Band Blast Off DVD CoverThe Band Blast Off DVD is one of a growing number of educational DVD's being sold by the Focus On Music group, a company more well known for their famous Breathing Gym DVD's and books.  Band Blast Off is a little different in that its purpose is to be used as a potential recruitment tool for beginning band programs.  This age appropriate DVD has many good points but there are a few downsides as well. 

The Band Blast Off DVD is broken down into several different sections.  The first consists of a very well done promotional piece that encourages kids to join band and does a run through of all the common beginner instruments.  It shows examples of each instrument, names them, and then goes on to show video both of beginners and of high school marching band musicians practicing and having a fun time in band.  It also covers some of the more common questions about being in band, such as if being in band will affect being in sports and it also points out the benefits of making friends and potentially improving grades.

Built In Assessments For Beginning Band Listening Skills

The interesting thing is that it then goes on to provide a little assessment as well.  The presentation includes three written challenges that help to test rhythm memory, identification of like/unlike melodies, and hi/low/same notes (the video can also be ran without these assessments if desired).  The challenges are well written and helpful to some extent, but rather short in length.  Each section only includes four or five questions, and most educators would probably agree that this is not enough to get a good test of a child's listening abilities and to provide a large enough data set to be of real, functional classroom use. 

Another problem associated with the assessment questions is that the DVD says that the handout to go along with it can be downloaded from a web site named  Unfortunately this web site apparently was allowed to lapse and was bought up by a domain squatter.  Going to that site will not provide the materials promised on the DVD.  If, however you go to the Accent Education site mentioned on the DVD you will find the handout listed under the resource tab at the top of the page.  In retrospect one has to wonder why the authors did not simply put the handouts directly on the DVD in a separate folder.

An Obvious Focus on Brass Instruments

In another part of the DVD the focus shifts to that of the brass instruments.  In many ways this is my favorite part of the DVD, and in my opinion could be used as a part of a brass unit in a general music class just prior to beginning band tryouts (or any time for that matter).  This video includes some fun and interesting demonstrations on how brass instruments make their sounds and includes some good historical stuff as well.  It also has a remix of the Band Blast Off rap that is focused solely on brass instruments.  Sadly though there is no accompanying section on the DVD that extols the virtues of the woodwinds or percussion.

The majority of the DVD is emceed by Deanna Swoboda of the Dallas Brass.  She does an excellent job providing a fun, age appropriate experience on the DVD.  In one bonus feature she also goes on to extols the virtues of the Accent line of brass instruments (one of the sponsors of the DVD), but this section would probably not be for use in the classroom as it is more obviously aimed at professional educators.

While the Band Blast Off DVD is a very useful and helpful classroom tool for helping recruit and educate students, it does not provide a completely balanced presentation of all of the instruments.  Indeed, the woodwind section seems to get the least attention of all, but I will still probably use the videos to some extent next spring when my district does tryouts for the incoming 5th graders.

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