Music Handbook


Welcome to the Cactus Middle School Music program! I am very excited to have you as a part of this program this year!

Please take some time to read the following Music Handbook. It will prepare you for your responsibilities as a member of this program. If you have any questions please consult the handbook first. If you cannot find the answer, do not hesitate to contact me.

Students that take part in the Music program at Cactus are challenged to grow musically and encouraged to achieve their highest potential. In order for this to happen, students must respect their director, their fellow musicians, their instruments, the music they perform, any guests, and all of the work that each person puts into the program or ensemble.

If you follow the rules as laid out in this handbook, your reward will be like nothing you have experienced before. You will feel pride, a sense of accomplishment, self-satisfaction, and have FUN!!!!


Let’s have a great year and make excellence happen!



Jessica Stewart

(520) 421-3330


“We are what we repeatedly do! Excellence then is not an act, but a habit!”

- Aristotle

What you will need! (Band)

If this is your first experience with band you probably have a thousand questions about instruments, where to get them and what to do once you have them.  I’ll try to help out by giving you a little information about those areas.

The district doesn’t provide every student with an instrument.  There is a small selection of instruments to be checked out from the y school district. But for the most part, students are responsible for providing their own instrument. Instruments may be purchased or rented at any music store.  The following stores are used frequently within the district:

 DeNo- Casa Grande 520-836-2601

 Milano Music Center- Mesa (480)-827-1111

* Please do not purchase instruments from web-sites like E-bay. The quality of the instrument is questionable and there is no support should the instrument break.


 Each student that is using a district-owned instrument must fill out a district instrument use form with the requested information before the instrument it taken home. 

*It is the responsibility of each student to keep his or her instrument clean and playable whether it is a school instrument or not.*


Here are some additional things that will help you get a better start in band.  All items listed should be available at your music store.

   All students can benefit from having a music stand to practice with at home.  These help to insure better posture by having the music at the correct height when
practicing.  Inexpensive folding stands are ideal.

   Woodwinds: Any woodwind that requires a reed NEEDS AT LEAST 3 REEDS in their case AT ALL TIMES.  This is in case one would break during rehearsal.  For beginner students I recommend a 2 or 2½ reed strength reed to start with.  Woodwinds that require a reed must have cork grease in their case as well.  It is also good for all woodwinds to have a cleaning swab or rod (To be kept outside of instrument and case) to clean your instrument after it has been played.

   Brass: Trumpet players will need valve oil and tuning slide grease in their case AT ALL TIMES.  Trombone players will need slide oil or grease and a small water spray bottle for their slides.  This is also to be kept in the case AT ALL TIMES.

  6th Grade:  6th Grade percussionists will need to have a bell kit.  This kit should include: drum sticks (size 5a, 5b, or 2b) , practice pad with stand, and a set of bells with mallets.  Bell kits give the student a better opportunity to learn to read treble clef and the practice pads let the student practice quietly at home.  
  7th and 8th Grade:  It is not required to have a bell kit but it is HIGHLY recommended that students have one at home to practice on.  These students will need a pair of drum sticks and a pair of medium yarn mallets. The sticks and mallets are the percussionists’ instruments. Unlike a wind player, percussionists do not have to purchase their instruments because they are provided by the school. Having their own sticks and mallets teaches instrument care and responsibility that a wind player would be learning as well.


Books and Printed Music

6th Grade band students – Accent on Achievement Book 1

7th Grade band Students – Accent on Achievement Book 2

8th Grade band students (Wind Ensemble) – Accent on Achievement Book 3


PLEASE TAKE CARE OF ANY MUSIC RECEIEVED!  It is not disposable, nor is it a gift for you to keep.  Music is to be turned in when asked for by the director.  Any student who loses original printed music parts will be charged $2 per section lost. 




                                                                                           Your grade each quarter will be based on the following areas:

  • Assessments – 20% of the final grade - includes (but not limited to) Playing/ singing tests and written tests
  • Participation – 20% of the final grade - Attendance, punctuality, participation,
    cooperation, preparedness, attitude and enthusiasm. *5 points daily
  • Performances – 50% of the final grade.  Includes concerts, parades (7th and 8th grade) and trips

*There is a mandatory attendance policy on all concerts unless otherwise stated by the director.  Students who are tardy may not receive all points available depending on the situation.*

  • Homework – 10% of final grade – Includes (but not limited to) Practice charts  (Band students are required to practice a total of 2 hours a week)




            To improve the quality of any ensemble, each member needs to focus on their contribution with their own personal performance.  Students will be given individual performance tests at various times during the year. Students will be notified of a scheduled performance test at least two weeks prior so that they are given ample time to prepare.  Goals will be given to meet for each test.  Performance tests will be given during class time.  Written summary of score (including suggestions) will be handed back to each student.
*Performance test scores are not determined by comparing your playing/singing ability with other ensemble members.  Test scores are based on your own effort and progress as it relates to your potential and ability.




