Valley Springs Band Handbook



Band Curriculum Guide

2019 – 2020



Welcome students!  The following information about the VSMS band program helps you make the most of your band class and all but guarantees your success in your efforts to become a stronger and more competent musician.  Please read all this information thoroughly and carefully and share with your parents, specifically the information on band policies, procedures, and expectations of you. 


You are responsible for knowing what is expected of you





  • Your instrument (Percussion…that’s sticks/mallets and stick bag for you!)
  • Supplies for your instrument (reeds, valve/slide oil, cork grease, neck strap, etc.)
  • Music folder/notebook (with all materials)
  • Band Method Book
  • Pencil w/eraser





  • Only VSMS Band students are allowed in the band room.
  • Be on time for class – physically in the room when the tardy bell rings.
  • Be prepared for class. 
  • Bring a positive attitude to each class. 
  • Read the white board/Smartboard each day for information and directions.
  • Keep all of your music/method books/etc. in your folder/notebook.
  • Give your full attention during class. 
  • Mr. Graeber dismisses you at the end of class…NOT THE BELL.
  • NO GUM!...Period!...End of discussion!...Don’t ask!  I don’t care what your other teachers let you do in their classrooms.
  • Smart phones are not allowed in class. Laptops are allowed in class for recording pass offs.
  • Bathroom trips during class are limited and are not something you should always count on being able to do every day in band class.  It is wiser for you to use the bathroom during lunch, or during class changes .
  • Don’t touch the percussion equipment unless you are a percussion student!   
  • Put all your things away in their proper places at the end of class (instrument and folder/binder in assigned cubby).







  • Have instrument/music/all needed supplies for class every day.

  • Follow all directions given to you by your director.

  • When your director is teaching, you are listening and “on task.”

  • Do not lean on or write on the music stands!

  • If it doesn’t belong to you, don’t touch it!  That way, you’re not responsible if something happens to it later.



  • Step 1:  Verbal warning

  • Step 2:  Isolated silent lunch (your next lunch period)

  • Step 3:  Parent contact (phone/e-mail)

  • Step 4:  Discipline referral


NOTE:  Students who receive a discipline referral at any time during the year may not be eligible for end-of-the year trips/rewards/etc.  Think before you act!





Koontz Intermediate School (with Mr. Wilson)


            7:55 – 8:35                  6th Grade High Brass


Valley Springs Middle School


            10:20 – 11:05              7th Grade Band 1 (Brass & Woodwinds)

            10:50 – 11:15              7th Grade Band to lunch

            11:15 – 11:30              Conclusion of 7th Grade Band 1 

            11:37 – 12:50              8th Grade Jazz Band including lunch

            12:55 – 1:40                8th Grade Concert Band

            2:00 – 2:45                  7th Grade Band 2 (Percussion)









7th Grade Band is open to students who have completed a 6th Grade Beginning Band class.  Students are placed in one of two classes with equal numbers of each instrument in each class.  Each class is 45 minutes and meets every day during the Unified Arts block.  Students continue the study of fundamentals learned in 6th Grade Band while learning to master them.  Melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic elements are expanded through the use of scales, scale exercises, chorales, sight-reading, and appropriately graded concert music.  Students have the opportunity to audition for All-County Band and All-District Band, as well as perform for the North Carolina Music Performance Adjudication event in March.


7th Grade Class #1:      10:20 – 11:30 (with lunch)

7th Grade Class #2:      2:00 – 2:45

Method Book(s):        Essential Elements, Book 2 (red)




8th Grade Band is open to students who have completed 7th Grade Band and are at the level of a Green Belt in Band Karate.  8th Grade Band is one class only, 45 minutes, and meets every day during the Unified Arts block.  Students continue and extend the mastery of all playing fundamentals.  Melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic elements are further expanded through the use of scales, scale exercises, chorales, etudes, sight-reading, and appropriately graded concert music.  Students have the opportunity to audition for All-County Band and All-District Band, as well as perform for the North Carolina Music Performance Adjudication event in March.  Students also begin the transition from middle school band to high school band through joint collaborations and events with the T.C. Roberson High School Band and Mr. Kirkpatrick, the high school band director.


