Working from home? Switch to the DIGITAL edition of School Band & Orchestra. CLICK HERE to signup now!

Commentary

  • Interdisciplinary Teaching in Middle School Music

    Christine Sezer | May 1, 2003

    This article was reprinted with permission from Tempo, the official magazine of the New Jersey Music Educators Association.

    Within the past few years, the interest and need for curriculum integration seems to have intensified through the country for several reasons. New books, new concepts, new interpretations of what should be taught and what should be eliminated present the curriculum planner with a difficult task – especially at the middle school level. State mandates and new educational standards influence the curriculum. We need to rethink these as we select what various areas to study. There is a need to teach students how various subjects actively influence their lives and it is crucial that students understand the impact of each discipline perspective in a connected way.

    In regard to the general music classroom at the middle school level, one might say, “Well, I’ve always integrated music with the classroom teachers and other subject disciplines.” Perhaps that is true, but to what degree and how detailed was the integration implemented? A mere sampling of knowledge from each discipline – a bit of history, a bit of literature, a bit of the arts, and so forth – results in a “potpourri” type of curriculum, which lacks focus. Effective interdisciplinary programs should include carefully conceived design features, such as scope and sequence, behavioral indicators of attitude change, criteria that promote and encourage critical-thinking skills and solid methods of evaluation. In “Interdisciplinary Curriculum Design and Implementation,” Heide Hayes Jacobs defines interdisciplinary as “a knowledge view and curriculum approach that consciously applies methodology and language from more than one discipline to examine a central theme, issue, problem, topic or experience. Interdisciplinary does not stress delineation but linkages.”

    Read More...
  • Learning to Rock at an Early Age

    Josh Harris | April 1, 2003

    The cynical could paraphrase Mark Twain and say that everybody talks about the lack of music in our schools, but nobody does anything about it. But David Wish did: he founded a national organization called Little Kids Rock. The 501(3)(c) nonprofit comes into economically disadvantaged communities and bestows hundreds of guitars on children who would otherwise not have a chance to strum and pluck.

    When he started teaching at a San Francisco public school in 1992, Wish, like many of his fellow public school teachers, was shocked at how little music was being taught.

    “They did hire a guy to come in for half an hour once a week,” Wish recalls. “But he was focused on nursery rhymes. I knew the students’ preference was for pop music, and their pop sensibilities were being left out in the cold.”

    Read More...
  • Making Room for Music

    Denny Meyer | December 1, 2002

    In many school music departments, storage can be a stealth problem. Unless you had input in the initial design of the music area, chances are the storage areas are inadequate. There never seems to be enough space to store the furnishings and equipment you use on a daily basis, or items used only seasonally. While you focus on day-to-day teaching activities, it’s easy for storage issues to escape detection – until one day, when the stealth problem suddenly demands your attention.

    It might be the instrument cases cluttering the floor of the storage room, making navigation dangerous. Or it could be the file cabinets in your music library that are overflowing with sheet music. Maybe the choir robes and band uniforms are hanging unprotected in the open common area or shoved into overstuffed closets. Or, the worst could happen – an instrument is stolen.

    If not addressed, storage problems like these can become time-wasting distractions that disrupt the teaching and learning process. In addition, improperly stored equipment is more susceptible to damage or theft. This article will offer trouble-shooting advice for common storage problems related to three of the most expensive types of equipment found in school music departments: instruments, sheet music and uniforms. For each type of equipment, solutions should strive to minimize the space required while maximizing the amount of protection.

    Read More...
  • An Alternative Christmas Program

    Mike Pearce | November 1, 2002

    Do you ever wish for a different kind of Christmas program? Are you concerned that your students may already be saturated with traditional Christmas music after hearing it almost nonstop on the radio and at the supermarket since late October? Do you feel awkward asking non-Christian students in your band or orchestra to play Christmas songs?

    If you’re ready for a change, you may want to consider an option that we’ve been using at Prairie Middle School for over 10 years. Student groups perform music of their choice for holiday shoppers at the local mall.

