October 2015








2015-2016 TODA Board of Directors

From the President...
by Sandra Vandertulip

Greetings TODA Members!  We are well into the semester, and time is flying by. As educators, we know we must plan ahead to ensure a successful outcome to the lessons we are teaching our students.  This planning also applies to the 2016 TODA Convention.  The TODA board is already planning for next year’s convention, and we need your help to make it another outstanding event.  As you know, the annual convention brings a wealth of sharing, learning, and networking to all orchestra directors who attend.  We are truly blessed with a deep talent base of teachers in our great state of Texas, and the convention offers an opportunity for you to share your knowledge and skills with your colleagues. In fact, we couldn’t continue to exist without you!

Please consider sharing your particular strength and expertise by serving as a clinician at next year’s convention.  You can do this by visiting the TODA website at www.todaweb.org (click on Submit a Clinic Idea). This is a great opportunity to showcase your talents while providing valuable information to your colleagues.  If serving as a clinician does not interest you, there are many other opportunities to be involved. Consider volunteering as a presider, or offer to work with our logistical and hospitality crews during the event.  To discuss ways to be involved, please contact a TODA board member by phone or e-mail. We will be so happy to speak with you!

I have been a TODA member since 1984, and I can recall missing only one summer convention.  Every year I attend our great convention, I know I am continuing to learn and grow as an orchestra director. My students benefit from the knowledge I gain at convention. For me, all it took was an invitation from Sallie Juvenal to make me want to attend and feel welcome! Please encourage your colleagues to attend TODA.  This organization is a great way for every teacher to connect, renew and re-energize for the coming school year.  All it might take is an invitation from you!

Sandra Vandertulip, 512-773-0629
Jason Thibodeaux, 210-889-8223
Lamar Smith, 214-783-8910
Christina Bires, 281-961-0908
Sixto Elizondo, 210-386-8339

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Pitch Perfect?
by Sixto Elizondo, IV Member At Large

Intonation can be one of the most definitive qualities of any performance.  When an ensemble plays in tune it sometimes goes unnoticed because it fits into our paradigm of what “should” be.  However, when an ensemble is even slightly out of tune it’s the principal factor by which we judge an ensemble.  I will be the first to say that my ensembles do not always play perfectly in tune, but we have developed a system to work on pitch as part of our daily routine and technique that has paid dividends on the stage.

My orchestra sings every day.  I often get feedback from the freshmen at the beginning of the year such as “I didn’t join choir!” or “I can’t/don’t sing.”  This is quickly rebutted with a very dramatic telling of a story using my voice to show that everyday speech contains rise and fall in pitch to give our sentences more meaning and emotion.  Within a week, those initial naysayers get over their fears as we start to work on rudimentary vocal techniques including proper breathing, raising the soft palate, and opening the mouth.  This task consumes a considerable amount of time in our first grading period as I treat the singing with the same expectation as I have of their playing, but once the parameters and expectations are established it becomes a natural activity.

TODA Board of Directors

President, Sandra Vandertulip, Round Rock ISD
Past President,
Jason Thibodeaux, Northeast ISD
VP/Treasurer, Lamar Smith, Carrollton ISD
Secretary, Christina Bires, Clear Brook HS
Member-At-Large, Sixto Elizondo IV, Ronald Reagan HS

Executive Director, Sharon Lutz
Member Services Coordinator, Hallie Boone

7900 Centre Park Drive, Suite A
Austin, TX  78754

LamarMoney Matters
by Lamar Smith, Vice President/Treasurer

The meme below sums the way most teachers regard their salaries compared to the many hours of work put into making sure their students are successful. While no teacher is working for free, and we are motivated by having a paycheck every month that is in return for providing outstanding instruction to your orchestra students. Most teachers live on a budget and look for value in every purchase they make.  Meme

For orchestra directors, it’s hard to imagine a better value than TODA membership and convention attendance. I am personally familiar with the sting felt when it comes time to register for convention, travel to San Antonio, and pay for a downtown hotel room. However, compared to other regional and national conventions, TODA is by far the least expensive and offers (in my biased opinion) the best in new music reading session, the most in-demand, popular clinicians for new ideas in pedagogy, and the most diverse group of string teachers with which to socialize and network. Beyond that, the huge offerings in the exhibit hall bring the most respected and trusted vendors in the country together in one place with one goal in mind: excellence in orchestra education.

Your membership fees and convention registration, along with help from our incredible exhibitors, help put on a second-to-none event every year, but they also help keep a complex organization healthy and running at the hands of our executive staff in the Austin office. Keeping our membership healthy and growing helps our outstanding organization thrive. Please encourage new teachers and those that have gotten away from an annual TODA commitment to join and attend our convention. The more robust our finances, the better our offerings can be!

 Pitch Perfect? continued

During the course of the year the students vocalize in a variety of ways.  We begin each year singing C and D major scales over a drone “Do” played on the McAdams tuner or some other device.  This allows the students to become comfortable with solfege syllables and to work on their vocal production techniques.  Within a couple of weeks we incorporate the following pattern into our daily routine:

(over a Do drone) Do Re Do Mi Do Fa Do Sol Do La Do Ti Do Do followed by Do Ti Do La Do Sol Do Fa etc.

This pattern introduces intervallic relationships and helps students to isolate, identify and tune each scale degree against the drone.  Another technique we use is to present a drone “Do” and have the students audiate ascending the scale to another scale degree and then sing the requested pitch.  They are often unsuccessful in the beginning of the year, so we teach this skill by singing the scale aloud to the requested scale degree to find it and then sing the interval.  This progresses into playing a drone “Do” and asking for a specific scale degree. The exercise that I find the most useful is to sing finger patterns and scales on solfege prior to playing them. We treat open strings as “Do” and alternate singing and playing each finger pattern with altered solfege syllables as necessary.  If the finger pattern is not played correctly, we stop to re-sing the pattern and then play it again on our instruments.  We repeat this activity until the class is able to play the pattern in tune, giving the students aural to call upon when approaching their instruments.

Ear training plays a crucial role in our development as musicians, and for many students college is the first time they are called upon to create pitch with their voice.  Through ensemble singing, training the kids who are “tone deaf” to match pitch, and demanding good tone, students are forced to reconcile their own pitch rather than make a note in tune on an object.  The result is a concept of creating pitch rather than playing notes. 


Please consider nominating that really special orchestra director for this most pretigious award.  Deadline is January 31, 2016.  Click HERE to go to the nomination form.