Quality Over Quantity
A Message to Music Education Majors
By NAfME Member Nicholas Tyler
During my first year of teaching, I have learned that quality matters more than quantity. I am not writing this to boast about myself in any way, but to emphasize that smaller programs have great potential in the schools they serve. Never dismiss the small band programs.
When looking for your first job, do not overlook the small band programs as an option for employment. These small bands have a negative reputation simply for being small and hardly growing. People may presume that the director never did his/her job to recruit, but what if it is the culture of the area? What if the students are following what they are told to do?
I live in a small town in Northwest Alabama, and the community is supportive, but it is hard to compete with sports here. Sports are great for kids, but not all kids, and music education meets the needs of all students who receive it. Students at a young age want to feel accepted into something, to give themselves drive to accomplish. In small communities, what if the students do not have the opportunity for band until high school? Sports are available from elementary/pee-wee to high school, but it is hard to get students to start something new in high school.
While students in smaller schools tend to follow what they know into high school, they might be afraid to try anything new—but if they do, great things can happen.
A ninth-grade student who started out in football when he got to high school enjoyed it, but something happened one day at practice, and he decided to leave football. This would have been in 7th or 8th grade. This year I needed a bass guitar player for our marching show, and people let me know that this student would be interested. I approached him and his parents, who were also teachers at the same school as I was, about joining the band—both marching and concert. He tried it for a couple of practices, and now he loves band. People have even told me that this student looks happier in band, which they feel is his place, compared to when he was in football. While students in smaller schools tend to follow what they know into high school, they might be afraid to try anything new—but if they do, great things can happen.
I have learned that small program students know they should not depend on other musicians, because not doing their part will be hard to hide, and they will be easily seen not playing. I have heard people say, “Well, the group must not be good then,” due to numbers, but the students in small programs have the passion and heart to be there.
The small band programs need the same focus and heart from someone who has passion. And teaching in a small program does not have to be a starter job; it is a job that should be taken seriously and with intent to grow the students as individuals. It is not about the quantity of the band, but the quality of the band students. Fellow teacher Ingrid Brown once told me, “You can teach only the students who are in front of you. You cannot teach the students who you wish were in front of you.” This is a statement that really resonated with me during my first year of teaching.
We may all want the big band programs and waves of sound, but we can teach only the students who are in front of us. Each student, regardless of whether you direct a small program or large program, needs to have the same quality of teaching and dedication from teachers. Too many students from the high school where I currently teach say that it is “us,” and we cannot be like “them.” The only thing that stops us from being great is ourselves.
These music students are important and do deserve a hard-working educator to lead them to success in their own way.
About the author:
NAfME member Nick Tyler is currently the Band Director at Cherokee High School, where he teaches Beginning Band, Music 8, Music Appreciation, Concert Band, and Marching Band. Mr. Tyler graduated from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), where he obtained his Bachelor’s degree from the College of Arts and Sciences in Music with a concentration in Education. Nick Tyler has been a part of many ensembles while at UAB as a trumpet player in the Wind Symphony, Blazer Band, Marching Band, Trumpet Ensemble, Brass Quintet, and Jazz Big Band. Nick served three years as a section leader for the Marching Blazers.
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