Shashi  Ramu

Shashi Ramu

Sales Representative

Sutton Group Realty Systems Inc, Brokerage *

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Winter and Pre-Festival Band Thoughts - December 2023

By now, you know what your school musicians are GOOD AT. You've cracked the code. You know exactly where the leadership is - and you know which sections need a little bit of extra attention. Most of all - you've started to look at your repertoire situation and WHAT TO PLAY! I hope that everyone's fall and winter performances have been going well. Here are a few specific items which came to mind as we move into 2024!

Festival Conductor Scores - This is too confusing now.

Yes. Yes it is!

If you need to provide extra adjudication copies of conductor scores for your upcoming festival performance, here are a few rules/guidelines/suggestions to follow! (I didn’t round-out the edges below – so please know, no tone or judgement is intended here!!)

  1. Pieces which are in bound (paper) print music format and which are IN PRINT/publication: Order extra copies through your local music store OR order digital downloads from your local music retailer, online via the publisher direct.
  2. Pieces which are digital/PDF only – order digital scores direct from publisher (in most cases)
  3. Pieces which are permanently out of print – OBTAIN licensing/photocopying permission from the copyright holder (usually the last known publisher). The big publishers have areas of their website for this. If you need contact info to obtain permission, EMAIL ME.
  4. Pieces in the public domain, and/or UN-licensed with no legal copyright (example: a free arrangement from or similar): Print 2 additional copies and make a notation on them that these were open/free and/or paste the website/URL address on them.
  • Whenever you use digital sheet music/extra PDF conductor scores, there needs to be some EVIDENCE provided by you, that you purchased these. Whether it is imprinted on your digital version which you’ve downloaded (example: “2 copies sold to S. Ramu on order # 456456” )  *or*    whether you affix your sales invoice or receipt from the download site (JWPepper, totals sheet music, Sheet Music Direct, etc) – This MUST be done for all festivals so that the organizers and panel know that you’ve observed copyright law.
  • If you order your scores and they don’t make it on time because of a publisher backorder (IE, the publisher does not have them available and will not have them available) – YOU NEED TO CONTACT THAT PUBLISHER to obtain temporary copying permission. **Proof of order/on-order receipt from your music retailer IS NOT ACCEPTABLE**
  • If you order your scores in the 11th hour, and they’re not going to arrive on time, you might be out of luck unless you pay the $70 FedEx fee to have them rushed in from the publisher.

Finally I will take this opportunity to remind the Ontario folks: If you are performing at either of the OBA’s big festivals (Provincial, Golden Horseshoe, or the affiliated Sunshine City School Music Festival): You need to provide scores for all pieces that you perform EXCEPT any piece which appears on the 2024 OBA Concert Band Syllabus (found HERE)

If you are using the MusicFest Canada syllabus for your compulsory list piece, you DO need to provide those scores to these festivals.

Repertoire Cycles and getting MORE music into those band folders

Over the last 18 months, I’ve had the (extreme) privilege of moving into the festival chair role for the Golden Horseshoe Music Festival. In doing so, I’ve also had the (extreme) privilege of working with many directors on their repertoire (as this is, and always will be my #1 passion!!)

During these months, there have been many conversations about programming philosophies and specifically, the entire concept of Using Repertoire as Curriculum (and to further that piece: Does curricular repertoire instruction STOP if we are rehearsing a not-for-credit ensemble?)

In my years as a rep consultant, I don’t think I ever fully realized how many programs have been programming and filling their band folders based on TWO cycles: first semester and second semester. The first being (typically) a holiday concert performance goal (with a non-rep summative) and then second semester: Festival/spring Concert.

In many cases, this equates to 4 pieces of repertoire (or sometimes even fewer) being studied over the span of the entire school year. Holiday pieces are being prepared in September!! AHHHHHHH!

There is no better way to promote and accelerate literacy than: by doing it. As much as possible. Over the years I have blabbed incessantly about a concept I like to call “Strengthening your Core”. At the CORE of this (pa dum pum) is the library-driven philosophy. Programming Repertoire for your Band Program (as opposed to, for the ensemble and the exact configuration/instrumentation/star players who happen to be in front of you RIGHT NOW).

