This month’s MSFQ tips come from Dr. Sarah Labovitz, the Chair of the Department of Music, Associate Director of Bands and Coordinator of Music Education, at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, Arkansas.
Familiarize yourself with what your beginners are watching and listening to these days. Is there a pop tune, TV theme song, or video game motive that your beginners keep trying to figure out? If so, you may want to include that tune in any recruitment performances you play at or videos you make. Chances are good that the music you are listening to and the media you are watching is not the same as your would-be beginners. Find out what they are obsessed with and figure out how you can incorporate it into your recruitment productions. You don’t need to buy or arrange it for the full group (although that would be great if you could). You could plan to have students or teachers demonstrate the instruments and the demonstrators could play those themes as single-line melodies. If your would-be beginners get excited about that tune, it may help them get excited about becoming involved with band or orchestra at your school!
Start each rehearsal by allowing your students to share any good news they have with the rest of the ensemble. You can either dedicate one minute of time to this practice or you can have it occur at the same time as breathing exercises, stretching, or any other procedural activity that it would not disrupt. Take volunteers and either set a participant or time limit so you do not delay music making. This activity simultaneously builds band / orchestra family bonds and allows you to learn a little bit about what is going on in the lives of your students. When your musicians feel connected to each other and that you care about what is going on in other aspects of their lives, they are more likely to stay involved in the ensemble.
Visit the music rooms of directors you admire. As the school year starts to wind down, it is often easier to take a day or a piece of a day for your own professional development. Why not visit an elementary, secondary, or collegiate director that you respect? See first-hand how they interact with their students and structure their rehearsal. Observe what procedures they have in place and see the different ways they tackle everyday individual and ensemble problems. Take them to lunch and ask them questions about how they approach things that you struggle with or things you want to improve upon. One of the great things about music is that someone else does not have to be bad at it in order for you and your students to be great at it. Help to promote an atmosphere of directors asking other directors for help and guidance and watch your local music education community thrive together!
Wishing you and your students all the best!
Sarah J. Labovitz, D.M.A.
Chair of the Department of Music
Associate Director of Bands
Coordinator of Music Education
Arkansas State University