Reply To: Tips for a new band teacher

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The most important things to remember with beginners is patience, reinforcement, and encouragement. Learning to play a new instrument is difficult and requires you to not only think in an entirely new way, but also use your body in ways that are foreign to you. Regardless of how many mistakes a student makes while playing ANYTHING, it is important that you first provide them with positive feedback and then encourage them to think about improving a different part of their playing.

One thing I would recommend, just as barretj319 said, always reinforce the basics. Even after 8 weeks of band, some students may still be assembling their instruments incorrectly. As a flutist, I am ALWAYS finding students that do not know how to line their flute up properly. (You should be able to draw a straight line from the center of the lip plate, through the center of the keys, which align directly with the notch on the footjoint. Most students have the notch rolled too far forward.) Unfortunately, if you don’t catch these small details early, they will continually assemble their instrument incorrectly, thus, providing them with no choice but to have a poor hand position.

While it is very important to model for students, do not let your choral background prevent you from singing in band! I wish my directors would have enforced singing more. This is a great way to enforce aural training in the classroom, and it allows you to demonstrate to your students your talents.

Band, especially beginning band can be very overwhelming. Take it one day at a time. View every chance as a learning opportunity, both as an educator and musician. There are a lot of similarities between singing and playing. I always teach my students to think as if they were an opera singer when they play. This reinforces the thought of keeping an open oral cavity, taking the proper deep breaths, and using the right amount of air support. Allow your choral background to enhance your students’ instrumental experience!