Occasionally a student and parent will ask about an instrument change. This is the information I share with them. It has served the program well and keeps changes to a minimum and only when it is the best decision for the student's development.
We currently do not have the resources or schedule to accommodate instrument changes after the initial Summer Band Beginner Class. It is best that students stay on the instrument they chose during instrument appointments. Usually the reason students want to switch is because they believe they have already learned how to play that instrument and now want to try a new one or they think they are "bored" with the initial choice.
Each instrument comes with it's own set of unique challenges. Learning a musical instrument is a life-long process - and one never truly masters their instrument. There are times, however, when students are needed to switch instruments for the benefit of the band and having full instrumentation: alto sax to tenor and baritone sax; baritone to tuba; oboe to bassoon; clarinet to bass clarinet, etc.
Students have, on very rare occasion, been switched at a director's discretion, due to medical conditions which warrant a change.
It is normal for students to be curious and interested in learning other instruments, but the road to improvement is a single-lane, one-way, highway. Students should stay on the instrument they chose and be committed to mastering that instrument.
Our goal is for each student to work toward mastery on the instrument they selected at Beginner Band Appointments. We are very careful and methodical in how we help students select an instrument before Beginner Band starts.
Once the instrumentation of the band is determined it is very critical that we maintain that instrumentation for the benefit of the musical integrity of the entire ensemble. Correct and balanced instrumentation is one of the most important factors in the success of the ensemble. In the same way each athletic team has players in specific positions in the correct ratio of players, a band must have the correct ratio of players on each instrument.
Students may change the instrument of study under one of the following scenarios-
1. The director advises the student to switch based upon a need for a particular instrument or more advanced "color" instruments are needed to balance the ensemble.
2. The student re-enrolls with the Beginner Band the following school year to begin study on the new instrument.
3. The student continues in band while taking private lessons with an approved private lesson teacher outside of school on the secondary instrument. If the student catches up to the level of their current group and passes a playing assessment for the directors they may enroll in their grade level band on the new instrument the following year.
Classroom Goals and Rules are a must but it is best to keep them simple. It is also helpful to leave some things general so you do not paint yourself into a corner. Some situations demand flexibility. The classroom expectations are there to eliminate distractions from rehearsal and yet, must be simple enough that you can uphold them consistently. I have included our program information as an example to generate your own brainstorming.
Signs are posted at the front of our room with these maxims. I often just silently point to one when students need a reminder.
Excellence in everything we do.
We do things one way in this room...the RIGHT way!
Do the right thing even when you don't feel like it.
Are you helping or hurting the rehearsal?
The Program Goals and Rules are also posted on a giant poster near the front of the room. If something is an issue I simply walk to the poster and indicate which element we need to address.
(Goals) In band this year everyone will…
~show respect at all times to others in the group.
~play with good tone, balance, blend, and pitch.
~play with good individual technique, posture, hand position and embouchure.
~improve every time we play.
~keep the room, instruments and music clean and neat.
~work as a group to reach our goals.
Traughber Band Rule: Do the right thing
This will include:
~Come prepared with all supplies.
~Be respectful (listen-pay attention-one person speaks at a time).
~Do your best.
~Play only when asked to.
~Improve every time we play.
~Handle only the equipment that you use.
~No food, candy, mints, suckers or drinks in any music rooms.
Traughber Band Consequences:
Each situation handled on an individual-as needed basis
Remember-All school rules apply to all band rehearsals and events.
One of our most important roles is that of an advocate for Arts Education. In school music programs it is critical that we develop a culture which supports performances as part of the curriculum. This support translates into an understanding that performances are a required part of program participation and may be assessed and assigned a grade.
This is the description we use for performances. This is sent out with every communication about performances,
Concerts and performances are public presentations of extended units of study and are an authentic artistic experience.
Performances are assigned 600 points each and are assessment opportunities for students to demonstrate combined mastery of all concepts studied throughout the year.
Any conflicts with performance dates must be communicated 10 business days in advance for student to receive an alternate performance based assignment.
Excused Absences and Alternate Assessments
Students who experience a serious emergency, illness or have made advance arrangements (minimum of 10 business days) for a planned absence will be given the opportunity to complete a performance based alternate assignment. The average of the points received on the assignment will be used for the performance grade.
Students who have not made advance arrangements for a planned absence and miss a performance will not be given the opportunity to complete a performance based alternate assignment.
This information and policy is not 100% airtight and we have had situations where we have used our (or our administration's) discretion to adjust the make-up opportunities. However, this policy has given us a strong foundation for establishing a healthy culture for successful performances.
Student Performance Rubric
"Players who are not on task...is the strongest signal indicating that we need to change our pace."
"Technique develops from slow to fast."
"Style is determined by articulation."
Don Stinson and Steve Pyter have developed a site devoted to interviews featuring band directors. This sounds pretty great to me! Check out the site for interviews with Greg Bimm, Ted Lega, Ken Snoeck, Chip Staley, Charlie Menghini, James Lambrecht, Don Owens, Steve Peterson, Ray Kramer, Mike Fisk, Barry Houser, and Chip DeStefano. When they contacted me for an interview I assumed they were punking me. Alas, they were not and I was very flattered to be included in this project. Episode 14: Rachel Maxwell, Traughber Junior High, Oswego, ILOn this episode, I sit down with Rachel Maxwell, director of bands at Traughber Junior High in Oswego, Illinois. Rachel talks about teaching techniques, professional development, the rise of nerd culture, and why she feels that this might be a great time for women currently in and entering the profession.
Rachel and I also found out that we had something in common: horses. Rachel is a bit of an equestrian, and I've heard about the movie "Seabiscuit," so it was nice to be on the same page.
I hope you enjoy listening as much as I did. Rachel has some great experience and advice that could help teachers of any experience and area. If you want to hear more from Rachel, please check out her new site, http://thebandroomspage.com/.