Tests will cover one of the following areas:

Major scales

Chromatic Scale

Studies from your technique book

Sections from music (band and choir)

Written material from study sheets (band and choir)


            ALL students are given the opportunity to retake any test taken in band or choir.  The goal is retention and understanding, not to fail.  If the student wishes to retake the test to improve their score they music find time (within a week and not during class time) to do so.  It will be the student’s responsibility to make arrangements to retake a test.
            There are several concepts in playing various instruments that are both essential to proper technique and within the capabilities of all students.  Students will be graded on proper playing technique.  For wind players, proper posture, breath support, hand position, and embouchure are necessary to produce the best sound and achieve the best technique.  Good playing technique, including posture and hand position is also necessary in the playing of percussion instruments. Choral students will also be graded on posture, and breath support, as well as correct pitches and diction.




Cactus Middle School incorporates writing into all areas of education and band and choir will be no exception.  Although the majority of our class time will be spent playing our instruments, this is a great way to use reading and writing skills gained from your other classes to gain knowledge about music.  The grading scale for these assignments will be different depending on the assignment.




            Each student will be responsible every day to being their music, folder, method book, and pencil to class.  Instruments must be brought to class every day unless otherwise instructed by the director.  If the student arrives in class without the proper materials, they will not be awarded their points for that day.*

            Because a performing ensemble must go beyond the achievements of the individual, students must give consideration to the development of group interaction skills.  Negative or disruptive behavior is detrimental to learning and the accomplishment of performance goals in the ensemble.  If a student is disruptive to the learning of the class and must be separated from the ensemble, they will not be awarded their class participation points for that day.

*If a student forgets their instrument 3 points will be deducted from their daily participation grade.  They will then be given a note taking guide to fill out during rehearsal and show it to Ms. Stewart at the conclusion of rehearsal. It is to be signed and returned the following rehearsal.  Zero points will be given if it is not signed and returned. If their instrument is in the shop, points will not be deducted if a parent note is given to Ms. Stewart or a claim tag from the repair shop is shown.




            Concerts are the main areas where groups of the music program will be in performance.  Concerts will be performed at the school and possibly other venues.  Each student will be expected to do their best during a performance.  Just being on time and appearing to play your instrument is not satisfactory to the success and development of and ensemble.  Each performance will be evaluated by the director to determine if full points should be granted for that performance.  Any student who does not receive full performance points will be notified by the director.  Not participating in a concert will result in a failing grade.
*Students are expected to stay for the entire concert/performance, not just their portion.




            In order to improve the performance level of the bands, it is requested that each member practice at least two hours per week.  Students may document practice time on tan official practice record which is found in the back of your method book.  This will be checked every two weeks by the director. 

                                                                                      * Suggested practice – ½ an hour Monday through Thursday = weekend off!




            Students are expected and required to participate in all classes, rehearsals, and performance relative to the ensemble in which they are a member.  An absence from a class or an activity will result in zero points given regardless of whether the absence is excused or not.  An excused absence allows the student to make up any missed points.   An unexcused absence has no allowance for making up any missed points. All absences during the school day must be excused through the attendance office.  It is the student’s responsibility to approach the director to determine the assignment to be completed.
                     *It is requested that if a student is aware of an upcoming absence that a notice be given to the director 2 weeks prior so that planning for the ensemble can be done.




A student will be considered on time if:

  • They are in the music room by the late bell
  • They personally check in with the director BEFORE rehearsal time
  • They have conferred with the director prior to the scheduled event and/or performance and have a written explanation from a parent.
  • They have a teacher or administrator-signed pass for admittance after class time begins.

Any unexcused tardy will qualify the student for no more than 3 out of the 5 participation points for that rehearsal. Any unexcused tardy to any outside-of-school rehearsal or performance will qualify the student for no more than 70% of the points possible.



            Since time is limited for us to prepare for performances, it is crucial that each rehearsal time be conducive to productivity.  Whenever a group is in rehearsal, be it in the music room or elsewhere, each member of the group must refrain from unnecessary talk, remain attentive, and play their part to the best of their ability.

