By John Gardner
Most participants in high school solo competitions are only in the performance room long enough for his/her performance and maybe for a couple friends’. They could learn so much by sitting and listening/observing for a while.
During some down time in between local student performances at a state level contest, I sat in a few performance rooms just to hear examples of what other students around the state are doing. I did not expect to see the wide range of performance quality given that I was at a STATE level contest and everyone participating had already received a GOLD (top) rating at district competition. If I had to summarize that experience, it would be with the conclusion that…
…not all music education results are created equal.
In a band blog article/announcement about Volunteering, I was encouraging and recruiting student volunteers for a fundraising dinner, a pep band that we were taking to play at a small Christian college’s basketball game, and another pep band invited to the local YMCA to play for a tournament involving their young basketball league.
To make a point, I shared a personal family story:
In 2001, David graduated high school Valedictorian in a class of 470. He chose to go to Duke University, where the 4-yr sticker price was close to $170,000. He had earned a good package of both merit based and financial need components — but was going to be about $32,000 short over his four years there. To go to Duke for $8,000/yr is pretty amazing, but he could have gone for FREE if he had known this one thing.
By John Gardner (view LinkedIn Profile)
Sometimes, engaging and talking to teens, outside the authoritative imbalance of parent/child or teacher/student is challenging. If you catch them with the wrong group of friends, they may ignore or give you the peer-pressure-influenced reaction. Or you picked the day that they just broke up or had some other type of unrelated tragedy.
Never let a less than stellar first attempt turn into a lasting negative impression.
Of course, there are those who make and even start fun, friendly conversations. Most are engaging and appreciative (even if they don’t admit it) that a teacher is showing interest in them or in what is going on in their lives.
For some of the others, what follows is one of my favorite tactics.
By John Gardner
Teens are looking for part-time jobs during high school. Common is the parental directive that he must at least pay the insurance and for the gas to drive the family car — or to purchase her own vehicle.
The challenge, for both the student and the employer is the complexity of band student’s schedule.
Band students make better employees and employers find the payback for working around rehearsal and performance schedules is a win-win for the business too.
Marching bands start training right after school is out in the Spring, if not before. During these early sessions, a challenge is to keep the newbies from giving up.
After enjoying top-of-the-heap status in middle school they start high school marching band at the bottom of the section with the lowest status and the least seniority. New skill requirements include memorizing music, horn angles, posture and feet-with-the-beat. Never before have they had to endure high temperature rehearsals that last 2-3-4 hours at a time, often standing with water and restroom breaks few and far between. Everybody (directors, staff, section leaders, seniors, upperclassmen) is telling them they’re messing up and pressuring (hopefully constructively) them to “get it”. They are thrust into a whole new level of physical activity with a strict discipline code. Some will quit and most will think about it as they try to answer the question, “What did I get myself into?”
“Band will be fun. It is fun being together during the football games, on the buses for those long trips, and for hours at competitions. But before you get to the fun part, you have to pay the price…..and there is no short cut, no easy way out, no discount. Pay the price and enjoy the results.”
By the time they are old enough to get a job, they have learned to pay the price. They have seen the benefits of dedication and are willing to commit to a job. Band students won’t quit the job because the manager gives them criticism because they understand that is what makes them better. And they learn that striving for excellence is a worthy goal.
At the age they are joining marching band, teens are battling with balancing the reality that they are not quite adults with the increasing desire for freedom, responsibility and individuality. Some rebel against parents, push back against teachers and are super-sensitive to peer-criticism. And yet, marching band requires they give up individual freedoms for the good of the cause, makes them earn responsibility and tells them they have to look, act and behave like everybody else – uniformity.
The first time they are thrust into a fast-paced, pressurized workplace environment, teens from the general school population will be more likely to throw a tantrum, quit — or get fired. Not band students.
Band students understand the value of,
and respect for chain of command.
Students are together in lots of different classroom mixes, but only for fifty minutes on school days for a semester or two. Band students can be together for 10-15 hours Monday through Thursday, plus 3 hours for a Friday night football game and 14 hours for a Saturday rehearsal/competition. Couples break up, personalities don’t mesh, they come from different parts of town and with different family and economic situations — but they learn to work together, a skill many non-band teens and a lot of adults never develop.
As I talk to teens (and even many of their parents), one of the most common reasons to quit a job is because of relationships with co-workers. Band students will be even more frustrated with the mediocrity and lack of cooperation and weak work ethic they will find in the workplace, but they will commit to making it work.
In a part-time work environment there will be competition for hours, raises, promotions and responsibilities. The tendency is to look out for self and to heck with the other guy. Students compete within a band but they want everyone to do well. They compete with other bands but will wish them good luck as they pass on the way to the competition field. They will applaud for other bands – even those that beat them. Band students are team players and they understand sportsmanship.
