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Kaizen | 改善 - Instilling Continuous Ensemble Development (TMEA 2021)

presented by Gerry Miller

Kaizen is a Japanese term meaning “change for the better” or “continuous improvement.” It is a Japanese business philosophy regarding the processes that continuously improve operations and involve all stakeholders. Kaizen sees improvement in productivity as a gradual and methodical process.

The 5 key elements of Kaizen for organizations:

  • Teamwork

  • Personal Discipline

  • Improved Morale

  • Quality

  • Suggestions for Improvement

The Tools of the Trade

  • Yamaha HD300 Harmony Director

  • Tonal Energy App

  • Decibel Meter

For the clinic handout, click below:

PDF format

For a complete copy of the slides used in the presentation, click below:

PDF format

PPT format (edit as needed)

For a complete copy of the ensemble exercises used in the presentation, click below:

PDF format

For a complete copy of the ensemble exercises as utilized with the Coppell HS Marching Bands, click below:

PDF format

From Stonemason to Sculptor (TMEA 2020)

Thank you for reading our most-recent article in the Southwestern Musician.
You can download the original CLINIC HANDOUT here.


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Download Style Worksheet (pdf)

This is a great tool to use with your students, whether on-line or in-person. Consider a lesson where you discuss these different note shapes and have them color in what they think they should see in Tonal Energy's Analysis window.

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Download Note Grouping Presentation (ppt)

This powerpoint can be used following the individual note presentation about building phrases in MACRO. Again, you can play with this however you like. Perhaps diagram phrases from some of the pieces you're currently preparing.

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Download Note Shape Presentation (ppt)

Use this powerpoint to present the different note shapes to students. Edit as you'd like - we understand that not all directors want to hear the same things for these. Having a "jumping-off point" is so important for codifying ensemble style.

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Download Cresc+Dim Presentation (ppt)

While we didn't talk too much about this in the most-recent article, you can dive in here too talk about the ACTUAL shape that crescendos and diminuendos should follow. Again, edit as you would prefer for your ensemble.

Organized Files

Ensemble Skills Packet

What Works for Us


This is the daily ensemble skills packet we use with the concert bands in Coppell ISD. Different variations on these are used across the middle school and high school ensembles. Feel free to adjust and adapt them as you see fit. If you want to know more about how to use the Yamaha Harmony Director with these exercises, I'll be preparing some videos on that in the next several weeks (Nov-Dec 2020).

Presentation Notes:


We have to assume, during the “bricklaying” stage, we are ensuring that the students can do the following:


Play every note IN-TUNE/IN-TONE/IN-TIME at the correct VOLUME.


During the “bricklaying stage”, don’t worry about…

  • Note Shape

  • Tempo

  • Style

  • Articulation

On Staccato interpretation...

“sharp attack and abrupt release” – Vincent Persichetti

“brevity and detachment…dry but resonant” – Frederick Fennell

“shorten each note value more than normal” – John Paynter

“no accent – tongue easily, lightly” – William Revelli

“only as short as the music requires” – Clarence Sawhill

On Accenteed interpretation...

“more force than would ordinarily be used” – Francis Erickson

“the separation from one tone to the next” – Howard Hanson

“emphasized attack…moderate shortening” – Vaclav Nehlybel

“sharp attack and tone held” – Vincent Persichetti

”detache style…a la string bowing marcato” – William Revelli

On Tenuto interpretation...

“as legato as possible without accent – ‘soft-tongued’” – John Barnes Chance

“full value…minimum space between each note” - Frank Erickson

“sustained legato with emphasis on each tone” – Howard Hanson

“very little separation…slight emphasis or ‘leaning’” – Martin Mailman

“the whole duration is required” – Vaclav Nehlybel

On Marcato interpretation...

“very hard, strong accent with normal spacing” – John Paynter

“sharp accent with tongue, firm, no diminuendo” – William Revelli

“maximum emphasis on attack – Beethoven” – Frederick Fennell

“extremely harsh, sharp attack…considerable decay” – Vincent Persichetti

“strongly emphasized…sometimes shortened” – Vaclav Nehlybel















Contact Information:

Gerry Miller

Coordinator of Fine Arts - Coppell ISD

214.496.6475 (office)

CLEAR AND CONSISTENT (Texas Bandmasters Association Clinic 2019)
Developing a Common Language for Ensemble Instruction


For a full copy of all slides in the presentation (pdf format), click HERE.

For a copy of the handout, click HERE.

Beginning the Dialogue


∆    Building mature and characteristic sounds

Ensemble Skills Packet - Flute | Oboe | English Horn | Bassoon | Clarinet | Bass Clarinet | Alto Sax | Tenor Sax | Bari Sax

Trumpet | Horn | Trombone | Bass Trombone | Euphonium | Tuba

∆    Ensuring that pitches are consistently centered and focused

Malcolm Arnold's Sarabande and Polka - Mvt II - tutti band phrase

∆    Fostering a student’s understanding of correct balance and blend

Chang Su Koh's Arirang and Akatonbo

Sousa's Fairest of the Fair

Holsinger's On a Hymnsong of Philip Bliss

∆    Teaching an awareness of tuning within and between sections


Sousa's Fairest of the Fair

∆    An effective performance of dynamic contrast (consistent, obvious, and measurable)

Holsinger's On a Hymnsong of Philip Bliss


∆    Demonstrating consistent manual dexterity and flexibility with precision


Sousa's Fairest of the Fair

Shostakovich's Festive Overture

∆    Approaching rhythm with uniformity throughout the ensemble

∆    Performing articulation which is appropriate and consistent

Sousa's Fairest of the Fair


∆    Playing with proper musical style throughout the program

∆    Encouraging sensitivity to phrasing, shaping, and musical line


Biebl's Ave Maria

∆    Inspiring dynamic variation and musical nuance


Sousa's Fairest of the Fair

∆    Consistently conveying artistic, energetic, and emotional understanding to the audience

Sousa's Fairest of the Fair

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