#70 5 Minutes

At your next rehearsal, try saying nothing but positive things for 5 minutes straight. It sounds easy, but once you try it, you realize just how hard it really is to do. We are so used to saying positive things and then following those words up with a prescription for making it better. Can’t you just hear it: “That was great, and this was so much better, and I loved […]


#69 Challenge Them With The Easiest Piece You Can

I spent a week not too long ago working with a remarkable band. A truly remarkable band. They were performing an extremely difficult program so incredibly well. But I found them to be very stiff, less-than-emotive, almost robotic in their collective approach to making music. They could play the spots off the page, but I found it difficult to change the way they imagined a piece, let alone get them […]


#68 He Is No Fool

Jim Elliot once wrote, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” As teachers, we can “give” as much energy, enthusiasm, excitement and passion as we can muster in every rehearsal we do, and it will never deplete our supply, for we were not destined to keep any of that. The joy of them experiencing those things, however, can never be taken […]


#67 An Essential Ingredient

When our students start to feel frustrated by that which doesn’t come easy, by that which is a profound challenge, by that which makes them question their efforts, I can think of no better lesson, no better words than those of Eloise Ristad when she wrote, “…it is such a luxury to know that it is not only permissible to fail part of the time, but an essential ingredient of […]


#66 ...To Awaken...

When you think of what we do, and remember the words of Albert Einstein when he stated: “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” It is humbling. It is daunting. It is almost overwhelming. But it is also inspiring and exciting and enlivening. Just think of those profound words when you walk into your next rehearsal or class. Peter Loel Boonshaft, […]


#65 Let Them Hear The Difference

I am convinced that half the problem with teaching students in a band is that many of them have a very distorted vantage point from which they hear the group, by nature of where they are seated. Things like ensemble balance, section balance, layers of compositional importance, foreground/background, and the like are often muted, blurred, distorted or unnoticed unless we help our students hear them. Try recording the band playing […]