If you don’t have a private lesson program for your band, your students can still be wildly successful! Here are some ideas how divided into two categories.
The two main reasons for this issue are usually:
— Distance (The school is not within range of a large group of professional players.)
— Money (The students do not have financial means to pay for lessons.)
If you don’t have a private lesson program because of DISTANCE:
1) Use high school students as mentors. You can also use advanced band members to mentor beginners. Start with your top most responsible players and let the program grow. Students that have mentors when they are young will be excited to become a mentor later.
2) Bring the clinicians to your students. Just because you can’t get teachers to come weekly doesn’t mean you can’t get clinicians out for a special occasion. Make the most of it. Have a “trumpet party” and have the kids stay after school so you can be in the clinic and take notes. This way you can continue the work when the teacher is gone. Order pizza for the kids at the end – surefire way to have good attendance! Remind the students of what they learned over the next few weeks. They will need the repetition for the concepts to stick.
3) A different way than bringing the clinicians to the kids is to take the kids to the clinicians. One year we took about 25 of our top players to West Texas A&M University – a 8-hour drive round trip. We had 2-hour sectionals with a bunch of their professors on region band music all on one day. It was an amazing experience for our students to be on the college campus and fun for the professors to work with excited top students. Many of those same students had attended and continued attending band camp there for years. Some of those same students are now band directors. One long day for us – totally worth the experience for the kids.
4) I haven’t done this personally, but know of private lesson teachers that use skype or facetime for lessons. Although this seems a bit foreign to me, I’m sure for students this would be second nature. Definitely worth looking into.
5) Consider using an outstanding teacher for more than one instrument. For example, if you have a teacher that is willing to drive an hour to get to you but needs more students to make it worth it, consider letting them teach 2 instruments. Saxophone and clarinet or all low brass. Many professionals double on more than one instrument and are more than competent on them. If they are a great motivator and teacher, it can be a good solution.
If you don’t have a private lesson program because of MONEY:
6) Consider double lessons or even group lessons. The students pay reduced rate but still get the benefit of professional guidance. Be aware there are drawbacks for the lesson teacher in this situation, so be sure the arrangement works for everyone.
7) Have a group sectional with lesson teacher where the school pays most or all. I believe the kids will be more committed if they pay something – even $1 each time, but it also works for the school to pay the full fee.
8) Trade with another director for sectionals on your own specialized instruments. Find a colleague in the same situation and you go teach their clarinet sectional or small group lessons and have them come teach your trombones.
9) Are there college students available? Although they may not be as experienced or qualified as professionals, if they are dedicated to music education and committed to helping your students it can be a benefit to your program. They should be willing to teach for a lower amount. Remind them that you can be a great reference for them when they start applying for jobs and the experience will look great on a resume.
10) Schedule individual times with the students instead of or in addition to sectionals. This might be before or after school (or during band by another director). You may not be able to demonstrate on their instruments, but the one-on-one support, teaching, and accountability can certainly be taken care of by a director. If you’ve never done this before, try it for solo season and see how it goes.
11) Set up pass-off contests with recognition for people that succeed. This encourages the kids that want the help to come in and you spend your time with them most motivated students. They get the benefits of playing for you (to pass-off objectives by individually) and have goals set by the pass-off requirements, whatever they might be.
A 1999 music education graduate of WTAMU, Tamarie Sayger held band director positions in Plano and Odessa, TX for 5 years. As a private clarinet instructor in Texas for 16 years, she has taught hundreds of students from grade 6-12 in classes, sectionals, and individual lessons. She has presented at district in-services and co-presented at the Texas Bandmasters Association convention. Her website, CrossingTheBreak.com, provides resources for clarinet teachers around the country. Mrs. Sayger is also a core contributor for BandDirectorsTalkShop.com, primarily on the subjects of clarinet and private lessons.Her podcast, Crossing The Break, can be found on iTunes.
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