Virtual Assistant Video Introduction

A video introduction and some of what I can do for you as your Virtual Assistant. Cheaper than doing it yourself. Cheaper than hiring an employee — ane probably better too. Just sayin’. Please share/retweet. Thanks for checking me out.

Posted in Teaching Music

It Is Not About Putting Out Fires, But About Being Ready

Posted in High Schools, Music Department, Teaching Music Tagged with:

Technology in the Classroom, a negative with the mega schools, and more

Computer lecture hall

This stock Internet photo can be used for several discussions:

College lecture halls have changed since I was in one. Paper and pencil notes no longer the norm, although you can find students with paper … and some with no evident way to take notes. Some things never change.

Apple vs PC. Don’t use this pic for that. See below.

An example of Photoshop. An edited version (with the title of the blog and the blog points imposed) of this picture was from an Edudemic blog and one of the commenters points out that the pic has been doctored with Apple logos imposed on pc machines. Since I don’t know either way, don’t use this pic to decide what kind of laptop to take to college.

A negative of the mega schools. I remember going to classes like this as a college freshman at the University of Kentucky, where their lecture halls were used to teach many of the “101” series classes (the ones everyone is required to take). I was underwhelmed with the lack of contact with the professor — and the idea than no one knew (or cared) if you were there or not. This is a good pic for those arguing against the concepts of government ‘education factory’ style teaching; just herding as many people through as possible.

My son told me the largest class he was in at Duke University was a lecture class with 29 students.

Popular Class / Good Attendance. Maybe it is the first day of class….but it is a full room.

Just thought you would enjoy.

VMO Business Card


Posted in College Prep, Communication, Teaching, Technology in the Classroom Tagged with: , , ,

My philosophy of Education

By John Gardner

Philosophy of EducationA major role of a music facilitator is to provide a safe, encouraging environment where students can discover and experience the mechanical fundamentals of music theory and performance so that they can understand a composer’s intentions and add their personal interpretation and emotion into turning written music into audio (sometimes visual) art while always striving for a higher level of excellence.

Teaching, however, is about more than “just” the academics and artistic value of music. Students are so much more than instruments into which we are supposed to dump vast amounts of data. I want to help students realize a love and appreciation for the art of music that they can utilize as a performer or audience member for the rest of their lives. I want to earn their admiration and respect so that they will trust that I am more than just a knowledge provider. I want them to see me as a mentor who cares as well as a proficient musician and life coach. I want to provide a safe environment that maintains the level of control necessary in a music ensemble while also encouraging emotional and artistic expression and contribution. I want them to learn from what I show them, from each other, from competitive experiences as well as from their mistakes along the way. I want them to desire and strive for excellence in music and in everything they do. I want them to appreciate their community and to want to give back to those whose support they need in entertaining performances and projects.

Read more…


Posted in Music Department, Public Schools, Teaching, Teaching Music Tagged with: , , ,

A School Fundraising Concept I Wish I Had Thought Of

By John Gardner.

Car giftAll schools and most school groups have a genuine need to raise funds. The school official confidentially described his small school’s first ever, super-successful car raffle. Below is an overview of that un-identified project along with other experience and research-based recommendations.

Sample Summary By The Numbers

1 Private School with under 150 students
1 Car @ $12,000 (Dealer Discounted Donation with buy back option)
300 Raffle Tickets at $100ea
Lots of donated door prizes, including local deals, trips and more
1 Final Winner: Take the car or over $8000 cash
$17,000+ Net Profit after Party and Expenses

Sample Overview

The groups goals included 1) raising money for the school’s general use, 2) helping fund each of a group of students making an overseas trip, 3) establishing another major piece of an annual calendar of varied types of fundraising projects.

The school negotiated with a local dealer for a discounted new small car. Part of the discount was in return for all the car and dealer publicity. PLUS…the dealer’s profitable buy back option. In this example, the dealer’s price to the school was $12,000, with an $8,000+ buy back.

