Junior High Band
Grading Tips

Individual Practice

There are many theories about the value of practice and how it should be done. One director told his students not to practice at home, feeling that it did more harm than good. I understand why he felt that way. I remember practicing and making a mistake. I would start over and make the same mistake two or three times before I really concentrated and played it right, and then I would go on. In reality I had practiced it wrong three or four times and right only once. Odds were three or four to one that I would play it wrong the next time. Someone has said, “Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” I encouraged my students to practice playing it right at least twice as many times as they played it wrong.

Individual Practice (9% of grade) - The students were asked to record their individual practice on the practice report calendar. Getting an accurate record of their practice was sometimes difficult. Honest students might just forget how much they practiced. Dishonest students could inflate or create their own reality. Not wanting to turn them into good liars, I required just a minimum amount of individual practice -- 30 minutes a day, five days a week. A parent or guardian was to sign or initial the report to verify the practice happened. If the report was unsigned, only half credit was given.

One of the teachers I observed (Bobby Bird) used what he called “The $50 Phone Call” to motivate his students to practice. I never tried it but I think it’s worth mentioning here. He would hold up ten five-dollar bills in class and tell the students that he was going to call ten of them some time after school and if they were practicing when he called he would give them $50. After school he would get the names of ten students who hadn’t taken their instruments home and call them. They would say things like, “I’m not practicing right now but call me another day and I will be.” The teacher said he got a lot of mileage out of that trick and he only had to pay up once - to a student who had a second instrument at home. The negative side of it was some students would start practicing when they got home and not stop until bedtime, practicing through dinner and other family activities.

Video Disclaimer

The attached videos are not perfect examples of how each tune should be played. They are recordings of junior high students, some of whom have had their instruments for only a few months. Also, they are not professional recordings. They were taken by band parents using home equipment and naturally focusing on their own children.

I include them for two reasons: (1) To give you an idea of what the arrangements are like, and (2) To illustrate the kind of performance you can expect from your junior high students.