Junior High Band
Organizational Tips

Organize Small Ensembles

Playing solos or in small ensembles is an excellent way to develop musicianship. Many school districts sponsor solo and small ensembles festivals. Preparing students for those festivals is part of the band director’s job.

Our five children did not attend the junior high where I taught. Their band director required every student to play a solo third quarter. The solo had to be played at an evening performance in front of parents and other students. If they didn’t play a solo they couldn’t get higher than a C that quarter. We attended many such concerts. Many of the students didn’t play very well, and the experience was obviously painful, both for the performers and the audience. I determined I would not make that requirement.

I decided to make playing a solo or small ensemble in class an extra credit option. I provided music to every student and we spent time in class practicing the ensembles. Those who chose to participate and perform a solo or small ensemble in class got three percent extra credit (three times the normal amount.) Those who played well enough were selected to perform in our small ensembles concert and received another three percent. Since we had a large district, our number of festival entries was limited. The students who played well enough at the concert to be selected to play at the festival received an additional three percent.

This approach made the experience more positive. It was optional. Playing in class was less traumatic than playing at a concert. Occasionally a student who played well enough to move on chose not to. It was his choice. This approach also ensured that we had quality entries at the festival. Each entry had been performed at least twice in settings where I could help them. That help also benefited the other members of the class as they watched and listened.

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.