If pro orchestra conductors were evaluated like HS music teachers

By John Gardner

I am pouring over spreadsheet data for my “Evaluator”. How many administrator evaluators have music ensemble experience? My boss will use this data to determine [exact terminology altered] “Amazing”, “Satisfactory”, “Help-me” or “Almost Outta Here” teacher status, which, in turn, affects employment status and pay. What would happen if professional orchestra conductors were evaluated like high school music teachers?

A professional orchestra conductor must select repertoire, rehearse and perform entertaining music at an excellence level to attract large audiences purchasing expensive tickets regularly.

Chicago Symphony Tickets

I like that the current emphasis in education is in making sure every student is learning, as it should be. But how do you prove it? A concert demonstrates the overall effectiveness of the teacher/conductor, but it does not prove individual ensemble participant improvement.

OrchestraIf pro orchestra conductors were evaluated like HS music teachers…

Read the following as
instructions to the conductor.
NOTE: Official terms
and designations
intentionally altered in this article.

As you write your objectives, keep in mind that your Professional Orchestra objectives and your effectiveness as a conductor will be determined by your evaluator who, in your case, is the Police Chief. The data you present will affect your employment status and pay increase/decrease.


excellentEnsemble Objective

Step 1: The Assessment Tool

Define the assessment that will be used to determine level of achievement toward objective. Audience reaction or performance recording of a CONCERT will not work because it does not differentiate individual participant content mastery. You may use an approved rubric to evaluate individual participants playing concert selections as one of your three data points. Indicate which, how many and how each educational standard is met — keeping in mind that the standards may be written by elected politicians with no musical expertise or understanding of professional orchestras.

Before writing the objective, you must define and divide your participants into Advanced, Average and Low Preparedness groups.

  • Indicate THREE DATA POINTS used to divide the participants into advanced, average and low preparedness groups. It doesn’t matter what level your group is, you must have three defined levels. For example, if you had a Community Orchestra and a Professional Orchestra, both groups must have three levels of preparedness. You could use theirinitial audition as one data point, unless that wasprior to this semester — in which case you will have toindicate three NEW and CURRENT data points. Acceptable data points could include:
    • Individual playing test on current music
    • Sight-reading
    • SAT or some other standardized test score

Your data points must be pre-approved by your evaluator.

  • Indicate the EXPECTED LEVEL OF MASTERY. Keep in mind that your evaluation as an effective conductor will be based on how many meet your expected level of mastery, so don’t set it too high. An acceptable mastery level would be 80%. If you are using an individual assessment of the concert repertoire, mastery would be a demonstration that the individual can perform 80% of the music correctly.

It would be educationally inappropriate to expect 100% mastery. The goal is not perfection, the goal is improvement.

Step 2: Level of Participant Preparedness

Using your three data points as determining factors, list, by name, the participants in each of the preparedness levels; Advanced, Average, Low.

Step 3: Learning Objectives

For an AMAZING RATING, show that an “above average” number will achieve content mastery. You don’t have to list members, but you must indicate numbers.

For a SATISFACTORY RATING, show that an average number will achieve mastery.

For a HELP-ME RATING, indicate the below average number achieving mastery that would indicate YOU NEED HELP.

And then, indicate what few numbers of students achieving mastery that would indicate that you are ALMOST OUTTA HERE as a conductor.

Targeted Objective

The targeted objective is specifically designed to indicate the level of improvement of those in the lowest preparedness level.

No, you may not simply fire them from the orchestra based on your subjective determination of musical excellence….

You must design a plan for each participant to improve and then document and prove the level of improvement achieved.

Using those in your lowest preparedness group, indicate your assessment tool and then, specifically, what improvement by what number of participants will indicate that you are Amazing, Satisfactory, Need Help or Almost Outta Here as a conductor.

Prior to putting it into effect, you must get all of the above steps approved by your evaluator, knowing that this can be a back and forth until the evaluator “approves”. NOTE that you evaluator may not be trained or expert in your particular area.

Your “Professional Orchestra” objectives may be evaluated by the “Police Chief”, for example.

Once your plan has been approved you may execute you plan. This is IN ADDITION TO PREPARING FOR YOUR PROFESSIONAL ORCHESTRA PERFORMANCE REQUIREMENTS.

Reporting Results

At the end of the semester:

  1. In the online evaluation tool, indicate the data performance results. Specify how many in each level reached and failed to reach mastery.
  2. Submit the following data via spreadsheet
    • Alphabetical listing of participants.
    • The pre-test score from the first week of the semester.
    • Three additional data points. Define the points and list the data per participant.
    • Final exam grade
    • Percentage of the final exam used to determine those meeting your target objective
    • Number of rehearsals each participant missed

Upon receipt of your data, your evaluator will schedule a meeting with you to discuss and disclose your effectiveness.

Oh, and by the way — we still expect your orchestra to perform exceptionally in concert so more people will come and we can charge higher ticket prices.

education level conceptual meter

17 yrs experience as a high school band director. 14 yrs as college adjunct faculty. 30+ yrs in the fundraising industry and 24 yrs as a small business owner. (Don't add all those up.). Experience in both the fundraising sales and education worlds give me a unique combination of perspectives in both. I love working with the youthful enthusiasm of today's teenage achievers and with those who work with them. Also 4yrs as proprietor of VirtualMusicOffice.com, which offers a wide variety of virtual services including web/blog design/hosting/managing, social media management (scheduling posts/tweets for maximum impact and brand enhancement) and small business consulting - specializing in school product fundraising.

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