Read more ›

Posted in Consulting, Fundraising, High Schools, How May I Serve YOU?, Sales and Marketing Tagged with: , , ,

Teachers need to be more like good doctors than assembly line educators

Floor Plan D

Floor Plan D

By John Gardner

I’ve written about “factory education”:

I have never worked on a factory assembly line and the only time I’ve ever witnessed a major line in operation up close was when GM’s Fort Wayne Assembly (opened 1986) offered an Open House type tour to the public. The worker should care about the quality of the assembled product, but cannot become attached to each one as it goes by.

We want doctors to become attached to each individual patient, to empathize, to “feel their pain”. Of course, doctors are often dealing with life/death situations, so a direct comparison with teaching is difficult there. Like teachers, doctors must establish a healthy, professional detachment….but they should always be trying to “make a difference to THAT one“.

Most of us have experienced the quality doctor who has to look at the file to get the name, and who you know will have to look at the file to get your name again the next visit. Don’t be a teacher like THAT doctor.

It would be easy for a teacher to full into that trap.

A typical teacher in a high school academic class has six classes per day with about 25 students in each approximate 50-minute class. For every page of written work, the teacher has 150 pages of papers to grade. A 500-word essay means 75,000 words to read. For any test/assignment that takes 5 minutes to grade, that is 750 minutes, or 12.5 hours of out-of-classroom work. If it takes 15 minutes to prepare for class, that is 1.5hrs of prep time daily. It can be difficult for a teacher to have even brief conversations with every student, especially frequently. We don’t want to just be paper-graders and data-watchers, however.

The assembly line worker should care about the product, but will not be personally attached to it. The doctor takes the more personal approach to the individual, allowing professional caring to help in providing professional care.


We need to be more like the doctor.

Recent articles:

Don't try to figure out what all the words on this word wall mean. Let me go to work for you instead.

Don’t try to figure out what all the words on this word wall mean. Let me go to work for you instead.

Posted in Classroom Teacher, Factory Education, High Schools, Parenting, Public Schools, Teaching, Teaching Music Tagged with: , , , ,

10+ Gump-ism-style Advice Lines for Bands, Students and Parents

forrestgumpIn the spirit of Forrest Gump who put out Gump-isms like, “Life is like a box of chocolates…..You never know what you’re gonna get”, I offer the following sayings that sometime happen in band rehearsals and private studio lessons.

“Good Grades Do Pay.”

We all hear about college paying for good athletes, but they will also pay for good intellectuals. Pick up a brochure from just about any college and you’ll find a place in there where they list things like 1) Average SAT/ACT score or 2) National Merit Scholars.

If your SAT/ACT score is higher than the college’s average, then they WANT YOU because you will raise their average. To many schools, both the average SAT/ACT scores and the number of National Merit Scholars they have represent “bragging rights”. But instead of accidentally stumbling into success, strategically plan for it, and then systematically execute your plan.

The first major test is one often ignored, the PSAT (Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test). Sophomores and Juniors can take the PSAT, which gives colleges some early information they can use to recruit. The PSAT is also the NMSQT (National Merit Scholar Qualifying test). Colleges will pay for National Merit Scholars. They brag about how may NM Scholars they have in their community. This is a test worth practicing and preparing for. Treat your preparation as a part-time job.

How much money can you make at minimum wage?

The other test(s) worth studying and preparing for are the SAT, the ACT and the SAT II’s (specific subject tests required by some schools).

“Colleges Pay for those who Play – WELL!”

Don’t ignore the ARTS corner of the Triangle-A (Athletics, Academics, Arts). I remember a conversation I had with son #1 as we sat in the driveway of his trumpet teacher’s house and I was writing that check for an hour-long lesson:

“I am paying for your college education one week at a time.
By the time you get to college,
you need to be good enough
that colleges will pay for you.”

I did not pay for MY college education. As one of five children raised in a single parent household by a polio survivor mother, I knew there was no way my family could send me to college. I knew that the only way I would get to college was for a college to pay for me to come. I wasn’t going to qualify academically and was completely non-Athletic. But by 8th grade, I realized I could play the clarinet pretty well – and set off on a track to make that my way in to college. Some of the things I did related to that:

* When my friends were out cruising, I was practicing.
(Not much choice as I didn’t have a car.)

* When my friends were going to the movies, I was practicing.
(Not much choice as I didn’t have spending money.)

* I took clarinet lessons all through high school.

