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Evaluating Your Students
Directors must first look at the earliest scheduled performances (football game, marching band, spirit assemblies, concerts) and find literature that is appropriate for technique and range to make the students sound the best they possibly can and this means meeting your students where they are not where they “should” be based on the past.
“Should be” is not something to consider when rebuilding programs. One strategy for assessing the performance level of the ensemble is to create a reading folder. Begin with what you would generally program as the end goal and then fill the folder with several levels of music ready to read (from too easy to more difficult). It’s an excellent way to gauge a starting point. If you are fortunate enough to know your instrumentation or voicings you can also use that to plan for soloists, featured sections, or to rely on predominantly block writing to help build ensemble skills and develop balance. More than one beginning grade level.
If programs traditionally started students in the 5th grade and were unable to in 2020, consider having 5th and 6th grade beginners in 2021. If you traditionally start beginners in the 6th grade, adding a beginning 7th grade class may be a positive approach. The more you can offer at the middle school/junior high level to start students could help to save FTE. Recruitment is going to be critical.
7 Alternatives to Teaching Another Music Appreciation Course (Download PDF)
Head down to the hardware store for a class set of buckets and order a brick of sticks from your local music store. The curriculum could begin with basic rhythms and sound production. Students will eventually create their own beats or watch play-along lessons on YouTube. Add some theatrics, and you have yourself a performance ensemble for the end of the semester.
If your school has a computer lab, consider a music technology course that utilizes applications such as Chrome Music Lab, Garage Band, BandLab, or Soundtrap. Lessons could start as simple as recreating popular songs with tutorials and progress to creating their own music.
Students who own instruments can present them to the class and a teacher-led history lesson about the instrument. Invite local musicians to offer their experiences in the music business. The course can include an instrument petting zoo and a mixed-ensemble of instruments performing modern songs. Guitars, kazoos, and shakers, oh my!
Create a course that involves drumming, dancing, and cardio workouts. Drum and dance to student-created music or popular genres. Partner with your physical education department to utilize expertise, equipment, and facilities.
“Pop Music of the Last 50 Years” and “History of Rock” are both launching points for an up-to-date and relevant course for your students. Beyond lectures, your music history course could contain instrument interaction as well as performances.
Students of all ages love learning to play the guitar. They are reasonable to purchase and easy to learn. One of the best resources for teachers who want to teach guitar but don’t know how is Bill Swick’s Weekly Newsletter for educators who want to teach guitar. Each week, Bill sends out a newsletter explaining what is to be taught that week. It’s simply a no-fail approach! Sign up at www.guitarintheclassroom.com.
This is the hottest and one of the most contemporary course offerings available to high school students today. Music Business classes provide hands-on, project-based opportunities for students to align their interests in music so that they might develop industry related concepts and employability skills considered essential in the field. Students learn about the structure of and relationship between the recording, music publishing, marketing, and live performance industries. Your class(es) will fill up overnight! For more information on upcoming workshops to learn how to start a Music Business program, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. James Weaver is the Director of Performing Arts and Sports for the National Federation of High School State Associations. He has been a teacher and administrator at the district, state, and national level. As the Director of Performing Arts and Sports, Dr. Weaver oversees student participation, professional development, and awareness of performing arts activities throughout the nation’s 19,500+ high schools. Dr. Weaver has been a part of several national projects for performing arts educators including serving as the co-chair of the International Performing Arts Aerosol Study, creating copyright compliance resources, and developing national trainings for performing arts adjudicators. Dr. Weaver specializes in educational administration and leadership focusing on professional development and teacher job satisfaction and retention. Dr. Weaver has degrees from Concordia College - Moorhead, Northern State University, and the University of South Dakota.
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Amy Perras, Instructional Supervisor for Music, Art and Library Media, Connecticut