8th Grade Band:          12:55 – 1:40  
Method Book(s):        Habits of a Successful Middle School Musician




Jazz band is a 45 minute class and meets every day during the Unified Arts block.  Percussionists are encouraged to have their own drum set at home and should be studying privately with a drum set teacher.  Students not in 8th grade band are eligible to audition for piano, guitar, or bass guitar only.  Students are introduced to the language of the jazz idiom and learn basic improvisational elements.  Jazz history is also studied, with emphasis on the various jazz styles and important musical figures and performers.


Due to schedule changes this year, jazz band may not be offered this year.  Working…


Jazz Band:                   11:37 – 12:50

Method book(s):        Standard of Excellence Jazz Method

                                    Essential Elements for Jazz Ensemble









Your daily participation grade represents the following behaviors:


  • Being prepared for class (instrument/music, other required materials)
  • Classroom participation/Following instructions/Non-disruptive behavior
  • Modeling/demonstrating correct playing techniques
  • No food or gum!




Mr. Graeber may use any combination of the following items each grading period to measure your level of musical growth and improvement:


  • Written assignments, reports, or projects
  • Evidence of practice outside class (practice reports, instruments going home on a regular basis)
  • Instrument and case inspections (for basic instrument maintenance)
  • Folder checks (for required music/materials)




Band is a performance class.  To accurately assess skill development and understanding of the musical performance process, you will be asked to demonstrate your learned skills/knowledge in the following two ways:


  • Formative assessments:  Playing tests & Band Karate pass offs/quizzes on assigned materials, written tests/quizzes
  • Summative assessments:  Playing tests, public concerts/performances


We give public concerts to demonstrate the learning taking place in band.  Concerts also give us an opportunity to share our musical talents and creations with an audience of family, friends, and others.  A few concerts may take place during school, but most of our concerts will be evening concerts. 




Please refer to your band calendar for a full list of required and graded concerts this year.  For details on how to handle emergencies at concert time, be sure to read the section, Avoiding Schedule Conflicts.










Here are the confirmed dates for concerts/events for the year.  Please add these dates to your family calendars.  Other dates may be added later in the year.



September 20             TCR Band Night (8th Grade Only)

November 7              Evening With The Arts /Time TBA / VSMS Gym

December 12             Winter Concert / 6:00 pm / TCR High School (7th & 8th)

March 3                      MPA Concert / 7:00 pm / TCR High School (7th & 8th)

March 24 – 27            NC Music Performance Adjudication (8th) / TBA

May 14                       Spring Concert / 6:00 pm / TCR High School  (7th & 8th)



October 2                   Individual Band Pictures (during band class) (7th & 8th)



Aug 30 – Sept 13       Yankee Candle Fund Raiser

October 8                   Buncombe County Marching Band Showcase
                                     (High School Only)

December 4               All County Band Auditions @ Owen High –
                                     Snow Date December 11

January 13-14            All County Band Clinic @ North Buncombe High School

January 25                 All District Band Auditions @ Tuscola High School,
                                     Waynesville - Snow Date January 30 

February 7 – 8           All District Band Clinic @ Western Carolina University

March 2                     All State Honors Band Auditions @ Central Davidson 
                                    Middle School

May 1 – 3                   All State Honors Band Clinic @ UNC-Greensboro







Text Box: *No jeans, sneakers, 
open-toed shoes or sandals*


  • White long sleeve collared/button up shirt

  • Dark tie (Optional but preferred)

  • Solid black dressy pants

  • Solid black dressy shoes and black socks


  • White blouse

  • Solid black dress/skirt (at least knee length)  OR  solid black dressy slacks

  • Solid black dressy shoes (and black hose if wearing skirt)









Band students get in trouble when they commit to two events that take place at the same time.  Make smart decisions and take responsibility for your choices.  Don’t pass the responsibility along to a parent or someone else.  When you are absent from a band concert you are showing Mr. Ammons and the rest of the band that you are not dependable and don’t want to be a part of the group.  This is unacceptable behavior. 


Use the following information to avoid schedule conflicts:


  • ALWAYS keep a family calendar of events and activities for everyone in your family.  Encourage your parents to keep the calendar up to date and posted in a visible location where everyone can see it every day. 


