Friday, April 29, 2011

Friday's Stink

I had some pretty intense and interactive lessons today in band about world musics. We focused on the Gamelan. They went great. However, despite only being here for the second half of the second semester I've found an odd connection with the seniors. I have 2 graduating band seniors, both of whom are going in to music education at Midwestern universities. It was surprisingly bitter-sweet class when suddenly, after signing their check-out sheets, I realized I would not get to teach them again. Maybe I'm still really young in the world of teaching. But when you have so few students and you give them your all... parting words are bitter.
It was harder than I thought.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


Its funny how much my students complain before and after class, but during class they visually demonstrate interest and participate in the lesson to the fullest degree. It almost seems that students, especially those in middle school, feel they cannot verbalize liking anything for fear of peer judgement.
Most of my students seem to enjoy the effort I put into teaching. I have not yet done a stereotypical band rehearsal where you come in, warm up, and straight up rehearse the music. I always have something, a new listening activity, a new worksheet, a mini music history presentation, new stretches and movements, and occasionally I even perform for my students.
They smile, they laugh, the commit themselves, they work hard, and improve daily. Yet they pretty much all act like they are "too cool" to be in band. Students are a unique species. I love it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Marching 101

Today I introduced my MS and HS bands to marching basics. I had a list of 8 drill commands and combined it with work on posture and carriage.
Apparently they were taught previously to walk to a beat and not actually march. I'm not going to ask for high steppers or anything, but I have a sneaky suspicion these kids can't keep a beat in their feet. I'm going to incorporate foot movements into lessons for the rest of the year.
Next fall I will need to remind myself to pace lessons and involve less tedious tasks in rehearsal. I found myself wondering today if the strictness of a marching band was going to drive the students away. Several blatantly stated they hate marching and it showed in more than just their attitudes. How do I get my students to enjoy marching band? I feel like results are the best motivator, but they haven't seen positive results and won't in the near future. What can I do in the meantime?

In the beginning there was rock, then things began to roll...

I was hired on as a band director starting March 1st, 2011 after a January 20th interview. An odd time to start for sure.
The verbalized rationale: I could get to know the students and be settled.
The under-tone rationale: A small school wants to solidify the job before the market opens up and competition from larger, better-funded, schools began.

I took it.

My High school band was 10 members: 4 Trumpets, Clarinet, Alto Sax, Flute, Bari Sax, Trombone, and a Drummer. Two of which left in the first few weeks because of moving. Now there are 8. A mixed octet with uniforms.
My Middle School band is about 22. There are pretty well balanced, but oddly enough there is a severe lack of trumpets! WTHeck. 
The district also requires all 5th and 6th graders to try band.

The program has really suffered from lack of direction/guidance, lack of performance, and lack of leadership. As a side effect is the lack of membership. The records I've found indicate that less than 10 years ago the HS Band was 54 members strong and was performing at conventions throughout the region. Now they do homecoming and a parade at the town up the road. 

I felt like I was putting on a cheerleading outfit underneath by teacher suit. I had to create the type of group students would WANT to join. Because all students start band I knew that all of the students 7-12 had at one time been in band. I need to bring them back in. I don't know what the answer is exactly, but if I use multiple methods something should work.

I've been here about 2 months now.

We have plenty of community support, above average equipment, decent funding, and a good-enough rehearsal space. 

This blog is the tale of my tiny band. Only time will tell where she takes me.