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As the end of the school year approaches you might want to give thought to having your students fill out band or orchestra evaluation forms.

While student evaluations of courses are more common at the college level there is no reason why they cannot be administered in high school or even junior high or middle school as students at most ages are capable of giving honest and constructive feedback.

The purpose of student evaluations is to identify strengths and weaknesses of a program and to make improvements, if necessary.

Practically all academic programs (including music) can be improved and even if a program is already excellent it can always benefit from a little tweaking here or there. Indeed, the students will let you know if they think a program is great, or, if certain areas need to be improved they may be able to help the band or orchestra director pinpoint those areas. Overall, student evaluations can be beneficial for band and orchestra programs.

It should be said that there is nothing to fear from student evaluations. Their purpose, as described here, is only for purposes of improvement, and this could be made clear at the top of the evaluation form.

Getting feedback from the students’ point of view should be of interest to the band or orchestra director. For example, the director may choose repertoire based on his or her taste and experience, but getting students’ perspective on repertoire can open a window on selections that may be more in line with what the students would like to play. Or students may indicate ways in which the director could improve his or her own personal skills in interacting with the student musicians. Indeed, student feedback may bring a fresh perspective to a band or orchestra program.

Student evaluations should be read with an open mind. Like adults, students have varied tastes and opinions and there may be a diversity of feedback. But a general consensus may indicate a genuine strength or weakness in a program and the director may want to pay special attention to that type of response. And sometimes a single, solitary suggestion can set off a bell and lead to a significant change or improvement in a music program.

It is probably best to have the students fill out the evaluation form near or at the end of the school year as they will by then have had ample time to experience the program. Any suggestions for improvement could be implemented when the new school year begins.

Student evaluations are usually anonymous and students should not be mandated to submit them. It should be explained to students that the evaluations are strictly voluntary and they should feel under no pressure whatsoever to fill them out and submit them. Students should also be assured that the evaluations, whether they submit them or not, will in no way affect the students’ grade in band or orchestra.

If a school has a certain protocol for administering documents like student evaluations the band or orchestra director may want to check with or receive clearance from the proper school authority before giving them to students.

Student evaluations can be executed by a print copy or digitally, or both, however the director decides.

Following is a sample student evaluation questionnaire. Readers of School Band & Orchestra are welcome to use this form or modify it in any way desired to fit the particular needs of the director’s program.

Student Evaluation for Band/ Orchestra

The following questionnaire is for the sole purpose of evaluating the band/orchestra program of our school and perhaps finding areas that could be improved. You do not have to write your name on the form and filling out and submitting the form is optional. Whether you submit the form or not will not affect your grade in any way.

General:

• What is your overall opinion of the band/orchestra program?

• What do you think are its strengths?

• What do you think are its weaknesses (if any)?

• How would you rate the conductor’s enthusiasm for leading the band/orchestra?

• How would you rate the conductor’s willingness to help students?

• What did you learn or gain from playing in the band/orchestra?

• How do you think the band/orchestra program could be improved?

Repertoire:

• Did you like the compositions selected for the band/orchestra to perform?

• What compositions did you like most and why?

• What compositions did you like least and why?

• What kinds of selections would you like to see added to the band/orchestra repertoire?

• Did you find the music played by the band/orchestra too difficult? Too easy?

• Did playing in the band/orchestra improve your skills?

• Would you like to play more challenging compositions?

• Are there other kinds of music genres you would like to see in the band/orchestra’s repertoire?

• Would you like to have themed concerts, and if so what themes would you suggest?

• Was there enough rehearsal time for the band/orchestra

to prepare for the concerts?

Special Events, Community and Fundraising:

• Are there any special events at which you would like the band/orchestra to perform?

• How might the band/orchestra draw more students to attend our concerts?

• How might the band/orchestra draw more people from the community to attend our concerts?

• Do you have any ideas for fundraising for the band/orchestra?

Concerts:

• What is your feedback on the concerts we presented?

• How might our concerts be improved?

• Are you pleased with the printed concert programs? Do you have any suggestions on how they may be improved?

Festivals, Workshops and Travel (if applicable):

• How would you evaluate the experience of the band/orchestra at festival compositions?

• How would you evaluate the experience of the band/orchestra at educational workshops?

• If the band/orchestra traveled, how would you evaluate this experience?

Comments:

Please write any additional comments you may have in the space that follows:

 

Harvey Rachlin is an award-winning author of thirteen books including The Songwriter’s Handbook and The Songwriter’s and Musician’s Guide to Making Great Demos. His Encyclopedia of the Music Business won the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for excellence in music journalism, was named Outstanding Music Reference Book of the Year by the American Library Association, and was recommended by Academy Award-winning composer Henry Mancini on the 1984 internationally-televised Grammy Awards. His books have been praised by such music luminaries as Elton John, Aaron Copland, Richard Rodgers, Henry Mancini, Burt Bacharach, Marvin Hamlisch, Sammy Cahn, Jule Styne, Morton Gould, and Johnny Mathis. He runs the Music Business program at Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York.



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