* I participated in Summer Music Camps. I spent three 4-week sessions at the Stephen Foster Music Camp at Eastern Kentucky University and two summers at the 2-week Summer Camp at Morehead State University. Colleges offer camps and clinics to recruit: to get to know prospects and to give them an opportunity to fall in love with the college. In those cases, I got to study for short times with the clarinet professors at both universities. When it came time to select a college, both of those were recruiting me because they already knew me. And, of course, having intense rehearsals and master classes all day for the summer makes one a much better musician.

* I auditioned for specialty and clinic bands. Northern Kentucky had a “Select Band” which rehearsed for 1-2 days and gave a concert. I also participated all 4 years in the Kentucky All-State Band. There was the Morehead State University Band Clinic.
* I participated in several ensembles and played a solo every year at Solo/Ensemble Festival. I received 1-II, 14-I’s and 1-I+. Both my sons surpassed that, with Son #2 achieving over 42 Gold Medal ratings in District and State in instrumental and vocal.

Son #1 did not pay for his college education. Do you notice anything similar about our paths and strategies?

Trumpet Lessons starting in 7th grade.
Honor Band
* Solo/Ensemble Festival
 – three trips to State
* Music Camp – (KY) twice
Music Camp – (IN)
Jazz Camp – (TN)
* Youth Symphony
* All-State Band
Summer Substitute with the Philharmonic Orchestra
* Everything Band
 in high school, including Marching (2yrs), Concert, Jazz, Varsity Brass (Show Choir Backup), Musicals.

In fact, there were some semesters when he would register for classes that the school would give HIM a check. That was because each year:

– $2500 each year from the Presidential Scholarship (National Merit Finalist)
– $2000 each year from the University to completely cover in-state-tuition
– $5000 from the Honors Program (ACT score, National Honor Society) to completely cover out of state tuition
– $3500 from the Music Department to completely cover housing
– $1000 from the Trumpet Studio
$14,000 … at a time when the total cost at TTU (Tennessee Tech) was about $10,500/yr.

He also received local scholarships. I recall that for one of those scholarships he called the person in charge because he missed the “postmark date” and wanted to see if he could drive it to her home (local). Her response was, “Please do, honey ….. your application will be the only one we have.” See scholarship -ism below.

Son #2 went to a Top Tier school for a state school price. That university’s current tuition is over $61,000/yr. He had the grades but not the money. An Admissions counselor made me a promise (which they kept),

“If we decide we want him,
we will get him here.”

It is sad to see high school students who are pretty good in their local band go off to top-ranked music schools to face rejection because they settled for mediocrity in high school – because they could. Some of the students I teach at the university come in as music majors never having studied privately. It is really hard to make it at the college level without specialty instruction in high school. There is only so much that can be done in the large ensemble for which there is a “free” teacher. Assuming there is some talent/ability involved, you can almost look at the concept as a “Pay Now vs Pay Later”.

You can INVEST in your training and experiences throughout high school and go for the music scholarships in college, or PAY the sticker price.

“It doesn’t matter whether you win or lose — until you lose.”

I used to have a poster in front of my band room showing a rifle girl, her head down as she was dragging her rifle behind her…..featuring that quote.

“If the notes are on the paper, it is your job to play ALL of them.”

This was my response to a student who asked,  “How much of it do we have to play?” I often tell students that it is my job as a director to help mold and blend the sound, and to correct errors…… not to teach notes. Learning the notes is the student’s job.

“If you’re going to play it, you might as well play it right.”

Why hurt the ensemble and waste valuable rehearsal time when it doesn’t take that much more effort to do it right the first time?

“The view from 1st chair is much better.”

“Private Lessons can be like paying for college — one week at a time.”

“Be prepared: Make sure your parents are getting their money’s worth.”

I have had students come to clarinet/sax lessons without their music, ….. and one, without his instrument. One college music major lesson started (and ended) like this:

Student: I don’t know how to tell you this, but I just didn’t have time to practice this week.

Me: This is your 3rd week in a row with excuses. This is your major instrument. This is your major. This is just as important as that English, Math or Psychology assignment. This affects your grade too. I heard you sight-read this music last week when it was supposed to be practiced to performance-grade. I don’t need to hear you sight-read it again. You take this time and practice. I’ll see you next week.