By the time they’re ready for that first job (students usually turn 16 during sophomore or junior year), band students have already learned patience as marching band staff is teaching or fixing drill; perseverance and endurance through extreme temperatures, long rehearsals and so much more we teacher types throw at them.
They understand, through the system of seniority in most bands, that they will need to prove themselves and demonstrate strong work ethic to earn leadership positions or, when they get a job, a raise.
There is often a penalty for arriving late to a band rehearsal. When I was in a marching band, it was a lap around the field per minute late. Some bands use push-ups — or job assignments. Arrive late today and you get to take the water to the field tomorrow. And because there are always new things happening in a rehearsal, missing is never an option. Some bands will make you an alternate for an unexcused absence. So when band students get a job with a schedule, they are there — and on time.
Bands rehearse scores of hours per minute of marching band show. Stretches, running and endurance exercises, fundamentals (yes, they already know how to march, right?) and then sets of drill over, and over. Do they get tired? Absolutely, but they understand the price of success and that there are no shortcuts to achieving it.
Band students learn that there are
no shortcuts to success.
Most years, prior to the final competition of the season, we allow seniors to talk to the band. They say a variety of things, but there are two predominant themes: 1) Band is family, and 2) band taught them responsibility with accountability.
Where, outside of public education, is the focus on making the student (or employee) feel good about themselves at the expense of excellence? We read about schools eliminating valedictorians and class rank or even grades, so lower achievers don’t get a negative vibe.
When my child was in first grade, the education fad of the day was a program called “writing to read”, where the emphasis was on the child being able to read whatever they wrote. Spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc…. were not corrected. Teachers emphasized that a child reader would have a higher self-esteem.
Students who have gone through a feel-good system can hit a brick wall when they get to college or into the workforce. Good band directors instill in their students that a healthy self-esteem comes through achieving excellence. In that pursuit, however, the student learns to accept criticism from directors, staff, seniors and section leaders – and they are willing to pay the price to get the prize. Here is a post I wrote about Excellence and Self Esteem.
Because of their extreme rehearsal schedules on top of homework and, especially with the responsibilities of a job, band students develop good time management skills.
Band students make better employees. Hire them.
By John Gardner
Students are worth fighting (advocating) for and deserve teachers who CAN (proficient, competent), who CARE (compassionate, empathetic), who CONNECT (communicate with, not at), who COLLABORATE and COMMUNICATE with colleagues and parents, who COORDINATE all that goes into providing an organized, informed and inspiring atmosphere, and who CHALLENGE what constricts their enthusiasm. I want to be one of those.
I used a portion of the above as a facebook status and received a significant response from students, parents and others. One assumed I had just returned from a professional seminar…I took that as a compliment.
Have you ever heard comments like these from students? I have.
He is a terrible teacher. He can’t do anything outside his teacher textbook or PowerPoint presentation that he got from the textbook website.
If I am going to learn this, I’m going to have to do it myself.
I used to like [insert subject].
She doesn’t care about me, doesn’t know who I am or anything about me and probably doesn’t even know my name….’cause she never calls me by name.
That was probably up to date information a decade ago.
“Digitizing Media as a Profit Center“
Students deserve teachers who CAN. In a music setting, students deserve teachers who are proficient musicians. Whether you call it modeling or some other name, they need to know that you know what you’re talking about. Vocal students probably get to hear their choir teacher sing more often than instrumental students hear the teacher play or perform on their main instrument.
I was working with a group of freshmen students on a combination of scale, finger technique and breathing skills by playing a scale multiple times on one breath. At one point, a clarinet student interrupted me with, “C’mon, these instruments can’t go any faster than that.” I got my clarinet out and zipped through a 3-octave chromatic scale multiple times in a breath. The next question; “How did you do that?”
That provided an amazing teaching moment.
Students deserve teachers who CARE. Yes, there are lines, boundaries and appropriate behaviors and otherwise…but one of the problems with teens is that they feel they are nothing more than educational fodder into which we professionals are to dump vast amounts of useless (their perception) information.
At what age are students no longer touchable or hug-able? I have had students in my office (even on the side of the marching rehearsal field) break down with emotion as they tell me about heavy duty drama at home, with job, boy/girl friend, or when they can’t get that marching set or flag toss. I don’t make a habit of hugging everybody (and shouldn’t), opting more often for high fives, hand shakes and shoulder taps….but sometimes ….sometimes, that student, boy or girl, needs a hug or an arm around the back onto a shoulder. Sometimes a proper touch is a powerful force for which there is no equal substitute.
“Moneytizing the Band Blog”
Students deserve teachers who CONNECT. It is difficult to connect with a student unless they perceive that you know your stuff and that you care about them as an individual.
