Motivate Your Band – The Band Puzzle

Share this story of the “Band Puzzle” with your students to help them understand how their individual piece fits into the big picture…

Have you ever put together a 1,000 piece puzzle with a group of people?  My family loves puzzles.  When we first start we dump out all the pieces and flip them all over and start sorting. If it was a Disney puzzle we might put all the Mickey Mouse pieces in one pile, all the Minnie Mouse pieces in another, all the Pluto pieces in another, and Goofy, and Tigger.  So there might be 5 piles. 

And imagine you’re at a family reunion and you have 20 people at the house and they are all helping with this puzzle.  So you take each pile and divide it again.  And your job may end up being to work on Minnie Mouse’s bow.  Just her bow.  So you have your 50 or 100 pieces and you’re working on her bow.  And you are focused.  You’re matching pieces and turning and clicking and doing great on your little Minnie Mouse’s bow.  And her bow is important.  I mean without her bow, you wouldn’t even recognize Minnie.  So you have a really important job that you’re focused on. 

But every so often you look up.  You look around the living room and kitchen at everyone else at their little spots on the card tables and the dining table and the tray tables.  And you see them working just as hard on their parts.  On Mickey’s hands and Pluto’s ears, and Goofy’s hat and Tigger’s tail.  And you realize that your very small part is really just part of the whole.  That when you take your part all finished and complete and you put it together with everyone else’s work that they spent time and effort on, you will get the whole picture.  That your part must match up with all the parts around it to make it complete.

That is like band.

The band is divided into sections – flutes, trombones, percussion
The sections may be divided further – 1st clarinet, 2nd clarinet, 3rd clarinet
And within that section we have individual people – Johnny, Suzie, Bobby
And each of you has your own part you have to learn and perfect.
You take your part home.
You learn the notes.
You learn the rhythms.
You fix the tuning.
And then you come to band and we put all those parts together to make music. We make the “band puzzle.”

To see the final picture.
To hear the final product.
Complete.

Sometimes individual players get so focused on their own part, they forget to look up.  To “listen up” around the room.  If you’re a flute player you have to know how your part fits with the trombones.  Saxophones need to know how their part fits with the trumpets.  Who has the melody?  Who else has your secondary line? It’s all one picture.  One puzzle.  The Band Puzzle.

Now, let me ask you another question. Have you ever worked at 1,000 piece puzzle and you spend hours on it.  And it’s all coming together.  And you get to the last pieces.  Piece number 995, 996, 997, 998, 999…. and there is a piece missing?  (Groan)

When you look at the puzzle, what do you see?  The 999 pieces that are there?  Or the 1 piece that is missing?
Right – the 1 piece that is missing.  That’s what it’s like if you don’t come prepared on your part to band rehearsal.

– If everyone is playing the right note except 1 person who is playing the wrong note, we hear the wrong note.
– If everyone is playing the right rhythm except 1 person who is playing a wrong rhythm, we hear the wrong rhythm.
– If everyone is playing in tune and 1 person is out of tune, we hear the out of tune.

You are important.  You matter.  You are heard. You are a piece of the band puzzle.
It’s always the small pieces that make the BIG difference.

The Band Puzzle

For more motivational stories to tell your band, try these:
No Work, No Reward (the story of the Little Red Hen)
Reach Higher (a Tim Lautzenheiser activity)

Related Reading:
So, I Teach Band at a Low SES School…Now What?
Teaching Clarinets to “Roll to A” Isn’t Enough

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