When I was paying for lessons, I wanted my money’s worth. And I tell my students to give their parents their money’s worth, i.e. don’t waste my time or their money.

“Santa isn’t the only one who knows whether you’ve been bad (no practice) or good.”

If you engage in systematic study, your teacher/coach will get to know you well enough to know when you’ve practiced for your lesson.  Make sure your parents are getting their money’s worth.

“You can’t sight read in your lesson and get away with it. I’m better than that.”

“Like the ice skater who misses the quad, missing notes in public can hurt.”

Mistakes are going to happen. They just are. When you watch ice skating on TV, even at the world championship or Olympic level, there are mistakes. What I often explain in private lessons is that they probably hit that jump a high percentage of times in practice. Performance rarely goes better than practice. If you aren’t doing it in practice, what do you think will happen in performance?

“Anybody can be mediocre.  Not you. Not with me. Don’t even think about it.”

Mediocre means average. Anybody can be average. When talking about the lukewarm (mediocre) church, Jesus said he would prefer that it had been hot or cold, but because it was lukewarm, he would spit it out of His mouth. The Star Wars Jedi Knight Yoda says, “Do, or do not, there is no TRY”. 

“You can practice hard now and have fun at performance, or you can have fun now…”

High school life is so much about social life and relationships. The tendency is to bring that into the rehearsal. You can take it easy now, but then be disappointed with the results — or you can work hard, pay the price and enjoy the rewards and satisfaction of demonstrated excellence.

“Do you really want me to tell you it was good — if it wasn’t?”

Students usually know if it was good or bad. There is that balance between encouragement and improvement. When that balance is achieved, improvement happens. After a tough run of a marching band show, as we were ending the rehearsal, which we usually tried to do on a ‘high note’, after another staff member gave a critique, I asked the students; “Do you want the sugar-coated version, or do you want it straight?” They wanted it straight – which enabled us to end on a ‘good note’. 


How we did it chartMuch of this is included in an e-zine called, “How We Did It” in getting our two sons through college. In their case, we spent $32,000 for $200,000 worth of education and I share the strategies we used, the experiences we had and what we learned.

You can get it through Paypal for only $4.95. I would appreciate your support and your feedback.

How We Did It
Posted in College Prep, High Schools, How May I Serve YOU?, Music Performance, Teaching Music, Types of education

Monetizing the Band Blog

By John Gardner

Dollar SignMonetize the Band Blog…

  1. by Rewarding, Recognizing or Endorsing Band Friendly Supporters
  2. with Band-Friendly Sponsors, Teen-focused Vendors, and Family Oriented Supporters
  3. with Affiliate Marketing and Advertising
  4. using e-commerce to sell
  5. by accepting donations

As a 30-yr veteran school product fundraiser, I use words like fundraising, money-making, profit, etc. Merging that fundraising mindset with my high school teaching assignment, I look for creative “monetizing” ideas to make the band blog an income stream.

There are HURDLES

  • Sometimes education gets so disconnected from the real world it is difficult for educators and parents to view things through a business lens. I found myself recently defending an idea against a that-won’t-work-in-education objection. Here was part of that discussion:

Something I learned a long time ago in business is that if you see the same thing happening over and over, it must be working. Consider “junk” mail? That costs real-time and money to produce and mail, yet they keep sending it because it works.

Admit it. You smile when, after complaining about highway billboards, you read the one that says, “Caught YOU looking.” They work.

Imagine a NASCAR car or driver NOT covered with ads. Even sports arenas become advertisement. The Hoosier Dome became the RCA Dome and was replaced by Lucas Oil Stadium. The University of Louisville basketball team plays in KFC’s “YUM Center”.

Vendors will pay to get their name in front of potential customers and with a music group in a high school, you  offer some very targeted marketing potential that vendors highly value.

