I experimented and took a risk with a different way of teaching band. My discovery from the trial run is that band method books do not teach music. They teach technique but not beauty through music.
Let me explain my experiment and conclusions better. I have been frustrated with how inefficient exercises are at perfecting playing style. They are good at introducing elements of music but not learning how to apply them. Music is also not good at applying techniques because everyone gets a different part. Tubas never learn anything, flutes learn it all. How do I get away from inefficient exercises and into music if music doesn't teach skills?
I will offer a new teaching method and a different way of approaching rehearsal. Imagine this, fundamentals approached in a holistic way. Everyone gets to learn, everyone gets to play, everyone learns quickly and together.
Exercises are not music!
Music is written in a different way than exercises. Rhythms are not always independent from other parts of music, most of the time they work together with the music. Melody can be independent or interconnected to harmony, accompaniment, bass lines, or counter-melody. We learn each of the skills as independent parts, not as a whole. This is a good way to understand each independent element of music but not a good way to apply it.
We need to first understand each element of music then apply those elements into real music. Wait you say, I do apply each element in real music as we rehearse our music for upcoming concerts. I am a trombonist and played in some excellent bands but as you and I know trombones, tubas, and low woodwinds do not learn as much as the flute, clarinet or trumpet. I did not apply the things we learned because my music was too easy to learn as much as others. You say it is because I was not paying attention it could have been a little of both but if you had a way to engage everyone so you did not lose them would you try it?
Problem: We learn elements of music but do not apply them enough to understand the connection to music.
What makes music musical?
I spent a whole year studying scores for one express purpose, what makes band music musical? It seems like a simple question and when I finished it all, it was simple. So simple I felt dumb for spending so much time studying it. Then I realized in my experiment that none of the method books teach those things. That's why it was hard but simple.
I found there are six parts to music.
Six Parts to music.
1. Melody - of course, there has to be a melody and beginning band methods do a good job teaching melody. High School level books ignore melody. There is one book that I used for several years which brags about the hundreds of sight-reading exercises in it. Not one of the exercises has a melody. I found even though they taught technique they wasted our time. There was no music. Why sightread if there are no musical lines, no dynamics, no articulations, etc. I need to save time and be more efficient and sight-read music, not exercises.
2. Basslines - music has a bass line. The bass line establishes the root of the chords. Without a root, it is difficult to know how to tune. The bass line should relate to the melody and be played to enhance the melody musically. How many books teach this? None, Zero, Nada. Just a quick selfless plug of my book that teaches all parts of music. Progressive Musical Studies: Sousa Book 1 and in the summer of 2020 book 2. This book teaches all parts of music so your students can say things like mine. "It is nice to be able to know what other people are playing so we can make our part in the music fit with theirs" or "It is so much easier to play music now I know how to make my part fit." My favorite comment "the march book is fun to play out of."
3. Accompaniment - Have you ever thought to yourself; why do my third clarinets always struggle to play rhythms right? We work on them every day? Accompaniment rhythms are different from rhythm sheets. They are part of a larger work and how you play them has to work with the melody. My band sight-read for festival this year and the first time through my lower trumpets, clarinets, and background parts played their rhythms right. That's what I said they played it right the first time. Why? We practiced excerpts of real music from easy to hard in a progressive method. For the first time, we talked about and learned how to play accompaniments as a whole band. Everyone learned about accompaniments and how they relate to the melody.
4. Counter Melodies - Real music has counter melodies. Students understand things that they do over and over again. Well with concert music you learn counter melodies only every once in a while. Most musicians in your band will only encounter counter melodies a few times each year. If you want them to play counter melodies as they relate to the melody they need to practice it over and over again. When is the last time you had a book that taught how counter melodies relate to accompaniment and melody?
5. Harmony - There are two types of harmony in music. The harmony part which plays the same rhythm as the melody but different notes. The second is the combination of all the parts: bass, accompaniment, melody, harmony or counter-melody altogether. These need to be treated differently even though one is part of the other. Teach how to play harmony with the melody. When to play louder and softer and how the two relate. Then teach the chord progression how everything combined relates. In Progressive Musical Studies: Sousa book 1 I have written a chorale to show the musical progression as a whole for each excerpt. Everyone can play any part SATB. See an example from the book.
