Reply To: Teaching Middle School Band with 6th, 7th, and 8th Combined
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I have no experience teaching this type of ensemble, but I do have a few ideas based on my own past band experiences. When I went to middle school, the band program was combined in this way. The point has already been made about proper repertoire choices.
The one thing I do remember is the way the parts were assigned to the band. If the director had doubts about ex. flute sections ability to play a part, he would rewrite the part for the clarinet or sax section. All the parts were still being covered; it was just a matter of who played what part.
Every section has multiple parts. The less skilled players will be assigned to the 2nd, 3rd, etc parts anyway. This would still provide a challenge for the students and give them a reason to practice. My middle school program became very competitive. All the students wanted to play the main melody line. The fact that the melody lines are assigned to the stronger sections had merit. This encouraged peer to peer learning to strengthen the independent sections. The musical parts always got better as you get closer to the first chair, so by adding the ability to challenge your peers and get a higher chair gave us incentive to practice.
A good positive band room environment is important from day one. I would recommend not making a big deal out of the difference in the student’s age or grade levels in front of the band. There may be a 6th grader whose skill levels will exceed that of his 8th grade peer. You don’t want 8th grader to feel embarrassed or quitting because a 6th grader has earned a higher chair.
The director promoted students participating in solo and ensemble contests every year.