Student musicians in the Instrumental Music program receive applause following a night time performance at Marshall Middle School. (photos by John Gregory)
Music program thrives at Marshall
Listening to a performance by any band or orchestra from the Marshall Middle School Instrumental Music Program leaves the impression that these student musicians are incredibly polished and focused for children of such a young age. Their precision is inspiring.
Such cohesion is achieved through practice, determination and discipline. It also takes a respected leader. That man is Cameron Brown, Instrumental Music Program director.
“I don’t allow any unnecessary noises or nonsense to happen in the classes,” he said. “The students just have a really good sense of teamwork. They want to do well for each other. … They understand that if they don’t sound good and they’re not pulling their weight in the ensemble, they’re also hurting other members of the ensemble because the overall product suffers.”
Brown explained that when students enter his program, they usually have two years of band or orchestra instruction, so they have a decent foundation.
“Overall, they’re ready to go. They’re knowledgeable and it’s just refining that product over a period of time,” he said. “We talk less about the basics of performance and more about the nuance of playing an instrument. How to produce the proper tones on strings or with a wind instrument. How to make music sound professional. … We’re done with the honks and squeaks from elementary school and we start focusing on the finer details of playing in an ensemble and playing your individual instrument.”
The Instrumental Music Program classes include Intermediate Band, Advanced Band, Intermediate Orchestra, Advanced Orchestra and Beginning Guitar as a wheel elective. The program includes nearly 250 students, and Brown teaches all the classes himself.
The bands and orchestras play live concerts throughout the year, including a series of evening performances attended mostly by family members. Each generally plays two festivals per year. One of these is the Scripps Ranch Band & Orchestra Festival, which will be hosted by the Marshall Instrumental Music Program on March 15 and 16.
Each will also perform during spring trips in April. The Intermediate Band and Intermediate Orchestra will perform at a school in Orange County on April 6, then spend the rest of the day at Knott’s Berry Farm. The Advanced Band and Advanced Orchestra will compete in the Forum Festivals Judges Invitational in Orange County on April 13, then spend the rest of the day at Disneyland where they will attend an awards ceremony.
Funds for these trips come partially form a donation drive held at the beginning of each school year. Other fundraising includes concession sales at the evening concerts and at the Scripps Ranch Band & Orchestra Festival.
Brown, who began his teaching career in 2006, has a bachelor’s degree in Music Education from San Diego State University and a master’s degree from American Band College in Ashland, Oregon. He began learning to play the trumpet at age 10, started playing drums at age 12 and taught himself guitar at age 13. He became his high school’s drum major. With that title came the responsibility of teaching the freshmen how to march, which turned out to be a good experience.
“I saw that I could motivate them to do well and get them working hard for one another,” Brown said. “I thought … I could turn my love of music into a career in the classroom and continue the positive experiences that I’ve had in music classrooms and pass that on to the next several generations.”