6. Fanfares - Most music has a fanfare. A loud sometimes monophonic, polyphonic or homophonic section that does not necessarily have a bass line or harmony but it is loud and accented. Fanfares are often an integral part of the music. Imagine having a bunch of real fanfares that you could practice that are progressive from easy to hard. Learn fanfares as a specific style within the music.
Take a risk and experiment with a new way of teaching music.
John Philip Sousa said, "There is one way of judging music if it is beautiful or not." Why do we spend so much time teaching exercises but not spend time teaching beauty through music? We are missing a big part of what we can teach kids or we are teaching inefficiently.
You can download an excerpt from three strains of Progressive Musical Studies: Sousa Book 1 try an experiment to see if it will work for you and your band.
Please consider using my book next year as you think to yourself I want my students to learn how to be well-rounded musicians who can read and understand music. If you have questions or would like to hear more feel free to contact me firstname.lastname@example.org
Sevier Band & Percussion
Watch this 2 minute video to help your Tubas and French Horn play the right style in marches. Supplemental lesson to go long with Progressive Musical Studies: Sousa Book1 Unit 1.
The hardest section of your band to get to play well and cleanly is always the inner parts. Why? I have always thought it was simple, members of my band who were the weakest players play the inner parts. They were not as good as my strong players so they could not be heard or play well.
It is difficult to blame kids when it is really my ineptitude that causes the problems. That being said I was searching for a way to teach them better. Do I do more rhythm sheets or more playing tests? I was perplexed because some kids are able to play them well without that extra work.
Let me get to the real solution. I think we are preparing kids wrong to play inner parts. We spend all of our time in books learning melodies. Rhythm sheets are good teaching tools but I feel do not always transfer from exercise to real music. The way they are used in real music is different so some of my students do not connect the two together. When I work on articulation exercises my students do not connect how the exercise and real music are the same.
Solution: Teach real music. Teach students to play an accompaniment part. Teach students how to play a bass line. Teach students how to play a counter melody.
Solution in action: I compiled 50 excerpts of Sousa's marches because each strain has every part of music: melody, counter melody, accompaniment, and bass lines. I wrote out every part so everyone in the band can learn to play each part. Click here to see an example. Now everyone learns together how to play an accompaniment, bass-line or counter melody.
Benefits: We started sight-reading new music for an upcoming concert and all of my inner parts already know how to play the accompaniment. They were playing the rhythm and music with other parts well, the first time. My inner parts and bass parts were able to listen and balance the first time to the melody and know how they work together.
Conclusion: Students cannot play inner parts and bass lines because we never practice them in any of the method books. We only try to teach it while we are teaching everything else at the same time and it is slow and unproductive. Try a couple of these exercises for free here. Also, order a free demo copy here or order a classroom set here. Playing a different march every day or every few days is the highlight of my rehearsals. My students love it and it is so easy to do because it is organized in a book, I do not have to pass out parts every day and we get to practice each part in unison.
I was judging a festival and can you imagine my joy, one of my favorite pieces was going to be performed. I was so excited not because I knew it well but I thoroughly enjoyed (anonymous piece). When my worst nightmare happened. The group ignored all of the musical elements of the piece. They had a complete disregard for tempos, dynamics, accelerando's, articulations, and rubato. They played a beautiful ballad without emotion. Nothing! No dynamics! What was I supposed to say?
The conductor was to blame and his students and my ears were the victims. Has anyone else ever noticed there is not a book to teach musicality? We talk about it. We demand it from our groups but it is one of those things we just have to learn in music. It is not talked about in any method books in a way that someone could learn it. We learn elements of it through years of experience and practice. I never understood it until I started seeing full scores and it still took time to understand. John Philip Sousa said, "There is only one way of judging music and that is either its beauty or its lack of beauty."
Sousa also said in the 1930's "I believe that the compositions of today are written by men who write them without inspiration and write entirely from their knowledge of harmonic structure and thus produce music that is lacking in the quality of inspiration." I feel the same way about all method books. I dislike all books especially books with sight-reading because they teach how to play music but they do not have musical lines for melodies they have a bunch of rhythms and notes but no music. How do we teach music without having music with emotion in it?