  • Don’t commit to something else knowing you already have a band concert scheduled. 


  • If you find yourself having to choose between two school sponsored events, tell Mr. Graeber.  He will try to work the conflict out for you with the coach, teacher, or club sponsor, if possible.  You will never be penalized for having to choose between two required school sponsored events.  We will find an acceptable solution for you.


  • If you find that an absence from a concert/required activity is unavoidable, you must bring a written note from a parent/guardian at least 2 weeks before the affected activity.  Mr. Graeber will determine if the absence will be excused.  Last minute, unavoidable absences (such as illness or a family death) will require a written note from a parent/guardian on the day you return to school.  An alternate make-up assignment may be given to students with an excused absence (depending on the activity).




At Valley Springs we don’t have a staff of band directors to give all band students individual attention every day.  Mr. Graeber is only one person and simply can’t do everything for every student each day.  Fortunately, we have many wonderful and qualified private teachers in the Asheville area just waiting for your call to arrange lessons.


All VSMS band students are strongly encouraged to take private lessons if family finances allow.  Students who study privately make faster progress than students who do not.  Students who want to take their playing to the next level will find a private instructor a wealth of knowledge and support.  Students who study privately also find greater success at all-county and all-district band auditions.  Most teachers schedule 30 minute lessons for middle school students per week.


Interested students and parents should talk to Mr. Graeber for a list of good teachers in the area to contact.







All Buncombe County 7th-12th grade band students are eligible to audition each year for the All-County Band.  All middle school students prepare the same scales and a solo excerpt for their instrument.  Auditions are held in November at Owen High School.  Students selected to the All-County Band attend a 2-day clinic at North Buncombe High School with a guest conductor, concluding with a public concert for family and friends.

  • 2019 Audition Date:              December 4, 2019 (Wednesday) @ Owen Middle School
  • 2020 Clinic Date:                    January 13-14, 2018 @ North Buncombe High School
  • Audition/Clinic Fee:              None



  • Flute:               B-Flat, A-Flat, F, Chromatic
  • Oboe:              B-Flat, A-Flat, F, Chromatic
  • Bassoon:         B-Flat, A-Flat, F, Chromatic
  • Clarinet:          C, B-Flat, G, Chromatic
  • Bass Clarinet: C, B-Flat, G, Chromatic
  • Alto Sax:         G, F, D, Chromatic
  • Tenor Sax:       C, B-Flat, G, Chromatic
  • Bari Sax:          G, F, D, Chromatic
  • Trumpet:        C, B-Flat, G, Chromatic
  • French horn:   F, E-Flat, C, Chromatic
  • Trombone:     B-Flat, A-Flat, F, Chromatic
  • Baritone TC:   C, B-Flat, G, Chromatic
  • Baritone BC:   B-Flat, A-Flat, F, Chromatic
  • Tuba:               B-Flat, A-Flat, F, Chromatic
  • Mallets:           B-Flat, A-Flat, F, Chromatic


REQUIRED SOLOS will be given to students during the first week of school.– Ask Mr. Graeber which measures to play for your audition.
















All Buncombe County 7th-12th grade band students are eligible to audition each year for the All-District Band.  All middle school students prepare the same scales and solo excerpt for their instrument.  Auditions are held in January at Tuscola High School.  Students selected to the All-District Band attend a 2-day clinic at Western Carolina University with a guest conductor, concluding with a public concert for family and friends.

  • 2020 Audition Date:              January 18, 2020 (Saturday) @ Tuscola High School
  • 2020 Audition Snow Date:   January 25, 2020 (Saturday) @ Tuscola High School
  • 2020 Clinic Date:                    February 7-8, 2020 @ Western Carolina University
  • 2020 Audition/Clinic Fee:      $10.00



