Time Management = Class Management

As a string orchestra director, Gretta Sandberg knows that one of the most effective class strategies is shown in how you begin each class. In her words, “Your students need to know when the rehearsal is actually beginning.”

“Students come in the orchestra room bursting with energy and youthful angst!” says Sandberg. “There is the short span of time when they get their instruments out, get their music folders, talking all the time about their lives and loves. How does one get this energy channeled into the rather esoteric world of music and the concrete world of building musical skills?”

Here are four of Sandberg’s ideas a productive rehearsal:

  • Upscale it! “How you set those first few minutes of each class period can determine the tone of the rehearsal. You need a tuning routine that everyone understands and adheres to … perhaps turning on the tuner to the almighty A440 or a signal the concertmaster to stand up to give the A from her violin. Since I’m a great believer in mastering scales, both major and the relative melodic minors, I start each rehearsal with a set of scales. The class knows it’s time for business and everyone must be in place with instruments tuned and ready to play.”
  • No more than three announcements. “After about ten minutes of scales, it’s time for announcements, but make that short and sweet … here’s the time that you can lose your students–their attention span is very short–no more that three points, and put them up on the board as a visual reminder, especially upcoming dates/times.”
  • Upcoming pieces and études. Sandberg advises beginning the “meaty” part of the rehearsal with “the orchestral pieces that are on the table for the next concert or the études that will teach the students important technique. Decide from the general feeling of the group that day how long you can push rehearsal on a certain piece. Beating a dead horse never accomplishes anything.”
  • Keep your sense of humor. “Seeing the fun in a situation has saved many rehearsals and kept a few on track. Nobody wants to create music with a crabby director!”

Most important, says Sandberg, is to “enjoy your time with the students. Each rehearsal has a feel all its own. Be in tune with the students, and your class and time management will fall into place.”
MENC member Gretta Sandburg is the retired orchestra director of the McLean, Virginia, High School Orchestras.  She and her husband, Lew Freeman, now spend most of their time in Monterey, Virginia.

— Nicole Springer and Ella Wilcox, August 19, 2009, © National Association for Music Education (www.nafme.org)