Beauty of Art
I have gained a great love for other art forms. I appreciate photography, a good museum, and other beautiful things. I appreciate a beautiful sunrise and sunset. A beautiful landscape. I do not have to criticize art and nature like my mind forces me to critique and analyze music. As I heard recently, "Music sounds different to the performer." I do not go to an Art Gallery to experience the large crowd or drink the coffee. I don't drive to a National Park to enjoy the traffic jam, pollution or trash. I do not go hiking to stand in line to see nature. Why do we present music without musicality? Why is there a lack of emotion and beauty through music? (personal opinion). We teach kids how to read rhythms and notes but we do not teach them beauty because no one ever taught us that when we were in school. We only learned technique and they talked about music but there is no method for musicality.
Where do we learn Musicality?
I was able to attend conducting workshop while doing my Master's Degree with the American Band College by Colonel Mike Bankhead. He said our score is the recipe and the ingredients are Rhythm, Tone, Pitch, Volume.
How we use our ingredients can make a huge difference to what our final product becomes. We teach rhythms from books and they are not musical. We teach scales, also not musical. (I have been told a million times to play them musically but sorry they are scales, there is a reason they are not actual melodies). We teach dynamics in beginning band books but really all we get are two volumes on and off. What are dynamics without emotion? We teach notes but do not spend enough time showing how those notes relate to chords and other things that are happening in the music.
Phrasing, our ingredients.
Our musical recipe has five ingredients. All of them together make beauty. We cannot just teach a melody and teach a student to phrase. Musicians need to know the bass line, the accompaniment line, the counter melody, harmony and the melody or many other combinations of those elements to make music. Without all the parts of the music being musical none of them are musical.
Sousa is the march king or if you are a french horn player "Satan". What if your entire band learned to play rhythm or chords like a french horn player. As the joke goes Marriage is like the French Horn it looks easy until you try it. Playing French horn rhythms and chord progressions is very difficult to do and even more difficult to make it fit within a musical line.
What if all of your musicians learned to play a bass line as good Sousa could write a bass line. Everyone would understand a chord progression and the way to follow and listen down for tuning, balance, and tone.
When should the Counter Melody play out when should it be softer, no one knows until you hear the melody. It is not musical without the melody.
Melody like an engine is the most important part. If it fails everything fails. To be useful a melody and engine need all the other parts to make it work. If you do not spend as much time preparing all of the musical elements of a performance as you do melody you failed. You have to teach all of your musicians every part of a piece for them to understand how their part works. Wait there are no methods books that teach this way. None. Zero. Zilch. Nada. They teach elements of music but do not put them together. I do not like to compromise. I want my kids to learn everything.
Here is my answer to a very complex question. I have organized the music John Phillip Sousa in a progressive manner from easy to hard in a way that you can learn all parts of music. Melody, Counter Melody, Accompaniment, bass line and harmony. Order a free demo copy today. Stop compromising start teaching musicality.
Demo Copy Progressive Musical Studies: Sousa Grade 2-3
Demo Copy - Progressive Musical Studies: Sousa Grade 2-3
50 progressive selections from the music of John Philip Sousa.
This book starts from an easy grade 2 to grade 3. Each selection has a melody, counter melody, accompaniment, and bass line. Make it easier to teach style and musicality through marches by showing many different examples of the style, dynamics, articulation, note lengths, musical emphasis, trio's, break strains, intro's, in a progressive manner.
Each selection can be played in small group of 5 or as an entire ensemble. Varied curriculum so Flute can play a bass line and tubas can learn to play a melody. Challenge everyone in your ensemble to learn how to play all parts of music and understand how to make them work together.
Brian R. Thompson
Master of Music in Instrumental Conducting
Music Educator, Author, Clinician and Terrible Dancer
Every band has different times they struggle to play in tune. Some struggle on everything others just on difficult passages. I wanted to share a few ways that I have found that can help any group play more in tune.
1. Try it for a month: Commit to about four weeks of teaching intonation every day. Research shows that if you can do something for a month you can build a routine that works. We all know when teaching music that it is easy to get distracted and try new things all the time. We also know that intonation can be boring and tedious. If you want your band to be in tune in the most important time of the year for festival, performance assessments or whatever your area calls it, give some focus to intonation, every day.
2. Try bundling Intonation with something fun: It is easy to not do something because your students don't like it or it is boring. They will complain, whine and you will avoid doing it. Even if it is one of the top things judges talk about at festivals. Bundle intonation with something fun. Shameless plug, Band Intonation Exercises and Chorales are quick fun set of exercises to play with accompaniments to practice long tones and intonation. Check them out here.
