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Instrumental Music


Our Charms Website has all the information current students and parents need.  Please refer to the documentation already provided to get your login and password information.  If you need help, please email Mr. Pracher.

Music Department Calendar


<----- Or click the link to the calendar in the left hand menu bar.

The Simi Valley High School Instrumental Music Department



  • String Orchestra (Period 2; year-round): Violins, violas, cellos, string basses. No audition required. Entry level string orchestra at the intermediate and advanced level. Performs on and off campus at concerts, adjudicated festivals, and other gigs. 


  • Concert Band (Period 3; year-round): Woodwinds, brass, percussion. No audition required. Entry level wind band at the intermediate level. Performs on and off campus at concerts and adjudicated festivals.



  • 6th Period Jazz (Period 6; year-round): Saxophones, trumpets, trombones, rhythm (guitar, bass, piano, drum set). Other instruments may or may not be added based on demand. Audition required. Entry level jazz ensemble focusing on music theory and improvisation. Performs on campus at concerts.


  • Jazz Big Band (Period 7, after school; 2nd semester): Same instrumentation as 6th Period Jazz Band. Audition required for placement. Premier jazz ensemble at the intermediate level. Performs on and off campus at concerts, adjudicated festivals, special events, and other gigs. 


  • Marching Band (1st semester): Woodwinds, brass, drum line (percussion), color guard. No audition required. Physical education class combining musical and visual performance. Physically and musically demanding, fairly large time commitment. Flagship ensemble with over 30 performances through the season. 


  • Color Guard (1st semester): see Marching Band.


  • Winter Drum Line (2nd semester): Indoor marching percussion ensemble similar to 1st semester marching band drum line, except performances are held indoors in gyms or arenas on a floor instead of on a football field and with no wind instruments or color guard. Audition required for placement.


  • Winter Color Guard (2nd semester): Indoor color guard similar to 1st semester marching band color guard, except performances are held indoors in gyms or arenas instead of outside on a football field and with no wind or percussion instruments. Audition required for placement.

Items you need to be in the Band

Here are a list of many items that you will need to be successful and perform at your best. We can provide a few of these items on an emergency basis, but you must have your own supplies and personal equipment.  


String Players: Rosin, Soft Cleaning Cloth, Shoulder Rest, Replacement Strings, Bow


Brass players: Valve Oil or Slide Cream, Mouthpiece Brush, Cleaning Snake Brush, Slide Grease, Silver or Lacquer Polish Cloth, Spit Rag


Woodwind players: Reeds, Cork Grease, Cleaning Rod or Swab, Polish Cloth, Small Flat Head and Philips Screw Drivers (eye glass size or smaller), Mouthpiece, Ligature, Mouthpiece Bite Pad or Patch


Percussionists:  Sticks, Mallets, Stick Bag, Mallet Bag, Stick Tape, Metronome


For All Musicians: METRONOME, Tuner, Folder for Over-sized Music 9"X13", Pencil at all times, Sense of Humor, and a Great Attitude.

New Student/Returning Student FAQ


  1. Can I still join band or orchestra if I don’t know how to play an instrument yet?

Yes you can! The String Orchestra, Concert Band, and Marching Band are some of the classes you can join to play with the band while also receiving one-on-one help from a teacher, coach, tutor, or classmate.

  1. How do I audition for an upper-level ensemble?

You can schedule an audition for Wind Ensemble with Mr. Pracher by emailing him at Auditions will take place in the months of May and June. Required repertoire will include a short solo piece for your instrument, any 2 of your 12 major scales (2 octaves; memorized preferred, but not required), and sight reading. Jazz Big Band holds auditions in November or December and will take place after school. CLICK THIS FOR POSSIBLE AUDITION MUSIC.    POSSIBLE AUDITION MUSIC SOLOS.

  1. Why should I join Marching Band?

Marching Band is the perfect choice for students who want to have fun while improving their musicianship and fulfilling their physical education requirements (yes that’s right—marching band is taken instead of  P.E.!). Students consistently see marching band as the most fun class in the department, while also enjoying staying physically fit and competing against other bands in southern California. Marching Band performs at every home varsity football game, 1-2 away games, and 4-7 competitions. Your section leaders (students who have been carefully selected by Mr. Pracher to help lead the band by setting a good example for younger musicians and helping out in any way they can) will contact you over the summer to inform you when they will be holding summer sectionals. This is a fantastic way to meet your section and practice some of the standard music we play so the first day and week of band camp isn’t overwhelming or scary. The best part about being a freshman in marching band is you’ll already have friends in 10th-12th grade who want to help your transition to high school be exciting and stress-free!

