Be consistent in rehearsal so contest seems like another performance
  • Be kind to the host school and all of those working at the host school (it is hard work!)
  • Ask a mentor for help!
  • Invite your Principal, Fine Arts, Director, and Parents to your contest
  • Keep calm and remember it is just one day


We Need Your Help! by Sixto Elizodo IV, Vice President/Treasurer

As you know, TODA offers scholarships each year to deserving graduating seniors wishing to pursue a degree in Music Education. The Barbara Eads Scholarship, and the TODA Memorial Scholarships, are awarded through an application process, and the application deadline this year is March 1, 2018. Scholarship Guidelines can be found at  The number of scholarships we are able to award depends greatly on the generosity of our members and sponsors, so please help the cause by making or soliciting a donation. It is a privilege for TODA to do its part to ensure that deserving students can become Orchestra Directors in Texas, so please participate and encourage your colleagues to participate!

Outright donations are always welcome, as well as contributions to our Silent Auction held every year at our convention. Do you have something to contribute to the future of music education? If so, please contact me directly at to let me know what you can provide for this year's Silent Auction. We very much welcome and appreciate your help in continuing to provide these critical scholarships to our future music educators.

See you at TMEA and at the TODA convention!

The following essay is submitted by a TODA member that has chosen to remain anonymous. Our interaction is a coincidence that came as the result of research I am doing on non-string players teaching orchestra in Texas. Some of the material is of a sensitive nature, so names of people and places have been obscured to protect identities. - Lamar Smith, Past President

On the Fringes: A "Band Person" Teaching Orchestra in Texas

I'm one of "them"-a "band person" who teaches orchestra. Like many music students in the U.S., I grew up in a school that offered music instruction in two large ensemble formats: band and choir. I am not from Texas, but my home state does have a decent reputation as far as support of music education is concerned. As a kid, I loved band. Practicing the clarinet was my favorite homework, and my life revolved around rehearsal, marching, fundraisers, band trips-the whole nine yards. AND I was good at it! My high school band director was hard as nails-scary at times, but he was brilliant at music and at motivating his students to do something important and meaningful as musicians and as people. I idolized him and wanted to teach music, too.

I chose to attend a university in Texas that is well-known for its music school, among other things. It did not take long for me to discover what marching band means in Texas. It's more like religion than a musical performance! I'm not going to lie-I hated most of it, especially the heat! What I did enjoy was every other aspect of my musical training, even the methods classes in brass, percussion, voice, and strings. My strings instructor was kind and patient, and I could tell her approach was different from the others. I assumed that I would never really have to teach strings or voice though, and I just got through the classes as best I could so I could practice my clarinet and make it to student teaching. I don't think I was alone in that attitude!

Student teaching came, and I was placed in a "high-power" high school band program and its feeder middle schools. It was the fall, so I endured marching season and All-Region band. Everyone was kind to me, and I knew I should be grateful to be placed in a program that was so well-respected, but something just wasn't right. Something was missing. How was I changing the world through music when I was repeating the same material in sectionals most days? Did the kids like it? Did they like me? Did I like it? Again, I think a lot of people at this point in life share such questions.

So I was one of those people who student taught in the fall. Band director jobs available in January are usually few and far between, and I didn't want to move somewhere rural or unknown. I didn't want to move at all, in fact, because I didn't want to break my lease. In my area, a few jobs were open, but I never received interviews. I was eager to start my career, though, and a friend that had graduated the year before mentioned a middle school that needed an orchestra director was in her district. So...I laughed a lot when she first said it. Clearly, this was a joke, right? She was serious, though. The program had started the year with a director who resigned about a month in, and the kids had no musical instruction in the interim. The 8th graders would be on their 5th director. The school was very rough, but all measures of assessment had shown improvement in recent years. The pay was good, and there was no expectation of outside rehearsals. So, figuring I had nothing to do, I applied.

The fine arts director and the school principal both contacted me the same day, and interviewed the following day. In three months, nobody had applied for the position. I showed up, proved sufficiently to them that I was sane, and was deemed "qualified" for the job since I held an All-Level Music Certificate. I was offered the position and accepted it.