You could also pair intonation with something fun like a song your students like to play or a quick game. One of my favorite ways to play a game that only takes about two minutes is "Ultimate Rock Paper Scissors". I read about it once but can't find where I would give the creator credit if I could. Everyone pairs off and plays Rock paper scissors best out of three. The winner moves and plays another winner. The loser becomes the biggest fan of the person who beat them. In about two minutes the entire band is cheering on the two final players. It can be very loud, fun and ultimately fast. Give your kids a quick break after practicing tuning or whenever you need to regain their attention or give them a break.
3. Set goals - but understand there will be failures: Make sure your goal of playing in tune is achievable and ambitious - but give your band a pass one day when they come in and just cannot play in tune. You have worked on intonation for two weeks and all of the sudden they play worse. It happens that is part of the process of long-term goals you do not progress every day. Some days you take a step back, give them a break and don't get upset just say we will be better tomorrow and move on.
4. Be Flexible: We get set in our daily routines so much. Breathing, playing rhythms, practice scales, play a chorale, etc. Try practicing intonation at the end of a rehearsal or between songs play a chorale in the new key you will be playing in major or minor. Sevierband.com has chorales that teach the skills to play in tune in all 12 major and minor keys. They make it easy to quickly review any of the 12 major or minor keys and teach intonation for those keys. Check them out here.
5. Make It social: Post what worked for you on social media and give others ideas to help them. If you are posting about it, you will also encourage yourself to keep doing this thing that worked so well for you. You may also get others to input on things to try to make it better. You get the reward of helping others instead of being the one tearing others ideas down. Sorry, I see too many vultures on social media, I would like to see more of hey this worked for me type posts.
6. Put some money on the line: This seems odd for a way to play in tune but if you dedicate some money to curriculum or devices to help you and your band play more in tune then you are more willing to keep doing it. You have decided I am sick and tired of always having judges say we are out of tune, I am going to dedicate some of this year's budget to be in tune. You put skin in the game and are now dedicated to this goal of yours to teach your students to be in tune.
Brian teaches band, choir, guitar, percussion, etc. in Richfield Utah. He has been teaching for 14 years from middle school to college. He received his Bachelor's from the University of Utah in Music Education and a Masters in Conducting from Sam Houston State University through the American Band College. He is the owner of sevierband.com He can be found teaching music, writing exercises or arrangements, or as an adjudicator, clinician, scoutmaster, church choir director, woodworker, or spending time with his family camping.
Self-doubt is part of being a music educator.
It is easy to question everything you do and teach. You can never do enough. You are not doing the same as the directors around you. You will never be as good as that school or teacher you look up to. Having doubt and questioning what you do can be a very effective tool for being a better teacher and help you improve or it can also be crippling and make you want to find a new career.
Find a safety-net of trusted friends and educators.
It is easy to doubt yourself but it is important to find a group of other teachers, friends, or musicians to share your fears with, lean on them to help you emotionally. They may have advice for dealing with students or parents. Maybe you need ideas for dealing with administration. Having a live friend to lean on can make all the difference in the world. The place I found the most advice at was at educator conferences, honor bands, honor choirs and all state band rehearsals.
Find a solution, not a place to whine.
Online forums are a great place to whine but a friend, peer, or mentor can be a better way to solve a problem. When I was a young teacher I was told to not spend all my time in the faculty room whining. That being said online forums did not exist yet and they were never as bad as BDG can get. If you want to be attacked like a shark or have all your ideas shot down online is a great place. Someone is always going to tell you you are wrong. You could also get the opposite, other people who are bitter and just want to blame all your problems on everyone else. They don't try to understand the whole situation and realize the problem could be what you are doing. The key is finding someone you trust to talk through things, someone who is willing to listen and give you the advice you really need. I have had several people I have talked to that helped me not make stupid decisions with my groups.
Turn debilitating problems into strengths.
We all have weaknesses, there are things we doubt. We need help musically, with discipline, with motivation and someone else will always be better at something than you. Ask for advice, ask for help, listen and find a solution that works for you. If you can resolve a lot of your self-doubt, problems with your administration or students you can solve the reason most of us have burn out. Most of us have very few problems teaching music. The things we hate about teaching music has nothing to do with music. Ask others. Find solutions that work. Don't become an example become a model to follow. Be the teacher everyone else looks up to. If you are supporting others they support you and together you can make music education better.
