Inspire Your Students to Keep Music Journals

Mike Lawson • • September 8, 2017

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A journal is a wonderful thing. Journals enable writers to keep stock of their activities and learn from their experiences.

 As journal-keepers write, fresh ideas may come to mind or they may see the virtues or foibles of what they have done. Writing a journal can also be used as a form of expression, like playing a musical instrument. And journals, which are essentially diaries, can be valuable reference sources for the student, not to mention of interest to them later on. 

You might suggest to students to keep a print or digital journal of their band or orchestra activities, or their music activities in general. So what do you put in a journal? A journal can include anything the writer wants, but here are some suggestions: 

• Names of compositions played in band or orchestra 

• Anecdotes about rehearsals, concerts, festivals and school music trips 

• Interactions with fellow school musicians 

• Information about music purchases such as sheet music and song books 

• The names of the pieces played in private lessons as well 

as instruction books 

• Names of favorite concert band or orchestral compositions 

• Musical instruments and brands desired to be purchased 

• Lists of musical instrument accessories used or wanted such as mouthpieces, reeds, cork grease, swabs with preferences such as brands, and reed sizes 

• Names and contact information of musical instrument and printed music dealers 

• Names of people met in music for future contacts 

• Names and contact information of potential teachers for private lessons 

• Lists of favorite music biographies, instruction books, pieces played 

• Brief critiques of compositions played in band or orchestra including why the student liked the compositions played or not, and why 

• A list made at the end of the school year of the three compositions most liked or disliked in band or orchestra over the past school year, and why 

• A student’s own devising of a program of music for band or orchestra 

Of course, not all the above may resonate with your students, so they may pick from these items what they like, or come up with their own items to write about. From my own experience, I would venture to say that keeping a journal gives a student an enhanced sense of pride in being a musician. Moreover, I think keeping a journal helps students develop good record-keeping habits which they may bring to other areas where keeping records is important such as giving private music lessons or playing gigs. 

Some of the entries in the journals could be printed on a website or in a music department booklet. It might be interesting for students to see what others wrote and to compare entries. School band directors and orchestra leaders take their jobs seriously, but in order to engage students, activities like keeping a journal can make music education fun and memorable for them. 

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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