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Palen Music Center Quick Note

Monday, January 14, 2013


Palen Music Center is dedicated to helping children experience excellence, personal growth, and joy through involvement in music. We carry out this mission by supporting area band directors through weekly service, support, educational programs, and quality products. This weekly Quick Note newsletter strives to highlight topics that are immediately helpful in the classroom. Comments, suggestions, ideas, and articles are always welcome.


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A Clever Idea (Pun Intended) by Bob Hopkins

Even after 33 years on the road for Palen Music Center, I hardly have a day pass when I donít leave a school thinking, ďBoy! I wish I would have thought of that, known that, or done that when I was teaching.Ē

Michael Wright, Director of Bands at Clever Schools in Clever, MO, has developed a tutoring program for his students that is paying some big dividends for the program.

Mr. Wright is a graduate of Missouri State University and has taught for 18 years. He came to Clever 12 years ago after 2 years as Assistant Director of Bands in Poplar Bluff, MO and 4 years as Director of Bands at Hickman Mills, MO. He and his wife have 3 children. When he isnít working with his band kids, judging, or spending time with his family, he can be found helping a friend with his landscaping business or being involved at car shows.

Recently, we were able to spend some time with Michael and asked him to share some of the details about his Band Buddy Program.

BH: Michael, just what is a Band Buddy and how long has the program been in place?

MW: Itís really a private lesson before or after school. Participation in the program is voluntary. We ask for high school and advanced 8th grade band students to sign up to be tutors. We assign them a younger Buddy, or beginning band student, who has also voluntarily signed up for the extra help sessions. Weíve been offering the program for 9 years now.

BH: How many kids sign up?

MW: We have a number of older students who are more than happy to help a Buddy. We can expect about 50% of our younger kids to sign up for a lesson time.

BH: That must present a space and time problem.

MW: We have practice rooms in the band room. Each session is 20 to 30 minutes long. Because itís before or after school, we are also able to use hallways, and unused classrooms. We donít want the kids to miss rehearsal or our regular instruction time so the before and after school times work very well.

BH: Iím sure you direct the areas to be covered during the sessions.

MW: Really, thatís pretty easy. The kids know where they need help. They have their band books or pieces of concert music. I just make sure the older Buddies know where we are supposed to be or what we are working toward.

BH: Youíve had a great deal of growth in Clever, not only in the program but in the community as well. Your school used to be all on one campus. Now you have separate campus facilities. Has that presented any challenges?

MW: The biggest one is transportation. We do have to shuttle some of the kids from building to building but weíve had a lot of help from our bus people and parents.

BH: Iím sure that you see some real benefits to the program other than the obvious ones that come from the extra instruction and practice time. Can you share a few?

MW: As for the whole band program, I feel we get more buy-in from the students. They stay more excited about band and it raises the playing level of all students involved.

Our High School tutors get A+ credit for their participation. I also get a charge out of seeing them have to think about what they do when they play. Itís kind of a ďback to basicsĒ for them when they have to teach someone else. They get some valuable experience that may help them make career choices. Definitely, they become a part of the legacy of the band program.

The younger Buddies get to hear more advanced players. They can work on a particular problem area and they have at least that period of supervised practice time. All the sessions are free which parents seem to like.

Maybe the biggest thing we gain from our Band Buddy program is the increased feeling of belonging. A very real relationship is formed among the students at all levels of our program. The younger kids have an older mentor/student that they can look up to and the older students have the knowledge that they are involved in the future success of our overall band program.

BH: Thanks for taking the time to outline some details.

If you have questions, please feel free to contact Michael Wright. His email is [email protected].

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