  • Flute:               B-Flat, E-Flat, A-Flat, F, C, G, Chromatic
  • Oboe:              B-Flat, E-Flat, A-Flat, F, C, G, Chromatic
  • Bassoon:         B-Flat, E-Flat, A-Flat, F, C, G, Chromatic
  • Clarinet:          F, B-Flat, C, G, D, A, Chromatic
  • Bass Clarinet: C, B-Flat, G, Chromatic
  • Alto Sax:         G, C, F, D, A, E, Chromatic
  • Tenor Sax:       F, B-Flat, C, G, D, A, Chromatic
  • Bari Sax:          G, C, F, D, A, E, Chromatic
  • Trumpet:        C, F, B-Flat, G, D, A, Chromatic
  • French horn:   B-Flat, E-Flat, F, C, G, D, Chromatic
  • Trombone:     B-Flat, E-Flat, A-Flat, F, C, G, Chromatic
  • Baritone TC:   C, F, B-Flat, G, D, A, Chromatic
  • Baritone BC:   B-Flat, E-Flat, A-Flat, F, C, G, Chromatic
  • Tuba:               B-Flat, E-Flat, A-Flat, F, C, G, Chromatic
  • Mallets:           B-Flat, E-Flat, A-Flat, F, C, G, Chromatic


REQUIRED SOLOS will be given to students during the first week of school.– Ask Mr. Graeber which measures to play for your audition.
















Students who are selected to the highest chairs for All District Band are eligible to audition for the All State Honors Band.  The same scales and solo for All District Band are used, but the scales are in a different order and the entire solo is played.  Auditions are held the first Saturday in March at Central Davidson Middle School in Lexington, North Carolina.  Students selected to the All State Honors Band will attend a 3-day clinic at UNC-Chapel Hill with a guest conductor, concluding with a public concert for family and friends.

  • 2020 Audition Date:              March 2, 2020 (Saturday) @ Cent. Davidson Middle School
  • 2020 Clinic Date:                    May 1-3, 2020 @ UNC-Chapel-Hill
  • 2020 Audition/Clinic Fee:      Paid by VSMS Band!



  • Flute:               G, C, F, B-Flat, E-Flat, A-Flat, Chromatic
  • Oboe:              G, C, F, B-Flat, E-Flat, A-Flat, Chromatic
  • Bassoon:         G, C, F, B-Flat, E-Flat, A-Flat, Chromatic
  • Clarinet:          A, D, G, C, F, B-Flat, Chromatic
  • Bass Clarinet: A, D, G, C, F, B-Flat, Chromatic
  • Alto Sax:         E, A, D, G, C, F, Chromatic
  • Tenor Sax:       A, D, G, C, F, B-Flat, Chromatic
  • Bari Sax:          E, A, D, G, C, F, Chromatic
  • Trumpet:        A, D, G, C, F, B-Flat, Chromatic
  • French horn:   D, G, C, F, B-Flat, E-Flat, Chromatic
  • Trombone:     G, C, F, B-Flat, E-Flat, A-Flat, Chromatic
  • Baritone TC:   A, D, G, C, F, B-Flat, Chromatic
  • Baritone BC:   G, C, F, B-Flat, E-Flat, A-Flat, Chromatic
  • Tuba:               G, C, F, B-Flat, E-Flat, A-Flat, Chromatic
  • Mallets:           G, C, F, B-Flat, E-Flat, A-Flat, Chromatic


REQUIRED SOLOS will be given to students during the first week of school.– Ask Mr. Graeber which measures to play for your audition.

















Make sure you keep your instrument in good working and playing condition.  Here is a list of supplies and accessories necessary for keeping your instrument working properly.  You can find most of these items at our local music stores:


  • Music and Arts@ River Ridge in Asheville
  • Tempo Music in downtown Hendersonville



FLUTE                          OBOE                             BASSOON                    CLARINETS

tuning rod                   2-4 playable reeds         2-4 playable reeds        2-4 playable reeds

soft cloth                     reed keeper                    reed keeper                  reed keeper

                                    reed soaker                    reed soaker                  swab

                                    swab                               swab                             cork grease

                                    cork grease                    cork grease



SAXOPHONES            TRUMPET                       F HORN                        TROMBONE

*2-4 playable reeds    valve oil                          valve oil                       slide oil / slide cream

reed keeper                 tuning slide grease        tuning slide grease      tuning slide grease

cork grease                 mouthpiece brush          mouthpiece brush       mouthpiece brush

