Advice for the New Band Director
As a new band director, I wish others would have told me a few things.
I am no legendary conductor, I did not study with legendary conductors, nor did I study to become a band director. My degrees are in composition. Due to this fact, I thought I was at a disadvantage because I didn't take methods classes or education classes. I was wrong. Somehow I passed the Oklahoma teaching certification test and earned certification (a bit concerned it was so easy). So I called my two best friends who I knew would have all the answers I needed. Katy earned her degree in Music Education and Heather earned composition degrees as well, but became certified to teach through the same avenue as I. I thought Katy would be the expert because of all the informative classes she had as a music education student. I feel I must preface this next statement with the fact that Katy is an amazing musician and very intelligent, she retained everything humanly possible taught in her methods and education classes. However, she wasn't able to answer MANY of my questions. Here's why...
You imagine it will look like this...
Upon graduation, you believe you will enter into a program and either maintain the excellence of that program or follow in the footsteps of Mr. Holland and revitalize a program and create a legend of yourself. Then you begin the interview process, you take an offer you simply can't refuse. You begin with...what? Where do you begin? Ah, I know...the music. I will program Holst's First Suite in Eb, Respighi's Pines of Rome, and Whitacre's...well, anything of Eric Whitacre.
If you are brave (some would say naïve or maybe even dumb) enough to take a position where you are the only band director, there's so much to do: music and drill for the Fall marching show, summer band clinics, learn your schedule, take an equipment inventory, learn school policies, paperwork procedures, budget planning, find a printer you don't have to walk two miles to use, hang posters, learn who your real bosses are, make folders, find field equipment, decide upon your setup, kill all the spiders lurking in all the crevices of your "new" office, and don't forget about your students. How many students do you have? What grades? Grades...oh my, how do I do grades? Wrong grades, but yeah, how do I do grades?
What?! I have to teach a class called what?
I'm not a classroom teacher, why would you do that to me? Why would you do that to students? And they don't want to be in Music Appreciation? Well #$&@! How am I supposed to manage all that...
Your visions of achieving legend status become overwhelmingly diminished when you realize that in reality, your job will be more like this...
Always looking over your shoulder while trying to keep your head above water.
So there is really only one piece of advice that I would give to a new band director: find and contact directors you admire or want to emulate and become their "student". Ask them questions and observe them...A LOT. If you aren't part of a team of directors at your school, you need to find others to connect with. Math, science, art, and even choir directors don't do the same exact job and cannot entirely relate (and you may be the choir director too). But, they sometimes make great friends and colleagues to talk about non-band stuff, so talk to them too.
Here are some things I have learned from being a single director staff (things you don't learn in school):
Make friends with the preschoolers, they will be yours someday
Buy extra deodorant and supply it to your high school students...often
If you need new chairs, send your administration pictures of the broken chair that almost impaled an average sized student whilst sitting in it
Be prepared to teach balancing chemical equations to your Music Appreciation class
Wear a cheer uniform and learn a couple cheers to do at a pep rally
Put fabric softener pods in socks to make your uniform storage space smell better
There are many more random bits I have learned through my twelve years of trial and much error, but my favorite is...
If you want parents to visit you on Parent/Teacher conferences, accidentally fail your students
I will continue to share these golden nuggets of wisdom. And please, don't hesitate to contact me, I always enjoy sharing my faux pas moments. They are truly hilarious sometimes.
Until next time...