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.
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
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