Monday, February 16, 2015


Encouraging Your Students To Pursue Music | Discipline From Within the Band

Actively Encouraging Your Students to Pursue Music
Part Two - Enlisting the Help of Others
by Mike Steffen

This article is the second part of a series on encouraging your students to pursue a career in music.
Click here to read the first part: Resources to Open Their Eyes.

Now that you have actively encouraged students from your program to explore and pursue careers in music, it’s time to take that next step and enlist the help of others! Here are two options with examples to get your creativity flowing! I’d love to hear what you would add to this list! Please email me with ideas - [email protected]

Option 1: Bring the help to you!

  • Invite guest artists once per quarter (month, week) to demonstrate for and talk with your students (in person or via Skype!). Offer them a meal or pay their gas! College students, local pros, private teachers, recording engineers, music therapists, composers, conductors, retired teachers, etc. are all great resources. Each guest will bring an added level of validity to your claim that there are many paths you can take in the world of music as they tell their own musical story. Let your guest answer questions after they demonstrate/talk about their craft, and watch your kids come alive! The students love this stuff - remember, that’s why they signed up! - and are just itching to know more people who love it just as much as they do! Don’t feel like you know enough people? Ask the people you DO know for suggestions and expand your network!
  • Work with your counselors to set up a career day for the whole school! Administrators and counselors are always trying to find ways to show the community that the school is preparing the students for life after graduation - and this is the perfect way! Tell them that your job will be to bring in multiple engaging people you know in the arts fields, the science teachers will find folks in the science get the idea. It can be an evening event, but will be most effective during the school day.

Option 2: Take your show on the road!

  • Set up a music jobs field trip. If you teach in/near a large metropolitan area, set up a day to take a group of your students out to visit your music colleagues “in the field”. Set up two visits in the morning (e.g.- recording studio & music therapist at the children’s hospital), take the kids to a fun lunch, and then do one or two more visits in the afternoon. Tap into the skills of studio recording engineers, booking agents for your local performing arts center, music therapists, music store owners, etc. If need be, divide the students up into manageable groups, and set up a round-robin visit schedule where each student rotates through the three or four sites.
  • Not in a high-population area? Tie a visit to a music store or recording studio in to your next competition/festival trip! Why not? You’re going to be in a larger town for your festival - might as well combine the two events!

Regardless of which option or example fits your situation, make it a goal to do at least one activity that exposes your students to musicians in the “real world” before this time next year. By sharing with them resources to open their eyes and enlisting the help of others in your quest, you show your students that you believe in them; you help them plan their futures; and you give them experiences that could change their lives! Think about it - someone special once did this for you and look at you now!! Best wishes for a FANTASTIC Spring Semester!

Mike Steffen
Educational Representative - Palen Music Center Springfield
[email protected]

Mike Steffen grew up in Grandview, MO and holds Music Education Degrees from Missouri State and University of Missouri - Kansas City. He served as a band director for five years in the Lee's Summit R-7 School District (KC area) where he taught band in grades 5-12. While he was there, Mike worked with the LSHS Golden Tiger Marching Band, directed the Concert Band, and directed the middle school program. Most notably, he was instrumental in the development of the Lee's Summit High School Jazz Program which had an active, well-respected big band, two student combos, and placed many students in the All-District Jazz Bands each year. Prior to that, Mike taught middle school band in Pleasant Hill, MO. Mike loves playing the saxophone, is married to his high school sweetheart, Miranda, and is the proud papa of three beautiful girls - Melody, McKenna, and Mae!