I cried all the way home. What had I done? Was I crazy? Were they? Why did they hire me? Didn't they want a string player? Upon arrival at home, I frantically dug up my strings class notes and wished I had paid closer attention. I decided that I would stick to it, though, and I rented a violin from a local store the next day and started practicing.

On the first day of the semester in January, I walked into an orchestra program of 50 kids. Twelve were 7th and 8th graders with so-called prior experience, and the remainder were 6th grade beginners who had never taken instruments out of cases and had been trapped in never-ending flood of music theory worksheets. I must say, they did know the names of the notes on the staff! Three classes of orchestra, two of supervising the frightening in-school suspension room, and duty on all lunch periods comprised my day.

My orchestra kids were jaded and suspicious and seemed to expect me to leave on the first day. When I showed up for an entire week, they seemed impressed. My two beginner classes started off okay. They were still excited to learn, and I could keep up with them since my knowledge level was just a little higher than theirs. The older kids, though, were, well...terrible. It was a weird situation where they seemed to have no confidence in themselves but also behaved as though they were above learning fundamentals. However, I started to win them over, and they didn't seem to notice that we were playing tunes from the beginner book when I typed them into Finale and called them something else! I wanted so badly to be able to accomplish something with them and to be an adult in their lives that believed in them and held them accountable. Most of them lacked a person like that in their lives.

I planned from the beginning to take all of the students to a very laid back water park festival like their band and choir friends got to do. I found some easy music that could be prepared for the event. My haphazard string teaching seemed to focus on left hand actions a lot. As a clarinetist, I was obsessed with their fingers like I was with mine on the keys. Tone was not a strong point, and bow holds were varied from student to student. Because I had made few mature sounds on the instrument myself, I didn't have much feedback.

Anyway, the kids were starting to be invested in music and show interest in the program, which was huge! We went to the festival and both orchestras played their tunes. Later on, we learned that we got a 3rd-division rating out of 4. I was crushed, but not totally surprised. One judge accurately criticized the poor tone production and awful bow holds he saw, but he also attached a note to the form that suggested I "must be a band person," and that I had his "best wishes on finding a suitable band position." My jaw hit the floor. I would have loved for my kids to have had a real string player for a teacher, too, but there weren't any. I actually showed up for the job every day, and I was starting to like it.

Fortunately, another judge that knew something about my school said more encouraging things and emailed me immediately with opportunities for professional development, private instruction, mentorship, and networking. She mentioned TODA, and I joined and attended the convention that summer. I learned so much and met others like me, even if we were far removed from the successful teachers at better suburban schools. Honestly, we often giggle some at what is considered important business at our conventions. Some people are debating honor orchestra rules and all-state procedures, and we are just trying to get instruments in our kids' hands and trying to figure out how to keep up with our own abilities on string instruments.

Once, I overheard a conversation at a convention that said that "band people were taking all the string jobs." I never took anything from anyone! I filled a job that a string player had vacated and that nobody else seemed to want. If I hadn't taken it, my kids would likely not have had orchestra for the rest of the year, and the revolving door of teachers probably would have continued. Never once have I claimed to be an expert in string instrument instruction, but I can say that I get better every day and work hard at my job. In my fifth year at my school last year, my students got 2s on stage and 1s in sightreading at UIL. While many people in the state would be upset by this, my students felt as though they had landed on the moon. They are getting better, and their teacher cares a lot about them and their ability to make music.

For anyone who might read this, please remember to share your talents and gifts with those who could use help. I have been mentored by two amazing orchestra directors who took the time to understand my situation and appreciated what I was trying to do. As a Texas orchestra director, I have both felt uplifted and reviled by colleagues. I want to be good, and my students want to be good. Let's work together to make the best musical and professional experiences we can.


2018 TODA Membership renewal is open

Be sure to renew your TODA membership soon by going to the TODA Membership page.  Then you'll be ready to register for the 2018 Convention and make those hotel reservations.  Convention registration opens on February 12, 2018.


2017-2018 TODA Board of Directors

Christina Bires, President
Lamar Smith, Past President
Sixto Elizondo IV, Vice President/Treasurer
Danielle Prontka, Secretary
Sarah Lopes, Member At Large
Sharon Lutz, Executive Director