We all know that kids today like to have fun. So why not try making some of the important things you teach fun. We do not need to try and entertain our students every moment of every day but we teach music. In band we do not work on assignments we PLAY! We play because it should be fun.
Here are a few ways I have found to break things up and make a game out of listening and adjusting pitch.
1. Tuning Duets - Go through your band having different like instruments play unison notes. Have the two players play one note right after the other. Each student in the band writes done if they think the first player was sharper, flatter or in tune. This gives you a chance to give individual players a quick chance for help and everyone gets to listen and identify it. You can do this as an assignment but I find kids take more ownership if you turn it into a competition on who can get the highest score. Motivation to get the highest score is better motivation for most kids than their grade. You just turned listening, tuning and individual assessments into a game instead of a lecture.
2. Don't Just play long tones play long tones with exciting accompaniments - If you could make long tones more fun your kids would do it more. Seriously, long tones are boring. Not anymore. Watch this video which shows the score for Band Intonation Exercises along with the accompaniment tracks. You can teach long tones and tuning into something interesting.
Try the Chorales for Key of Bb major and MP3 for free with coupon code BICFREE at sevierband.com
3. Short Small Ensemble or Section Performances - assign small groups or sections a small excerpt, interval exercise or easy chorale to play for the class. BIE Exercise or BIChorales would work perfectly. Give them five or ten minutes to practice it then have each group perform it for the class. This can be a great opportunity for students to learn in a different social situation then your normal learning environment. You can quickly assess how to help each group and or individuals. You can identify who needs the most help and find ways to help them.
4. Teach a song by rote - Choir teachers do this all the time and band teachers neglect this. If you teach a melody by rote students spend time listening and adjusting pitch, they also get to hear you play good tone on your instrument. Students who spend time learning to play by rote can play more in tune and develop listening skills that make them great musicians. Give them a chance to start training their ears before the musicianship/dictation class in college.
5. Student Centered Learning (instead of lecture) - Make teaching intonation student-centered not teacher centered. Band used to be a class where the kids sat and listened while the teacher lectured. If students can read what to do without having every instruction from the teacher you can save rehearsal time, they will get to play more. More playing equals more fun and a better band. BIExercises and BICHorales are designed with student-centered tuning tricks, hints and helps for each exercise. Students can see what notes are generally out of tune and ways to fix it without the teacher having to say everything. You run a few exercises or chorales and they learn without you having to talk all the time.
I was thinking recently about the skills I learned through music and how they made me successful. Truthfully, I spent more time on the skills I did not learn from music because I am always trying to be better and find more efficient ways of doing things.
Some of the skills I learned through music classes are: to be adaptable, have teamwork skills, openness to feedback (well sometimes), confidence, instructing, determination, verbal and non-verbal communication, perseverance, active listening, hands-on learning strategies, judgement and decision making, and focus.
We learned some great skills from music but sometimes the way we use these skills is different for different groups of people.
I will be discussing some soft skills that can make you a better educator outside of the band room to make your job in the band room easier.
Soft skills - this term is used in the business world a lot these days. They want employees who not only know hard skills like what flick keys a bassoon player should use to start each note but they want them to be creative, work with others, to listen and follow through with what they are asked.
Imagine if your students listened to you and agreed with everything you were teaching then they played there instruments a different way. Even if they understood it they choose to do it a different way. That is what we would call insubordination and you could be fired for that. I have seen music teachers over and over again do it there own way and not listen to what administrators ask. The teacher feels that because the administrator does not know about music or the parent does not have a degree in music that they do not have to listen to them.
Soft Skills Every Band Director Needs.
I have found a few skills that could help directors as they try to negotiate the hardest part of the job teaching music, everything but music.
Social Perceptiveness - Being aware of others' reactions and understanding why they react as they do. I consider my students, parents and administrators time to be valuable. If I have reason to hold an extra rehearsal or meeting there better be a very valid reason and it should not happen very much.
