This time time of year most people look at where they are and make plans for the future. This is an important step in developing a strong program; however, it is also an opportunity to renew your personal passion for your band and your professional experience.
Here are some tips for Setting Goals in the Wind Band Classroom:
Tip #1: Evaluate Your Program
Get out a sheet of paper and make two columns: Strengths & Weaknesses
In the strengths column list all of the things your band does well. Identify key musicians and sections that stand out in the program. This is an important part of the goal setting process because your program’s strengths are what a director builds on. Your selection of repertoire should highlight the strengths of the ensemble while providing opportunities for developing some of the areas where you may be struggling (educational moments).
In the weakness column, identify all of the areas you see that need improvement. Think about some of the comments the band received on previous concert assessment. Most state assessment sheets focus on five areas: Tone, Intonation, Note Accuracy, Tempo & Pulse Accuracy, and Rhythmic & Articulation Accuracy.
Be sure to be specific in your evaluation of the program. For example, if you identify rhythmic accuracy as an area of weakness, specify what types of rhythms are challenging for your ensemble: Syncopation? Sixteenth notes? Complex/Odd meters? etc.
If you identify intonation as an area of weakness, specify where those challenges exist: Extreme dynamic ranges (fff or ppp)? Extreme ranges? Certain key signatures? etc.
Once you have created your list, prioritize the weakness column. When you sit down to assess your ensembles, you may find several areas where the band is lacking proficiency or not performing at the level you wish. Identify one or two areas which you feel present the greatest need for your ensemble. It is important to isolate one or two areas which will be the focus of your goals. Remember developing one area will have an impact on other areas. For example, tone often impacts intonation and pitch accuracy. Developing rhythmic accuracy and your students’ rhythmic vocabulary will improve sightreading and tempo and pulse accuracy. Intonation will impact your students’ interpretation skills and musicianship.
The goal of prioritizing weaknesses is to give the director a focused area which can be regularly assessed for improvement to track the ensemble’s progress!
Tip #3: Write Down Your Goals
Once you have prioritized your list and identified the top areas where you want to see improvement, write a specific goal for each of those areas. This step is crucial. There is something magical about putting our goals in writing. Coaches in the business world often discuss the importance of writing down your goals as a way to commit yourself to achieving your goals.
When you write down your goals, it is critical they are specific, achievable, measurable and have a target date. Examples of non-specific goals include:
“Improve Rhythmic Accuracy”
“Play all 12 major scales”
More specific goals would be:
“Students will perform Level 5 Rhythms at 120 BPM by May 7.”
“Students will play in tune on the full range of their instruments at pp, p, mp, mf, f, ff by the end of the semester.”
“Students will demonstrate proficiency on all 12 Major scales through scale studies, technical exercises and ensemble performance by April 8.”
In each of these examples, the director has:
Identified the area needed to be developed
Given a specific goal which can be measured for success
Set a date to accomplish that goal
Tip #4: Develop a Strategy
A goal is meaningless unless the director develops a strategy to accomplish that goal. Your strategy should include exercises, assessments, and repertoire which align with the goals you have set.
If intonation is the focus of your goal, you will need to incorporate exercises in the daily rehearsal to develop these skills. Examples include:
Starting each rehearsal with a Bach Chorale
Choosing repertoire that highlights development of intonation skills
*SIDE NOTE: Scott Rush’s Habits Series is a valuable resources for every band!
Tip #5: Assess, Re-evaluate, Repeat
The goal-setting process is an ongoing process, but this is what makes it so rewarding to the band director. As the ensemble grows, the director grows. Growth is an important ingredient to maintaining a successful career and continually adding excitement to your personal development.
Read your goals daily. Evaluate the previous rehearsal. Ask yourself:
What techniques moved you closer to your goal?
What could you have done differently?
As you track student progress, identify your own personal success and develop new techniques that will move you closer to accomplishing your goal.
Wishing the very best and much music making this year!