October 2013



What's New...

Highlights of the 2013 convention are on our website including session handouts.

Save the date for the TODA reception held during TMEA

Thursday, February 13, 6:00 - 9:00 pm
Hilton, Mirador Ballroom

From the President...
by Pat Leaverton

Greetings to all the string educators in Texas and surrounding states!  As TODA continues to grow we no longer limit our membership to those educators that teach here in Texas, and we are grateful for our out-of-state attendees.  As you know, we offer one of the premier professional development opportunities for string educators every summer in San Antonio.  If you have been coming to the TODA Convention, you know the value of the event in preparing us for the next school year.  And with the combined TBA/TCDA/TODA exhibit area, we are now one of the largest music “shows” in the nation!  I hope everyone will invite friends and co-workers to join us July 27-30, 2014, especially those new to the profession and your friends from out of state. 

We are working hard at presenting a great line up of clinicians for everyone next summer.  Barry Green is planning to attend and will present clinics on The Inner Game of Music and Bringing Music to Life.  The entire string faculty from Baylor University will present clinics on individual instrument pedagogy, classroom techniques and conducting.  What we need to round out our convention is one thing: YOU

Texas is known across the nation as a leader in school orchestra performance.  The readers of this newsletter are some of the best string educators in the United States, so please share your experience and knowledge with the membership of TODA.

Consider presenting a clinic at this next summer’s convention.  Whether your expertise is teaching a specific instrument or technique, recruitment or retention, conducting, organizational skills, or just plain motivating young students, I encourage you to submit a clinic proposal for this summer.  Simply click on the link here and send it to [email protected] or [email protected].  Our goal is to schedule all clinics by February so send in your submissions now. 

Let’s work together to continue making Texas the leader in music education by sharing our knowledge and skills.


TODA Scholarships
by Sandra Vandertulip, Secretary

Attention TODA Members!  You can donate anytime to the Barbara Eads Scholarship fund.  As you know, this fund helps a senior high school orchestra member who will be majoring in music education and every donation counts! We have had amazing applicants, and this fund provides valuable assistance to our future orchestra directors.

Donations to the Barbara Eads Memorial Scholarship may be made online by clicking here or you may send your donation to:

Texas Orchestra Directors Association
7900 Centre Park Drive, Suite A
Austin, TX 78754

Acknowledgement will be made to the donor, and annual donors are recognized in the convention program.

This year's scholarship recipients were


Bryan Bires, Carlos Quiroz and Jacob Cortez. Read more about them on our website.

If you have a senior who wants to become an orchestra director, encourage them to send in an application.  Direct them to our website or call the TODA Office at 512-474-2801 for more information.

Scholarship Information

Application will open January, 2014.

TODA Board of Directors

President - Pat Leaverton, Arlington ISD
Past President - David DeVoto, Allen ISD
VP/Treasurer - Jason Thibodeaux, Northeast ISD
Secretary - Sandra Vandertulip, Round Rock ISD
Member At Large - Lamar Smith, Carrollton ISD
Executive Director - Sharon Lutz

Director, Member Services - Beverly Schlegel

7900 Centre Park Drive, Suite A
Austin, TX  78754

From the Past President
by David DeVoto

Now that we have seen the first of our new “combined” Convention with TCDA and TBA, we are sure we made the correct decision to the benefit of attendees and exhibitors.  These benefits will be important as we continue to move forward – convention attendance will improve, clinicians will want to present new and creative clinics, and finances will improve.

A big challenge with having three simultaneous conventions is that all three associations (TBA, TCDA, and TODA) are approaching exhibitors and vendors asking for sponsorships, donations, and advertising.  We need the help of these exhibitors because their support is critical to the success of our organization.  Please help us in “spreading the word” to our string-specific shops about the benefit of the TODA Convention to their businesses and its value to our members.

Over the years, we have been fortunate to receive financial help from local string shops such as Lisle Violins, Fishburn Violin, and Dallas Strings – to name but a few.  These organizations have been very generous and willing to help in many ways to make our convention a great experience. The TODA Board would love to have ALL of the string shops in Texas, those companies we rely on for our equipment needs and those companies that rely on our orchestral students for their events, to be a part of the TODA annual convention.

We want TODA to be THE place for Texas string groups, businesses, and events to advertise, sponsor and exhibit. The Board is contacting over 100 Texas string specific groups to join us at TODA, and we ask that you join our effort in spreading the word to your local string groups. Make sure they know that TODA can assist in promoting their products, and we want them to be part of this great convention.  Please contact Sharon Lutz with any leads or suggestions you may have or ask your local group to contact Sharon at 512-474-2801 or at [email protected]. Thanks for your help in growing TODA!