Piggy Bank Method - you as a teacher make deposits into the piggy bank by the good things you do. Make more deposits then you do withdrawals. Make deposits by complimenting a student, having a great concert that was on a good day that was planned ahead so families could make it. You deposit when you organize a group to perform for the golf tournament your principal happens to be in. You make deposits all the time. How often do you make withdrawals? Do you hold kids beyond the planned rehearsal time every day or once in a while. Do you forget to plan transportation and have to go beg the secretary for a vehicle at the last second all the time or maybe once a year? Do you have parents coming and complaining about how upset you are during rehearsal or have you been able to keep a cool head?
The more you make withdrawals the more in debt you become. BE THE DIRECTOR WHO MAKES MORE DEPOSITS THEN WITHDRAWALS.
"I am sorry to inconvenience you but this is such a great opportunity that even though it is last minute we are going to go ahead and do this anyway. I appreciate your understanding."
Service Oriented - actively looking for ways to help others. Did you help the vice principal fix a sound system even though it is not part of your job? How about the time you covered someone else's class because they really needed to help. Does your band try to find ways to help others or are you just about yourself? Teach your students to care for others and they will care for you and your program more.
Negotiation - a discussion aimed at reaching an agreement or bringing others together and trying to reconcile differences. It is too often you hear about the director who says "do it my way or the highway." Try to think about the administrator, secretary or parents perspective before you blow your top and make a fool of yourself.
One of the biggest problems with conflict is that each side wants to be understood and we do not do a good enough job listening to others to find the problem then working out a mutual agreement. One of the best advice I have received is from of the kindest directors around, not to be offensive but his band is not as good as mine, he hasn't taught as much as me but he is genuinely nice. If you are one of the directors around me now this statement is not about you I promise.
He said listen more then you talk, help them know that you understand where they are coming from and then try to find a solution. If you do not listen you are not negotiating you are arguing. Being argumentative is not a soft skill business and administrators are looking for.
I once read about a band director with a BOA national championships who would work with students so they could play basketball and other sports. As he stated, "our basketball team was the worst in the league" but that student would rather quit the band with a championship then basketball. His negotiations worked. He had students in his band and knew how to work things out so it worked for everyone.
Concern for others - sensitive to others needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful. Wait for a second, these all have the same ending outcomes, yes, I am sorry band directors are jerks. They cannot wait for a chance to pounce on someone else's' misstep but want them to give hem a chance when they make a mistake.
If you are concerned for others they will have concern for you. If they are your friend you will be friendly not just critical. I had a secretary forget to schedule a vehicle for me, there was a bus trip we ended up not having a bus on time because it was scheduled wrong. I can talk about the janitor who did not clean m room exactly the way I want it or the time he forgot to vacuum part of my room. Everyone has a bad day or bad week, including you. Give them the benefit of the doubt and they will give you the benefit of doubt.
Some of the things I thought about talking about but won't are:
Persuasion - cause (someone) to do something through reasoning.
Active listening - I am not talking about listening to music, I am talking about listening to other people.
Speaking - talking to others to convey information effectively, a musician may understand what you are talking about but do parents and administrators.
Psychology - knowledge of human behavior and performance.
There is one soft skill we could all use in music. BE KIND.
Advice, Helpful things that were shared with me as a young band director that I want to share with you.
Take care of your self and you will be happy. If you have a fulfilling life you do not have to have the highest score at a festival to be happy. If someone is upset with you at work it does not crush your entire life. Let's be honest, you are replaceable. If you left today, it may inconvenience the school but they would find a replacement for you. In the end, you only matter to the school while you are working there.
If you give up your life goals, your family, your health, your financial, emotional, and spiritual stability, your education they will not give it back to you. They will not help you. You will be thrown to the side as waste.
Sorry to be such a downer that no one cares for you, but if you are not willing to care for your self it doesn't matter what others do.
If you are happy, you will retain more students because they like you more. If you are happy your interactions with the administration will be better, your interactions with colleagues will be different and you will be more understanding of them and what they need.
If you the director, are emotionally fulfilled outside of school your interactions with students will be better and you will be offended less by the stupid things high school and middle schools school students say and do.
I am going to discuss five ways to help yourself, which in turn helps your music program. Physical health, relationship/mental health, financial health and spiritual health.
When is it going to be important to you to take care of yourself physically? You always seem to be too busy for you. Go to the gym, or join an adult sports league, go dancing with your beautiful wife, husband, or significant other. Go hiking, fishing, camping, skiing, or just go for a walk.
