Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Power of Thank You

Do you remember when you learned "it's the thought that counts?" Probably when Aunt Mertyl gave you a crocheted scarf every year for Christmas. Every year.

Say it with me, Mertyl: "iTunes Gift Cards."

There is one time though, when “the thought that counts” is golden and desired. That’s in the form of a Thank You Card.

We might have Jimmy Fallon to thank for his segment “Thank You Notes” ( for a resurgence in the popularity of Thank You Cards. If you’ve missed this part of the Fallon show, you’ll want to check it out. It’s brilliant!

Something we can do as Band Directors to properly respond to generosity or a job well done is to make a habit of sending quick notes of appreciation.

Here are a some things you can do to get started:

1. Purchase Thank You Cards by the pack. This is better than spending $4 or $5 one card at a time. I stock up on the ones carried at Mardel’s: $1 for a pack of 8. They are blank on the inside with only a “Thank You” and a bible verse on the cover.

2. Write your Card the moment you think to do it. Don’t wait. You won’t do it later. Have cards in your school desk and your home desk. This insures you’ll be able to act right away.

The law of Diminishing Intent says, 
The longer you wait to do something you should do now, 
the greater the odds that you will never actually do it" 
– John C. Maxwell

3. Keep your comments short and genuine. This might be a no-brainer, but keep in mind that “it’s the thought that counts” so what you say may not hold as much weight as the actual act of giving the card.

4. Handwrite your note. Even if your penmanship is awful -- mine is the worst. A note by someone’s hand is so uncommon these days that it will certainly stand out immediately. Also, it indicates that you stopped everything else and took time to thank that person. In a digital world, the sincerest Thank You Card will become even more thoughtful.

5. Start by thanking your secretaries and your custodians. These are the people you must take care of first. They make your life easier. Your secretaries often answer questions, handle concerns and work out logistics that you may never know about. Thrilled with the way your custodian straightens up your band hall? Slip a $5 Sonic gift card in with your Thank You note!

6. Get your students in on the act. A few times in my career I’ve been on the receiving end of a wonderful note signed by every student in a band I visited. Whether I was a clinician or I wrote a piece for them, I’ve always felt the greatest sincerity from this gesture. Your recipient will too when they know that you sacrificed rehearsal time to send them something unique. (I still have every band member-signed note I’ve ever been sent!)

It’s easy to reach critical mass in our jobs and think we can’t possibly fit anything else on to our to-do list. I completely understand that. But I’ve also seen the joy that a Thank You Card brings and have felt it myself when I receive one. It’s worth it to make this a new habit of yours. It’s the thought that counts.

Eric Rath is an active educator, clinician, adjudicator, arranger and composer. Mr. Rath has served as a band and orchestra director as well as a percussion specialist at the Middle and High School levels. Previously, Mr. Rath served as the adjunct Percussion Instructor at Amarillo College.
As a composer, Mr. Rath has a growing list of original works published through TRN Music, C. Alan Publications, Tapspace Publications, and BRS Music. Mr. Rath’s music has been performed at the Midwest Clinic, Texas Music Educator’s Association Convention and the International Double Reed Society Convention.

In addition to being the co-authors of "Beyond Basic Percussion" and the "Five Minute Drill" (Tapspace Publications), Mr. Rath and Ralph Hicks are the co-owners of the publishing company, The Percussion Studio. Their flagship publication, "The Golden Age of Ragtime" (xylophone solos with marimba quartet or piano accompaniment) has been warmly received by the percussion community and is enjoying regular performances across the country.

Mr. Rath resides in Canyon, Texas, with his wife Kayla, and their children. His professional affiliations include the Percussive Arts Society, Texas Music Educators Association, Texas Bandmasters Association and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). He is a Yamaha Performing Artist and also an educational artist for Innovative Percussion, Inc.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Case for Reading through the Bible in One Year

This year I've finally done it: read my Bible all of the way through.

Well, I'm almost done... just a few days away, but you get the point. After failing to make it much past about the Book of Genesis in previous years, 2016 will be the year that I actually get from cover to cover.

This accomplishment of sorts has made me look back over the year and reflect on what I've read and also made me think about why I decided to embark on this journey. In doing so, I've uncovered a few opinions that suggest that reading through the Bible in one year is potential legalism, or "works-based" do-gooding that's intended to show God that we are good enough to earn his Grace.

Of course, that's not how it works and that's not why I read through the Word this year. But it's compelled me to be ready to offer a case for why reading through the Bible in one year can be so beneficial.

(Keep in mind that I am a layman and do not intend to provide substantial theological content here. Also, I didn't know what order to put this list in, so there's that.)

Why Read Through the Bible in One Year?

