George Lucas Educational Foundation
Arts Integration

5 Things Teachers Can Learn from Their Band Director

August 8, 2016         Updated August 4, 2016

As I speak with more and more educational leaders, I am surprised to find out that many of them have a background in music education, and were former band directors. I found this interesting and decided to ask the question, “Why might this be happening?” Having been a former band director, I decided that the band director seems to have had an extensive experience in what might be termed a microcosm of the model classroom. Beyond their experiences with larger music budgets, hiring a marching band staff, and working with a strong, supportive parent group, the band director’s classroom is one to emulate.

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Here are just 5 things any teacher can learn from their band director.

  1. Classroom Management: If I told a teacher that we were going to put about 100 students in their classroom and give each student a noise maker and then expect them to teach, I am pretty sure they would revolt. But that is exactly what a band director deals with all the time. A Band director quickly learns to manage their classroom in such a way that the “noise makers’ are completely engaged in the process of learning. Classroom routines and procedures are paramount to a successful learning experience in the band room.
     
  2. Performance- Based Learning: Music directors have always been driven by performance-based learning. The learning process in a band room is based on projects. The need to prepare for a concert, a small ensemble performance or a solo act is the definition of performance or project-based learning. Band directors teach the art and science of music, as they are preparing their students for their performances. Students know that each of them is responsible to the group as a whole.
     
  3. Differentiation of Instruction: Not every child is able to have a private tutor for math nor private lessons on their instrument. Students decide at different times when they want to start an instrument. It is not uncommon to have a student that has been playing an instrument for many years sitting next to a student who has just begun to learn to play.  Band directors have been differentiating their instruction well before it was termed differentiation. Directors have mastered how to use small ensemble rehearsals so they can target and support the remedial players, as well as challenge the more gifted ones. They use “peer helpers” by having stronger players sit beside players that need more help.  Peer helpers can be used to model proper hand position, fingerings etc. Each student must begin at his/her level of readiness and move forward from there.
     
  4. Collaboration and Communication: Communication is a very basic concept. Most will consider communication to be the spoken word or the written word. Band directors stretch the idea of communication into the process of conducting. Students learn how to understand the communication of the baton and what the director needs them to do. Band directors also discuss the language of music. It is both a symbolic language and an emotional language. Band directors also must use a steady diet of collaboration. Students in ensembles must both cooperate and collaborate in the process of producing music. Again each student contributes to the culmination of the performance.
     
  5. Being a self-directed learner / The Power of Homework: The students in a band are trained at a very early age that in order to improve their skills, they must practice. Their fellow band mates depend on them being prepared to perform at a certain level, and developing and maintaining a practice schedule is the key to that quality. This kind of motivation influences each student to try very hard to reach his/her musical potential because he/she is integral to the success of the group. Practice or homework, if you will, leads to that perfect permanency of skill development.

The ordinary band director is probably not even aware that he /she is embracing exemplary teaching techniques and strategies. Much of what all teachers do is instinctive. Band directors are no exception. Much of what they do just makes good sense. Band directors use positive peer tutoring, group project dynamics, motivation to succeed in a collaborative/cooperative environment.

Not only does the outstanding band director support those 100 “noise makers” in their educational, musical journey, but also the director enables those students to create something memorable and of great quality.

This piece was originally submitted to our community forums by a reader. Due to audience interest, we've preserved it. The opinions expressed here are the writer's own.

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