Junior High Band
Survival Tips

Be Prepared

Being well-prepared is absolutely vital to survival. My class schedule in Bancroft was different every day. Often, at the beginning of the school day, the schedule was changed and the students would go to Tuesday's classes on Monday, or Friday's classes on Wednesday. I learned quickly the value of being prepared and the pain of being unprepared. If I didn't prepare at least a week in advance, there was a good chance I would be sorry.

Preparation can easily eat up all the extra time you have. When Wes Barry did his student teaching, his supervising teacher required him to write down everything he intended to say. If he wanted to tell a joke he had to write every word of the joke in his lesson plan. (He later said the only thing he got out of his student teaching was a long list of things he would never do as a teacher.) I found it helpful to write an outline of the lesson plan on the board. Doing so helped me remember everything that needed to be done. It also helped the students pace themselves through the rehearsal. (See Daily Lesson Plans)

When I moved to the junior high, Wes admonished me to, “Make sure to give them something new every day.” That advice was a guide to my preparation. Having something new every day kept the lesson plans fresh. It kept me on my toes and it kept the students interested.

At the beginning of a quarter it was easy to find new things, such as new music, new scales, new fingering and tuning challenges, new playing tests, new written test material, and so forth. When we got close to a concert or festival and we needed to play through our pieces, “something new” became rehearsing in a different place (especially on the auditorium stage if the performance was at our school - and even if it wasn’t.) Rehearsing in a different place helped me to hear things I had missed before and it helped the students hear how their parts fit with the whole. Recording the band and listening to ourselves also helped us hear things we had missed and was a very helpful new thing.

Many things can be prepared during the summer for the entire school year, such as concert dates, early morning rehearsals (See EMR Calendar), weekly playing tests, (See Playing Test Lists), quarterly written tests (See Written Tests for more details), and possible concert repertoire (See Music Winners).

Being a "morning person" made it easy for me to get up early and prepare for early-morning Jazz Band or the early-morning sectional that was scheduled for the day. I always requested first-period prep (first period was usually longer because of homeroom business and school announcements.) Following the early-morning class, I had plenty of time to prepare for the rest of the day. (See Daily Lesson Plans)

Being well-prepared also helps prevent discipline problems. If I planned a variety of things to do and if I had more things prepared than we had time, discipline problems were rare. If I wasn’t well-prepared, discipline suffered.

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.