One Simple Rule for a GREAT Start
This has been the best FIRST week of school EVER! I usually despise the first week of band and orchestra because of how crazy it feels. Here is a short list of the things that must be done with beginners:
1-Check out lockers
2-Pass out class documents
4-Check out school instruments
5-Teach how to hold & care for instruments
6-Teach how to create a good first tone
7-Teach the basics of music notation
8-Get students playing their first 3 notes
9-Establish class rules and norms
Can anyone truly accomplish all these things in one week?! I have always hated the feelings of frantic CRAZINESS attempting all this in the first week, along with the inevitable feelings of FAILURE that accompany the effort.
I know that many music teachers say, "That is why I have a summer program", and I agree that starting students in homogeneous summer classes can be extremely beneficial. However, I have personally never been able to get more than 60% of incoming students to attend my summer band or summer orchestra program, and I have really disliked trying to make the first month of school feel successful to each student when there is such disparity in between students' prior musical experience. I determined this year to solve the "HAVES vs HAVE NOTS" problem by eliminating my annual summer program (my family sure enjoyed the extra time we spent together) and starting the school year with a revolutionary approach to teaching heterogenous beginning instrumental classes: NO INSTRUMENTS for 2 WEEKS.
I can hear plenty of outraged voices from my respected colleagues at this absurd notion: "Students NEED to get playing on instruments as soon as possible to be highly motivated"..."I want to get them making successful sounds as fast as possible"..."Parents become awe-struck, devoted supporters when they hear music after the first day of band".
Curtis Winters has taught band, orchestra, and jazz band at a small Title 1 junior high school in Orem, UT for 18 years.