Work smart, not hard
The beginning of the school year means the unfortunate departure of twelve hour summer band rehearsals. The average band director has more to accomplish, and less time to get it done.
To ensure your marching band program continues to steadily progress after the school year begins, directors must work “smart.” Consider the following ideas that will allow your program to efficiently transition into the new school year.
Create and consider your goals
Keep everything in perspective! What are your goals for the season? What does YOUR marching band typically strive to accomplish by the end of your season? What is your overall philosophy of teaching marching band?
Answer these questions, and then decide HOW you intend to achieve each desired result once the school year begins. If your program solely provides entertainment for Friday night football games, then a five day after-school rehearsal schedule would certainly not be necessary. Perhaps rehearsing after school one day a week would be much more reasonable. Continue to set both short and long term goals for your marching band program throughout the season.
Daily goals – What do you wish to accomplish at a particular rehearsal?
Weekly goals – What do you wish to accomplish by a Friday or Saturday performance?
Monthly goals – What do you wish to accomplish by the end of the month?
Season goals – What do you wish to accomplish by the end of the marching band season?
Create an after/before school rehearsal schedule that functions within your community. The schedule should meet the stated goals and philosophy of your program. Secure rehearsal/practice schedules from coaches and club sponsors, and develop a band rehearsal schedule that creates the least amount of conflict for students who participate in other activities.
Establish the following rule (or create your own variation) for any marching band members involved in other activities:
50/50 rule – the child spends half of his time at band and half at the other activity
Performance rule – a performance or game will always trump a rehearsal/practice
Consistency of discipline
Maintain the discipline established at band camp. If you have a rule about cell phones on the marching field during summer rehearsals, continue to enforce this policy after the school year begins. Proper discipline from all of your students both on and off the field will result in more focused and productive rehearsals.
Keep your student leadership active
Remind your student leadership that they must continue to carry out the duties of their position. Student leaders do a wonderful job in accomplishing tasks throughout the summer, but lose interest and fail to fulfill the requirements of their position once school begins.
Transfer some of your power to your student leaders. Trust them to handle daily tasks (filling water coolers, lining the field, copying music, & taking attendance) and other additional jobs that must be completed.
Divide teaching duties among support staff that remain available throughout the season. Wherever possible, appoint qualified individuals to be in charge if stretching/warm-ups, breathing exercises, music warm-ups, music rehearsal, drill rehearsal, battery percussion, front ensemble, etc. It is important to collaborate with your booster organization, and to regularly seek advice and assistance from other music educators.
Maintain open lines of communication throughout the season. This list should include parents, administrators, support staff, drill writer, music arranger, band announcer, athletic director, football coach, cheerleading advisor, club sponsors, school nurse, janitors, and even local community organizations.
Keep everyone informed of your progress, and be sure to immediately inform the proper authorities when a particular issue arises. The beginning of the school year is an exciting time for both students and teachers. In order to be successful, keep everything in perspective of the philosophy and goals that you have created for your marching band program.
NAfME member Anthony Denaro, Pace High School, Pensacola, FL, contributed tips and ideas for this article.
—Victoria Chamberlin, originally posted August 11, 2011 (c) National Association for Music Education