Brad’s Beat September 2015

We left our home on August 9, 2015, at 4:00 AM and headed for the Orlando International Airport.  We flew into Denver and after a two hour layover, we caught a connecting flight to Jackson Hole, jenny 4  

Based on the topography of our location, it seemed as if we had landed in a whole new world.  In fact according to the research I had completed before our trip, the Grand Teton Range is one of the youngest geological occurrences in North America, arriving a mere two million years ago when the earth decided it was tired of being flat and under water in this part of Wyoming.  Needless to say, it was difficult for us to keep our eyes on any other geographic feature as we passed along the forty-mile mountain range from the airport to our hotel!

teton sunset 9

During the next ten days, we traveled through Yellowstone, the plains of Wyoming, and the Black Hills of North Dakota.  What bearing, you might ask, could the Bonner vacation possibly have on the Bells, Bars, Boomwhackers, Recorders, rhythm instruments, and anecdotes of elementary music teaching experiences that are the usual topics of this blog?  Actually, the trip revealed an insight into my life’s work with which I think many elementary music teachers can relate.


Because we were traveling with a tour,  it was necessary to limit the luggage and personal items we carried.  For my wife, that meant traveling without her knitting and craft supplies.  I was forced to leave my guitar behind.  Those of you who have developed a personal relationship with your guitar know how difficult it is to deal with a prolonged separation from the instrument! The picture to the left shows me trying out a beautiful hand-crafted Marc Beneteau guitar that I added to my collection several years ago. Most days,  I spend an hour or more practicing, often writing arrangements for the instrument.  By the time we rolled into a working ranch in Wyoming about half way through our trip,  I was really missing my guitar.

Part of the visit to the ranch was sharing a noontime meal with the owners and some of the ranch hands.  Walking through the sitting room that was connected to the dinning area, my eyes were drawn to an open guitar case laying on a table.  We ate lunch, then my wife and I took a horseback tour of the ranch.  Upon returning to the front porch, I asked if  I might borrow the guitar I had seen earlier.

at ta ranch brd guitar 2

  After playing a few tunes, the ranch chef who had a beautiful guitar built by a local luthier  joined me.  Version 2

During the next hour or so, the chef and I exchanged “licks”, sharing  some of the music that had been a part of our playing experiences.  The chef turned out to be interested in heavy metal and folk music…quite a combination.  I laid down some progressions and he very skillfully riffed lightning fast scales as accompaniments. Later as we explored folk tunes,  improvisations were freely flowing from both of our experiences.  We began to share music that we had been attracted to during the early years of our playing, and it was during this part of our jam session that I was reminded of the huge impact the music we teach our students will have on their lives.  I began playing songs that had not been a part of my repertoire for decades.  How did I produce those notes and words?  Obviously, each of these songs had impacted my life in profound ways.  The chord forms, melodies, and lyrics had patiently waited to be released on this ranch porch in Wyoming.

at ta ranch brd guitar 4

The music we teach our elementary students may very well impact their lives for decades to come.  I often have the opportunity to share music with aging residents in assisted living facilities, and many of these adults respond enthusiastically to tunes they learned as children.  As you face the challenges of beginning a new teaching year,  be encouraged that the work you perform will have an impact on the students you teach!

That’s “Brad’s Beat” for September, 2015.   The RBI team sends our best wishes to you for a successful start to a new teaching year! Don’t hesitate to call (800) 424-4724 or visit us on the web at  if we can be of assistance to you in your program.  Keep the beat.


Bradley L. Bonner, M.Ed.

President, BLB Studios

Elementary Music Specialist, Rhythm Band Instruments