  • If the group, i.e. the Band or Choir Dept., run their funds through a school’s ECA (Extra Curricular Activity) account, can be problematic with trying to satisfy all the State Board of Accounts rules. Use of the school’s tax exempt number typically requires; a) a Purchase Order in advance, b) an invoice from a vendor and c) confirmation that the goods or services were received or completed. Selling advertisements or sponsorships work, but offering products for online sales to individual end customers takes the school treasurer out of his/her comfort zone.
  • Another problem with selling or accepting funds online is that schools need to account for every penny, and with online transactions (PayPal, Credit Card Processor) there is a transaction “fee”. Someone who “Donates” $10 doesn’t actually put $10 in the account; it might be close….$9.75, but that is a problem for school accounting.
  • Accepting donations is typically a School Board responsibility. In the local school corporation, accepting a donation requires alerting the Superintendent’s office, getting on a School Board Agenda and waiting until they have a meeting and grant approval — before depositing the donated amount.
  • There are tons of school-related policies that make a profitable site difficult. Have you ever read YOUR school board’s policies. Here is the local version. Even getting permission for a domain name is difficult. In my last attempt, there were going to be several levels of approval (HS Prin, Tech Dept, School Board) with likely negative response, mainly because of the possibility that an abandoned domain name could be picked up by a porn site.
THE SOLUTION is for the Band or Choir to have a separate, incorporated, tax-exempt status parent group.

For this post, I will assume that the band parent organization has incorporated as a tax exempt entity and has, or could have, a an income-producing site.

Here are 5 ways to monetize your band blog.

  1. Reward, Recognize and Endorse Band-Friendly Supporters. The car dealer who puts an announcement about your fish dinner on his promo-sign out on the street, the water softener business that donates bottled water for the students for after performances and on trips, the coffee shop that sets up at your football games and shares a percentage of the proceeds, the funeral home that loans their limo for use as a fundraising prize, all the vendors and parents who donate items for the silent auction… a simple listing with some recognition and support can go a long way toward encouraging more. Here’s a live web sample.
  2. Allow Band Friendly Supporters to DONATE for adverts. Be sure to think through how to protect yourself from a situation where someone wants to buy ad space that you don’t want to sell them; i.e. a bar-grille, a movie rental place that includes x-rated materials, the local beer distributor, etc. You don’t need a fancy ad management tool, just design, or better, let them send you graphic ads that you can post for an agreed upon price and time. So that you can protect your non-profit status, call them ‘donations’. Get guidance from your administrators, but possibilities could include: a) only those from your band-friendly list may advertise, so only those from whom you accept donations/support.; b) local vendors who advertise in the sports programs, etc; c) band parents who own or work for appropriated businesses.Go after businesses who focus on or profit from the local teens; the movie theatre (link to their site that has the schedules and movies of the week), pizza  or coffee shops, skating rink, etc. Locally owned businesses are easier to deal with than national franchises, but sometimes the local manager has a lot of freedom.
  3. Affiliate Marketing. This is advertising that goes through a third-party who pays you a commission for click-throughs or purchases from people who follow the ad on your site. There are several vendors you can register with, such as clickbank or commission junction. Your booster group will need to have an account into which the vendor can electronically transfer earnings. Set up an account with the affiliate program, select the businesses you want to promote, get the codes (they provide) to insert into the site. Some FREE web/blog sites may not allow you to insert advertisements. Most hosted sites, including will. also has an attractive affiliate program. One blogger who administers a School of Performing Arts has set up an Amazon Affiliate account to earn commissions for the school to purchase music. Because he writes reviews to sell their books, he gets discounts on the books he reviews. Do you have a parent (or are you) willing to read/review books about things pertaining to your music program?
  4. Sell online.What do you have to sell?
    – the fundraising merchandise you are currently selling, including things like decals , scrip cards, discount cards or other items easy to mail if a customer can’t come pick up.
    – videos or recordings of your groups’ performances (make sure you don’t violate any copyrights to do that)
    – old instruments or uniforms
    – LP records, VHS tapes, etc that you haven’t touched in several years
    – items donated by vendors who want to be on your Band-Friendly list If you don’t want to add a full-blown shopping cart program to your site, you can list individual items on sales sites like eBay or Amazon and then promote and link to them from your site
  5. Accept DONATIONS online. Add a DONATE button (set up through PayPal, for example) for different specific purposes, or even for general donations to the program. Here’s one example of a page using a DONATE button to help students get private lessons.One local patron ask if it were possible to have automatic withholding from his paycheck that would be electronically transferred directly to the band’s bank account.

Need help setting up your site?