                                    valve casing brush          snake brush                  small water bottle

                                    soft cloth                        soft cloth                      soft cloth



BARITONE                   TUBA                              PERCUSSION         

valve oil                       valve oil                          stick bag

tuning slide grease     tuning slide grease        snare drum sticks (wood tip)

mouthpiece brush       mouthpiece brush          bell mallets

valve casing brush       valve casing brush          timpani mallets       




Our school has a limited inventory of instruments (oboes, bassoons, bass clarinets, tenor and baritone saxophones, French horns, baritones/euphoniums, and tubas).  These instruments are assigned to students at the discretion of the director.  Students playing a school owned instrument must complete an instrument check out form (contract), signed by the student and a parent/guardian, to be kept on file with the band director.  The student is responsible for keeping the instrument in good playing condition and for any damage to, or loss of, the instrument while it is checked out in his/her name.


When a school instrument needs repair, students must bring it to the director who will assume the responsibility for making sure it is repaired by school district approved repair shops.  The school system will pay for all “routine maintenance” of the instrument.






Following are a few recommendations from Mr. Graeber to help you get the maximum performance from your instrument.  There are other equally fine, or sometimes better, options, so consider these recommendations a “starting point” to find the products that you like the best.


    • Oboe/Bassoon:  See Mr. Graeber for recommendations
    • Clarinet:  Vandoren “Blue Box” – Strength “3”
    • Bass Clarinet:  Vandoren “Blue Box” – Strength “2½”
    • Alto Sax:  Vandoren “Blue Box” – Strength “3”
    • Tenor / Baritone Sax:  Vandoren “Blue Box” – Strength “2½”


    • Clarinet:  Vandoren 5RVLyre w/Rovner ligature
    • Bass Clarinet:  Vandoren B44 w/Rovner ligature
    • Alto Sax:  Selmer C Star w/Rovner ligature
    • Trumpet:  Vincent Bach 3C or 5C
    • French horn:  Vincent Bach 7 or 3
    • Trombone/Baritone:  Vincent Bach 6½AL
    • Tuba:  Conn/Helleberg 7B


    • Valve oil:  Blue Juice; Hetman (various viscosities)
    • Tuning slide grease:  Selmer (white bottle w/red cap); Hetman TSG
    • Snare drum sticks:  Vic Firth SD2 Bolero (wooden tip)
    • Timpani mallets:  Innovative Percussion ST-7
    • Chromatic tuner (Smartphone app):  “Tonal Energy”
    • Smartmusic subscripton  (

Text Box:





















In a perfect world, band programs have enough money to completely fund every need and function during the year.  Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a perfect world, so we need to do some fund raising each year to help us make ends meet.  At this time we have one fund raiser scheduled for this year:


  • Yankee Candles                                             August 30 - Sept 13



In addition, we take donations at the door of each concert to help with expenses.


Participation in our fund raisers is always VOLUNTARY.  We do not require students to sell anything for the band, nor are students penalized in any way for not participating in our fund raisers. 




This section has been included to let you know that you are encouraged to participate in sports activities, both at school and in your community.  Sports and other physical activities are important to all of us for achieving and maintaining good physical health.


Contrary to what a lot of people think or may tell you, you CAN be in the band and be involved in sports.  Every year, a few students want to quit band because they’re playing a sport.  Band is a class and there is very little required of you after school hours beyond your usual practice time and a few concerts.  Sports are demanding, on your physical commitments and your time, but sports are seasonal – no single sport lasts all year.


Think of it this way – Band is a class, just like math or science.  Do you have to quit math class just because you’re on the basketball team or the football team?  No, of course you don’t.  In fact, almost everyone who has quit playing an instrument in the band because they thought they couldn’t be in band and still play a sport have regretted that decision sometime later in

life.  They didn’t regret playing a sport, obviously, but they realize that music was more important to them than they realized at the time and wish they had stayed with it.


If you’re thinking about going to college, remember that colleges are looking for well-rounded students who have been involved with activities where they have the opportunity to develop leadership and group skills.  Many college admissions officers say that one of the first things they look for on student applications is if they have been in band from middle school through high school.  That’s an investment in your future that may be the difference between being accepted to your school of choice and not being accepted to a school at all.









