2018 – 2019


Susan O’Daniel, Director of Instrumental Music

Cailin O'Hara, Director of Vocal Music


This handbook has been designed to answer most questions regarding the guidelines, procedures and expectations of the Vergennes Union High School Music Department. Music students and their parent/ guardian should read the handbook, and become familiar with student responsibilities to their respective music ensembles. This will insure a successful program and a meaningful group relationship. Certain responsibilities on the part of each student, with the help and guidance of the parent/ guardian, are necessary. Attention to the details in this handbook will pave the way for creating wonderful music in every VUHS music ensemble.



The instrumental and vocal music classes at Vergennes Union High School are performance based. Every rehearsal is important. Warm ups, technique exercises, and performance literature are experienced daily, building a knowledge of music, skills and endurance. Cooperative, attentive and courteous behavior is expected during all rehearsals, including those that occur before and after school. Every student has the right to create music in a supportive atmosphere. A positive attitude from every student will guarantee musical success in performance. Give your personal best at each rehearsal and strive to improve every day.

Tools for musical success!

  • Have your instrument, music and pencil at every rehearsal.
  • Sit or stand at rehearsals with good posture, and support your music breathing muscles.
  • Be at rehearsals on time. If you are late, have a pass.
  • Time out of class must be minimal for call back, and should only occur when another work session cannot be arranged. The music director should be consulted or receive an email 24 hours prior to the request to be excused from class. Indicate what block you would miss, the teacher who you will be seeing, and the reason for the call back. The music director makes the decisions.
  • Keep your band instrument clean, and in good working condition.
  • Instrumental music students should have a music stand for good posture when practicing at home.
  • Practice your music and turn in any practice logs, reflections or theory consistently.
  • Attend all of the performances of your ensemble(s). Every musician in every ensemble is important to the musical success of the concert.



The culmination of all instrumental and vocal ensembles is demonstrated to the public through concerts, parades, recitals, etc.  The absence of even one musician hinders the entire performance, whether it is a concert or a parade. ALL PERFORMANCES ARE MANDATORY.  Failure to attend a performance without an excuse will result in a lowered grade.  The yearly schedule lists all of the performances during the school year for family planning. In emergencies, the director should be contacted by the parent/guardian as soon as possible or given a note. An absence will not be accepted without a note, e-mail or telephone call.  If a student does not participate in a performance, he/she will be expected to perform the concert music for the director or complete an alternate assignment at the director’s discretion. If a student does not participate in a parade, he/ she will make up the time (1 hour per parade) in band service after school, at the convenience of the band director. In some circumstances the performance grade will be lowered, if the reason for missing the concert/ parade is not considered valid by the director.



Each music student is expected to practice in order to progress as an individual, and for the ensemble to improve. Practicing is your homework for band and choir! The practice logs (with practice guides), performance reflections, theory practice and listening assignments are assigned to aid in improving technique and skills. Periodic performance assessments will demonstrate a student's understanding of the concert music, technique exercises, sight singing and ear training.


The VUHS Instrumental Music students will use MusicFirst as a practice, assessment and composition tool. This is a marvelous program for individual practice. Sight reading, video recording for assessments and a composition component are available on the program. The program is available on any device, as it is in a cloud! Students will receive information for accessing the MusicFirst program in band.



General assessment components for performance ensembles. More specific information will be provided for students in the course syllabus.

  • Ensemble Performances                                                                                                       
  • MusicFirst, Practice Logs and other various assignments/ assessments  
  • Practice Assessments/ Reflections                                                         
  • Quizzes, Written Work                                                                                       
  • Individual Performance Assessments

Grades can be viewed on Power School. Every effort will be made by the directors to have grades up to date.



Music students should check their VUHS e-mail daily. SmartMusic assignments, notices and reminders will be sent by the directors in an effort to minimize the use of paper. E-mail will  be used to communicate with music parents/ guardians. Information can be accessed through the Music Department link on the VUHS web site, at  Families who do not have e-mail will receive information in writing via their music student or the postal service.

All of the music classes and ensembles at VUHS post information on Google Classroom. Recordings of concert music for student use can be found on Google Classroom.



