Tips for Success in Establishing and Maintaining a Beginning Band Program
Organizational and Instructional Strategies for Creating Your School’s Band Program
By NAfME Member Sharen W. Bolder
Have you ever created a beginning band program for a school that never had a band?
Questions that may go through your mind include:
- Do you know what to expect?
- Where would you begin?
- Who’s going to help you get what you need?
- How do you stay organized?
- Where’s your classroom?
- How many classes and students will you have?
- What about your curriculum?
Being the first to initiate a beginning band program at a middle school can be a daunting experience. However, knowing essentials of administrative matters and managing an organization, communicating with stakeholders, and employing key instructional best practices can guarantee success.
The organizational aspects of creating a new band program are usually not the forte of administrators, though they are very knowledgeable about academic curriculum and running an entire school. Are you prepared to be involved in planning with administrators, offering suggestions about scheduling, and defending your position when confronted with issues that will negatively affect the band program?
If you are lucky you will have a principal who says, “You’re the expert: You tell me what you need.” However, you may have a principal who suggests turning your general music class into a band. Better yet, the principal may suggest putting the band and orchestra classes together or ask, in the second year, “Why can’t we put beginners in your 7th grade Intermediate Band Class? Isn’t that why we differentiate?”
This line of questioning clearly indicates a lack of knowledge about music curricula and instrumental techniques. You are expected to be the expert, because no one knows how to set it up but you. You must be ready to advocate for parents and students by explaining the how’s and why’s of organization, so that you can nurture and sustain the program you are establishing.
Begin with the Students You Have
Taking your school’s demographics and your teaching environment into careful consideration is an essential beginning point, because it will determine how you manage and organize your program. A school in a military community may be managed differently than that of an inner-city school because of funding. A school with a highly culturally diverse population may need to be managed differently.
Avoid: Rote teaching. When it comes to the instructional aspects of your program, how would you like to have a band that reads music and sight reads fluently? After three years of teaching band, I grew tired of saying, “F natural saxes, f sharp saxes, b flat clarinets, b natural trumpets.” A private piano student of mine told me she didn’t realize the importance of scales when she played clarinet in band. I asked how she knew to play Bb or B natural. She told me her band director would hold up his fingers and say, “This one,” showing her the fingering. Along the way I have developed unique approaches to teaching rhythm, pitch, and key signatures. These approaches solve many problems that hinder the success of a band.
Being the first band director of three new schools (each with diverse demographics) has not been easy. Success comes not only from management and organization. It also comes from knowing and learning key instructional strategies to support your curriculum.
Attending professional development events, networking, gleaning from mentors and colleagues, sitting in and observing honors band clinic rehearsals, and taking that interim position, have been invaluable experiences in my 30 years of teaching. My guiding principle is: “There is always more to learn, so never stop learning.”
My session will target administrative and instructional matters.
Managing Administrative and Organizational Aspects
- A myriad of teaching situations
- Scheduling – avoiding the scheduling frenzy
- Recruiting and parent follow-up meetings
- Instrument selection
- Rental or indigent
- Equipment needed
- How to use your budget (or no budget) to acquire repair instruments
- Inventory and keeping track of items
- Requisition forms
- Communicating with stakeholders and finding contacts
Instructional Tips and Strategies
- Curriculum mapping
- Detailed syllabus/handbook
- Classroom management
- How to avoid rote teaching
- A unique approach to teaching rhythm, pitch, and key signatures
- Selecting and purchasing literature
Establishing and Maintaining a Beginning Band Program: Tips for Success
Tuesday, November 14, 2017 – 2:15-3:15 PM
Hope you can make it! I look forward to seeing you there.
About the author:
NAfME member Sharen W. Bolder has over 30 years’ experience in music and music education. She is presently the band director at Charter Schools USA (CSUSA) Union Preparatory Academy.
Prior experiences include: Western Harnett Middle School Band /General Music/Chorus/Theatre Arts, John Griffin Middle School Band/General Music, Overhills Middle School Band/Orchestra/Chorus, Dodea Schools on Fort Bragg Army Base General Music Chorus, East Elementary School General Music, Sanctuary pianist/organist/orchestra conductor and arranger, and private music instruction.
Mrs. Bolder’s middle school band, chorus, and orchestra students have participated in Solo and Ensemble Festivals, State MPAs, and county and district honors ensembles in North Carolina.
Honors include being nominated as Ambassador for Music Educators by NAfME, as well as being nominated to Marquis’ “Who’s Who Among African American Women.” Other honors include appointments to leadership positions such as: cultural arts Team Leader, Lead Mentor Teacher, SASC/CASI Co-Chair for School Accreditation for Overhills Middle School, clinician and accompanist for honors bands and choruses, and an invitation to play at the Presidential Inauguration ball.
Sharen Bolder presented on her topic “Establishing and Maintaining a Beginning Band Program: Tips for Success” at the 2017 NAfME National Conference this November in Dallas, TX. Register today for the 2018 NAfME National Conference!
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