2019 Resolutions for the New School Year

Mike Lawson • ChoralCommentary • August 29, 2019

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Forget the New Year starting January 1. Ever since I was a student, the year, for me, ran along the school year, from September through June, then two months off for summer, and then the new year would start again in September when the school year began anew.

With the school year now beginning, it’s a good time to make some resolutions—school year resolutions.

School year resolutions can be like New Year resolutions, where a person resolves to do things that can make him or her more proficient, healthier, and better in myriad other ways. But we’ll leave things like dieting and saving money for January 1 and stick to educational and music-related items.

Set goals for your group. What is it that you would like to accomplish with your school band or orchestra or choral group this year? Playing more challenging pieces? Attracting new members? Bringing in larger audiences to concerts? Inscribe them and let them be your blueprint for the new school year.

Set down rules. For an organization to run proficiently there needs to be rules. These can be with regard to such things as punctuality, conduct, and being prepared. The older the group, the more rules there can be, and the stricter they can be enforced. Don’t be afraid to set rules for your group, as discipline can make your group stronger, but the rules should be clear and not be ambiguous in any way.

Be as professional as you can, always. Band, orchestra and choral conductors and music teachers are representatives of their institutions. Every word uttered and every action taken is on the radar, so keep that in mind always. As an educator your conduct should always be exemplary.

Be encouraging to students. There’s always a wide range of students, from those who struggle, to those who are innately talented. Don’t be impatient with those who are on the low end of the spectrum. In contrary, be patient and nurturing to them, as their growth will not only be significant to them, but also to you and their families and your school.

Treat all students equally. Students know when a teacher has a favorite student or two, as it’s usually not too hard to pick up. It’s human nature to like some people more than others, but as an educator, fairness across the board is what it should be about. School settings are no place for favoritism.

Let your students know you are there to help them. Helping those with musical difficulties may not only improve your school ensemble, but make for a better organization generally. Students are comforted when they know their band or orchestra or choral leader is accessible and there for them. The conductor who is brief or impatient or always in a rush imparts a negative wave to students and they pick up on it, and it can have a demoralizing effect on the group.

Think of ways to enhance your musical group. Now is the time to come up with special projects for your organization that can motivate students and make being in the group more fun. Performing music and being part of a musical ensemble should be fun and exciting, so take the “hum” out of “humdrum” and stir things up!

Get your students involved in your group’s projects. You don’t have to do it all. Let the students participate as much as they can and they’ll appreciate the end results more. Let them plan and carry out activities your group undertakes.

Always be positive. Sure, we come to work every day with issues of our own personal lives but when you’re at work, you’re on “stage,” so to speak. A positive attitude permeates the room and it can rub off on your students. A good vibe is like a happy tune!

Follow through. Monitor the goals you’ve set for your group as the school year goes along. If your progress isn’t as you planned, set corrective courses.

Don’t be too hard on yourself. Resolutions are a kind of wish list and not all wishes can come true. Be practical about your goals and if expectations are not met don’t be in anguish. Rather, renew or modify any particular resolution that has faltered and do your best to help it come to fruition.

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