Members of these high school ensembles are selected by audition, and receive .5 credit for their participation in these performance classes for the full year. Commodore Singers rehearse Monday and Wednesday at 7:00 AM and the Jazz Ensemble rehearses Tuesday and Thursday at 7:00 AM. Additional rehearsals may occur on Friday mornings, evenings or Saturdays, depending on performance demands. Each student’s attendance at each rehearsal is extremely important to the success of the ensemble, and schedules may need to be adjusted in order to accommodate additional rehearsals. These are participation based classes, and a high percentage of the grade is based on rehearsal attendance/ assessments. Tardiness will be dealt with as needed by the director. An excessive number of absences will need to be made up, which will be arranged with the director. Students should call the director at VUHS if they know ahead of time that they will be late or miss a rehearsal in order to be excused, unless there are extenuating circumstances. An absence from school is automatically excused. Students should inform the director ahead of time if they know they will have a late arrival to school, or be absent for the day for an excused absence. The manager of the ensemble will take attendance at each rehearsal. All performances of the Commodore Singers and Jazz Ensemble are mandatory for the members of those select ensembles.

It is expected that students in Commodore Singers and the Commodore Jazz Ensemble will be members of the High School Concert Choir and Symphonic Band. Exceptions to this expectation will be dealt with as needed based on a student's schedule (Walden, Career Center or Middlebury College courses).



 Students participating in school sports, clubs, etc. are encouraged to do so, as it is as much a part of their education and mental and physical well being as are the music ensembles.  They are to attend all performances and rehearsals until such time as a conflict arises between the two.  If a conflict does happen, the director, student and third party will confer to resolve the situation in the best interest of the student and program.


SEATING (Band only)

 Students will be seated and assigned parts in band according to their abilities on their instrument.  Students will be assigned placement by Mrs. O’Daniel, and will vary by song for upper class band students.



(Concert uniform for all concerts except the Pops Concert)


Everyone:  black top and black bottom.  Please dress up for this occasion and look professional.  This could mean dresses, long skirts, blouses, button-down dress shirts, dress pants, dress shoes, black belt, neck tie, black stockings, and/or black socks.

Please no sneakers, sweatpants, leggings, shorts, sweatshirts, t-shirts, polo shirts, spaghetti strap blouses or strapless blouses.  The shirts should remain plain black with no printing on them.


Everyone:  white top and black bottom.  Please dress up for this occasion and look professional.  This could mean dresses, long skirts, blouses, button-down dress shirts, dress pants, dress shoes, black belt, black neck tie, black stockings, and/or black socks.

Please no sneakers, sweatpants, leggings, shorts, sweatshirts, t-shirts, polo shirts, spaghetti strap blouses or strapless blouses.  The shirts should remain plain white with no printing on them.

*** Any High School or Middle School student who cannot afford concert clothes should speak to the instructor well in advance of the concert day. There are sources for clothing that can be easily accessed by the director. THE SUBJECT WILL BE CONFIDENTIAL.

Commodore Jazz Ensemble may also wear a blue jazz polo shirt and black pants for casual concerts, or black shirt and black pants with white ties for special performances. Students in the CJE will decide on the attire.


VUHS Concerts are free of charge, with the exception being the POPS CONCERT and the Black and White Cabaret. The suggested donation for the Cabaret and the Pops Concert is $5.00.  The profit made from these concerts benefits the VUHS Music Department scholarship fund for out of state adjudication festivals for the High School and Middle School.



*All band students are expected to wear sneakers or shoes for marching band practices. NO FLIP-FLOPS OR SANDALS. This is for safety purposes.

High School Band

Each student is asked to provide their own black shoes/ sneakers. The marching band uniform is provided by VUHS. Students are asked to wear shorts and a t-shirt under the uniform. VUHS will provide a rain poncho if needed.

Middle School Band

Each student is asked to provide his/her own BLACK SHOES/ SNEAKERS and BLACK PANTS.  Students will need to purchase a Middle School Marching Band shirt at the cost of $12. VUHS will provide the Middle School Marching Band sweatshirt or rain poncho if needed.

******Any student who cannot afford to provide shirt, shoes, pants for marching band should contact Mrs. O’Daniel.

Marching Band footwear and pants are expected to be COMPLETELY BLACK.