  1. What is Jazz Band? Should I join Jazz Band? Which Jazz Band should I join?

Jazz Band is an ensemble usually including: 2 alto saxophones, 2 tenor saxophones, 1 baritone saxophone, 4 trumpets, 3 trombones, 1 bass trombone, 1 guitar, 1 piano, 1 string bass, and 1 drum set. Jazz Band is unique in that you get the opportunity to solo through improvisation. If you don’t know much at all about soloing through improvisation, or if you are and want to improve on your jazz year-round, 6th Period Jazz is the class for you. This class focuses on jazz musicianship and learning how to approach improvisation. 6th Period Jazz performs at every concert. If you’re familiar with jazz soloing through improvisation and playing in an ensemble and maybe don’t have enough time in your 1st period schedule for a jazz class, Jazz Big Band held after school 2nd semester is the class for you. Jazz Big Band performs anywhere between 5 and 20 times from December to June in concerts, festivals, and other gigs.

  1. What if I want to join a band or orchestra class but I don’t have time in my schedule?

One way to clear a class period for a music class is to take Marching Band. Marching Band is taken after school in place of a P.E. class during the day, clearing the way for you to take a music class 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 6th period. Another way is to take a class over the summer. Easy and common classes to take over the summer include: Health (9th grade), World History (10th grade), United States History (11th grade), Government (12th grade), Economics (12th grade), and Computer Applications. Getting ahead in your school work over the summer is a great way to clear a class period in order to take a music class during the day instead.


If you have never purchased a band instrument before, the whole process can be quite confusing and intimidating, particularly if you have never even played a band instrument before. Instrument features, terminology, cost, and brands that are familiar only to musicians, are just some of the factors that contribute to the anxiety that many new buyers feel. If you factor in a music store—a place where most parents have never been; an item that they know little, or nothing, about; and a salesperson they know even less about; the whole thing can be quite overwhelming.

I have worked as a salesman for two music stores for more than five years, and, for more than 33 years, have taught students, ranging in age from 4th grade to adult, to play a band instrument. I have talked to many parents, band directors, professional musicians, and instrument manufacturer representatives, and have written this guide with the inexperienced buyer in mind. The opinions and recommendations are my own, based upon my experience as a band director, private instructor, and instrument salesman.


If you are planning to purchase a flute, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, or trombone for your child, you should find the following information helpful. If you need to purchase some other instrument, please contact me for additional information.

Band instruments are marketed in three grades of quality: (1) beginner, (2) intermediate, and (3) professional models. Most so-called “intermediate” grade instruments are really “beginner” instruments with no more than a few modest cosmetic improvements such as a better case or silver-plating. None of these improvements really add much to the actual playing quality of the instrument, but do add to the cost. Examples of truly “intermediate” quality improvements (and worthy of paying more money for) would be such things as a solid silver head joint for a flute or clarinets with a body made of real grenadilla wood rather than plastic (which also is often referred to as “resin” or “composition” material). As far as professional instruments go, price is a good indicator of a truly professional grade instrument. Professional instruments cost from a thousand to several thousands of dollars more than the same instrument in a beginner grade.

Most saxophones, trumpets, and trombones do not come in a true “intermediate” grade. The marginal differences between those marketed as “beginner” and those marketed as “intermediate” make very little real difference in their playing response or tone quality. The real difference in instrument quality is noticed when you step up to a “professional” instrument. These are the “tools” that working musicians use to earn a living, and do play considerably better, but, as I mentioned before, can cost thousands of dollars more than the “beginner” grade instrument. Contact me if you are considering purchasing a “professional” grade instrument.

The following band instrument brands are the ones that I personally recommend. Only beginner and intermediate instrument brands appear here. (A list that would include professional instruments would include additional brand names.) The brands listed below have been tried and proven in many successful band programs, and are recommended by most of the band directors that I know:

FLUTES - Yamaha 
CLARINETS - Noblet, Buffet, Selmer, or Yamaha
SAXOPHONES - Yamaha, Selmer, Jupiter, or Vito
TRUMPETS& TROMBONES - Bach, King, Conn, Yamaha, Holton, or Getzen
Other very good brands: Antigua Winds, Armstrong, Artley, Besson, Blessing, Buescher, Bundy, Couf, Darby (trumpets only), DiMedici, Emerson, Fox, Kanstul, Keilwerth, Leblanc, Pearl, and Yanagisawa

Regardless of the brand selected…

1. FLUTES do not need open holes for beginner or intermediate players(“French style”) If you can afford it, it is best if it is solid silver throughout (head joint, body, and foot joint). The more silver there is in a flute, the better its tone and response, however, the more silver there is in a flute, the higher its price. Buy as much solid silver as you can afford. If a flute with a solid silver head joint doesn’t fit your budget, make sure that the entire flute is silver-plated, and not nickel-plated. A low “B” foot joint is an advanced feature that you might consider spending the extra money for, if you are purchasing an all (head joint, body, and foot joint) solid silver flute. It is definitely not worth it for a silver-plated flute, and probably not worth it for one with only a solid silver head joint.

