Top 10 Things Every First-Year Orchestra Director Needs to Know

  1. Know the instrument repair basics, and be proficient enough to change a string or set a bridge quickly. Have chalk and wax handy for troublesome pegs and making fine tuners work better.
  2. Be able to tune instruments quickly. Nothing will eat up your rehearsal time faster than slow instrument tuning!
  3. Insist that instruments are quiet while you’re tuning or rehearsing.
  4. Anticipate problems in the music for a more efficient rehearsal. Extract difficult rhythms and create an exercise away from the music before trying it within the parts.
  5. Set attainable goals for each rehearsal. The students will feel a sense of accomplishment, and you’ll be less stressed.
  6. Teach your students how to practice. Just saying “go home and practice this” will not give you the results you want. Give them techniques and suggestions for creative and time-saving practice routines.
  7. Know the scores! If your eyes are on the score constantly and not on your students, you’re simply not prepared. Students know this in an instant. If you’re not prepared, not only will the music suffer, but you’ll lose the respect of your students.
  8. Strive for excellence, and don’t settle for less. Students will meet your expectations if they know that you’re passionate about what you do, so keep them high.
  9. Establish an identity for the orchestra. Little things make a difference! For example, if you share a room with the band, be sure to call the room the instrumental music room, not the band room. Have an orchestra bulletin board.
  10. Get to know and be on good terms with the maintenance staff.Orchestras require a lot of equipment and often the use of many areas of the school. You’ll find that the maintenance staff will assist you at critical times if you’ve established a good working relationship.

by NAfME member Joyce Prichard, Director of Music and Fine Arts Chair
Villa Maria Academy High School, Malvern, PA

— Nicole Springer, originally published April 23, 2008. © National Association for Music Education (