Junior High Band
Organizational Tips

Manage the Music Library

Managing a large library of band music is generally part of the band director’s job. My neighbor says he has a wonderful filing system, but that his retrieval system stinks. Being able to find the music you need quickly is the goal of most filing systems.

When I arrived at the junior high school the band music was in manila folders stacked on shelves in one of the practice rooms. There was a card catalogue, but it hadn’t been updated and most of the music had not been catalogued. The music was arranged alphabetically by title. If I knew the name of a piece of music, it was relatively easy to determine if it was in the library. To find a certain type of music (a march or a classical piece) for each grade level took way too much time.

I rounded up all the file cabinets that weren’t being used in the school and bought a few more. I took out the shelves and arranged the music by grade level and category, i.e., 7th, 8th, and 9th-grade marches, classical, overtures, and pop or fun tunes. The jazz-band music I arranged by style, i.e., swing, Latin, rock, ballads, and Christmas. A couple of drawers held all the Sousa marches. There was a drawer for James Swearingen pieces - since he wrote so many good ones. One file cabinet held all the solos and small ensemble music arranged by instrument and ensemble type.

This was in the days before personal computers and music-filing software. When the software became available, I couldn’t afford to pay someone to enter all the data so I tried to do it myself. Of the twenty file cabinets of music I got through two. Having all the music on the computer could have been helpful but I neither had the time nor the inclination to complete the project. Besides, the strengths of each band were always different and looking at the music was more helpful than looking at the computer screen.

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.