Hello Modern Teachers,
I hope that this post finds you all well in body and mind. As a beginning music teacher, I often see many talented students drop band and orchestra between 5th and 6th grade. As a musician, I know muck of the loss is due to the fact that the first two years of learning an instrument often are the hardest. So, the question quickly becomes… How do I inspire young musicians to stay with the instrumental program through those challenging years? Sadly, I don’t know the magic answer that will help you keep a 100% retention rate, some students just can’t continue with the program. However, I do have three ideas that have worked well for me and that will help close the divide and hopefully inspire those young musicians to stick with the program.
Edutainment – Yes, I know that it isn’t a word but it still plays a vital role in any beginner music program. In college, one of my professors introduced me to this word and i have lived and breathed it ever since. It is the perfect meld between the worlds of education and entertainment. The fact of the matter is that kids don’t sign up for the love of the instrument but rather the love of the teacher and then later learns to love the instrument. This means that as educators, we have to make beginning music fun and entertaining while still teaching the concepts that students need to succeed. This can be as simple as having your students playing whole notes to one of their favorite songs or as complex as arranging one of their favorite songs to play at their skill level. Put your own spin on “edutainment” and see how your students react in both their performance and attentiveness.
Instrumental License – A major life event for any teenager is finally earning their drivers license. So what would happen if we gave our students an instrumental license after they master the basics of their instrument? Well, I can tell you first hand that the “instrumental license” concept works wonders with your beginning instrumental program. A few years ago, I started handing these “licenses” out to my fifth graders that demonstrated a basic proficiency on their instruments. Not only did it give the students tangible proof that they accomplished something awesome, but it also boosted my recruitment numbers. This was due to the fact that many of the fifth graders wanted a cool license like their friends had. At the end of the day a five cent piece of card stock drastically improved the quality and perseverance of the ensemble.
Karate Belts – This concept is not new but rather something that I adapted from my recorder karate curriculum that I used in the general music classroom. Start by going through your technique book and highlighting key concepts that you want students to understand. Then simply apply karate belt colors to those concepts. As the student progresses with their skills they are able to earn more belts and show their friends how awesome they are. This will also help foster a supportive environment where students can compete to earn belts as well as boost your recruitment numbers throughout the year.
Although the first couple years of learning an instrument can seem almost impossible to our students, we have the ability to also make those years the most memorable. I will be posting some tangible examples of these three concepts on the blog over the next few weeks. So keep an eye out to get them for free before they go to TPT. What are some things you do with your beginning program to inspire your students? As always, comment on the post or drop by our social media page to share your thoughts.