Adapting to Survive

Using the Common Thread

This blog is sponsored by NAfME Corporate Member Music Reading Class.

Few know the importance of adapting to survive in education more than music educators.

Look no further than the COVID-19 pandemic, where music teachers and music administrators were forced to navigate their way through uncharted territory. We’re not talking about teaching math or history curriculum online. We’re talking about trying to teach inherently hands-on, in-person instrumental and choral lessons and ensemble music with no notice, plan, or resources.

That struggle was real, and the effects profound.

Now, in a post-COVID era, the struggle continues with a familiar trend. STEM scores rule the day while music programs try to stabilize and rebuild. Budget cuts target music programs first, and music classes are deprioritized in scheduling, classroom space, and resources.

It’s a familiar and unfortunate story that could have a happy ending.

The key to the happy ending is using the common thread present in stories, books, movies, video games, and yes, even most social media. The Storyline.

Music Reading Class common thread storyline concept with book computer game controller and mobile phone

Here’s an example using a story all too familiar to music educators:

The Problem

Our hero, an instrumental music instructor, teaches 5th grade trumpet students for thirty minutes, once or twice a week. The students must be pulled from academic classes for these group lessons and rehearsals. But student absences, conflicts with academic tests, class trips and assemblies, and a host of other reasons make it difficult to have the full trumpet group together. Thirty-minute rehearsals are rarely thirty minutes long when our hero must escort a student to a portable classroom, do some impromptu instrument repair, or scramble to replace lost or forgotten music.

This leaves our hero, the music teacher, with approximately twenty minutes (with any luck!) to warm up and rehearse the students, prepare for an upcoming full band rehearsal, then the concert. In just a few weeks!

The Plot Thickens 

Our hero faces an additional challenge. The eight young trumpeters are far from progressing at the same rate!

  • Three are struggling due to missing several rehearsals and are having difficulty identifying notes on the staff, recalling valve fingering, or processing rhythms in tempo. Their motivation to practice and their enjoyment of band is waning.
  • Three are fine and progressing as expected.
  • Two are advanced and regularly practice at home, come to rehearsals prepared and take private lessons. These two are bored in the band during rehearsals.

Our hero tries desperately to help the struggling students while still engaging and challenging the advanced students. But the challenges are mounting. Struggling students are lost, unhappy and dread rehearsals. They want to quit band. The advanced students are not challenged, growing bored with rehearsals, and are considering quitting band. Parents are voicing concerns to our hero and to the administration. And concerts are a few weeks away!

The Challenge

Our hero needs to level the playing field. Keep everyone happy, keep students engaged and enjoying music, and prepare students for a great concert. But there’s not enough time allotted during school to help students individually, and many students are not able to take private lessons.

The Solution 

What if our hero could find a supplement that could help students learn to identify notes on the staff, practice fingerings, and process rhythms in tempo at home? A supplement that was as attractive and engaging as distractions such as social media, movies, or video games. A supplement that has the addictive common thread shared by these distractions. A storyline.

Help for this common saga is on the way with Music Reading Class.

Music Reading Class

Music Reading Class features:

  • A combination of instructional videos, assignments, and challenges
  • Highly segmented videos for easy start/stop, reference, and retention
  • Videos that combine instruction with constant graphics and visual aids
  • Platform game style levels with maps and challenges
  • Digital format with optional physical music writing sections
  • A choice of structured six-week curriculum or self-pacing
  • Optimization for mobile devices
  • Courses on the reliable Teachable course platform
  • A storyline that guides the student through the lessons

YouTube video
Music Reading Class (MRC) courses can be customized to fit student and educator needs. The soon-to-be released version of MRC School Edition features:

  • Teacher Toolkit filled with educator resources
  • MRC versions for all common band, orchestra, and choir clefs
  • MRC General Music
  • Full MRC Resource Library in PDF format

The Music Reading Class team are music educators who want to help students and fellow educators level the playing field in school music programs because we feel this is one of the biggest systemic challenges in music education. This problem directly affects retaining and recruiting young students.

Our hope is that our courses and supplements will help strengthen music education and allow it to survive, grow, and improve lives.

Music Reading Class – Made by Teachers, Powered by Community

We are a BODO (Buy One, Donate One) company

Please visit for free teacher resources and information on the official Music Reading Class launch and Indiegogo expansion campaign.

Did this blog spur new ideas for your music program? Share them on Amplify! Interested in reprinting this article? Please review the reprint guidelines.

The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) provides a number of forums for the sharing of information and opinion, including blogs and postings on our website, articles and columns in our magazines and journals, and postings to our Amplify member portal. Unless specifically noted, the views expressed in these media do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Association, its officers, or its employees.

April 2024 Teaching Music

Published Date

January 4, 2024


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January 4, 2024. © National Association for Music Education (

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