What are your “non-negotiables?” You know, those key points on which your band program is built? If you’re like many, COVID and virtual teaching has created some long-term issues for the students who are in our programs. Where do you start fixing those issues? For me, it was with the non-negotiables.
- Posture: How do my students sit in a chair, set their music stand, and hold an instrument? Is it consistent throughout my program from the beginning band to my most talented senior?
- Instrument Maintenance: Doing weekly maintenance results in fewer repairs, less lost class time, and better student retention; yet oftentimes, we neglect it because “we don’t have time to do that during class” or “they should be doing it on their own.” Develop a routine, stick to it and watch your students become more successful as they take ownership of their instrument, its care and maintenance, and their instrument will work better!
- Reed Checks: Reed checks are also vital. There are many different opinions on what kind of reeds students should play on. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about students having three or four good reeds at all times, rotating those reeds daily, and being aware of when a reed should be removed from the rotation. Good reeds are a foundation to good sound on reed instruments. We must pay attention to their care and quality!
- Correct Fingerings: As directors, it really is our responsibility to ensure that our students are using the correct fingerings in the correct octaves. Teach your students how to read a fingering chart, have one handy yourself if you need it, and insist on the appropriate fingerings in the appropriate octaves.
- Rehearsal Etiquette: Again, this will vary from director to director and where tolerance levels lay. However, do your students know what your expectations are for how they will rehearse? Do they abide by them, or do you find yourself leaving rehearsals wondering why you didn’t get much done? Are you rehearsing for learning or survival?
- Program Culture: let’s face it, every band program has a culture. The question is, does it draw students in? Does it keep them there and happy, or does it push them away? Have you worked to deliberately set your program’s culture? Are you happy with it? Are your kids happy?
Hopefully, I’ve given you something to think about as you continue your school year. So ask yourself, “What are my non-negotiables?”
Danika White is currently in her 28th year of teaching and is a band director at Southwest High School, Southwest ISD in San Antonio, TX. She has had the privilege of teaching in very diverse positions in both Missouri and Texas throughout her career. Those positions include K-12 vocal/instrumental, 6-12 band as the only band director, head director of several 6-12 band programs, and every other variation thereof. Ms. White’s students have found success in both concert and marching band settings, have represented their communities in the Missouri All-State Band, at the National Memorial Day Parade, and as lifelong lovers of music and music education. Much of her career has been in Title One school districts and Ms. White has written several articles for Band Directors Talk Shop discussing teaching in Title One school districts and serving those students at the highest level possible.
Ms. White earned a Bachelor of Music in Education from Central Methodist University and a Master of Music in Flute Performance from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. A member of Phi Beta Mu, TMEA, TBA, NBA, Women Band Directors International, and the Texas Chapter of WBDI. Ms. White served as a board member and then president of the Missouri Chapter of WBDI and also served as District Band Vice President for two districts in Missouri.
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