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Palen Music Center Quick Note

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


The PMC Quick Note is a service provided to all area directors. It is part of our mission to support the lives of band directors across the Midwest. The Quick Note contains helpful tips and suggestions from area directors, spotlights on area college and university band programs, calendars of upcoming events, advocacy articles promoting music education, links to helpful web resources, and much more.  Comments, suggestions, ideas, and articles are always welcome.


Looking for help on a particular topic? Be sure to check out our Quick Note Catalog of back issues!

Do You Know A Good Deal When You See It?

We have a great deal that all of your students can see and take advantage of. We lowered our reed, mouthpiece, and percussion accessory pricing 25% more than a year ago. We now offer an additional 15% discount for any online orders that use the check-out code "PARTY". Simply hang up the attractive "Order Accessories Online" poster in your band room. If you don't have one, please ask your PMC road representative to bring one to you. Your students can order needed accessories online at any hour of the day and experience the convenience of our website. Plus, we always offer free delivery right to school.

What a deal! Only from your local Palen Music Center.

Click the image for an enlarged view of the poster.

Good Teachers Learn to Evaluate Themselves As Well As Their Students by Donald DeRoche, Ph.D.

All of us are involved in evaluating our students, almost continually. We give seating auditions, challenges, playing tests, written tests. We send students to solo, marching and concert contests and we participate in All-State events. The very act of rehearsing involves evaluating the performance we are working with and trying to find ways for our students to improve.  When we are not working directly with students, we spend a lot of time talking about them with our colleagues and even our spouses.

We do all of this evaluation so that our students’ skills can be improved and their knowledge broadened. Every once in a while, it’s a good idea for us to evaluate our own work, to be sure that our skills as teachers are still improving and our knowledge as musicians is being broadened.

Several years ago, I went to visit a rehearsal of one of my university students at his student-teaching site. During the rehearsal, his cooperating teacher stopped the rehearsal, pointed to one of the student flute players and asked, “What is Mr. Blank teaching you today?” The student paused for a moment and then replied that she wasn’t sure.

Next the cooperating teacher said to the student teacher, “Tell her what you are teaching her today.” This time the student teacher paused and said that he wasn’t sure. Well to paraphrase that great master of the English language, Yogi Berra, you’ve got to be careful if you don’t know what you’re teaching, because you might not teach it.

It seems that teaching involves:

1. Knowing what and why you want to teach – in other words, having a philosophy.

2. Knowing who you will be teaching.

3. Having a plan for teaching what you believe should be taught to those who you will be teaching.

4. Selecting and organizing music, materials and activities to support your plan.

5. Actually doing the teaching and,

6. Evaluating student work to determine if they are learning what you taught.

On the basis of the final evaluation step, you go back and alter your philosophy, materials, teaching style and so forth, to improve student learning. Keep in mind that in this evaluation step, you are evaluating both the work of your students and your work as a teacher.

Below are some questions you might ask yourself as you seek to discover just how good a teacher you have been.

What and why am I teaching?
Before you can set priorities and envision the kind of program you want, you have to know why you are teaching. Do you hope to improve your students’ understanding of music as a fine art” Do you hope to help them to a better understanding of themselves as people? Do you want your students to have a broader understanding of world culture? Do you want your students to have fun? Do you believe music is entertainment? Is marching band a high priority?

If aspects of all of the above are important to you, you need to determine what the proper balance is for your program. The music you choose to work with, the emphasis you put on various kinds of performances, the standards you demand and the way you interact with students should all flow from your philosophical point of view. Be sure it is well thought out.

Who are the kids?
How old are your students? What musical skills do they all have? What skills and understandings do they need to review? How many take private lessons? Knowing your students means knowing your community, its cultural values and its cultural resources.

Understanding your students and the environment they live in will help you to make educational and artistic choices in developing your plan and choosing materials. The important question here is, “Did I teach these students in the most meaningful ways for them?”

What is my plan?
Do you have a plan? If you know what you believe is important to teach, and you know your students, then you must organize your thoughts regarding what and how you will teach. If you don’t feel able to teach everything you know you could, your plan needs to reflect what you believe is most important and what you can teach.

Be as specific as possible. Do you want your seventh-grade band to become more comfortable with 6/8 and 2/2 meters? Do you want students to have a strategy for tuning up at the beginning of the rehearsal? Do you want to develop skill in listening to ensemble balance or knowing the structure of phrases? Do you want to develop rhythmic technique by using exercises played with a metronome?

What do you want your students to be able to do and know at the end of each rehearsal, the end of the year or the end of their careers in your program? Your plan should take into account what you hope to teach your students by the time they graduate. Knowing what you want to teach long-term should then inform your one-year plan and your daily rehearsal schedules.

What materials can I use?
Materials for the band director are primarily the musical selections chosen for performance and reading, as well as band etudes and exercises used to develop technical skills. Does the concert music you choose for performance reflect your musical goals as stated in your plan? Do the etudes and studies support the technical skills you believe to be important? Do you present etude materials in a logical sequence that support your plan for technical and musical development? Over the course of the year, do your musical selections get progressively more sophisticated?

How do I teach?
The way you pace each rehearsal; the skills you stress daily; the intensity you bring to each moment; the humor you use; the level of expectation you bring to every situation – all of these must be undertaken in light of what you believe you should be teaching. When you begin each rehearsal, do you know precisely what you want to do?

Walk into your class knowing what pieces or studies you will work on, what measures you will work on in concert music and what it is that you want to accomplish in that music.  Don’t simply react to problems that happen to present themselves that day. Have strategies teaching what you intend to teach. Do this every day and at the end of 180 days, you will have taught a lot of what you intended.

When you leave each rehearsal, do you ask yourself if you accomplished what you wanted? Do each of your classes fit into your plan? Do your students know what you are trying to accomplish? If not, tell them so they can be more involved in their own learning. Do you waste time by starting rehearsals late or by using rehearsal time to fix instruments or collect money for band candy sales? Don’t. Walk in prepared, start on time, work hard and stop on time.

How good was my teaching?
Did your students learn what you had hoped? Was your plan a good one? Did you find the right materials to execute the plan? Did you get the highest level of skill development possible? Did you provide the best music possible?

There are other questions you might ask as the year progresses. Were performances as well played as they could be? Was the balance between “serious” music and “light” music appropriate? Did activities such as concerts, contests, trips and so on support your idea of the best possible musical education for your students? Did any aspect of your program suffer because you weren’t as prepared as you should’ve been?

Review your work in detail to discover if you have done what you intended, at the level of excellence you wanted. If you have a good friend whom you trust to tell you the truth, ask him or her to watch your teaching and attend your concerts; then review them.  Be honest with yourself in your own evaluation. After reviewing your work, make an upgraded plan to improve the quality of what you do.

Evaluation is obviously important for new teachers. Older teachers, however, can find it easy to believe that they have become masters of their craft and are doing everything well.

Be careful; when you have reached that point, it is time for a good, honest evaluation of your own work.

This article can be found in the most recent edition of the Conn-Selmer Keynotes and is re-distributed with the permission of Conn-Selmer.

Contact Your Local Palen Music Center

Can we assist you with anything?  Please contact your local Palen Music Center school road representative for all of your music education needs.


Springfield Bob Hopkins, Mike Brown, and Jeromy Pope (417) 882-7000
Columbia Robert Pitts and Stephenie Algya (573) 256-5555
Liberty Ken Crisp and Dick Murdock (816) 792-8301
Joplin Wayne Blades, Scott Frederickson, and Zach Houser (417) 781-3100
Broken Arrow Mark VanVranken (918) 770-6827


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