Rehearsal Attendance – where to draw the line?

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    Here is my dilemma:

    After much work and negotiations, I was able to get my middle school band rehearsal into the school day as an elective, after years of early morning rehearsals. Yay! So now my students have rehearsals twice a week during the school day (75 minutes total) plus a rehearsal after school on Wednesdays when the whole school is on early release schedule from 1:50-3:10 (which is the time they get out of school every other day of the week). I’ll note also that this is the first year we have had early release Wednesdays as a school. Our total number of rehearsal minutes per week is 155 minutes, vs. 120 minutes last year. Exciting! I thought…..More minutes! Focused students! No early morning excuses!!

    Well NOW I am getting all kinds of push back regarding the Wednesday rehearsals, mostly from my vocal 8th graders who think they have “earned” the early release time (come on guys….you are only getting it this year because of Common Core PD for teachers) and that I am completely unreasonable in taking away their after-school time. What was one or two grumpy kids has now become almost half of my band making negative comments – it’s like an illness spreading! Even those who I know really love practicing and rehearsing are being influenced. I’m starting to have a few 8th graders quit, and had to schedule a parent conference for tomorrow with a mom who wants her daughter to be excused from rehearsals. My school and my band are very small as it is, so a few kids quitting hurts my program a lot.

    Yesterday I presented a compromise to my 8th graders – if they stay in band for the whole year and continue going to Wednesday rehearsals until our Winter concert in December, I will make the Wednesdays optional for them during the 4th quarter. (They are already getting excused from Wednesdays 3rd quarter due to our Spring Musical). Seems like a fair trade, right? But I’m still not sure I’ve solved the problem or influenced morale much.

    Where do I draw the line? I’m really not willing to drop down to only 75 minutes of rehearsal a week, but I’m also not sure that having my band of 16 students drop to 12 is a better solution, especially when my superintendent is trying hard to cut costs and programs and is basing decisions solely on data…I fear loosing 25% of my enrollment mid-year will give reason for my job to be cut next year.

    What would you do??


    Wow, sounds like a tough situation. And very similar to what I faced when teaching 6-12 band a few years ago. The JH kids were on a modified split-block (just the words sound awful, huh?). I saw them 2 days per week for 40 minutes and 35 minutes, if I could get to the JH fast enough from my elementary gig and if they weren’t gone already for sports (band was the last hour of the day). I endured that schedule for 2 years until a friend gave me good advice, “if they don’t value you enough to consider schedule changes, you should move on.” I don’t know if that’s possible in your situation, but I think it is good advice. I loved my students and loved being an hour from where I grew up, but I couldn’t keep killing myself for a thankless job.

    Now, my 2 cents about your situation: I think you’re fighting a losing battle. The students see everyone else leaving early, so they want to leave early as well. Could you re-institute early morning rehearsals on Wednesdays? You could tell the students that it would be to their advantage, since they’ll get out early with everyone else.

    You might also think about having small group rehearsals on Wednesday afternoons. Something like: 1st and 3rd Wednesday are WW days, 2nd and 4th are brass/perc. If your students are not taking lessons, this would be a great opportunity for them to have more individualized instruction and you could target specific problems that they’re having. In the spring, you could change this to small ensemble/solo rehearsal time. They would still be getting out early half the time so that might stop the complainers.

    I’ll keep thinking about this as I totally understand your frustration. Good luck!

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