VUHS stocks emergency supplies for your instrument, i.e. reeds, lesson books, valve & key oil, slide grease and drum sticks.  WOODWIND PLAYERS SHOULD HAVE AT LEAST 2 GOOD REEDS AT ALL TIMES.  IOUs will not be accepted, except in the case of emergency as determined by the director or by a band officer. All students in band should have a lyre for marching band by April 1st. Trumpet, horn and trombone students must have a straight mute.  Jazz Band trumpets need straight, cup and Harmon mutes. Jazz band trombonists need straight and cup mutes. Woodwind players should have reed savers and pad savers for their instruments. All students should have a polishing cloth for their instrument.

*Supplies should be ordered directly by a parent/ guardian from the Ellis Music Company. Supplies can also be purchased from  Repair Advance Music Center (Burlington).  Instrument rental should be arranged by a parent/ guardian with an instrument rental company. The Ellis Music Company is the company recommended by the director. Orders can be made on line, and items delivered to VUHS (no shipping cost!).



 Periodic maintenance is necessary on all instruments.  Pads and corks wear down, and brass instruments get dirty.  The director will review maintenance procedures. In the event that an instrument does not work, the student must fill out an INSTRUMENT REPAIR FORM (found on the band bulletin board near the stage) and leave it on the director's desk.  After looking at the instrument, the director will determine whether the instrument can be repaired at VUHS, or needs to be sent to an expert.

Parents/ Guardians may contact the Ellis Music Company directly for repair service. The Ellis Music Co. has loaner instruments for use during repairs. They will pick up and deliver instruments to VUHS. Any Ellis instruments that are still on an Ellis lease/ purchase plan must be repaired by the Ellis Company (234-6400).

Advance Music (Burlington) – 863-8652 also has a reliable repair service.



Every student will receive a folder and large quantities of music.  The student is responsible for this music, and should have it at every rehearsal. If original copies of music are lost or damaged, the student must reimburse the music department for replacement. It will be the responsibility of the Librarians to check in the music. If you need music, tell your section leader or librarian. 



 Each student will be assigned an instrument storage locker or shelf area for their use during the school year.  The name of the student is expected to be on the instrument case. A chart will be posted of the assigned spaces. Do not switch your area without permission from the director.  Do not keep food in your space.  ALWAYS KEEP YOUR INSTRUMENT IN THE CASE WITH THE LATCHES SHUT WHILE IN THE STORAGE AREA.  Keep the storage area neat and organized. It is expected that each student keep his/her instrument in the lockers or shelves provided in the instrument locker room or band room. There are no exceptions. It is recommended that a student's instrument(s) should be on a rider on the parents' Homeowners Insurance Policy.



A school owned instrument will be provided to those students who double on instruments that cannot be rented, or for certain reasons cannot rent an instrument.  Those instruments include the piccolo, alto clarinet, bass clarinet, tenor or baritone saxophone, bassoon, french horn, trombone, valve trombone, baritone or tuba. In order for the student to use a school horn, the parent/guardian must sign an inventory/responsibility sheet first. A yearly rental fee of $75.00 for the year may be asked of the student in the first quarter (or when the instrument is issued) to help defray the cost of repairs. Students sharing an instrument will each pay $35 for the rental fee. Please communicate any difficulties with the payment of this fee to the director. There may be situations where a user fee is not required of a student. This decision is at the discretion of the director. The school will assume full responsibility for annual repair.  In the event that the student abuses the horn intentionally, or if it is stolen/ruined while the student is using the instrument, it is the parent’s/guardian’s responsibility to repair or replace the damaged horn. Students using school instruments are expected to close and latch the case daily, and to clean and oil the horns consistently. Failure to do so will result in the loss of the privilege to use the instrument.



All students will travel to and from the prescribed activity by school transportation.  If a parent wishes to take a child at the completion of an activity, the student should present a note from the parent to the music director well in advance of the trip AND the parent/guardian  MUST communicate directly with the music director upon taking the child when departing. 

When riding school buses, sit in the seat facing forward. Do not play your instrument on the bus.  Do not be loud and boisterous.  Be polite to the bus drivers. Conduct yourselves like ladies and gentlemen.  The rules  regarding alcohol, drugs and smoking, found in the VUHS Handbook, will be followed at all times on all trips sponsored by the Music Department. Students are expected to behave as ladies and gentlemen at restaurants and quick stops.  Do not be loud or boisterous, and always be polite.  Clean up after yourself.  

