The motivation of students and development of the “band” culture within your program go hand-in-hand. First, this won’t happen overnight! If you’re new to a program, even if you’ve taught before and this is a new school: don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater! Even in the wackiest places, there exist community and school “traditions” and expectations. You don’t have to do everything like the last guy, but choose your battles; maybe where the stands racks are in the bandroom isn’t THE most important thing you have to deal with right now, so don’t go to the mat over everything. In your mind, you should have the ideal program lined out; looking at the present situation, what needs to change to get there? Next, what can be done this week; this month; this semester; this year; 5 years from now. As the director, its your job to think long term. Parents and students often think in relation to their experience right NOW; you have to consider how decisions will effect students in your program 5-10 years from now; think BIG picture.
What does that have to do with student motivation? Everything! The only type of motivation is SELF-MOTIVATION! You can’t inflict your values and beliefs on others, nor can they on you. What you as the teacher have to do is show them your passion and enthusiasm for teaching the subject that you love: MUSIC! Through every decision, action, word, and task you do, how much does that task show YOUR dedication to our craft? You want to motivate students? Motivate yourself! If you’re not setting the example 24-7, don’t expect it from your students or their parents. For the key to motivation, look first in the mirror! This doesn’t mean you have to live in the bandroom (although some of us do at times)!
Consider your routine when you deal with students: what are your interactions like with them? They should know that you are serious and dedicated to music making; they should know that they will be treated fairly and held to high expectations (which YOU set as the example as a teacher and a MUSICIAN); they should know that you care about them as individuals and that you won’t tolerate disrespect and laziness. Once on the podium: are you organized? Are your goals clear for the day/week? Do you show students where you want to go and how they are going to get there? All of this plays into motivation. A slovenly attitude by the director, disorganized and seeing “what happens today” in the classroom soon breaks down the organization and deteriorates the cohesiveness of the ensemble.
When students (and parents) begin to see that what you plan makes progress and gets them to feel positive about what they are doing, they get excited and get on the bandwagon. Success breeds success and enthusiasm breeds enthusiasm. Developing these characteristics with your program serve to ensure the only type of true motivation and the cultivating of a positive “band” culture within your ensembles.
The key to student motivation is: YOU!
About the Author
Dr. Jeffery Phillips is in his 29th year of teaching at Hendersonville High School in Hendersonville, Tennessee, where he is the Director of Fine Arts in addition to conducting the Symphonic Band, Jazz Ensemble, and Marching Band. He has also taught at Pope John Paul II High School in Hendersonville, Tennessee and as adjunct trombone instructor at Western Kentucky University. He is in his 11th year on the Applied Music Faculty at Belmont University where he teaches the trombone studio and performs with the Belmont Faculty Brass Quintet. He has earned degrees from Middle Tennessee State University, Western Kentucky University, and Austin Peay State University, and California Coast University. As a performer, he remains active as a freelance trombonist in the Nashville area performing with groups such as the Jack Daniels Silver Cornet Band, the Nashville Wind Ensemble and the Nashville Symphony. Phillips has conducted clinics throughout Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi for students in middle school through college and is active as an adjudicator for music groups of all genres throughout the Southeast. In 2012, he founded the Sumner County Community Concert Band which he conducts. He has served as President of the Middle Tennessee School Band and Orchestra Association, served two years as the TMEA State Band Chair and served two years as the National Treasurer for the American School Band Directors Association. He was elected President-elect for the ASBDA and served the office of President of ASBDA for the 2008-2009 year. He is currently the President of the Tennessee Music Education Association. Phillips is also a Jupiter Band Instrument Performing Artist and Educational Clinician and performs on Jupiter and XO trombones and euphoniums exclusively.