Money Matters
by Jason Thibodeaux, Treasurer

Good news from this year’s treasurer’s report!  Even with increasing expenses from our convention, we are happy to report that membership and convention fees will remain the same for next year.                  

Each year we spend close to $30,000 for general operating costs, including office expenses, an executive director and one staff member, advertisements, web page development, etc. Fortunately, our partnership with TCDA allows us to share many of these expenses, and along with your membership dues, we manage to keep costs low. We spend close to $30,000 every year for events that are important to our membership (some sponsorships defray partial costs). These events include the Wine and Cheese reception during TMEA, the Fiesta Welcome and our TODA BBQ during convention.

Use of the convention center and other costs associated with the convention adds almost $40,000. Again, we are fortunate that our partnership with TBA and TCDA allows us to share these convention expenses, but our members’ low convention fees will never cover all costs.  It is because of vendors buying exhibit space every year that we are able to keep costs low for our organization.  All members are encouraged to help with this effort by visiting the vendors as much as possible during the convention, learn about how they can help you and your programs, and encourage them to return next year. Our exhibitors appreciate our business but they also want to build a relationship with the music educators of TODA. The more our vendors feel they have been successful in building these relationships, the more they will want to come back the next year, which keeps costs affordable so you are able to return to the TODA convention!                 


Say Less, Teach More
by Lamar Smith, Member At Large

In my opinion, the moment a class loses focuses is visible to the naked eye. The students’ backs start to ease towards the back of the chairs, shoulders begin to slump, and eyes glaze over. As a younger teacher, I can remember feeling really frustrated by this phenomenon--until I realized it was exactly what I was doing during faculty meetings and staff development! The moment that energy dips can often be traced to the manner in which material is being presented.
Today, we in the education field are quick to vilify the traditional model of a lecturer delivering material verbally to a large group of seated, silent students taking notes (there are those that still revere this idea for no other reason than the fact that it is traditional, but that group is diminishing). We know that students learn in many different ways, and, as teachers of the arts, we love to brandish the fact that our students are more active and engaged more of the time than they might be in other classes. But let’s take a closer look at our orchestra classrooms. How much active thinking is REALLY going on, or are we doing a lot of talking and “fixing” instead of encouraging intuition and independence?

The Magic Ratio: 70/30

Most current research encourages us to strive for 70% non-verbal instruction and 30% verbal. Truth be told, this is a lofty goal! Most of us were taught to teach using language, and this is not to say that our words aren’t meaningful or important. What is implied, though, is that we should use actions more than speech in our instruction. This is not to say that one class period a week should be taught using only pantomime! To understand this better, consider some forms of non-verbal instruction:

Obviously, this is our most frequently used and beloved form of communication in the world of string teaching.  Indicating tempo, dynamic, phrasing and articulation as well as giving cues and adjusting balance, can be accomplished with our batons and bodies. Younger students have to be taught to watch for these things and to react to them, but they can be most easily taught (and non-verbally too) to understand conducting by creating basic beat patterns. Remember the old adage: if they aren’t watching you, there’s nothing to watch. Only meaningful motions get results.

A great misconception is that modeling on instruments is useful only in the beginner classroom. I model all the time in my most advanced high school group, and it is effective. The students hear the right answer, and I usually demonstrate the wrong answer(s) too, so they can differentiate between the two and possibly identify the problems they might be experiencing as they perform. Teaching beginners proper set-up AND reinforcing it with second and third-year players is most easily and efficiently done by demonstrating using your own instrument and moving around the room as the students play, and manipulating their hands if they are having problems. This also helps avoid a litany of “do not” statements and encourages just a handful of “do” statements; students will feel more successful if they know they are getting the right answer and aren’t just running the gamut of avoiding the myriad wrong answers.

Concise and Interesting Language
Sometimes we need to say something but saying too much or delivering it in the wrong way doesn’t invite engagement or interest. Using analogies and imagery to describe musical and technical ideas usually involves less talking and encourages students to connect the experience to something they already know. For instance, encouraging students to move their right hands as though they are underwater might help weak or unfocused tone. Relating it to something fun like the swimming pool often gets smiles and a little extra energy. Challenge yourself to use non-verbal communication as you teach. Even if the increase is small, the returns will be fruitful!