VMO Business Card


Posted in Business strategies, High Schools, Income Opportunity, Internet web design and ecommerce, Monetizing, Repost, Sales and Marketing, Small Business, Teaching, Teaching Music Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

Common Core Standards for Sports

Screen Shot 2013-06-06 at 5.02.53 PM

By John Gardner

Sports in public schools cannot continue to assign and support labels like “winners” and “losers”. We don’t tolerate that in our classrooms, so why should it be acceptable in sports? Athletics should follow the academic practice – mainstreaming players into average teams, thereby reducing the emphasis and focus on special or gifted athletes. Stop emphasizing the win. Cheerleaders and crowds should cheer improvement, not the final score. Instead of waiting for a government mandate, all public school athletic programs should implement no-athlete-left-behind common core standards. 

To meet the core competency, EVERY player will play every game, like they did in t-ball where the emphasis was on learning rather than winning. The first year, there will be no scoring expectations, but all will develop a particular skill, like run down the field, run up and down the court, run the bases… Each year they will add a skill – all players will complete a pass, hit a free throw or make contact with the ball 5 times out of 10. If they can’t, the coach will write a plan for each player not meeting the standard and then work each individual plan. No one can move on until they ALL do.

Eventually, every player will score every game. Once scoring, a player will rotate out and replaced to help meet this core competency. Failure to rotate could result in some players scoring a lot and others not at all – not the goal.

Similarly to the way academics is removing labels like “special” and “gifted”, athletics will stop assigning titles like, starter, pitcher, forward, or quarterback, as those imply higher rank. To meet the common core, every player will play every position in every game.

Size and weight classifications are mainstreamed together. Wrestlers, who should weigh 100 pounds, will compete in the common class. There will be a pre-weight test to provide starting data. The coach will divide players into under, target and over weight groups and write goals for each member of each group, using the format – “___% of the under and ___% of the over weight groups will meet the standard weight by the end of the season.” Athletic teams from all schools will compete in a classless, even (?) playing field. 

Averages and percentages become standards. In baseball, all attention will focus on raising the lower averages to the standard. It is okay to exceed the standard, but those players will be left to work at their own pace, or assigned to tutor below standard players. Baseball strikeouts, walks, home runs, basketball field goals, 2 and 3 point shots, football passes thrown, completed, intercepted, along with field goal attempts and completions, will all be standardized to make sure teams are learning the games well enough to play in the real world. Track and Cross Country will adopt standard times and coaches will focus on meeting those minimums core competencies.

Referees will consider school and team core competency levels as part of their call-making during games or events. Referees will evaluate data before the game and review the progress at halftime for the second half.

Assessing core competencies. Instead of using win/loss records or scores at events to determine success, the government will provide a 4-6 page form that principals will use to evaluate the school, and another form for the athletic director to assess each coach. Coaches must take part in professional development training to learn the forms and formulas. 

Coaches will design a pre-season test to determine what athletes know, but must get both the pre-test and the final exam pre-approved. The approval process can involve multiple adjustments as determined by the professional athletic development person within the building. Note: that person doesn’t yet exist but implementation of core standards will make it necessary to hire more non-teachers to train, administer and monitor the process.

Using a complex formula requiring training to understand, test data will classify (label) as “highly effective”, “effective”, “needs improvement” or “not effective”. The amount of improvement, provided by the test results data, are one of the factors in the coach effectiveness determination. Referees will be focusing on the overall team averages. 

The good news is that with enough enthusiastic coach and administrator commitment to spending major parts of practice times evaluating data and devising, discussing and implementing  individual athletic plans (IAP’s), there is reason for optimism that the end result will be average.



Posted in Classroom Teacher, Communication, Consulting, High Schools, How May I Serve YOU?, Social Media, Teaching, Teaching Music Tagged with: , , , , ,

What I Learned From A Korean Exchange Clarinet Student

By John Gardner

The news headlines were about the College Entrance Exam in South Korea. The Economist’s article about “The One Shot Society” and the CBS Report provide some scary examples, which help me better understand understand some of the personality traits of a clarinet exchange student I taught. Read more ›

Posted in College Prep, High Schools, Repost, Teaching, Teaching Music, Uncategorized Tagged with: , , , , , , ,


LinkedIn Profile