Positive Steps To Fix A Problematic Band


My band sounds good. My band behaves very very well. My band is going to be great this year. This comes as the result of 6 years of learning from my mistakes.

It wasn’t always that way. When I got them in August, I didn’t know how it was going to work out. They didn’t listen. They didn’t watch. They talked a lot. They were more interested in being social than in sounding good. They didn’t sit in “Ready Position” much of the time. Their posture when they played was bad. Too many of them were on the back of their chair and not sitting up straight.

Here is a realistic look at some things I have done this year to fix these problems.

Look for positives
My 7th graders have memorized the fight song after just trying to play from memory a few times. I told them yesterday how dang proud I was of them. And not only do they have it memorized, they played it as fast as I wanted them to without falling apart.

My chorale is starting to sound decent, even with mostly 7th graders. I just use the chorale on page 12 of the Essential Elements 2000 Book 1.

Catch someone in the act of being right
Most of my kids sit with good posture. I even pointed out one of the trumpet players in the middle of the section who was holding his horn straight. I told the trumpets that I wish all of them would hold theirs like he was. Know what? They did!

Point out mistakes without drawing too much attention to them
I have fixed the problem of most of the 7th graders not tapping their feet. I do that by pointing out when people are, and by staring at feet that aren’t. Without saying anything, they get the hint. Then when a kid comes around and holds the horn right or taps her foot or sits on the front edge of his chair or whatever, I congratulate them big time.

Isolate individuals
Rehearsals are quiet almost 90% of the time. I think I’m going to talk to three or four of my woodwinds to see if we can make it closer to 100%. When the talking is gone, the mean teacher goes away. Then the mean teacher is gone, we get a whole lot more work done.

Problems persist
My clarinets are still squeaking. A lot more than I’m used to. Why? Tomorrow, we’ll look at 5 simple steps to completely transform your clarinet section. I know, I know…two days in a row of band director junk. This is huge, though. I have to take another day for it, because it is so incredibly simple, and yet so many band directors don’t know how to do it.

About Joel Wagner 522 Articles
Joel Wagner (@sywtt) began teaching band in 2002. Though he had a lot of information, his classes were out of control. He found himself tired, frustrated, disrespected by students, lonely, and on the brink of quitting. He had had enough. He resigned from his school district right before spring break of his second year and made it his personal mission to learn to be a great teacher. So You Want To Teach? is the ongoing story of that quest for educational excellence.

1 Comment on Positive Steps To Fix A Problematic Band

  1. I recently picked up my clarinet after 5 years (college band woo!) and it’s amazing how much the basic fundamentals make or break a player. I joined the symphony in my town, and now after 5 weeks of practice I’m just now getting back into the swing of things. The basic things are so easy to overlook but so fundamental in a successful sound. Keep working on those fundamentals and you will have great players!

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