2. CLARINETS should be made of genuine grenadilla wood (i.e., no plastic, “resin”, or “composition” clarinets).

3. ALTO SAXOPHONE or TENOR SAXOPHONE? - Size is the biggest factor here. The alto is the smallest (and highest pitched) saxophone commonly used in band. The tenor saxophone is a little larger, and is lower pitched, than the alto. (The soprano saxophone, which is even smaller (and higher pitched) than the alto saxophone, is not used in the modern concert, or marching band, and is only very rarely used in the standard jazz band.) The key arrangement, where you place your fingers, and the basic playing technique are the same for all saxophones. If you can play any one type of saxophone, alto or tenor, you should be able to play all types of saxophones (soprano, alto, tenor, baritone, or bass), provided you can adjust to the size difference.

4. TRUMPET or CORNET? Usually trumpets are preferred, and a bigger selection of them will be available at any music store, because, currently, they are the instrument of choice between the two options. Cornets are easier to hold for very small beginners. I prefer trumpets, if the beginner can hold it comfortably. Playing technique and fingerings (“button” arrangement) are the same for both, therefore, if a student can play one, he/she also can play the other one. Even if a student were to start on cornet, they probably would want to change to trumpet in the future, because it is more versatile, and is suited to many more performing opportunities than cornet (marching band, jazz band, brass ensembles, solo work, etc.).

5. An “F attachment” for TROMBONES is a highly recommended (but not required) option sought after by most advanced trombone players. This option almost doubles the price of a beginner trombone, but is a tremendous aid to playing. You should always be careful to refer to the same brands, model numbers, and options (larger case, silver-plating, case cover, etc.) when comparing dealer prices. As with many other consumer products, some brands of band instruments are always more (or less) expensive than other brands. A comparison of different brands of the same instrument based solely on price may lead to a false comparison of quality. Shopping around at various dealers is the best way to be assured of the best price.

Some stores are selling band instruments now that have never sold band instruments in the past. They do not have a service department, therefore, are not in a position to service what they sell, and what they sell is not recommended by most reputable band directors I know. Parts for these instruments are almost nonexistent, and the quality of the materials used in their construction is suspect. Manufacturing techniques, by the companies that produce these inexpensive imports, lag far behind those of the companies that manufacture the recommended brands listed above.

It has been my observation that students find these instruments harder to play, extremely difficult to play in tune, and not very durable. The old adage, “You get what you pay for”, is so true concerning musical instruments. The prices of these cheap imported instruments are far below (in some cases, 50%, or less) of what the mainline brands (listed above) sell for. It just makes sense that the quality of these instruments has to suffer to sell them at those ridiculously low prices.

Don’t misunderstand me. This is not an indictment on all imported musical instruments. Many of the world’s finest musical instruments are imported, including some that are on my list of recommended brands. The difference is, these recommended companies adhere to very high industry standards, and produce instruments that are truly outstanding.

Any two instruments might look the same, but they are not the same quality. It would be far better to get a used instrument of one of the brands listed above, than to get one of the inexpensive imports from one of these stores that are not equipped to provide the repair service, professional product knowledge, band books, and other band supplies your child will need. Just because an instrument is new, is no guarantee that it will play well. Even if one of these stores offers to replace it for free, another new instrument, will need adjusting and fine tuning by a skilled repairman, which they do not have. Therefore, purchasing instruments from these types of stores is not recommended.

Music stores have a variety of instrument rental plans and buyer options, that include one, or more, “rent-to-own” plans, whereby the amount paid in rental accumulates over time, and eventually the instrument becomes the property of the renter. Inquire about specific details at each music store. Also, inquire about a “rental return” instrument, or a good used instrument. The quality of a “rental return” is usually excellent, and the quality of a used one ranges from satisfactory to very good, depending upon the amount you want to spend. Either one will offer an opportunity to save some money. Some music stores will apply the entire amount paid on your child’s first instrument to a better, or “step-up”, instrument when he/she is ready to advance. To ensure that you get the most for your money, I need to inspect any used instrument, or any new one, not listed above. Any instrument, new or used, whether it is purchased from a music store, or an individual, should be purchased with the clear understanding that, after being evaluated, it may be returned, if found unsatisfactory.

