Case Research: From a $67 Funds to Success — A 4-Yr Journey

After two years of educating elementary common music, I used to be prepared for a change, so I utilized to a music schooling grasp’s program and for extra band jobs.

Fortunately, I used to be employed to show band at Meadows Elementary and Robinson Center Faculty in my present district, the Topeka Public Faculties. Keen to start out my new place, I shortly realized that there have been vital challenges and hurdles in my path.

Yr 1: Funds and Bellwork             

Through the first 12 months in my new place, the most important problem was little to no budgets in place for my center and elementary faculty bands. I additionally confronted extra hindrances together with no organizational strategies in place, low enrollment numbers, poor instrumentation, college students’ lack of musical background information, and a distrust from administration on the “loyalty” of a touring instructor. I knew that I needed to sort out these points one after the other with a purpose to make progress.

My prime precedence was budgets. The center faculty principal on the time didn’t perceive the price of band objects as a result of the earlier director taught band, orchestra and choir, and she or he spent all  her price range on tools for the musical.

I requested the principal, “What’s the price range this 12 months?” Her response was, “I feel that $200 for the music division ought to be good.” My mouth dropped. Cut up 3 ways between band, orchestra and choir, that meant my price range for the center faculty band was $67 for the entire 12 months. With that paltry price range, I may barely afford to exchange the frayed and damaged mallets within the outdated, busted percussion cupboard. I then requested if there was a restore price range and was advised that one didn’t exist. Oh boy.

Robinson Middle School Band in music room wearing masksFortunately, our district had lately made the music librarian the de facto music coordinator for the district, so I went to him and requested for his assist and assist. Moreover, I got here up with a number of plans of my very own. I used to be not allowed to cost band participation charges, however I may cost instrument rental charges. We’ve got some devices within the district rental pool, and a few devices on the faculties. For the varsity devices, I may cost the identical rental charges because the district, and I used that cash to fund a restore and provide price range. This went into impact virtually instantly.

We did not have many additional winds devices for rental, any our percussion tools was severely missing. I’ve since acquired marching bass drums, a vibraphone, chimes, congas, timbales, bongos and numerous small percussion devices.

I additionally did a little bit of advocacy and requested the principal to fund some objects that our band program wanted. I despatched her a priority-ranked want checklist (which included  flutes, trumpets, trombones, chimes, a vibraphone, bongos, cabasa, live performance toms, a tambourine, a triangle and beater, marching bass drums and a sousaphone), discovered some refurbished/used devices from an area restore store, and she or he was capable of get some devices via the final fund.

On the center faculty, we couldn’t have particular membership/exercise fundraisers (solely faculty fundraisers are allowed) so I wanted to get inventive. Due to a band mum or dad, I discovered an ideal resolution the next 12 months.

For lack of musical literacy, I had a simple resolution. College students have been required to do some kind of bellwork initially of every class. My preliminary plan was for college students to get their devices prepared, get their music so as in accordance with what was written on the board, sharpen pencils, and so on. The principal mentioned {that a} writing part or considering query was required as a result of we have been engaged on literacy as a constructing. So, I revised the bellwork: College students copied down a music vocabulary phrase and definition from the board right into a spiral pocket book. College students may use their notebooks to ask questions on music and take into consideration music whereas utilizing their expanded musical vocabulary.

Then, utilizing the concepts from “Threading the Idea” by Dr. Debra Gordon Hedden, I took the vocabulary phrase and taught it as an idea in a number of completely different elements of the rehearsal together with the warmup, listening, rhythmic focus, abilities and drills, and the repertoire. I additionally grouped the vocabulary entries into models that I may pre-test/post-test to verify for understanding in addition to grade for completion within the notebooks. This process of 1 vocab phrase per day with a complete lesson centered round that phrase and arranged into models labored remarkably nicely towards these music literacy targets.   

I didn’t need to rock the boat an excessive amount of that first 12 months. My foremost focus was including the vocabulary notebooks and getting the budgets proper.

Yr 2: Recruitment and Sources

For the next 12 months, I had an extended checklist of issues to concentrate on: recruiting, communication, budgets (which is at all times on my checklist) and instrumentation.

Recruiting: My recruiting efforts started on the finish of my first faculty 12 months. I took my present music college students and deliberate an elementary faculty tour. We went to 5 completely different elementary faculties, carried out, ate lunch at a park and promoted the summer season music program. 

Once I acquired my enrollment numbers the next 12 months for the center faculty, they went up from 48 to 68 – a rise of greater than 40%! Nevertheless, I nonetheless had a really small band class at my elementary faculty, so I needed to rethink how one can construct my program there.

Robinson Middle School band performing on stageTo recruit college students for the start band at Meadows Elementary, I made positive to speak to all fifth graders on the third day of faculty together with the elementary strings instructor. She performed her devices, and I performed a number of winds devices together with clarinet, trombone and trumpet. We answered questions and handed out curiosity kinds, which additionally helped with instrumentation as we may assign college students to their first or second instrument decisions.

Throughout my second 12 months, elementary band and strings have been similtaneously PE and music, which was not preferrred. I spoke to the principal, and band and strings have been moved to completely different occasions, equivalent to throughout lunch recess and library time, however these occasions didn’t work both. Lastly, band and strings have been scheduled throughout the unbiased work block, and this has labored nicely for me and my college students.

Band class at Meadows Elementary is 35 minutes each day. Originally of the varsity 12 months, I see woodwinds on Mondays and Wednesday, brass and percussion on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and everybody on Fridays. Towards the center of the third quarter, I change to seeing all college students each day to arrange them for center faculty, the place I see all band college students each day for 42 minutes. This schedule has been tremendous useful in retaining college students as I’m certainly one of my very own feeder faculties for Robinson Center Faculty.

