Building a HS Instrumental Program from Scratch V

Developing a Five-Year Plan

“I always developed a five-year plan for my programs,” says Ron Kearns, MENC Jazz Mentor for March 2009. “After five years I would evaluate my progress. In my last school, the program started off small but good. My plan there was to expand my string orchestra into a full orchestra and to have a wind ensemble as my top band group. I used the phrase ‘Fun Through Excellence’ as our motto, and drove home the point that no one has fun when they don’t look or sound good.

“By the time I left the school,” continues Kearns, “it had a full orchestra of over 80 students, three bands totaling over 170 students, including an audition-only wind ensemble, an audition-only jazz ensemble class, and both a full-time and part-time director assisting me. We were selected as a GRAMMY Signature School twice in 5 years (2002 & 2004), won numerous national awards for students, teachers and performing groups, and consistently placed a large number of students in countywide and all-state groups. But the greatest measure of our success was the number of siblings who signed up for classes. It meant that they’d heard positive things about us from their older siblings, and had enjoyed the concerts they attended over the years.

“All of this came as a result of following the procedures outlined in the previous four parts of this series. The question you must answer is simple. Are you building for long-term success or are you a temporary solution to your school’s staffing needs?”

Excerpted from “Building a High School Instrumental Program from Scratch” by Ron Kearns, originally published in Fall 2006 Maryland Music Educator

Ron Kearns is a composer, leader of his own group, the Ron Kearns Quintet, an adjudicator and clinician for Vandoren of Paris and Heritage Festivals. He also taught instrumental music and jazz in the Baltimore City and Montgomery County school systems for 30 years.

—Nick Webb, June 4, 2009, © National Association for Music Education (