Top 10 Tips for First Year Directors, Part 2

“I work to make music with my students and find personal fulfillment in sparking the interest of my students in music. As a music teacher, I am but one facet of the students’ learning experience, and I need to remember that while my program is my top priority, there are other goals in the school. By keeping my program in perspective, I can have a successful, fulfilling experience and give my students the best education possible.” Kriston Feldpausch, NAfME Choral Mentor

6. Budget. Chances are you won’t have much control over your budget your first year. Budgets are usually done a year in advance. But when budget time rolls around, you’ll be into so many other things that you won’t be able to devote 100% of your attention to your budget. Talk to your high school director or a mentor you trust and see if he or she will give you a sample budget. When budget time arrives, you can plug in the appropriate numbers and needs, and your first budget will be done in a jiffy.

7. Make friends with the office staff. Very often the school administrative assistant is the most knowledgeable person in your building. The bookkeeper is the person who stands between you and that new piece you’re dying to order for your group. Developing a positive working relationship with the administrative assistant and bookkeeper is the key to getting things you need and settling into your new job with success. Your other best friend should be the head custodian, who can also be helpful.

8. Use the rule of thumb for stopping points. When you stop your group, often you will know exactly why you stopped them — until they actually stop. Then your mind will go blank and you won’t know what to say. An old rule of thumb: when this happens, point out something a student did well, go back to the most logical starting point, and do it all again. By then you’ll remember why you stopped in the first place.

9. Document, document, document. No matter what you are doing, write it down. Take notes at meetings and keep them in a file. When you reserve a facility, a bus, or any equipment, make multiple copies of the reservation form and date stamp them. When you meet with an administrator, type up your notes and have that person initial that you’ve understood the directions correctly. While not every situation will warrant such meticulous detail, you can never have too much documentation. You never know when you might be challenged, and your paperwork can save you.

10. Introduce yourself to the band director. This may seem like a wild idea. In reality it’s probably the most important thing you can do. Your band director is the yin to your yang. He or she is the person who most understands what you do and will have ideas for the other nine things on this list. Walk across the hall and introduce yourself. You may be surprised at what you find.

Originally titled: “The Top 10 Things Every First Year Choral Director Needs to Know”
and appearing in the March 2008
Collegiate Newslink; by Kriston Feldpausch, director of choral activities, and Steve Raybould, director of band activities, Powhatan Junior High School, Powhatan, Virginia.

Sue Rarus, September 9, 2011, ©  National Association for Music Education