A used trumpet or trombone purchased from an individual, usually will be satisfactory if it has been well maintained with good preventive maintenance. Used flutes, clarinets, or saxophones, on the other hand, might need costly repairs (even if they have been well taken care of), if it has been several years since they have been played. You might have to pay more than a hundred dollars for a complete overhaul on these instruments if they are more than three years old, and have never been overhauled. - by Ronald Dowling

Why You Are Wasting Your Money On Music Lessons!

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything” – Plato


But Daniel [Blair], you ARE a music teacher! More importantly, you are MY CHILD’S music teacher!!!

Trust me, this is going to get good. Click bait? nailed it!

I teach close to 60 private lessons per week

almost all of them classical violin. I manage a moderately sized music school with 6 teachers and over 175 students. I go to great lengths creatively and financially to convince others of the value of music education. Yet, there is  one area that I constantly have trouble communicating – “Is my child ‘getting it’ or am I wasting my time/money?”

Here is how the scenario plays out:

I am teaching a lesson. The student is not 100% laser focused on the task I have given them. Mother or Father says something along the lines of “If you don’t straighten up and pay attention then we are not coming back – I am not paying good money for nothing!” Ok, so that is a bit harsh. We actually have an amazing clientele who fully appreciate the work we do with their children. But let’s suppose previous students (wink) have said such things…and let’s answer the question

“Are we wasting money on music lessons?”


Many of you are losing a significant portion of your tuition. But in a totally different area than you think, and its entirely curable.

You think you are paying for someone to teach little Johnny how to play an instrument.

We are actually teaching Johnny how to practice his instrument. Huge difference. Learning to practice at home is where the magic happens. It builds discipline, a healthy relationship with commitment to growth, concrete skills that can translate into income later in life…all this doesn’t happen during the lesson – it happens at home with CONSISTENT effort over time (years). Lesson time is used to give golden nuggets of knowledge, and provide direction, inspiration and accountability. So when you are frustrated that 5 minutes were seemingly squandered out of a 30 minute lesson, understand that the real tragedy is that a majority of my students practice less than 1 hour per week… out of the 167.5 remaining non-lesson hours.

I have never had a non-productive lesson with a student that was prepared.

Isn’t that interesting? Practicing isn’t usually the most fun endeavor (especially when up against playing with friends, eating, TV, videogames…etc) and it is hard, brain-squeezing work. Yet, AFTER a budding musician has conquered a difficult passage on their own, mastered a new technique, or memorized their latest piece, they typically cannot wait to show it to me. Also, since when does desire alone determine actions? one of my favorite quotes from painter Chuck Close is “Inspiration is for Amateurs – the rest of us just show up and get to work.” I believe that teaching children to put themselves in a position for inspiration (through specific challenges) is one of the greatest gifts we as teachers can give.

Should I quit?

Does this mean if we have a few consecutive weeks of limited practice that we should quit? It depends… Is the teacher a good role model for your child? Can the child have too many encouraging people in their life? Do we teach them to quit when things are hard? OK, maybe I am biased  I will say that if there are NEVER moments when your child has the sparkle of joy in their eye (in lessons, in practice or in performances) then you may want to consider finding something they are more passionate about. Too often however, children quit because they want something that gives them instant gratification and in their zeal to prove how much they want the “new” thing they make blanket statements such as “I hate music” “I want to quit”…. I used to do this occasionally. In fact, even at age 14 I would consistently pretend to be sick on lesson days so I wouldn’t have to be held accountable for my valuable practice week (which I often squandered). Usually I suggest a trial period, often finishing the current term, and then re-evaluate what can be changed to re-energize the student.

So what can we conclude?

If you want to make the most of your investment in music education – find ways to constantly improve at home (get 1% better each week at practicing) and nail the daily disciplines.

You will find that most students will re-engage in lessons almost immediately and you will then truly see the value in your time and money!

I hope you find this informative (or at least interesting)

Until next time!

Daniel Blair


Pioneer Music Program

2018/2019 Staff


Matthew Smith
Instrumental Music Director


Juan Gonzalez

Visual/Colorguard/Winterguard Instructor


Manmeet Kaur

Colorguard Coach


Mr. Jordan Lewis

Percussion Instructor/Arranger


John Dawson



Jessica Lipman

Brass Coach


Sean Suarez

Marching Band Visual


Amelia Aboujawdah

Visual Coach-Band Camp


Derrick Morales

Jazz Piano and Theory


Tyler Hammond

Jazz Set


Danny Connell

Jazz Bass


Mrs. Frances Emanuel

Music Booster President