Most students who get braces in middle school usually want to know if they will still be able to play their instrument with those braces.  The answer is YES you can!  It does hurt at first, but almost all students find that they are able to play their instrument again in a few short days.  You will need to be patient with yourself since you will be adjusting your embouchure slightly to accommodate your braces.  It will take you a bit longer to get your good tone quality back, but if you keep working, it eventually returns.


When getting braces for the first time, it is wise to bring along your mouthpiece from your instrument.  Show your doctor what your embouchure looks like when you play so he/she can make the best choices for you.  Even though you will probably be very sore and unable to play at first, just forming the embouchure will at least alert you and your orthodontist to any potential problems.   In most cases, the orthodontist will be able to make some adjustments to minimize the pain and/or discomfort.  Be sure to check your embouchure after any future adjustments, too.


Orthodontists and music teachers agree that some sort of cushion between the braces and the lips makes you more comfortable and helps to prevent the formation of scar tissue as the lips move over the braces.  One of the most popular solutions for students is the Morgan Bumper.  However, with the invention of the new Invisalign braces, most of the difficulties associated with playing an instrument have been all but eliminated.  


Whether you are getting the old stand-by metal braces or the new Invisalign, patience is the key.  As soon as you’re able to play at all, it is best to start playing with very short and easy exercises or songs, just to check how things feel.  Remember you are having to re-learn to play with a new, adjusted embouchure.  Take it easy and be patient!


Please avoid adjustments at least one week before a performance, if possible!  When setting up your next appointment, remind your parents of this issue and be sure to check your band calendar.  Fortunately, we don’t have a heavy concert schedule.  Remember, too, that appointments are made for the convenience of you and your doctor’s schedule.    










Yes, I said, “Practicing at home.”  Practicing assigned lessons and materials outside of class is the only way you are going to develop those skills we’re trying to develop in class.  I admit, practicing isn’t always fun.  In fact, sometimes it’s just plain boring, especially when you’re trying to get the fingering patterns for a scale correct or trying to sort out that hard part in your concert music.  But if you learn how to plan “smart” practice time, you will find that practicing is really something you can enjoy.  HOW you practice makes all the difference.  Here are a few good suggestions to begin with:

  • Practice every day for the best results. 
  • Practice in a quiet place.
  • Use a music stand.  Don’t prop your music up on your bed or your dog...It annoys the dog!
  • It is usually best to stand up when you practice.  It’s hard to use bad posture when you are standing!
  • Practice often in front of a mirror
  • Use a tuner when you practice.  Learn how to hear notes “in tune.”
  • Always use a proper warm-up.
  • Practice your assigned lessons and exercises first.
  • Practice the parts you can’t play.
  • Pace yourself.  If you get tired or frustrated, stop and come back to it later.
  • If family finances allow…get “Smartmusic” on your computer and use it for practice.
  • Practice some fun things, too.
  • Practice for results, not just to put in the time.  Know what your goals are and stay focused.
  • Listen to as much different music as you can in your free time.  Listen for melodies, harmonies, and other important musical elements.  Build your musical memory.  It will help you play your instrument more than you realize!
  • Complete your practice record each week and turn it in on time with a parent signature.
  • Three reasons to practice: 
    • to learn something new
    • to improve what you’ve learned
    • to increase endurance/strength in your embouchure

To say it more simply…You only have to learn how to play something ONCE.  After that, you simply keep practicing it to keep it fresh and to improve it.

  • Get these books to use as practice resources:
    • Music Practice:  The Musician’s Guide To Practicing and Mastering Your Instrument Like A Professional – David Dumais (CreateSpace Publishing, 2015)
    • Practicing For Young Musicians:  You Are Your Own Teacher – Harvey Snitkin (HMS Publications, 2011)
    • Not Until You’ve Done Your Practice! – Philip Johnston & David Sutton (PracticeSpot Press, 2004)
    • Growing Your Musician:  A Practical Guide for Band and Orchestra Parents – Tony Bancroft (R&L Education, 2007)
    • How to Get Your Child to Practice? Without Resorting to Violence – Cynthia Richards (Advance Art & Music, 1985