Core literature is just that: It’s the good stuff which comes from YOUR personal core. Your ability and willingness to prepare and score study. YOUR research, interpretation, musical opinions, and probably the most important two factors: Do you like the way it sounds? Do you want to teach it? Have you known it for decades and you've always had success with iut?

The back end of these questions is, where I’m finding that many directors are getting caught up (because of the short term programming approach):

Will the kids be able to play their parts? If so, will they like it? If not, will they hate it, or will they want to learn and practice? I shouldn’t programme something which they don’t like because they can’t play it after two read-throughs, right?

Deep Breath.

I am a HUGE advocate for engaging the players with the programming choices. Especially at the high school level. Professional recordings, youtubes of past performances (especially when it’s a scrappy-sounding school band concert from Themiddleofnowhere, Nebraska.) Your students can hear the pain sometimes – but they can also hear the potential and transfer that visualization onto their personal abilities and their perception of the ensemble’s abilities.


When you have a selection of 8-10 pieces in the folder or on that special shelf in your office, highlighting YOUR core repertoire choices as well as a planned out performance cycle, there will always be something for everyone! And - more and more - you will find curricular value at all points of the day - whether you are in class time or rehearsal time.


Let’s perform in March. At the end of March, or very beginning of April. Let’s tie in either a fundraising theme OR an excellence piece . Let’s give those University music-bound stars a solo performance opportunity in a non competitive setting to recognize their achievements. Let’s pull out the brass quintet, saxophone ensemble, flute duos. Most importantly, let’s give the students an opportunity to perform and TAKE A BREATHER from the "FESTIVAL SET”.

There are so many ideas for that extra, lighter item it’s own, separate concert cycle. The true experts in this discussion are the community band directors. This is what they do ALL THE TIME except for them, they are also fighting against a VAST variance in ability and commitment/attendance levels, and trying to make a bunch of different types of adults (who are strictly playing for leisure) happy.

Getting back to (and closing with) STRENGTHENING YOUR CORE:

*Which pieces do you find that you keep coming back to on a 2-3 year interval?

*How do you identify a new piece (or something which is new TO YOU) as a candidate for this library? What do you look at/for?

*Can you afford to do this? Or, can you approach your admin promoting this philosophy (especially now, with some of the new criteria which we are being asked/feeling obligated to cover within our repertoire choices)

*On that note, can/should/will you choose to hold onto enough varied repertoire that you can cover styles and **theme possibilities?

*Where do you even start (beyond those few which you could conduct/cue while blindfolded)?

These are all discussions which I would love to have with you! Anytime, day or night, just drop me a line. And one quick extension to this: If you’ve been to Harknett, and you feel confused and/or you’ve seen band music there which you are CURIOUS about but you’re not sure if it’s a “long term buy” – drop an email to my HMS account ( and we can sort through some of the best “picks” using the cart/recording/recommendation feature which is built into the back end of the website.

Choices and Voices by Steffan Brunette

The OBA's own Steffan Brunette (also the Department Head of Music at Bill Hogarth SS in the YRDSB) produced a very interesting analysis  - based on the pieces performed at the 2023 OBA Provincial Band Festival.  If you haven't looked at this - take a peak. It's a great read! 






I have had a wonderful time working with many of you and your ensembles as you have been preparing for your concerts and upcoming festivals. For those of you who may have interest in a trombone, low brass, full brass, or full band clinician - I'd love the opportunity to work with your students. The sectional work is fundamental and routine based - with tools/handouts/exercises to build long-term musicianship and for the trombone players - to make things easier and more fun (than it already is!!) And, my full band/rehearsal work focuses around group interpretation, building trust within the ensemble and makng a higher level of music based around compositional intent and (of course) good musical habits.  Reach out anytime - these are the slower months for real estate and I tend to focus all of my energy on festivals, prep and (the privilege) of working within our community.  More info, including my private teaching studio stuff, CAN BE FOUND HERE.