Amazing opportunity for our music department: An improv Q & A with Dave Matthews’ back up band.

Last week, 100 Houston Middle students were tightly packed in to Spencer Nesvick’s band room to participate in a very unique extra curricular lesson. Rashawn Ross and Jeff Coffin, the horn section of Dave Matthews Band gives a musical demonstration, lead an improv workshop, and engaged in a Q&A with the students. Nesvick, a long time Dave Matthews Band fan, is still awestruck from the entire experience.

How did you get your special guests to come?
Nesvick:  Amro Music store representative Janice Wood emailed on the Friday morning before and offered the two of them to stop by. After getting the okay from Mr. Ruiz and filling out the proper paperwork, they came out. When I asked Janice why she picked us, she said “you were the first person I thought of."

Why is it important (for the kids) to have these types of guests?
Nesvick:  Having guests like these is just like having Lebron James or Zac Randolph coming to your basketball practice. It is inspirational and educational. Not only did Mr. Ross and Mr. Coffin perform for us, they asked challenging questions and really pushed our students musical boundaries.

Who was in the room (band, jazz band, and choir)?
Nesvick:  Originally it was only going to be the eighty Honor Band students however after talking to Mr. (Zach) Alverson, we made room for the twenty Honor Choir members to join us. Also, there were another 8-10 faculty members that stopped by throughout the afternoon.

What was your favorite part of the session?

Nesvick:  Picking a favorite part is difficult. There were a couple different moments. The first was after Mr. Coffin asked for students to share what they heard or saw when Mr. Ross and Mr. Coffin played. An eighth grade clarinet player, Maya Chambers, mentioned that Mr. Coffin changed the shape of his mouth regularly to manipulate the sound. He was so impressed by this that several other times throughout the afternoon he kept bringing back up stating that in his 30 years of performance “no one has ever talked about that.”

My other favorite moment was the most fun for the students. Mr. Coffin asked the students to improv with him. He gave the students two notes to choose from and then they, as a group, were supposed to repeat whatever Mr. Coffin played. (This ‘call and response’ technique is one of the best ways to start learning to improv.) Before they started the ‘call and response’ Mr. Coffin had the students play a warm-up note because the students hadn’t played their instruments in an hour. Mr. Ross interrupted the group because he laughed so loud. Mr. Coffin thought Mr. Ross was laughing at him. Once Mr. Ross settled down he said “that’s the most in-tune middle school band I’ve ever heard.” Here is the link to a video of Mr. Ross laughing and complimenting

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