You are important now, do not wait until that moment that never seems to come that you can start living for your self. Take time now to live a healthy life. Take time out of your busy schedule to go to the gym, this can also take care of some of your other needs like having friends outside of music and maintaining healthy relationships outside of school.
Have you ever found yourself neglecting some of the relationships in your life for work? It is easy to do and even easier to justify. I will repeat myself but this is only a job. A job you love but still just a job. A job that will throw you away and spit you out if you do not take care of yourself and your personal relationships. I am not just talking about spouses and significant others. Think about your children.
Did you go to that dance recital? How about some of those soccer games? Everybody is going to have to miss something but your kids will remember forever that you came and supported them or that you never came to anything because you were too busy for their life.
Plan your schedule so can be home for your kids birthday party. Go to swim meets, even though the band is not playing at it. Take your wife on a date. Spend time with the ones you love but remember this very important thing, talk about things other than music. Yes, share your feelings about work but then get out of your own self-absorbed life and listen to others feelings. Talk about them.
You cannot rely on your interactions with students to fulfill you mentally. You need someone to talk to maybe it is your wife or husband, preferably not another music teacher. Someone outside of music that can say to you that is not normal or you really need to take time for your self.
Have you ever thought I will do that in the summer, then when summer comes you are too busy mentally getting prepared for summer band or your fall show? If you want to read a book spend some time doing it now. Find time to do woodworking now, go fishing every time you can, leave work on time one day a week just so you make sure to do what makes you happy.
Everyone needs a hobby that does not involve work. Nothing worse than a computer programmer that comes home from work and spends the entire night on the computer. You need a hobby that does not include teaching music. I have a brass quintet. Yes, it involves music but it does not involve kids. I get together with adults and we have fun playing music. You need to find something that you can personally enjoy outside of the classroom.
Do you make enough money to survive? Do you have to work to make more money? I certainly do, I tune pianos on top of being a music teacher. Why do I like piano tuning? It works with my schedule. When I have time I tune pianos when I do not have time I say no. There are very few times that tunings are emergencies (mostly other music teachers who forgot to schedule tunings for the festival until the night before). I get to be self-employed and it really helps to bring in extra money quickly.
I found an extra job that works around my actual career. I do not have time to work at Walmart every weekend or the many other part-time jobs around. If you are not making enough find a way to make more money.
I got great advice one time. Why work for a hundred hours to make a thousand dollars when you can work ten and make just as much. Find a way to make more money per hour for less work. Teach private lessons instead of work at Walmart. Teach group lessons instead of private, more kids equals more money per hour. You already write music and arrangements, sell them. There are many online retailers that allow you to sell your music with them for minimal fees. I use many of them and sell on my own page all of the music I write.
Setup your own recording studio, you have the ears and expertise to do it. Start charging people for your amazing skills and you can make the extra money you need.
One of the best days of my career was the first royalty check I received. I made enough money to take my wife to dinner, it was awesome. Someone bought my music. That was a successful day.
Stop working harder and work smarter to make enough money to survive. You are very skilled and can make a lot more money using those skills.
One of the most fulfilling parts of my life comes from serving others. We do it every day at school, but you should try being a cub scout leader, it is fun, enjoyable, and fulfilling. I am now a scout leader. My sons are both scouts, I get to spend time with them doing a lot of the activities we talked about to make your self personally happy, like swimming, hiking, camping, and of course eating hogs dogs cooked over a fire.
Serving others makes me happy. I enjoy helping a neighbor move, not because I want them to leave but because I care for them. Go to your local food bank and volunteer. Even better have your band do it so you can help others and teach your students to do the same thing.
I repeat myself from earlier. Teaching music is just a job. It is a vehicle for living your life. If you did not teach music you could make money some other way and still have a fulfilling life. Be happy now, be who you are and remember to take care of your self. Of course, it feels good to get a superior rating at the state festival. It is awesome when your student comes and tells you they are going to be a music teacher just like you. It is amazing to teach music but it is a job. There is more to life than your job.
Experienced band teacher, author, clinician and musician. Brian has a Masters in conducting from Sam Houston Sate University through the American Band College. He was quarter Finalist for Grammy "Educator of the Year" 2018