He talks at me, not with me.
She’s up there and I’m down here.
My grandma/grandpa died, but if I cry in class I’ll be in trouble.
I got this in a thank you note following a graduation open house visit:
Thanks for being there for me during my troubled teenage years. When family and parents are so totally dysfunctional, it is good to know that I could go to someone and share my burden and get encouragement and advice. I don’t know why (well, yes I kinda do) so many teachers are afraid of students…. but thanks for not being one of them.
Students deserve teachers who COLLABORATE and COMMUNICATE with other teachers, parents, and others on their behalf. Have you ever had a student who is stressed about another class because he/she is convinced the teacher has mis-understood (or mis-judged) him and is afraid to say anything….and you help out? Or how about a student who has zero support from home and trying to get through the FAFSA/Financial Aid jungle alone….and you help or make a call to the college FinAid department? Or what about students applying for jobs and scholarships. Do you make a call or write a letter on her behalf?
“S-Steps To Success”
Students deserve teachers who plan, organize and COORDINATE all that goes into providing an organized, informed and inspiring atmosphere. The student’s locker and probably their home bedroom are likely disaster areas. Their home life might be a total wreck. They deserve structure and to know that they are important enough that you have spent some time getting ready for them. Some teachers may think they can “wing it”, but students can detect that. When they want improvisation, they will go to a jazz/rock concert. They need structured freedom to explore and learn, not disorganized chaos.
Students deserve teachers who will CHALLENGE what constricts them.
It was about one of my own sons that I sat several years ago in a middle school principal’s office enduring a fist banging on the desk accusation of “pushing” my kid.
My response as a parent, and now as a teacher, is to prevent walls from being erected in the path of student progress.
Thanks for reading,
By John Gardner
The Department Chair who, as part of his mission to clean up the over stuffed music library, asked the band directors about the LP record collection.
“You guys have hundreds, if not thousands, of LP records taking up space in here….”
He had a point, but it also encourages some questions:
I asked a group of band parents how many had LP and VHS media at home. Someone asked me back if I was including 45’s and Beta. Oh my! Yes. Most of the adults in the room raised their hands. When I asked how many had a way to play them, about 3/4 of those hands went down. When I asked if they knew how, or knew how to get that media digitized (put on CD/DVD, etc), almost every hand went down.
You can easily find service providers via Internet who will digitize your old media. Because my initial emphasis is on records and tapes, I’m going to focus on those vs the Betamax tapes, 8mm and 15mm filmstrips and other media that some of you (and me) have….
The easiest, cheapest and least good option would be for an “Exact Transfer”, which basically means copying your media “as is” without making any changes to it. So if there is a pop or fuzziness on your old record, you will hear that on the CD/DVD. Prices I saw for making an exact transfer of an LP record ranged from a low of $15 to a high of $25 per LP with variations of discounts based on volume.
A higher level of service would involve using some “editing” software to create tracks and to correct some of the extra noise. Obviously if your record has a huge scratch, you might have an issue — but there is no question that digitized media has a more pure sound. A non-exhaustive search discovered rates as high as $39.95/LP to transfer and improve the recording.
The BIGGEST negative is that you have to send off your media. Some of us have old records that cannot be replaced. I have a couple dozen LP’s of my high school, summer camps, specialty clinics and college bands from “back in the day” where that was a popular form of recording. What if I ship them off and don’t get them back? What if they are damaged in transit — in either direction?
Some of the service providers SELL specialty boxes in which you can place a small quantity of LP records — and those boxes, which are almost a necessity, are a major profit item for the vendor. They also offer (some include, but others charge) to “wash/clean” the LP prior to playing/recording. So, by the time I order several of those boxes, get them shipped to me, then pay both the shipping to and from the digitizer vendor and have my records cleaned for best result — my bottom line price is significantly higher than even the prices they advertise.
Hence, people tend NOT to mess with it.
What if you offered a FREE PICKUP/DROP OFF service (or even charge extra to do that)? I would be much more willing to provide a stack of my media to someone at my front door — or to take them somewhere local than I would be to do the shipping thing.
Need a way to supplement your fundraising business or to utilize during the off season?
What if your schools or bands ran a “DIGITIZING OLD MEDIA” fundraiser through you where YOU picked up the media, serviced it and returned it to them? It wouldn’t even have to, and probably shouldn’t be an everybody does it at one time type sale for a couple main reasons: 1) You could be overwhelmed with an amount of work in a really short period of time, and 2) I believe people would be more apt to “test” a service with the idea of doing more later, and 3) if you operated like the magazine companies….you would service the first set and then communicate with the customers directly about additional digitizing ….. (or variations).
Your pricing for this ongoing service could be adjusted for those groups who also run their traditional fundraiser(s) through you.
