We all plan on making sure that our students do what they should to maintain their instruments correctly. However, it became an even bigger priority when I began working in a Title One band program that provides students with all instruments. With 78% of our families living on less than $32,000 a year, the band program was dying before the district made the commitment to provide instruments such as flutes, clarinets, alto saxophones, trumpets, and trombones as well as the instruments normally provided by band programs. A five-year commitment to additional capital outlay funds earmarked for these instruments breathed new life into the band program on our campus.
However, this meant that school instrument repair bills could skyrocket out of control without a plan in place to ensure that students cared for their instruments. When I was talking to an instrument repair person who I have worked with for years, he mentioned something called “Maintenance Monday.” As he explained the concept, I was convinced.
Every Monday we start class with 5 minutes for students to do maintenance on their instruments. We provide each student with their supplies at the beginning of the year so that they are using the products that we recommend on our instruments. We then explain the cost of instruments, what and why they will be doing instrument care, and show them pictures of typical damage that happens to instruments and what repair costs are.
Woodwinds are asked to do the following as applicable to their instrument:
- give the instrument an extra swabbing
- check the head joint cork
- check their reeds to see if they’re still in good shape and replace any reeds that are chipped or worn
- clean out their bocal
- grease corks as needed
- check screws on rods and clarinet thumb rests to insure that they’re not backing out
- check their mouthpiece to see if it needs a cleaning
- wipe down the body and key work of the instrument to remove dust, dirt, and fingerprints.
Brass are asked to do the following as applicable to their instrument:
- oil their valves as needed
- grease tuning slides as necessary
- trombone slides are checked to see if they need slide cream and are still working as they should
- check that their mouthpiece doesn’t need to be cleaned
- wipe down the body, valve casings, and slides to remove dust, dirt, and fingerprints.
While students are doing this, directors circulate through the group and check valves, reeds, trombone slides, and tuning slides to ensure that the instrument is still in good condition and being cared for correctly.
While doing this does require an upfront commitment of time and the money for supplies, it has saved us large amounts of money in repair bills over the longer term. Our repair money has been able to go to getting additional instruments in our collection up and running rather than on repairs that are from lack of maintenance.
Even better, it helps students to understand how much their instrument is worth, how to be responsible for their instrument care and cognizant of the costs of instrument repair. Students remind us to do “Maintenance Monday” if we neglect it and we lose less class time to instruments that are not working correctly. That makes it a win whether you’re supplying all instruments or students are providing their own!
Danika White is currently the band director at Rayburn MS in Northside ISD in San Antonio. She spent the first seventeen years of her teaching career in Missouri where her bands received numerous I ratings at State Contest, her solo and ensemble students were very successful at both the district and state level, and she had All-State Band members on flute, clarinet, and French Horn. Her marching bands were honored to represent Missouri at the National Memorial Day Parade in Washington D.C. twice in five years. Ms. White holds degrees from Central Methodist University and the University of Arkansas.
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