Updated: Sep 20, 2021
A few weeks ago, I was involved with the Future Music Educators Experience run by Mr. Fran Kick in conjunction with the Music for All/Bands of America Grand National Marching Championships. Several music businesses funded this event providing lunch, people to speak and lots of “goodies” to help young teachers – it’s a fantastic event for prospective band directors. At the particular session that I attended, there were about 300-400 people, which included a mix of experienced educators and college students looking to make a career in teaching music. I shared the included thoughts that afternoon (in addition to some strong advocacy for the National Band Association!). I hope that all of the young, hungry, future music educators reading my message, can find something valuable to use…. ASK QUESTIONS! I get the impression that many young teachers feel embarrassed to ask questions. Ask the questions! Everyone can offer something beneficial and you’ll never “know”, unless you ask. I recall being a 24 year old teacher attending the very first National Concert Band Festival, held at Northwestern University. There was a reception and an older, more experienced band director brought me to meet Dr. William Revelli, an iconic figure in our band world and first director of the University of Michigan bands (among countless other accolades). The question from the experienced director, which I would probably not have asked at this age, was: “Dr. Revelli, what do you think of the literature that’s being played at the festival this weekend?” Well, after a 10-15 minute crescendo of emotion and the water in Dr. Revelli’s cup being splashed all over my shirt due to his excitement, I received a first-hand account of the passion that drove Dr. Revelli’s success and career. I never would have witnessed his passion and emotion for music and bands without that question being asked. That simple exchange was a very motivating experience for me and I have always remembered the importance of asking questions because of it. DO YOUR JOB! When I began teaching I was shocked that those students in my very first band (blue-collar, Central Illinois) didn’t care about the music that we were playing, didn’t understand the importance of private lessons and didn’t value their experiences in our band program, like I did. I thought that they would never understand and that the situation was hopeless. About a year into the position, it struck me that influencing them to love music, take private lessons and to value our band program was my job! That is what I was hired to do! The motivation didn’t just happen by osmosis, I had to make it happen. It was a simple yet complex realization at the same time. It might be easy for a young inexperienced teacher (that doesn’t ask questions?) to accept a mediocre or bad situation, as it is. So the process of teaching students, parents and administrators how important the band and music program can be BEGINS with US. YOU create your perfect band program! I have long said that if someone is talented, driven and influential, a good band and band program will happen. The question is: how long will it take to make that good band program happen? Good things don’t just happen because we’re good people that care; we have to make it happen. So, in keeping with the previous point of “Do Your Job”: start the problem solving, the teaching, convincing, and influencing those that make a difference to your students and program. It BEGINS with you! Good luck to all of our future music educators. If you’ve read this far, you’re further your chances of success are already greater because you’re making the time to try and improve yourself. Take advantage of your subscription to the National Band Association and start a student chapter, read the articles, apply for the Young Conductor and Composer Symposia, go to our seminars, ask questions, do your job, and create your own perfect band program. The rewards are worth every minute of your blood, sweat and tears!