1. You can say that you've read every word in the Bible. Sounds like bragging, right? For me, it's been quite the contrary. I have found that reading through the Bible has shown me just how much I have to learn and how I can go on learning and applying His Truths to my life for as long as I live. It has also given me a thirst to read the Word next year, but this time more deeply, focusing on study.

2. You begin to see the big themes of the Bible appear over and over again. Plenty of ink has been spilled over the large and not-so-large themes that run through the Bible, so I won't try to do that here. But I will say that one major theme I have seen over and over this year is repentance and forgiveness. While this often looks different within its particular context, seeing it everywhere was a strong reminder that I must repent and seek forgiveness.

3. You see how all Scripture points to Christ. I've always heard this, but reading through the Bible in one year helped me to see the need for a Savior permeating every book. I will admit that this was easier to see in some places more than others, but finally I could see it for myself.

4. It's like doing the border of a puzzle first. Reading through such a large work in one year is quite the challenge. The biggest and maybe best argument against  reading through the Bible in that short time frame is that you don't have enough time to dwell on and comprehend what you've read. That certainly may be true for some people on some days, but reading everything allowed me to see the big picture and has caused a craving in me to move deeper into the Scripture. I may never finish the puzzle, but at least now I've seen the "boundaries."

5. It's a spiritual discipline.  Since when did having spiritual disciplines become a bad thing? I know, I know... It can be seen as legalism, but if that's not where your heart is, I don't think it's a bad thing to have discipline. Reading through the Bible in one year was an act of goal-setting and having the finish line in mind helped me to stay motivated even when I'd miss entire days and weeks at a time.

6. It helps you become more familiar with the books you wouldn't normally sit down to read. Let's face it, I cringed a little when I started Lamentations and Nahum and Haggai. Why? Because I always thought they were dry and not that important. While I still have a lot to learn about these books (and plenty others), I had a good reason to be sure I read what they said, and that allowed me to see point #2 and #3 in those places, too -- where I wouldn't have normally looked.

7. It challenges you to read parts of the Word you know you won't understand. How else are you supposed to grow without being challenged? Yes, Balaam's donkey talks to him. And, Noah gets drunk, then naked. And Jesus gets mad at a tree, then the tree dies. Yep, that stuff is weird and hard to understand. But instead of ignoring it, you read it "head-on" and look for the larger contextual meaning.

8. Reading in the morning starts your day off right: focused on God and His Promises. The benefit I noticed every day when I read was that starting my day in the Word of God meant that I was already focused on Him, His Promises, His love for me and what His Son did for humanity through the cross and his Resurrection. That meditation was often the thing I needed first to think about truly applying what I read into my actions that day.

So, now that I've (almost) read through the Bible in one year, will I do it again? Yes I will, but not this next year. I want to dive into the Word more deeply now. I had great advice once: there are two ways to read the Bible: for depth and for breadth. There is benefit in both of those and I'm glad to have explored reading for breadth.

Interested in reading the Bible in one year? I used an app on my iPhone that allowed me to read that day's scripture within it. There was a daily commentary/devotional included, but I never read them. I wanted my reading to be solely scriptural. (Search for the Bible in One Year by the organization Alpha in the app store and you'll find the one I used.)

Sunday, October 18, 2015


Welcome to October. Or, if you are a band director, student, parent, enthusiast or perhaps more importantly, spouse of band director, this month is not October. It's Bandtober.

Yes, we started in August; perhaps earlier. Summer band came and went. Then the start of school and also this thing called September. But, if I'm being honest, I don't really remember September anymore. That might as well have been five years ago, not less than 30 days ago.

Bandtober is the culmination of almost countless hours of preparation and rehearsal. It is, as I like to think of it, the dessert you earn after having put in all of the effort to get through your vegetables. While it is a particularly stressful month, you still get to enjoy the fruition of your work. You get to reap what you have sewn. Bandtober -- and oh, how I wish I had coined this term -- is what we preach to our kids: "I'm not telling you it's going to be easy - I'm telling you it's going to be worth it."

Has it been easy? Has it been worth it?

Last night before our competition performance, I told my front ensemble students: "You have put in the work. You've had great attitudes. You keep showing up, wanting to improve. You've done everything I've asked. Now, you get to go perform. You get to enjoy what you've put into it. So tonight, I want you to enjoy it and I want you to look up at that audience and enjoy their feedback. Make eye contact with someone -- it'll freak them out! But, most importantly, enjoy what you get to bring them: a performance you have spent so much time to craft."

Let us give ourselves the same advice: we've put in the work, now we get to see our students perform. Let's enjoy what they bring to our audiences. And, let our passion for music be renewed by their passion for music.

Happy Bandtober!