The VUHS Music Department travel/ medical form will serve as a permission slip for some activities.  Other trips will necessitate an additional permission slip.



The awards listed below will be awarded/ announced at the Pops Concert.


High School:                                                                            

John Phillip Sousa Band Award

Patrick Gilmore Band Award

Sempre Fidelis Band Award

Louis Armstrong Jazz Award

Benny Goodman Jazz Award

Ed Porter Band & Chorus Award

Commodore Singers Award

National School Choral Awards

Commodore Jazz Ensemble Award


Middle School: 

Directors Award for Band  

Directors Award for Chorus



The High School officers are, according to rank: President/ Treasurer, Band/ Chorus President, Vice President/ Secretary, Librarians (2), Drum Majors (2) and Equipment Managers (2) are also offices for the band. Elections are held in September.

The Middle School officers are, according to rank: President, Vice-President/Treasurer, and Librarians (2), and Equipment Managers (2).  All officers are held by 8th grade students.  Elections are held in September.             

The officers are elected by their peers and are generally respected by the ensembles, and therefore, are expected to set the finest possible example.  They also serve the director in a supportive capacity.



Music students are encouraged to participate in the following music activities, which primarily rehearse before or after school.

  • Annual Musical Production
  • Music Festivals - Districts, All State, and Castleton
  • Black and White Cabaret (Grades 7 - 12)
  • Jazz Jammers (primarily grades 7 – 10)
  • Pep Band- Basketball Season (Grades 9 - 12)   



VUHS participates in the following music festivals:  Green Mountain Music District, Vermont All State and New England Music Festival Association.  Students who have the necessary musicianship required for each audition will be encouraged to participate. Audition fees and parent/ guardian permission forms are required for these auditions. The fees must be paid by the date requested by the director in order to participate in the audition. Evaluation of qualifications is the decision of the music director. All festival participation fees will be paid by the parent/ guardian, unless not affordable.



Students who have jobs and take part in music ensembles must arrange with their employers to be present for all music department functions.  A calendar of events will be given to students during September so students can plan their work.  Students must give a copy of the calendar to their employers.



Scholarships are available to students from the Friends of the Arts for music camps, and private lessons.  Requests must be made in writing, and first discussed with the music director.

 The following music scholarships are available to graduating seniors: VUHS Friends of the Arts, VUHS Music Scholarship, LC Jazz Scholarship. There is no application process. Students who are majoring in music at college are eligible for these scholarships. In the event that there are less than three students attending music school, then the scholarships will be awarded to students who have shown a strong interest in music throughout high school.



The Friends of Music serves all music and dramatic endeavors at VUHS.  This support organization is a meaningful part of the Music Department, providing financial and moral support.  Parents/guardians and students are urged to attend meetings and assist at functions. Meetings will be held on the 3rd Tuesday of each month at 6:30 PM in the VUHS Band Room, unless otherwise announced. Contact Susan O'Daniel, Kathy Clark or Melissa DeBlois for more details!



A calendar of events will be published in September.  An updated calendar will be published in each concert program and is posted on the VUHS web site.  The calendar will only be changed if school conflicts arise.  If a concert is cancelled due to bad weather it will be rescheduled to the earliest date possible.

Students and their parent/ guardian should review the calendar in September, and mark performances on a calendar at home in order to avoid conflicts with activities or jobs. Please contact the music director as early as possible if you have a conflict with a performance.



The music area is available for practice before school (Tuesday – Friday), during free periods or after school until 3:15pm. It is every student’s responsibility to keep the music area neat.  Pick up after yourself, always keep your instrument in its proper storage area and return stands and chairs to the stage or practice areas. All instruments are to be stored in your assigned storage area.



If a student is in violation of any school or music department policies while on a school trip, he/she will be dismissed from the event and the parent/guardian will be contacted and expected to pick his/her child up and return them home.  In the event the parent/guardian cannot be contacted, the alternate adult will be contacted and asked to do the same.  If either cannot be contacted, the student will be separated from his/her peers and remain with a chaperon or the director until he/she returns to the parent/guardian.  Disciplinary actions will be determined by the director and school administrators, and the parent/guardian and student will be informed of the decision.  For school policies, refer to the Vergennes Union High School Handbook.  School policies are always in force and take precedent over all other policies on any activity in and out of school.