    Just before Thanksgiving, band and orchestra students plan solos or organize themselves into ensembles. They often get a group of their closest friends together, or the teaching staff suggests like-instrument groupings – ensembles that include high, middle and low voices, or groups comprised of section leaders that we would like to have working together. Students are also allowed to form ensembles that include family members, private teachers or friends from other schools. They can choose any music they like, with the exception that we don’t let three flutes play their favorite concert band piece or two trumpets perform the hottest jazz band chart in their folder. Otherwise, they can choose holiday or non-holiday music, pop tunes or something from their private lessons. We maintain a substantial library of ensemble music collections, supplemented by books our students find at music stores, so students have a wide variety of arrangements and styles to pick from.

    Read More...
  • 50 Steps to a Better Marching Band

    Donald Green | August 1, 2002

    As those associated with the marching band activity know, it's quite a task to coordinate music, movement and auxiliary work into a unified field presentation. With band camp fast approaching, I began to focus on the many tips and techniques I've picked up as a student, director and adjudicator to make that job go a little more smoothly. Here are some ideas I've accumulated over the years that I will be using this fall with the Duquesne University "Pride Of Duquesne" Marching Band, located in Pittsburgh, Penn. Our students come from a wide variety of band programs - from highly competitive to "parade only" situations. These points have been helpful in unifying these students into a common style. Hopefully you will find some of these points useful, and add them to your teaching "bag of tricks."

    Read More...
  • How to Prevent Teacher Burnout

    Glenn Holtz | July 1, 2002

    Approximately 6,000 music teachers leave the profession each year. According to education statistics from the U.S. Office of Education, 40 percent list job dissatisfaction as the main reason for leaving.

    Satisfaction, then, is the key to retaining teachers and helping to reduce stress to a level of toleration that helps to eliminate burnout. Burnout is one major culprit in teacher dissatisfaction. By doing a few things, as a teacher, to be effective and satisfied, burnout can be eliminated.

    Burnout is stress that’s not relieved. It exists in all careers. Burnout results from a continuous effort to do the job with no rewards.

    Read More...
  • Conducting a Historical Inquiry

    David Ferguson | May 1, 2002

    Our school was about to close and be merged with the other two high schools in our district, due to declining enrollment and budget pressures. Before the baby boom necessitated multiple high schools, our school was the original high school for the town. This lineage provided us with a history covering more than 125 years. As director of bands at the time, I wanted my students and the community at large to know at least a little bit about the history of bands at this school before it was dissolved.

    I did some homework of my own, going through old yearbooks, scanning old newspaper clippings, talking to former band members and, when possible, former directors. This process proved to be time-consuming but intensely rewarding. The more I found, the more I wanted to know.

    Already resolved to have the students learn something of the band’s history, I decided that telling them wouldn’t be enough. These students would have to experience the discovery process first-hand in order to take a greater interest in the band’s history. In this way, they could take ownership in their own band heritage.

    Read More...
  • Mixing Music and Politics

    D.L. Johnson | April 1, 2002

    Politics. Now there’s a word I’ve seen many of my colleagues try to ignore. Politics is nothing more than perception. Politics is how we are perceived by others. Many music teachers do everything in their power to not let politics control their programs. And yet, it is a part of what we do, whether we like it or not. When I hear music teachers complain about politics, it usually means they have lost control of their programs.

    Over the past several years, I have been called into schools on numerous occasions to help resolve issues from requiring participation in marching band in order to be in jazz band to whether it is okay to charge for concerts to cutting music programs. In most situations, I found the music directors were just not speaking at the same level as their administrators. I’ll have to admit that most administrators, unless they have been trained in music education, have little or no understanding of just what we are doing as music educators. Most administrators truly want to understand music education but have little or no time to observe and study the subject.

    When it comes time for your administration to evaluate your performance as a teacher, most of us get a positive report. In reality, most administrators admire what we are doing, but have very little knowledge of the subject to know whether things are going well or badly. Usually, administrators only get involved when something goes terribly wrong. Even then they often have no understanding of how dealing with music education should be handled.

    Read More...
The Latest News and Gear in Your Inbox - Sign Up Today!