Discipline From Within the Band by Julie Capps

Editor's Note: We always love getting articles (or even just article suggestions) from the band directors we serve. This Quick Note edition features an article from Julie Capps, who teaches music at Santa Fe in Waverly, Missouri. Do you have ideas for upcoming Quick Note articles? Please submit them! --Eric

I had the good fortune to work with, and for J. R. McEntyre in Odessa, Texas for a number of years. J.R. was the band director in Odessa, Texas, (home of Friday Night Lights), for many years, and then later, the music supervisor. He came to do clinics with my bands at the Visual and Performing Art Magnet School at Milam, and then later at San Jacinto Junior High in Midland, Texas. I still use the band method book that he and Harry Haines co-authored entitled, Rhythm Master. When I first moved to Texas, I was surprised to learn that my college band director, Wm. G. Mack, had met and knew Mr. McEntyre. Mr. Mack had been the president of MMEA at the same time J.R. was president of TMEA, and they had met at the Mid-West Convention. Mr. Mack told me I was lucky to get to work for, and learn from Mr. McEntyre. Indeed, I was.

These suggestions are from a clinic he presented to us years ago.

The development of good discipline in rehearsal involves dynamic leadership from the director. The director should project an image of authority while generating enthusiasm. Establish good, consistent communication techniques and always be a good example, musically and otherwise.

In your rehearsals, the student must have a sense of responsibility and a respect for authority. The students should be attentive, receptive and responsive to direction. This includes being quiet and being still during instruction time. Set your expectations upfront, and then be consistent. You, must, of course, earn their respect through professionalism, and through a caring rapport.

Try to have as few written rules and regulations as possible. These rules must be enforced consistently and with understanding and fairness. A good band handbook can make all expectations very clear early on. Many rules are not written, and are simply rehearsal procedures and/or traditions. These might include bus manners or expectations of behavior during various in activities and performances. Students thrive with routines, as they always know what to expect and what is going to happen next.

Student leaders are so important. They feel a sense of ownership in the band, and that is contagious. They will promote esprit de corps with their enthusiasm, and this will promote good teamwork. If you don’t have band officers and section or squad leaders, you should implement them.

Good organization is just critical. You can’t come to rehearsal unprepared and expect the kids to behave. They will respond accordingly. Have orderly physical surroundings, a neat classroom, a regular set up, equipment in good working order, etc. Having a symmetrical appearance of the chairs, stands, and equipment will promote an orderly band rehearsal. Sometimes a student will have a problem with an instrument, if you stop and try to fix the instrument, you have lost all continuity and flow of the rehearsal. Establish that you can’t do instrument repair in class, and then readily help the student after rehearsal.

In addition, the classroom should be clean and the director should maintain a professional appearance. Have teaching aides readily available and in good working order. Have a set procedure for taking attendance and making announcements so that they take up as little rehearsal time as possible. After all, if the students are playing, they are not talking, so keep them playing as much as possible.

Plan your rehearsals so that they are carefully paced. It is so important to solve specific problems and not just play through the pieces. Provide for the release of tension periodically throughout the rehearsal. Don’t waste time; get the job done in the least amount of time possible. This is usually not achieved by the director talking. Make sure your students have their measures numbered and a pencil always on their stands.

Have meaningful goals, both short and long term. Good citizenship goals develop a sense of pride, loyalty and responsibility in the students. There should be a place in the band for every student who gives his or her best. Musical goals should be emphasized; mere mechanical note drill is simply the means to this end.

In summary, do:

  • Be consistent.
  • Be fair.
  • Be prompt.
  • Be businesslike and project an image of authority.
  • Be convincing and insist upon the highest standards of achievement.
  • Be respectful of the students’ other interests and activities.
  • Be quick to admit YOUR mistakes.
  • Be super-organized.
  • Be interested in every student as a person, not only as a band member.
  • And most of all, be enthusiastic in your love of music.


  • Don’t be an exploiter of all the students’ time.
  • Don’t make any statement to a student that you would not repeat in the principal’s office or in front of a parent.
  • Don’t allow distractions of any kind in rehearsal.
  • Don’t be afraid to apologize for your own errors.
  • Don’t blame the students for your mistakes.
  • Don’t always be negative.
  • Don’t water time. Make very minute count.
  • Don’t settle for less than 100% effort.