Tuesday, August 28, 2007


It was nice seeing many old friends today when I dropped by the annual school opening Chesapeake Schools Music Department staff meeting. I was asked to speak a few words and I emphasized the need for music teachers to consistently “remake” themselves musically, organizationally, and instructionally.

Musicians are creative people and as such, we should never stop learning. I urged the teachers to use their creativity to devise ways to reshape their programs in order to strengthen their instructional skills.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at starting beginners.

I know that many, if not most of you who are active teachers, are totally wrapped up in Marching Band at this time. School has not started for many of you, but football games are already being played. And that means that marching competitions can’t be far behind. So, I know your focus is on that important part of your program.

But in all the “hustle and hassle” you don’t want to neglect the vital area of “starting beginners.” This is probably the most critical element in building a strong, fundamentally sound band program.

Preparation for teaching beginners requires much time and thought. It is imperative that the teacher have the class period extremely well organized. Don’t take anything for granted. Here are a few organizational concerns that must be decided.

The teacher must:

  1. determine how the students enter and leave the classroom.
  2. select a seating design that will aid instruction. It is necessary to have immediate access to the students.
  3. determine procedures concerning class discipline; i.e. talking, playing out of turn, generally accepted behavior, etc..
  4. use a highly developed “warm up” procedure. Use it for teaching fundamentals, introducing new musical concepts & reinforcing previously learned objectives.
  5. work for control of the class from the very first day. The teacher must have control in order to teach. Teach the students SELF-CONTROL and TONAL CONTROL of their instrument.
  6. set goals and standards for the class.

    I believe that there are three general goals for this first year of learning to play an instrument in an ensemble:

    A. Have a general understanding of and be able to demonstrate how to produce a CHARACTERISTIC TONE QUALITY on your instrument.

    B. Learn the basics and demonstrate the understanding and performance of a COUNTING SYSTEM.

    C. Learn, understand, and develop the SELF-DISCIPLINE, ATTITUDE, and SELF-CONTROL to be a member of a successful instrumental ensemble.

    These are just a few of the many elements that go into developing a quality program for beginning students. This is the foundation of the entire Band program. It should be our number one priority.

    I would be pleased if you would add to this list. Use the Comments section at the bottom to record your suggestions.