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Palen Music Center Quick Note

Monday, November 7, 2011


The PMC Quick Note 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!

Discipline Tips for Middle School Band Rehearsals

Over the past several weeks, we have asked area directors to submit ideas for discipline tips in middle school band rehearsals. Have any other ideas? Please submit them!

  • Have a vision of how you want your class to run, teach the students how to achieve that vision, and then be consistent. Remember that even mistakes are teaching moments!!!
  • Play along with your students to model tone, pitch, and style
  • Remove problem students from the classroom - hallway, office, new schedule, etc.
  • Find ways to turn problem kids into leaders
  • Stay engaged, be entertaining, and add humor
  • Keep a very fast pacing with all instruction. Eliminate pauses or dead time. Keep the kids playing.
  • Make regular phone calls home to keep the parents involved
  • Don't just teach from the podium, move around the classroom. Teach from the back, teach from the middle, teach from the side. Switch things up. Break the routine.
  • Relocate problem students so that they are in closer proximity to you
  • Treat kids with respect
  • Never argue with a student, especially in front of the rest of the class
  • Have high expectations. Treat middle school band like you would a high school rehearsal in regards to expectations. Kids will rise to the occasion if it is expected, never use the excuse "Well, they are just in middle school..." in regards to their behavior.
  • Have a plan and stick to it and don't get bogged down, this will keep the rehearsal moving and the kids will know what is next. Write the goals for the day on the board.
  • Assign things for them to do when you are not working with them, and be very specific. ie. You are working with the trumpet section, tell the low brass they need to "whisper" (finger their part) from A-D 5 times. Tell the woodwinds they need to whisper measures 25-30 3 times...etc...
  • Stand up/sit down--to get middle schoolers attention instead of yelling or doing the "I'll wait for you..." thing, I ask them to stand up. I explain from the beginning that stand up means mouths quiet and refocus. We may do this 3 times in a rehearsal (even one right after another), but if you are consistant with it you will find that you don't have to use it much later on.
  • If you aren't ready to begin, don't stand on the podium. Give instructions from the floor so the podium is a sacred "music making" place.
  • Be personable. Middle schoolers will not act up if you are the first person to correct them, but also the first person to tell them what a great job they are doing!
  • Have a set routine with climbing expectations as the year progresses.
  • Pacing man... It's all about the pacing. (period at the end implies the word "dude")
  • I just beat them. Also... A routine with some humor splashed in there.
  • Set expectations early (during the beginning days of beginning band) and make sure students fully understand what they are. You may have to get way more specific on this than you think you should. Use the mantra, "If I haven't told them what I expect, then they don't know what I expect." Reinforce those expectations continuously so that when the students get to HS, it will be smooth(er) sailing.
  • Keep the pace of the class moving. Always have something brief and relevant to say when you stop the class. Quickly move back into the activity or on to the next.
  • Don't accept/answer off-task comments/questions (which usually tend to come from the same students). Tell the students to write down the question, and you will answer it after class.
  • When explaining new information, including logistics for an event, etc., do not take questions until you are completely done explaining because you might already cover what the student is initially going to ask. Tell students you will not answer anything until you are done explaining so they know that's the expectation.
  • Keep a large "toolbox" of tricks to manage your class. If a textbook classroom management technique does not work for you, TRY SOMETHING ELSE! Each group of kids has a unique make-up. What works one day, with one class, in one situation, may not work again with the same or different class. You've got to have a bazillion back-up tools ready to use.
  • Use trustworthy students to your advantage. For example, a percussion leader would make sure their area was cleaned up at the end of class, percussion room lights off, etc.; brass leader would make sure all mutes were gotten out and put away; woodwind leader would check reeds, etc.
  • Start strict, establish expectations, then loosen up.
  • Have a routine!
  • Use call and response with your group to get their attention rather than creating more noise like whistling, etc
  • It comes from planning. If you've got each day planned out, you will reduce discipline problems. When the kids know you have a plan, there's no time for misbehavior.
  • Discipline: a set routine, verbal cues, preventative approach by preparation and pacing.
  • Use tons of positive reinforcement. Point out the ones who are sitting up straight, make it a competition, "Who can count the most confidentally without yelling?" Even a simple thumbs up or smile while they are playing can make a big difference and doesn't disrupt the flow of the class.
  • Invest in your students. Know something about each and every one of your students that doesn't have to do with band. This will help establish a connection inside the classroom.
  • With a few problem kids, just a quick call home can make a big difference. If you emphasize the talent and potential their student has, if they could just buckle down and behave/practice, some parents will see band as a great (and possibly only) area of success for their student and really reinforce lessons at home. Sometimes...

Thank you for sharing these great ideas! Have any others? Please submit them!

Contact Your Local Palen Music Center Representative


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, Wayne Blades, Jason Moore, Mike Steffen, AAron Bryan (417) 882-7000
Columbia Paul Bowen (573) 256-5555
Liberty Ken Crisp, Harlan Moore, and Victoria Clymore (816) 792-8301
Joplin AAron Bryan (417) 781-3100
Broken Arrow Mark VanVranken and Bryan Snyder (918) 286-1555


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