1. Working with students of any age can be challenging, not to mention dealing with band parents, school administrators, budgets, performance logistics and everything else that goes along with running a band or orchestra program. Remember why you’re doing this and appreciate that you’re able to have a career that you’re passionate about. Take a deep breath, smile and meet those challenges with a great attitude, a lot of patience and a willingness to be flexible and open to change.
2. When you first meet your new students, be clear and firm about your rules and expectations. Your musicians will appreciate knowing how they’ll be assessed and you’ll establish how you’ll be running the program immediately, which can head off future issues.
3. Conduct an inventory (count and condition) of existing instruments, accessories and equipment. Be sure you understand what you have on hand, including standard woodwind, brass and percussion instruments, care and cleaning supplies, various accessories, music stands, risers, sheet music and band charts, music technology and anything else that will be under your care and control. This will be immensely helpful in understanding where there are gaps that you need to fill.
4. Decide who your preferred dealer(s) will be. While online marketplaces and big box stores may offer musical instruments at cheap prices, you won’t get quality advice or assistance to help decide which instrument is best for your program and your students. You want to shop with retailers who know their products inside and out, have been selling to school music programs for years and understand your budget constraints, your invoicing processes and your delivery requirements.
5. Learn basic instrument repair and invest in a decent repair kit. This will save you time, money and frustration if you’re able to do minor fixes on the fly.
6. No one likes budgets – they’re never big enough and/or they’re always being cut, they frustrating to understand and hard to fight for. But it’s critical that you understand yours inside and out, know who you can go to discuss it and figure out who are your advocates in the budgeting process.
7. If you’re not a long-term planner, become one! Get organized, create a structured calendar for practices, performances, trips and fundraisers, and communicate your plans and details with your assistants, other staff members, students, parents and administrators as needed. This transparency will keep everyone on track and will help them understand their roles in the program. It will also help avoid nasty surprises popping up down the road.
8. Ask for help – from parents, staff and other educators and directors in your district. It takes a lot of effort to run a successful program and you simply can’t do everything on your own. Ask other educators what processes are in place that are working well and maintain them. If you don’t have a booster program, start one! Parents are almost always willing to help, but they need to know what to do and when. Give students specific roles to help practices run smoothly. It takes a village – use all the support you’ve got!
9. Find a mentor who can give you advice, constructive criticism and support. No matter whether you’re a brand-new educator or you’ve been doing this for decades, finding a trusted mentor can make a world of difference. He or she can help you celebrate successes, find solutions to challenges and get you out of a funk by offering insights and new perspectives.
10. Learn how to advocate for your program and for music education. As a music educator, you know that music education programs in schools offer invaluable benefits for students including improved communication and leadership skills, heightened creativity, increased self-confidence and better academic outcomes. The fight to keep music budgets and programs alive is a tough one, so it’s important for you to communicate the importance of music education and to take on the role of music education advocates.
While the list of tips and advice could go on and on, starting with these 10 will point you in the right direction for starting or maintaining a successful band or orchestra program. Woodwind & Brasswind is here to help! We’re proud to provide educators with our best school pricing and expert guidance. We’d love to talk to you. Call us today at 800.346.4448 or sign up to purchase online (with educator pricing!) with our Educator Website. Let us know how we can help you teach the joy of music.