The Most Important Thing I Learned as a Music Education Major (from 70+ band directors)

What’s the most helpful thing you learned during your music education classes in college or during student teaching?

band director tips and advice

The Practical

  • How to actually teach rhythm
  • Woodwind and brass tech classes
  • How to diagnose woodwind playing issues
  • Fingerings class with Dr. Garner (learning all fingerings for all instruments at 100% to pass)
  • Pedagogy of the instruments (x2)
  • How to “teach beginners” on each instrument (x3)
  • Hands on playing of various instruments (x6)
  • Pick one instrument each year and work really hard to learn it so you can play at a class A or class B level.  This will keep your students wanting to practice too!
  • Transpositions
  • The harmonic series

Working With Others

  • No one is the enemy unless you make them that way.
  • Positive relationships with EVERYONE are the key to success!
  • The school maintenance staff and the school secretaries are your most important people in a school, work well with them and thank them often. (x7)
  • To avoid other people’s drama.
  • Don’t debate with people… and plan it out.
  • Go into any kind of meeting with an idea of the various outcomes that could take place and have a good idea of the outcome you really want.
  • Be flexible and open to change (x2)
  • Respect differences in opinion. (x2)

Promoting your Program

  • How to advocate for my own program
  • Always leaving my wish list with a principal has come in handy.
  • Develop a rapport with students, faculty, administration, and parents.
    Valentines Music Game
  • Rehearsals/Programing/Performances
  • Sectionals are key to a superior band
  • Becoming familiar with repertoire
  • Rehearsal techniques (x2)
  • Never turn your back on a saxophone section
  • What to listen for in music
  • The importance of eye contact when conducting. Memorize your scores!
  • Dress rehearsals are for making weird last mistakes. Don’t freak out or you’ll freak everyone out.
  • Talk less, play more. (x2)
  • Keeping music at the center of the class will help solve classroom management issues.   (x2)
  • Not to over program.
  • Practice until you can’t get it wrong.
  • Tons of analogies for everything–especially helpful teaching beginners
  • The personality of the director directly influences the personality of the ensemble.
  • Fake it ‘til you make it.


  • Plan as far in advance as possible.  Plan the concepts you want to teach, find the literature that addresses it, and work arduously to that end. (x8)
  • Time management
  • How to switch it up on a dime. When one strategy isn’t working, how to teach it a different way or switch it up quickly to keep students engaged.

The Students

  • We teach people. Band/music is our medium, but always know that our job is to teach people. Never teach to the song/piece of music. You have to teach the whole individual whenever you can.
  • To have compassion for our students.
  • Put yourself in your students’ shoes and always analyze what you’re doing from their perspective.
  • When something doesn’t go as planned don’t blame the students, self-assess. (x2)
  • Students love to help with classroom duties and giving them small “jobs” both takes a load off of you as a teacher and makes them feel more included.
  • Emotional objectivity when students misbehave
  • Students live up to your expectations
  • If you expect it, the kids can achieve it. They are only held back by you.
  • The kids really want to be able to connect with you.

Never Stop Learning

  • It’s OK to be wrong
  • Never be afraid to seek help or ways to improve.
  • Ask questions! Mentors are incredibly important to getting your career off to a strong start.
  • ALWAYS be in search of excellence. Why settle for less?

Winter Music Games- Note Name Game

 Related Reading:
Tips on Teaching Intonation (from 60+ Band Directors)

One Thing That Improved Student Performance in Band (Well, Really 64 Things…)

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