O'Connor Bands - August 26, 2019


5th Grade Band Information

6th Grade Band Information

Concert Information


Pictures and Links

Happy Monday, everyone!

Welcome to 2019-2020 school year for the O'Connor Elementary Bands!

I’m Pat Zaur, the band teacher at O'Connor Elementary. This is my 19th year of teaching elementary instrumental music (band). I initially taught for 12 years for Gilbert Public Schools before moving to Mesa Public Schools in 2013. I’m excited for what this year holds for us!

I created a newsletter on my website and subscribed everyone in this list. If you feel you are receiving this in error, please unsubscribe using the link at the bottom of this email. You can always resubscribe through my website by choosing the appropriate school newsletter on my website. There are three school choices at the top of my website: http://www.mpsaz.org/arts/music/staff/elementary/pmzaur

This school year is off to a fast start. It’s hard to believe we’re already three weeks into the 2019/2020 year! The 5th and 6th grade bands are starting to move quickly as just about everyone has an instrument. 5th grade band has been working on making sounds on their “little instruments.” We have not gone over full instrument assembly, holding the full instrument, or any of the notes. Our focus has been on making the proper sound with those “little instruments.” They were tasked with making sounds for 1-2 minutes at home for a couple days each week.


Woodwinds (flute, clarinet, saxophone)


Now, about the “little instruments.” Flutes should be using the head joint (informative article about head joints). The open end of the headjoint goes towards the right shoulder. The opening in the lips to create the sound should be small. I use the example that the opening should be the size of those coffee straws, very petite. Good website on creating the proper shape for playing the flute: https://banddirectorstalkshop.com/2016/08/15/flute-embouchure/ (disclaimer: I do use the "touch and roll" method to get the feel of the lip plate cut-out and then shift the headjoint from there, when necessary...)

Pictures of Flute Headjoint Placement and Lip Opening (aperture)

View and article for flute headjoint and lip shape

flute embouchure

flute embouchure


Clarinets and Saxes

Clarinets should be using only the mouthpiece and barrel (along with a reed and the ligature-the metal device which holds the reed to the mouthpiece). This combination creates a super loud and obnoxious tone! It’s supposed to be a 5th line F-sharp, in the treble clef, on the piano.

Saxophones should be using the mouthpiece and neck (along with the reed and ligature). The tone created can be a bit honky or goose-y sounding. It’s not as obnoxious as the clarinet tone.

***Clarinet and Saxophone Players – The mouthpiece does go between ¼ to ½ inch into the mouth. The top teeth are anchored/firmly touching (very important) the mouthpiece. The lower lip is curled over the bottom teeth to create cushion. The lower lip should still be showing some of the lip on the outside. If the lower lip completely disappears, it’s curled in too far.

Clarinet Mouthpiece Placement pictures

Side view of clarinet mouthpiece placement.

clarinet embouchure

Frontal view of the clarinet mouthpiece placement.

front view clarinet embouchure

Saxophone Mouthpiece Placement Picture

View of saxophone mouthpiece placement.

view of saxophone mouthpiece placement


BRASS INSTRUMENTS (trumpet, horn, trombone, baritone, tuba)

All brass players (trumpet, horn, trombone, baritone, tuba) should be creating a “buzz” on their mouthpiece. The buzz should sound like a large angry bee! Trumpet and horn mouthpieces create bees with fast moving wings while trombone, baritone, and tuba create bees with slow moving wings.

Ideally, the mouthpiece is centered under the nose with a little more mouthpiece on the upper lip than the lower lip. Think 60/40 for top lip to bottom lip ratio. This ratio will vary for everyone every so slightly.

Brass Mouthpiece Placement

View of mouthpiece placement for brass.

brass mouthpiece placement


BRASS & WOODWINDS - Puffing Cheeks...

For all wind players (flute, clarinet, sax, trumpet, horn, trombone, baritone, tuba), cheeks should be pulled back, not puffing, when creating a buzz or playing the instrument! Puffing cheeks are not good! This reduces muscle control of the tone being created and also creates inefficiency in playing. In class, I refer to someone who has puffing cheeks as “squirreling” because it reminds me of a squirrel or chipmunk collecting nuts for the winter as they carry them back to the food hiding spot.

puffy animal cheeks



Percussion has the easiest “start” of all the instruments. We will be focusing on stick grip and how to strike the proper keys while maintaining rhythmic accuracy. The stick grip we use is called a "matching" stick grip. Both hands are holding the sticks the same way.

matching stick grip for percussion

At this time, I have not sent them home with any specific “homework” to do. They will be getting their own assignments very quickly… 



We're starting by reviewing everything from the beginning of the book. Sheet music is being handed out to learn in the next week. I will be placing audio recordings of individual parts on my website for students to play along with. It is a good idea to play along with different parts. This allows each musician to learn how their part interacts with the other parts. You can find individual part recordings on my website here.


Our first public performance is on November 7th at Red Mountain High School. This is for sixth grade only. We will be performing Dragon Slayer and Pirates’ Cave with other elementary schools and then enjoying performances by the Shepherd and Fremont JHS bands and Red Mountain Marching Band. This performance is indoors.

Concert information is always listed on my website. You can find this information here.



I'm looking to schedule the joint concert, at O'Connor Elementary, before Thanksgiving. When I have the date scheduled, I will post on my website and send it out in an email. 


Please email me with any questions you may have. I do travel between Bush, Brinton, and O'Connor Elementary Schools during the week. Email is the best way to contact me. My only request is that you please include your child's name and child's school in the email! This way I have a better reference on how to reply.

My website has a lot of information on it including what method book (Essential Elements, Bk. 1) we're using and materials each musician needs for their instrument.

Thank you!

-Pat Zaur








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