Every once in a while you come across a unique product or service that you want to let others know about. Harmony Passion would like to present some "Product Spotlight" features to help musicians and music teachers find some great resources that will help them.

The product I want to mention today is a band method curriculum developed by Nick Kozar, band director and music educator on both the high school and college level. When I spoke with Mr. Kozar about his approach for developing these band instrument lesson books, he gave me some good insight.

One thing that he has found as a weakness in previous band method books that he used was the lack of rhythm training before students had to begin branching out and playing multiple notes. The Solid Foundation band method books teach students to begin with one note, but learning multiple rhythms, so that a proper rhythmic foundation is laid.

Another aspect of the books that I appreciate is that the melodies used are from traditional songs and hymns. The use of classic melody lines allows the student to be exposed to good music while at the same time learning to play.

Unless you know what you are looking for, these books are not so easy to find online. If you'd like to see the books and pricing, I have included the links below:

For more music education products by A Beka Book, click here.

by Andy Daughtry
Associate Pastor of Worship and Discipleship
First Baptist Church
Quitman, Georgia
To this day, she remains one of the finest church musicians I have ever known.

I remember vividly the moment I heard her play the organ for the first time. It was a thrilling, triumphant sound, played with a flawless power that made you want to sing. Soon, she allowed me to sit on the bench beside her as she played the postlude, or to turn pages for her in choir rehearsal. I literally learned how to accompany while watching and absorbing every movement of this special lady. For most of her nearly 90 years, Juanita Ragans has served her church and community as an accompanist for worship, weddings, funerals, and countless community events in the small North Florida town where I spent my boyhood.
I have since met and been inspired by many like her – some as recently as last month at Church Music Georgia. These persons are gifted musicians who take seriously their role as an accompanist; they strive for excellence and are constantly looking for new ways to be effective in their calling as worship leaders. As directors, we know how critical the accompanist is to our congregations, choirs and soloists. The accompanist every director needs goes beyond mere technical skill; it goes beyond simply occupying a place at the piano bench or organ console. It comes from a true heart for ministry – a heart for serving Christ through music. I believe there are three key areas to think about as accompanists when we seek to go “beyond the bench.”
First, be the accompanist every director needs in rehearsal. As accompanists, our rehearsal begins long before the first note of choir rehearsal or a session with a soloist or ensemble. Our adequate preparation is critical to the effective rehearsal. Many years ago, I made it a rough rule of thumb to work at least 2 hours in preparation for every hour of choir rehearsal or worship I was scheduled to accompany. I used this time for score review, learning vocal parts, and working out difficult passages that may be covered in the rehearsal. There is such a difference in accompanying versus solo performance. We must be sensitive to those we are accompanying; we need to give them what they need when they need it. We must anticipate what may be needed and provide adequate support. The better prepared we are musically, the more effective we can be in providing that sensitivity and support. This in turn makes for a better rehearsal and, ultimately, enhances the worship experience for choir and congregation. We are at our best as accompanists when we enable that choir, soloist, ensemble or even an entire congregation to be at their best. (I like to call it Andy’s Golden Rule of Accompanying: “Do no harm!”) Our calling – and our Savior – deserve no less than our very best, and that begins with passionate preparation.
Next, be the accompanist every director needs in worship. Once again, preparation is the key. I read many years ago the late Virgil Fox, the incredible organist at New York’s famed Riverside Church, always began his rehearsals for worship by practicing the hymns first. I agree! As accompanists in worship, we are working to help create an environment where the Holy Spirit can work. Practice those hymns and worship songs! Study the lyrics and look for ways to amplify the text; pray that God would use you to help lead His people in worship. Look for creative ways to engage the congregation musically through imaginative introductions and modulations, differing keyboard techniques, and fresh service music with an eye toward being sensitive to the mood and flow of worship. I believe one of the critical needs in worship today, regardless of worship style, is the active engagement of God’s people in the act of worship. As a director, I need an accompanist that shares my passion to do all they can to help God’s people worship!
Finally, be the accompanist every director needs in ministry. I firmly believe that true, God-honoring ministry begins in the heart. A director needs an accompanist that has a heart for ministry. As a director, I can teach and refine skill. I cannot teach heart. Take the initiative – be fully engaged. Keep the lines of communication open with your director and others with whom you serve. Learn how to handle conflict gracefully. I love Boyd Bailey’s wonderful principle of “public praise and private correction.” Use the word “we” a lot. Simply put, we must surrender our gifts and abilities to God to be used for His glory as we serve His people in love. Live and serve in a manner worthy of the Lord’s work. Develop a heart for ministry!
Additionally, we must be constantly looking for ways to grow personally, musically and spiritually. This is particularly true for the worship accompanist. So often, as we accompany worship, we don’t have a chance to truly worship ourselves. Opportunities for personal worship then become even more critical. We can’t help lead our congregations to a place we have not been!
As I think of being an accompanist that goes “beyond the bench,” I am reminded of those powerful words inscribed on the wall of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church: “Excellence in all things, and all things to God’s glory.” God will give us the grace, let’s all work together so He gets the glory!
Thanks to Elizabeth Thacker at Plum Grove Strings, I was made aware of this article in the LA Times: 

