We’ve heard many requests recently for help from music educators who have a background in vocal or string pedagogy and find themselves teaching instrumental music. Welcome to the band world! We hope this article helps give you ideas of resources to use as you broaden and improve your instrumental pedagogy knowledge.
Find a mentor! Ideally, you could connect with an experienced instrumental teacher in your area who is willing and able to guide you in this new specialization. If it is not possible to find someone locally, finding a long-distance mentor is certainly better than going at it alone. Either ask your mentor to come in and watch you teach and observe your students, or send recordings and videos of you and your classes to the mentor. Ask for honest, specific feedback to help you improve as quickly as possible. Connect with your mentor as often as possible during your first year or two in the band space and continue to ask for their advice as needed after the first few years are completed.
2) Band Directors Talk Shop
Yes, we’re including ourselves. 🙂 This website has over 300 articles written by 80+ music educators from around the United States. While this is still far from comprehensive, as any band director knows, it’s a great place to start! Be sure you utilize the SEARCH FEATURE and the categories to help you find articles on the specific topic you are needing:
If you are using a mobile device to look-up articles on banddirectorstalkshop.com, the search and category features are re-aligned at the VERY BOTTOM of the screen. You will want to scroll down, past the front page articles until you find the search bar, and a little below that, the categories.
Podcasts are a wonderful way to get a lot of information packed into a short period of time, as well as something you can consume while driving, exercising, cleaning, or taking care of other matters (such as setting up chairs and stands!). There are many podcasts that have come out in the last couple of years with everything from general interviews to very specific and methodical pedagogy. Some example of these podcasts are: After Sectionals, Everything Band , Crossing the Break (clarinet), The Music Ed Podcast, Program Notes Podcast, and Music Ed Mentor Podcast.
4) Facebook Groups
Facebook groups can be an online forum to gain quick ideas and larger perspective throughout the school year. While you will not often be able to establish a professional mentor relationship through a Facebook group, it is another way to seek advice from directors in a variety of situations quickly and easily. A few Facebook groups we recommend are: Band Director Group, Middle School Band Directors, Beginning Band Engagement (sponsored by BandDirectorsTalkShop).
5) Teachers Pay Teachers
6) Learn Alongside Your Students
The great thing about teaching beginning band is that NOBODY sounds good in the beginning! A beginner band class is the perfect opportunity to learn the fundamentals of a new instrument alongside your students (without letting them in on the fact that you’re not an expert player!) We believe that taking an active, hands on role in your teaching will help you become a better director while your students become better musicians. Remind yourself that it is never too late to start something new, including new instruments. You may even want to consider picking an instrument that will become your “primary” and take some private lessons from a local teacher.
7) Band Directors’ Workshop
This intensive professional development (about 30 hours in 1 week!) takes place in Canyon, TX every July. Read more HERE and sign up to receive updates about the workshop at the bottom of that article. Life. Changing.
8) Listen to Professional Artists Regularly
If you are new to teaching instrumental music, it is a good idea to listen to professional artists as often as you can to get an idea of what a very good, quality characteristic sound is on every instrument. Another idea is to share your listening list with your students! If you need a good place to start, you can check out these woodwind and brass YouTube lists.
9) Instrument Repairs and Maintenance
Find a local music store and get to know the people that work there. Meet with them regularly for tips on quick maintenance and repairs that you can do yourself school. There are so many quick tips that can learned to avoid trips to the repair shops. Build relationships with those guys and you will learn so much! (FREE instrument care instructions for French horn can be found HERE.)
10) Have a Teachable Spirit
We believe that in order to be successful, it is important to have a good attitude and a teachable spirit. The moment you think you know it all, the less effective you become as a teacher. Remember to call up those mentors and remind yourself that it is ok to not know everything. The questions you have are the same ones others may have, too. Be brave and ask away!
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