How to Successfully Implement Non-Performance Standards in Your Music Ensemble


Taking the Extra Step with your Music Ensemble

By: Lorie Enloe





Finding the Time to Implement

For those who work with secondary instrumental ensembles, adopting a philosophy that embraces comprehensive musicianship, based on the 2014 Standards, is a daunting task. Let’s face it, if we are doing what our students, schools, and communities expect, our time is largely devoted to preparing for the plethora of performances. 

Devoting time to engage students in activities other than rehearsing is scary. When the first round of National Standards came out, I was a very vocal critic: “You have to be KIDDING me! I barely have time to prepare for marching band season, holiday concerts, concert band contest, solos and ensembles, and then commencement performances! And, you want me to teach COMPOSING, ARRANGING, IMPROVISING (outside of my jazz ensemble setting)? Have you lost your MIND? 

After I calmed my righteous indignation, I paused a moment to acknowledge some interesting times when I was in seventh grade band at Daviess County Junior High School in Owensboro, KY. 

Jazz Book rotate

You see, it was 1967, and I was in one of the finest junior high band programs in my state, being taught by a man who was a Kentucky band legend, Richard “Friday” Skaggs.  And, Richard Skaggs knew what it meant to teach MUSIC, not just band. I have fond memories of him teaching the entire band to arrange a Bach chorale for full concert band. And, if that was not enough, we had to write out the transcribed score and hand write all of the individual parts. 

It was a different time. Thinking back, I realized that the arranging assignment changed me. All of us in that junior high band developed a new appreciation for the music creating process.

So let’s talk about this a minute, why don’t we? We had to know the instrument transpositions, ranges, not to mention which instruments should cover each of the four parts. And for those of you younger than 40, Finale was not even a dream in some tech wizard’s consciousness. We are talking “BY HAND.” The task was a long-term assignment that started after the holiday break and was due some time in April, if I recall.  Let’s see, what was our focus when we come back in January? We received our concert band contest music when we returned from break and devoted much of our time to preparing for those legendary superior ratings. Of course, for Mr. Skaggs, if you chose not to complete the assignment, you got paddled. 

It was a different time. Thinking back, I realized that the arranging assignment changed me. All of us in that junior high band developed a new appreciation for the music creating process.



Incorporating Non-Performance Standards in the Classroom

One day – not as long ago – I decided to accept a challenge from one of my graduate music education professors to just incorporate one “non-performance standard” into my high school band curriculum. Over the year that I took that challenge, I chose “context/history” the first semester in marching band/percussion ensemble. We had been rehearsing, “Hot, Hot, Hot,” as performed Arrow, and my students wanted to learn more about Caribbean music so we had fun with a unit on reggae music and social identity. 

I decided to approach improvisation after the holiday break… in my concert band. I chose to spend one day a week from January through contest season in March to work on just getting students away from the fear of improvisation. (I was THAT jazz musician who had to write out my solos as an undergraduate lead alto in the jazz band.) I have long been a Jamey Abersold fan and knew that his materials in How to Play Jazz and Improvise, Volume 1, were outstanding for folks who are clueless about improvising.  

I put my ensemble in a huge circle, with chord tones and changes on all stands, and taught them how to follow the chord changes on the recordings. I modeled playing through the changes, and then we took turns trading 8 bars around the ensemble. I can honestly share that I had flute players in tears, just as intimidated as was I the first time I had to improvise. 

Gauging Success

I think this activity was one of the most fun things we did all year, if laughter was a gauge of success. 

I encouraged the reticent to just play the root of the appropriate chord and change the rhythm, which worked amazingly well. On successive rounds, those students would add additional notes and would vary the rhythm based on what they heard others around them playing. I also watched in amazement as students would copy some of the licks I would play – and isn’t that how jazz has always been taught? I saw my students laugh at themselves and not at each other. 

By the time March rolled around, my concert band still performed at their grade level at contest and I saw no issues from dedicating one rehearsal a week to connecting my students with their creativity. I think this activity was one of the most fun things we did all year, if laughter was a gauge of success. 

The new National Standards provide a clear sequence on how to approach musical creativity in the secondary ensemble and tablets can make the creative process fun and engaging. From using composing apps such as Notion or Symphony Pro to improvising apps like iRealB, students are attracted to, and are comfortable using, interactive technologies. I look forward to sharing some of those applications with you at the National In-Service October 25th in Nashville!



Abersold, J. (1967). How to Play Jazz and Improvise. New Albany, IN: Jamey Abersold Jazz, Inc.

Azzara, C. D., & Grunow, Rd. F. (2006). Developing Musicianship Through Improvisation. Chicago, IL:  GIA Publications, Inc.

Freedman, B. (2013). Teaching Music Through Composition. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

O’Toole, P. (2003). Shaping Sounds Musicians: An Innovative Approach to Teaching Comprehensive Musicianship Through Performance. Chicago, IL: GIA Publications, Inc.

Rudolph, T. E., Richmond, F.. Mash, D., Webster, P., Bauer, W. I., & Walls, K. (2005). Technology Strategies for Music Education. Wyncote, PA: Technology Institute for Mus ic Educators.


About the author:

Lorie Enloe, Ph.D., Associate Professor Music Education, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID

Lorie Enloe is the Associate Professor of Music Education at the University of Idaho Lionel Hampton School of Music, where she has conducted the University Concert Band and taught both undergraduate and graduate music education courses. Before coming to the University of Idaho, Enloe was a successful high school and middle school band director in North Carolina and Kentucky. She has maintained a successful woodwind studio and has played clarinet, bass clarinet, and bassoon with the Mid-Columbia Symphony, Washington Idaho Symphony, Rendezvous Orchestra, Coeur d’Alene Symphony, Opera Plus, and the Fayetteville  (NC) Symphony. She is in demand as a clinician, adjudicator, and guest conductor in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Washington. Enloe is published in the Journal of Technology in Music Learning, Update: Applications of Research in Music Education, The Instrumentalist, The National Band Journal, and Teaching Music. Enloe has been selected to present twice at the International Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic, The Society for Music Teacher Educators, and the NAfME Research Conference. She was invited to present at the Alaska Music Educators Conference, Louisiana Music Educators Association Conference, and the Wyoming Music Educators Association Conference and is a regular clinician at the Pacific Northwest NAfME Conference and at IMEA All State Conference. Lorie Enloe served on the national Advisory Board of NAfME and is the Research Chair and Idaho representative to the Society for Music Teacher Education.

Dr. Enloe completed her Ph.D. and Master of Music in music education at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro and can be heard on recordings of the UNCG Wind Ensemble: equus, internal combustion, october, and whirr. She is a graduate of Transylvania University in Lexington KY, where she obtained a Bachelor of Arts in clarinet performance and music education. She studied conducting with Peter J. Martin at Transylvania University and with John R. Locke at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She studied clarinet with Peter Martin at Transylvania and Kelly Burke at UNCG, where she also studied bassoon with Michael Burns and oboe with Ashley Barret. Her book, Teaching Beginning Woodwinds:  The First Five Days, was published in 2013 by Sol Ut Publishing.




Lorie will be presenting on this very topic at the 2015 NAfME National In-Service Conference this coming October in Nashville, TN! Don’t miss the In-Service EARLY BIRD RATE. The deadline is July 31!

Join us for more than 300 innovative professional development sessions, nightly entertainment, extraordinary performances from across the country, a wild time at the Give a Note Extravaganza, and tons of networking opportunities with over 3,000+ other music educators! Learn more and register today:


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