Douglas Wertz is the band director at Glenview Middle School in Anderson, South Carolina. “I teach band classes to students in 6th through 8th grades. I have been teaching for 12 years. My band program consists of the following classes: 8th grade advanced band, 7th grade advanced band, 8th grade pep/jazz band, 7th grade pep/jazz band, 8th grade first year band, 7th grade first year band, and 6th grade first year band.”
“We typically have around 200 students in the band program at Glenview Middle School each year. This year, there are currently 208 students in the band program. I am not the only music teacher at my school. We have a chorus teacher, Anda Mobley, and a string teacher, Celeste Griffith, at my school that I collaborate with, and we hold combined concerts together throughout the school year.”
Classroom Tips from Band Director Wertz
- I always start my classes with the same warmups and exercises every day. My students and I begin the class with scales (using varied rhythms and articulations), chorales, and some rhythm exercises. In my pep/jazz classes, I incorporate blues scales and swing rhythms to prepare my students for their class. This not only prepares my students for the tasks that they will be performing for the rest of the class, but also provides them with some consistency and something that they know they can accomplish each and every day.
- I strive to continuously keep the class moving and keep the students doing something. I strive to keep an up tempo pace in the band room. The less “down-time” the students have, the less time they have for their minds to wander and ultimately, the more the students and the teacher accomplish. Throughout my years of teaching, I have learned that being prepared is one of the most important things a teacher can do.
- I work to keep all of my students engaged at all times. I change activities or music pieces frequently so the students do not get tired of being on the same task for too long of a period of time. I make sure that I move around the room to ensure that every student is engaged in what we are doing. I “sit in” with my students and perform their music with them. Not only does this provide a model for my students, but they also seem to enjoy this and I believe it helps them feel more like we are a team.
Wertz knows he is lucky to have solid support from school administrators. “Whether we need new supplies, equipment, etc., or we want to add more concerts to the calendar or try new things, my principal and assistant principals put their faith and trust in me to do whatever I need to do in order to provide the best possible music education and experience for my students.”
He adds, “From the opening of our new school that we are currently in, my principal has been fully supportive about implementing a pep/jazz band class into our class schedule as well. This has allowed me to delve into another realm of music with my students that may not be possible at some other middle schools.
“They fully support what my students and I do and are attempting to achieve each year. I am very supported by my fellow teachers as well. My music and arts colleagues and I support each other’s programs and collaborate on several concerts and events each year.
“We feel that it is not about the individual programs, but about all of the programs as a whole. My fellow teachers are very positive, energetic, and excited about what we do. We treat each other with respect and they are very supportive when I must keep a student a few minutes into their class time so that I can finish whatever is necessary in order to ensure success for my students. I have everyone’s support at my school and I was actually voted Teacher of the Year this year at my school.”
Wertz says fellow teachers and collaborate with one another about material that is being taught “so that we can integrate each other’s disciplines into our lesson plans. We build a seamless education for all of our students at our school. When my fellow music and arts teachers and I hold concerts and events, the entire staff and student body attends.”
Professional Development is Key
As for professional development, Wertz says NAFME and the South Carolina Music Educators play a large role for him. “Every year, through the SCBDA, my students and I participate in Festivals such as Concert Festival, All-County Band, All-Region Band, All-State Band, and Solo & Ensemble.
“I have attended state and national conferences through NAFME and SCMEA. I gain information and teaching techniques from resources provided by NAFME and SCMEA, such as lesson plan ideas, magazines, and journals.”
There is one more aspect to his music program that he would like share. “I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to implement a pep/jazz class at my school. Students are able to participate in this class who may not be able to participate before or after school due to transportation issues. I can delve into other realms of music that is sometimes difficult with other classes due to scheduling and time restraints.
“The students learn and perform music of other styles and genres, as well as the history and the important individuals who have paved the way in these styles and genres of music for our generation and future generations. This provides them with a more holistic and well-rounded music education, and provides the students with a greater understanding of music. This in turn, may spark an interest in more students and ultimately provide them with more of an appreciation of music.
“Generally speaking, we always want to provide the best music education to our students and reach as many students as we possibly can. I always say to myself, “You never know when you may be teaching and helping the next Johann Sebastian Bach, George Gershwin, or Miles Davis.”
Jazz Program is Popular
And speaking of Miles Davis, Wertz says his jazz program at Glenview is thriving
He says, “I began my jazz program at Glenview Middle School when it opened in the 2011-2012 school year. I have a very supportive principal who was open to the idea of implementing a jazz class into the regular school day class schedule and the summer before the school opened, I contacted all of my rising 7th & 8th grade band students and to see if they would be interested in participating in the class.
“With the overwhelming response that I received from the parents and the students, we were able to implement a jazz band class into the regular class schedule. We usually have around 200 or more students in the band at Glenview Middle School and we typically have 45 to 50 jazz band students.”
Wertz says, “The students in the jazz band really enjoy performing jazz music. A few jazz pieces that my students have really enjoyed performing in the jazz band have been: Autumn Leaves by Mercer/Prevert/Kosma/arr. John Berry, Lullaby of Birdland by Wess/Shearing/arr. Rick Stitzel, Yesterday by Lennon & McCartney/arr. Rick Stitzel, and Reboot by Vince Gassi. The students also enjoy performing pop songs at events such pep rallies, football games, and pep rallies.”
Roz Fehr, NAfME Membership Outreach Specialist, July 28, 2016. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org).