We additionally began instrument info and placements within the spring with 4th graders. College students crammed out kinds itemizing which instrument they appreciated and which devices they might play, after which college students ranked their prime 5 decisions. We stored these information every year and handed them alongside to different lecturers in our district if college students moved. By inserting college students on the fitting devices for them and getting the schedule underneath management, I tripled enrollment at my elementary faculty — enrollment grew from 12 to 36 — and my center faculty numbers grew to 98 college students. For the 2020-2021 faculty 12 months, I used to be imagined to have 104 college students within the center faculty band, however sadly resulting from COVID-19, this didn’t occur.

Group and Communication: For my second 12 months, I wished to work on group and communication. As a result of I had extra time to prep, I created a band handbook that I supplied to all college students. It included a mum or dad signature web page and outlined all of my expectations, efficiency dates, grading insurance policies and every part else that I believed my college students and fogeys wanted to know. I additionally created a Fb web page for my center faculty band. The handbook and Fb helped me begin constructing extra relationships with band mother and father and households who may see precisely what was occurring and when in a number of codecs. Right here is the 2019 Robinson Center Faculty Handbook

Budgets and Fundraising: My price range elevated for my second 12 months to $500 for my center faculty band alone, which was seven occasions greater than my first 12 months! Then a band mum or dad, who was on the PTO, approached me with some concepts. She mentioned that the PTO would pay for a bus for our tour of elementary faculties and different native venues to carry out, in addition to to journey to contests if we performed on the pancake feed. No drawback.

She additionally advised that we’ve a bake sale at our concert events. What an ideal thought! On the first bake sale, we made $50, and I used to be so excited. Now mother and father have come to count on a bake sale, so we make over $250 at each live performance, and we’ve 4 concert events per 12 months. This cash has allowed me to buy tools for the band, supply instrument rental scholarships, ship youngsters to music camps, buy provides for college students and extra. All the meals is parent-made. I normally convey some baked items, too, and I speak it up rather a lot. Youngsters are excited to purchase Mrs. Antonetti’s cookies. We’ve got additionally added bottled water to our choices.

Instrumentation: I speak about the entire several types of devices in my ensembles, and I incessantly play completely different devices at school. This actually grabs the eye of lots of my college students. I maintain saying issues like, “For those who enhance on this instrument, then possibly in January, you possibly can do this different instrument.”

When switching college students to completely different devices, I attempt to maintain them in the identical household. For instance, I’ll discover a saxophonist with a giant, highly effective sound and put her or him on tenor, then ultimately bari. Or, I’ll attempt to discover a clarinet pupil with a giant, full sound to play bass clarinet. Or, I’ll take some sturdy trumpet gamers and change them to horn.

I’ve had plenty of success with switching trumpet gamers who can solely get the primary 4 notes on trumpet to treble clef baritone. I had two college students who struggled with trumpet. I switched each to baritone, they usually may each immediately (inside the similar class interval of getting the instrument) play the B-flat scale that that they had been fighting all 12 months. I finally switched a type of college students to tuba.

My center faculty college students come from a number of completely different elementary faculties with completely different lecturers, so for percussion, we leap into snare, bass and mallets from the start. All of them rotate devices between every scale sample, methodology e-book train, and so on., and I assign them completely different elements on every of the items we accomplish that that nobody is funneled into being a sure “kind” of a percussionist. This has labored nicely for my college students.

Yr 3: Amplify and Increase

By my third 12 months, I had a number of nice issues in place. My objective was to proceed with what I used to be doing and amplify, increase and get inventive. I used to be capable of attain these targets in a number of methods:

  • Inspired extra college students to take part in solo and ensemble festivals, and I helped to revitalize the center faculty solo pageant at Washburn College.
  • Continued the bake gross sales and stored on the lookout for alternate and artistic funding. 
  • Expanded the repertoire checklist at my faculty to incorporate extra numerous composers and consultant literature from numerous cultures and backgrounds. I’ve actually tried to incorporate extra feminine composers and LGBTQ+ composers in my literature choice. A few of these have included Julie Giroux, Alex Shapiro, Randall D. Standridge, Anne McGinty, Robert Sheldon and extra. I’ve additionally included band preparations of people music from different nations equivalent to Japan, Eire, Africa (Swahili), China, Russia, Guatemala, Cuba and extra.

Yr 4 and Past

Topeka High School marching band practicing on field With every year of expertise, I’ve gained extra confidence as a music educator and have discovered higher methods to be efficient, environment friendly, and to problem and assist my college students within the classroom. I’ve introduced in friends from universities and native companies to speak to my college students and broaden their understanding of music. I’ve commissioned new works for my band as a part of a consortium. I’ve taken my teams to festivals, excursions and on journeys to counterpoint their band expertise. I simply need to proceed to problem my college students and allow them to expertise life via the facility of music.  

For the 2021-2022 faculty 12 months, I’m shifting to Topeka Excessive Faculty as the top band director. A few of my targets on this new place is to do extra enjoyable issues in band since we didn’t get to have as a lot enjoyable throughout the 12 months of COVID. I additionally need to work on music and rhythmic literacy, and a few fundamentals as a result of we missed out on a lot tutorial time this 12 months. I additionally need to work on empowering pupil management to have a extra lively position in teaching youthful college students. We’ve got a little bit of remediation to care for, however we’re going to have enjoyable doing it!