One of the biggest challenges about summer for me is staying active musically and continuing to become a better teacher and musician even when I am not in school. This summer one way I stayed active musically was by being on band staff with my high school marching band. This has been one of the most valuable experiences for me and has gotten me so excited for the day that I have my classroom and begin teaching.

Marching Band Staff

Over the past 3 summers I have been on band staff with my high school’s marching band (Somerset High School in Somerset Pa). I am one of the brass and marching instructors. What I have learned these past 3 summers has been invaluable. I have had many opportunities to rehearse/conduct the entire band along with rehearsing both woodwind and brass sectionals. One thing that I have learned is that as the teacher you have to learn to re-phrase things in different ways to get all of your students to understand what you are explaining. This was a challenge for me at first, but now after doing it a few times it is becoming more natural.  I have also learned a lot about teaching drill and have seen many different methods of how drill may be taught and the pros and cons of teaching it each way.

Being on staff has also taught me about all the organizing and planning that takes place as a band director. There are so many tasks such as taking inventory of instruments, getting uniforms dry cleaned, ordering buses for football games, and getting students to turn in forms on time. It has been a great experience for me to witness a lot of these details that often take place behind the scenes.

I have also learned a lot about instrument repair/maintenance. This is something that I wish colleges would teach music education undergraduates, but thankfully I have learned  basics because of workshops at GCC and PMEA.  Quite a few times throughout the summer students would come up to me with a broken instrument. I got everything from stuck tuning slides, to pads falling out, keys not seeding properly, bent keys etc. From my experience I had I was able to fix some of the problems, but what I wasn’t able to fix I got to see the band director Mr. Brandon Lambert or some of the other staff fix the problem.

I also learned some about classroom management and discipline. Throughout the summer we had a few problems with behavior and it was a great learning experience for me to see how Mr. Lambert handled the situation. On the last day of band camp that I was there for we had some major behavioral issues and Mr. Lambert had me deal with one of them because he was busy dealing with other situations. This was a great learning experience for me as one of the things I am most scared about is classroom management.

Finally I think one of the biggest things I learned throughout the past three summers is patience. I usually consider myself a patient person, but I never truly realized how much patience a teacher needs. There were a few situations this summer that definitely taught me about patience. The main situation was with a freshmen who was having extreme difficulty marching. Not only was she constantly out of step, but she was also out of phase. All of the staff tried many techniques, but nothing seemed to work. It was definitely a frustrating situation for both the student and me, but I learned from this situation that I need to try all that I know and then just have patience as learning to march can take a lot of time. Thankfully by the end of summer she was starting to get the hang of marching.

I recommend that all music education undergraduates spend at least one summer working in a musical setting. Whether this be at a band camp, some sort of music camp, show choir camp etc. I don’t know of many directors that are not willing to take help from an undergraduate (especially volunteer) during the summer months. Finally another benefit of working with a music group over the summer is that what you learn there you usually cannot learn from a textbook during your undergraduate career. Much of music education is hands on and it is important to begin getting this experience as early as possible.  The amount of invaluable  information that I learned from working with my high school over the past 3 summers is still mind-boggling to me.