Rehearsal procedures:

  • Enter classroom on time with positive attitude – leave all other problems (aka “drama”) at the door.
  • Get agenda, pencil, paper, and take your book bag to designated area.
  • Get music and instrument (and stand if needed) and have a seat.
  • Follow instructions

Failure to abide by these expectations will result in partial credit for the day, along with other consequences if necessary.


Rehearsal – putting the practiced parts together




  1. When the conductor is on the podium or at the piano NO TALKING
    *When the conductor is off of the podium you may talk quietly.  If this becomes an issue, there will be absolutely no talking during a rehearsal without consequences.
  2. Play your instrument when asked/sing only when asked
  3. Only play your own instrument unless otherwise instructed by the director. Don’t share instruments! (band only)
  4. Do not touch percussion equipment unless you are a percussionist!
  5. Do not touch piano unless permission is given by the director
  6. Follow classroom procedures



  1. Verbal warning
  2. Referral and removal from rehearsal




            It is expected that students will clean up after themselves and put all classroom materials away before leaving the room.  NO FOOD, DRINK (UNLESS IT’S WATER IN A SEALED BOTTLE), OR GUM IS ALLOWED IN THE MUSIC ROOM!

       In order to decrease the change of theft or vandalism, the following are the only people allowed in the music room: Ms. Stewart, band and choir members, administrators, custodians, visiting teachers, and anyone who has permission from Ms. Stewart.

            Each student is responsible for his or her instrument, equipment, and belongings.  Every possible effort is made to keep the room as secure as possible during the school day and after hours, HOWEVER, NEITHER THE SCHOOL OR MS. STEWART ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY PERSONAL PROPERT THAT IS BROUGHT ON CAMPUS. PERSONAL INSTRUMENT OR EQUIPMENT LEFT IN THE MUSIC ROOM OVERNIGHT WILL BE A THE DISCRETION OF EACH STUDENT AND AT THEIR OWN RISK. 





            There is required concert attire which will be needed for all performances. All attire must comply with school dress code.

  • All choirs:

Choir Polo (available from the booster program)
Kaki slacks (not dickies), Bermuda shorts (classy), or skirt (past knees)
Brown dress shoes (no tennis shoes or work boots) and socks (flats are recommended for the ladies)

  • Wind Ensemble girls:
               Black dress (provided)
               Black flats or heels (no tennis shoes)
  • Wind Ensemble boys:

Tuxedo shirt (provided)
Vest and bow tie (provided)
Black slacks (no dickies)
Black dress shoes (no tennis shoes or work boots)

  • 6th and 7th Grade Concert Band:

White dress shirt
Black slacks or long black skirt (past knee)
Black dress shoes and socks (no tennis shoes or work boots)

            Students not dressed with proper attire will not be allowed to perform and will lose performance points.  If there is an issue with attire please feel free to contact Ms. Stewart  IN ADVANCE so the issue can be resolved so the student is able to perform.



            As a member of the Cactus Music Program, you are an important part of one of the finest musical organizations in Casa Grande.  Do not take your membership for granted.  Being in this group send a message that you want to be a part of a group that is not satisfied with reaching a level of mediocrity, but that makes excellence happen!  There are simple things that you can do to make your Cactus music experience great:

  • Be on time for all classes, rehearsals, performances, and events.
  • Prepare your music so that you are not practicing it during rehearsal or performance time
  • Be at rehearsals and performances with a positive, cooperative, and enthusiastic attitude
  • Be active in music functions such as fundraisers, parties, and trips
  • Be prepared for any rehearsal or performance with the correct attire and instrument
  • Stay up to date with upcoming events
  • Keep up with ALL of your school work (not just in band or choir!)




            Parent involvement is a vital tool for a successful music program.  If you are interested in getting more involved with your student’s music education, I invite you to join the Cactus Music Boosters.  The Music Booster parents hold fundraisers and help the program run smoothly throughout the year.  They meet once a month in the band room and meetings last an hour or less.  The first meeting date has not been determined however please be looking for a note home with the information. 




            The Music Boosters hold fundraisers throughout the year to help support the music program at Cactus.  ANY AND ALL MONEY IS TO BE TAKEN BY A MEMBER OF THE BOOSTERS NOT MS. STEWART! Times will be given as to when money can be returned so that there is a booster representative available to take it.