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Unfamiliar curriculum


Well I finally did it. I graduated with a music degree in choral education. After searching several months I finally got a job teaching at a jr high and high school. But I'm not just teaching choir, but band too, and orchestra... and percussion... and several guitar classes! I was 100% ready to start my choral program at a school but now I'm at a little bit of a loss how to even begin tackling five different classes. Yes, I took methods classes at the university, but one semester doesn't really prepare one for everything needed to teach a student in a schoolyear. Does anyone know where I can find some good classroom models and materials to at least get me on the right path? You would be a lifesaver!

on July 18, 2014 5:40am
Congratulations...and condolences :-)
For orchestra: The Ten A Day series is GREAT!  It's pretty dry, but exteremely detailed and methodical.  Great for beginners to intermediate.
For violin specifically, I love the website
For percussion: These are video tutorials of every rudiment a percussionst will ever need.
For guitar: Aaron Shearer's "Learning the Classic Guitar, Part 1" by Mel Bay
For band: Hopefully your method books have DVD's.  You can also use YouTube as a resource.  I'd also suggest you check out forums on band sites (Music for All and Midwest Band Clinic) as well as NAfME.
Good luck and re-post with an update!
Melissa--Fine Arts Curriculum Specialist
Applauded by an audience of 1
on July 18, 2014 8:33am
I think the very best band curriculum is Tradition of Excellence.  I especially think it is the very best for someone in your situation, where you wear many hats.  The books do include DVDs and CDs and all kinds of other bells and whistles, but the best thing about the books are the first pages.  There are three sets of 'first note' pages in each book - one for like-instrument classes (eg. clarinets only), one for family classes (eg. woodwinds), and one for homgeneous classes.  The books listed by Melissa are great, but if you need to start guitars and especially basses with your band, there are books for them, too.
Books have been written about all this, but I'd make just a couple of suggestions:  1) Don't start kids on french horn unless you can have like-instrument classes.  The in-the-middle range and tight overtones make it difficult for beginners.  Start them on trumpet and let them switch their second year.  Even then, they need to have an excellent sense of pitch.  Same for double reeds; start them on clarinet.  2) Start all your drummers, uh, percussionists, on bells, especially in homogeous classes.  They'll actually have to learn to read music, and everyone else can hear themselves.  3) Don't overthink it.  There have been dissertations written on correct instrument choice, but I have learned to just ask 'em what they want to play; they will often overcome natural 'handicaps' and be more successful.  The first day, try to let them figure out as much as possible on their own, offering them guidance.
And just tell your admin you MUST go to Midwest (or TMEA, or whatever) every year.
Applauded by an audience of 2
on July 18, 2014 12:16pm
For non classic guitar classes, Dr. Will Schmid's classroom method published by Hal Leonard is said to be the most widely used.  He teaches reading, melody playing, improvisation and chords, and there are 4 CDs that come with it.  Several years ago, while taking Dr. Schmid's 5-day summer World Music Drumming workshop, I had several opportunities to sit in and observe the classroom guitar workshops put on by the guitar manufacturer's association, and they were excellent.  There are probably workshops being offered in August, and that would be the first thing I would do if assigned to teach guitar.  I'm sorry I can't remember the specific names of the organization and program.  World Music Drumming has a website, and perhaps there is a link there (and WMD is a great program to consider for middle school).  Otherwise, try Google.
on July 18, 2014 10:57pm
Are you a part of any band/orchestra/percussion forums?  A direct route you could go is to connect with others who teach those things and do skype sessions with the instruments laid out in front of you, so you both can go over each instrument and the teacher can help you with how to teach the instruments to students (pedagogy.  never been a fan of that fancy word).  Don't be shy to ask for direct connection with other teachers via skype or phone.  They're out there, and you will learn better from them than from a book.  Books are references.  Teachers are resources.  Remember that you're a musician first, choral director second.  You understand that all things sing, and although you may be in the beginning of your journey of helping people learn how to make instruments sing, it is all singing nonetheless.  Learn what you can in the quickest, most efficient, and most meaningful way possible by reaching out like what you've done here.  Also, pick up an instrument and join a local wind band or orchestra.  Offer to try percussion, or start with it until you figure out your other instrument good enough to get by.  Remember that you only have to stay one step ahead of your students, until you can be two, then three, and so on.  Show them your curiosity and delight of learning something new right alongside them.  The iron wall of "I know all" that some teachers put between themselves and their students, is a cover, and students sniff it out like basset hounds.  If your students see that you're learning, that you're not always sure what to do, but that you're trying your best, and that you love learning, they will learn, feel OK when they're not sure what to do, try their best, and love learning too.  It's always a mirror.  Who is the object and who is the reflection changes often, if you're doing it right.  ;)
Excellence starts with you. 
I live in North Dakota, which has a million class B (small town) schools, where one teacher teaches band and choir, and sometimes is the librarian too.  It is the way of the plains and farmlands out here.  I am the R&S chair of student/youth activities for ND ACDA.  I could put out an email for you requesting some help to ND teachers who've worn your shoes in the trenches for many a year.  I'm sure you'd get responses up the wazoo in a matter of days.  Just let me know if this is something you're interested in.
My name is Andy, btw.  Pleasure to make your acquaintance.  :)
on July 24, 2014 4:46pm
Thank you everyone for your quick replies!
I should mention that I was in band for seven years before I ever moved over to the choral side. So I do have a background in band with the trumpet. My weakest areas are orchestra and percussion. I am self taught with guitar and so I at least know enough to teach the students how to teach themselves.
Raymond, I'm pretty sure I still have my Standard of Excellence book for the trumpet somewhere, I am fond of that series myself.  Thank you for the suggestion!
Andy, I would really appreciate that. The best email to reach me would be larsonalanr89(a)
Also my administrators mentioned that the program was dying from the previous director and I may only have three students in my high school band. Anyone have ideas on how to tackle that situation?
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