The article outlines a study that was recently done which related music lessons to brain function. Much research has been done showing the link between music and mental health, but this study went one step further. Students that took lessons even years earlier showed better brain function than their peers.

Music lessons for children not only benefit them today, but will help them for years to come.

Another article in the LA Times discusses how actually participating in music (singing or playing an instrument) has much greater impact on the mind than passively listening. Instead of putting classical music on your child's ipod, try putting your child into music lessons.

These are a couple of articles that music teachers could reference when talking with parents or prospective students.
When I need a particular piece of sheet music or even a full book, one of the best ways to get the best price and find exactly what I'm looking for is to shop online. Here are some of the sites that I have found to very helpful in my search for sheet music.

1. J.W. Pepper

JWPepper.com has a great selection of music for orchestra, band, choir, and other settings. The website is fairly easy to navigate and includes pictures of the products that are listed. J.W. Pepper also attends many music events and maintains a list of all these events on the website. If you prefer to peruse music selections in person rather than online, you may wish to attend a live event. Also on the website is a music list feature on which you can share a particular list of music with students, peers, band members, or whomever you wish.

2. Sheet Music Plus

SheetMusicPlus.com boasts "the world's largest sheet music selection." With over 800,000 different products available, you can find almost anything you need on their site. The look and feel of the website reminds me of Amazon.com. Sheet Music Plus has over 143,000 digital sheet music downloads available as well.

3. MusicNotes.com

Musicnotes.com has almost 250,000 digital sheet music download files available. The nice thing about digital sheet music is that it is instantly available, with no shipping delay or shipping cost. MusicNotes.com also has regular hard copy music books.

4. Public Domain Music Sites

If you love playing and performing music that is from the classics of years gone by, then you will love public domain music sites. Older music that has become free public domain material is available on several sites. A great one is the Choral Public Domain Library, which has many classic choral pieces available. Another is IMSLP.org, which contains works by over 7,800 composers and well over 200,000 music scores, absolutely free. You can find other sites that offer free public domain sheet music by searching on Google or other web search engines.

5. CD Sheet Music

Another tremendous resource that I and other music teachers that I know have used is CD Sheet Music. While this is not an "online" resource, I felt that it was appropriate to include in this post because it is accessed through the computer. The idea that CD Sheet Music has embraced is assembling great copies of music from the Baroque, Classical, Romantic and Modern eras, including works for orchestra, chamber ensemble, piano, strings, winds, voice, and chorus -- then making these works available in the convenience of a CD-ROM collection. You can print as many copies as you want, reproducing them for fellow performers or for students.

6. Ebay

One site that you may not have thought about is ebay.com. As of the writing of this article there are over 199,000 items on ebay under the "Sheet Music & Song Books" category. You can find many scores that are out of print and not otherwise available without scouring antique stores or resale shops.

Much time and effort can be saved by finding sheet music online. These resources are just a few that may be beneficial to you in locating the sheet music that you need. If you know of other great resources that should be considered, please post a comment to this article (top right).