You Matter! Life Lessons from the Band Hall
I’m not sure about you, but every time New Years rolls around, I get a little anxious. Everywhere seems to be the theme of “New Year, New You”. But how do I decide on what to improve first? My hope is that this article can give one encouraging thought as we start this new decade.
When teaching band, one of the ways that I started motivating students was what I called “life lessons.” One day in class I made an off-handed joke – something to the effect of “Hey trumpets! Life Lesson # 12 – Listen to your director.” It was just an imaginary number along with a statement about how we could better the rehearsal today and for the future.
Other examples of this were:
- Life Lesson #235 – “Make sure you keep your horn up in proper playing position at ALL times.”
- Life Lesson #65 – “Always count your multi-measure rests.”
- Life Lesson #6 – “Don’t talk in band rehearsals.”
Some were funny and some were to convey a rule or concept I wanted to get across without being a nag. But one that just kept coming up over and over again was
- Life Lesson #1 – “You Matter.”
This came about when I would see students who seemed tired or uninterested. Maybe they were just having a bad day, but something was off. They needed some kind of encouragement and motivation. Ultimately, the goal was to comment and encourage the students to know that in our band hall – what we all do matters – “they matter.” Their playing, yes. But even more importantly – them as a person, a musician, who is so important to the success of the group.
As I reflected more on this saying, I came to a realization. Yes, there are so many things that are important in the band hall like teaching posture, teaching horn, proper breathing techniques, and note and rhythm reading. Add to that introducing concepts that are not ‘the basics’ – like the importance of being in band and helping students and parents grow to love great music. But I think subconsciously when I said “Life Lesson #1 – You Matter” I was trying to encourage myself, and remind myself that I Matter.
Taking care of yourself is the most important aspect of what we do – not only in the band world, but also in life. I have worked for over 25 years to learn and to teach students these concepts and fundamentals that are extremely important for wonderful band performances. However, I realized that it is easy to forget to take care of myself. Not just physically, but mentally as well. If you’re not taking care of the way you feel about yourself, the job will seem pretty hollow.
We know that the daily life of being a band director is stressful! There seems to always be something important to take care of. There is always something pressing -an email from an upset parent, a band trip to plan, selecting music, meeting with the principal, class scheduling, making a calendar of event… the list goes on. Your mental state through ALL of these daunting tasks is everything!
We all deal with these stresses differently. I would encourage you to search out ways to deal with these in a healthy manner and in ways that work for you. Ways that have worked for me are running, yoga, podcasts, reading (or listening to books on Audible), and making time for family and friends. These have helped me to start falling back in love with music and to find that substance again to fill that hollow feeling. These other activities and priorities have made me realize that, although band is super important to all of us and the lives of our students and community, there are so many more things outside of our band halls that are more important. Finding ways to cope with our stresses will help us stay mentally strong – for ourselves and our band students.
So in closing…You Matter.
Let me say that again – YOU MATTER.
Remember this as you continue your teaching routine today, tomorrow and in the future.
BJ Sayger has over 20 years of experience teaching middle school band and holds degrees from Angelo State University and West Texas A&M University. During his time in Midland, Odessa, Kyle & Buda, Texas he influenced thousands of students by teaching them that they matter. BJ is a core contributor for Band Directors Talk Shop is currently serving as a clinician and adjudicator in the Austin, TX area.
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