Five Tips to Master Your New Music Director Role

Adrian Gordon • CommentaryNovember 2023 • November 1, 2023

You got the music director gig—congratulations! You are about to step into a great new working environment that promises to be a step up from what you were doing before. But now what? Here are some helpful tips for gaining mastery over your new music director role.

Communicate Your Vision

Communicating your vision to your new community is one of the key actions you’ll need to do to smooth the transition to your new school. This doesn’t mean everyone will agree to, or even care for, your new vision, but it creates an environment of honesty where all cards are laid on the table, and parents and students can decide whether your vision is something they want to participate in. 

These points should be broad enough that they are able to meet at least a few expectations of every person currently in the music program. You can even add bits and pieces of your vision into your email signature so there is a constant reminder of your vision whenever there is correspondence between you and your students.

Be sure whatever your vision is, it is well thought-out and clear. Share it often. Explain when circumstances fall in line with the vision of the program and when they don’t. Celebrate the moments when your vision is encapsulated in the students’ stellar work. Sharing your vision creates a clearer path for you to lead and for students to follow.

Make Incremental Changes

Changing the culture of a music program takes time. Whether the change you are bringing about is a slight shift or a major overhaul, it must be meaningful and incremental. Change for the sake of change can be self-defeating, and change that is too fast and broad can be overwhelming. It is helpful to map out the current realities of your program versus where you would eventually like to see the program end up. Then it is much easier to plot a step-by-step plan of action for getting there. 

Whatever change you are committed to bringing to your new program, make sure it suits your vision and you map out the realities of where you currently are versus where you would eventually like to see the program end up. Have a step-by-step action plan with practical tools and a time frame to see the results of the changes you are implementing. 

Building Community

As you begin establishing yourself in your new position, be sure community building is at the top of your priorities. A cohesive social fabric between the students in the program will create a deeper sense of investment and accountability toward each other. This will also help create a strong layer of trust in you as their leader because you have helped foster such a positive and enjoyable atmosphere for their music education journey.

Always strive to develop a professional yet caring relationship with your students. Pay attention to whether students feel they can talk to you about a wide range of topics, such as music, sports, their athletic games, difficulties in other classes, food, and vacations. Efforts to build community and convey your care for your students do not have to be overthought or overly complicated. 

Let Your Concert Embody Your Vision of Excellence

A successful concert has the potential to recruit students, parents, and administrators to your cause. Being the emcee of the concert, you literally have the microphone and can gracefully drop truth nuggets on your audience. The reality is, the floor is yours to say what you want (positive comments only and within reason) to help bolster goodwill, buy-in, and commitment to the program.

Have fun and incorporate appropriate humor.

Briefly mention the highlights of your time with the students on stage.

Don’t over-program a concert with music that is too hard.

Choose varied repertoire. Be mindful of how long your concert will be. Leave the audience wanting more.

Giving Yourself Grace

As you walk through your transition, it is good to be positive, have a good outlook, and set high expectations. Our circumstances may very well not meet our expectations. The job may be harder than it appeared to be at the outset. Maybe you haven’t made the connections you thought you would have made with colleagues. Whatever the imperfect case may be, give yourself grace! Don’t be too hard on yourself. Accept and embrace where you are and give yourself the freedom to adjust to the unknown demands you are just discovering. Placing too much pressure on yourself can be self-defeating, obscuring the critically important fact that any profession working with children is never an exact science. Be kind to yourself and remember your aim should be progress instead of perfection.

No matter what your situation is, remember to always work hard, stay positive, be kind, be creative, be organized, be methodical, have fun, and, most importantly, take care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally!

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