What does a CD cost? A DVD? Both are under $.50ea, especially in quantity. Most of your overhead in this type of project would be TIME. Equipment needed is minimal and a lot of that is low cost or even free. If someone pays you $25 to spend about 45 minutes copying an LP, you’re doing ok. And if you can copy multiple LPs in that 45 minutes, or copying some while editing others, you’re doing even better.
Thanks for reading.
By John Gardner
Teen years can be trying times. Parents may be fighting, separating, dating and remarrying, which means the teen now has to not only deal with a break up of a foundation in his/her life, but often now has to live in multiple households. Some have to adjust to step-siblings, job losses, financial struggles and more.
Then, there are the complexities of school with seemingly unending pressures to perform, trying to get through the dating games, often without an anchor or example to follow. Influenced by increasingly negative social standards, or lack of standards….. teens can get caught in the rise and falling tides.
Most learn how to negotiate life’s trying currents, but can turn the wrong way, make a miscalculation or poor decision — and find themselves high and dry on the beach…..and they need help. Not every student needs, wants or will accept a teacher’s help. Sometimes the teacher’s effort is both unappreciated and unsuccessful.
But try we must…because we CAN make a difference “to THAT one“.
Dear music student,
There is only so much that can be done within the large ensemble setting. The director must focus on the total sound and can find it difficult to use rehearsal time for significant individual technique teaching. And besides, your director is a specialist on at least one instrument, but probably not on every instrument.
When your director was in college, he/she had a crash course (called methods classes) on every instrument group. For example, a “Woodwind Methods” class will roate people every 2-3 weeks so that they can experience most instruments within that 12 week semester. Similarly with brass, percussion and strings methods classes, the idea is to give the student an overview (not an expertise) of every instrument so he/she can offer general instruction in ensemble class.
Studying with a specialist on your instrument is the fastest way to improve. With individual instruction, you get all the attention for faster progress that others will notice.
A music coach can help with…
It is never too soon, and never too late, but a late start can be problematic for music majors going to top rated schools. Beginners can get a good foundational jump start. Everyone can move faster and get better. Once a student has a serious desire to pursue music in college, it is really important to get some specialized training. Top rated schools will likely expect more than you can do on your own, even for admission. And then, depending on the size of the program, if inadequately prepared you can find yourself starting farther down the proficiency chain than you’d rather. You’ll be auditioning for scholarships, for participation in the top ensembles, for chair placement and even for the right to study with the top professor.
How often can be financially driven. Ideal is weekly, but even twice monthly can accomplish a lot. Any specialized help is better than none.
=====> Virtual Music Lessons or Critique <=====
How much will it cost? I am writing from Northeast Indiana. Locally the going rate is about $15 for a 30-45 minute lesson. To study with a member of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic Orchestra (nearest professional group), the rate can be about $40 for an hour.
What if I can’t afford it? Ask for help. There are sometimes community organizations that will help. In the past handful of years, I have had underwriters sponsor a student for a period of time, helped students win local scholarships for lessons, and negotiated special arrangements with teachers. In multiple cases, once parents have realized the improvement and excitement, they find a way to justify or to pay for continued training. In an article called Excellence and Self Esteem, I include a description of my high school clarinet teacher, including how I couldn’t afford to study with him and the solution he offered. I had help when I was in high school and am always looking for ways to help others as well. And most teachers will want to work with a student who wants to work hard. Never give up!
Hope this helps. Let me know if I can help.
by John Gardner
Searching at home for a book, I discovered a 1989 edition of Robert Fulghum’s book, All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten.
What an easy read of short, humorous, 2-3 page stories of events most can remember or associate with. I suspect 25th edition, available on Amazon addresses more from the cellular, computer and social media worlds.
Reading, I started thinking – two things, actually. First, that I agree with Fulghum’s Sunday school sandbox list, because much of what is eternally important, anyway, I learned in Sunday school. For the purpose of this article, however, I ask,
“Wouldn’t it be fun to have our very own list of life lessons learned in marching band?”
There are some marching band lists published, but most are specific, or include specific school or director names. After you read what I found on the back of the book cover and consider some guidelines, then GO with it – and have fun!
Here’s what is on the back cover, unedited:
Most of what I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sandpile at Sunday school. These are the things I learned:
Don’t hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
Live a balanced life-learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
Take a nap every afternoon.
When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
Be aware of wonder.
What are some things you learned in band? Include marching, concert, pep or jazz bands, orchestras – from anywhere and any time. I am looking for honest encouragement, sarcastic humor and anything that is clean, fun and does not attack an individual or group. No names. It can be a specific instance as long as it would be understandable and appropriate for a general audience. Consider or elaborate on things like: