I am in my tenth year of teaching in the State of Michigan. I presently teach high school bands, and some middle school choir and elementary music. I have also taught beginning and middle school bands. I have had concert bands, marching band, and jazz bands. I have also done some instructing at the DCI-level.

Questions regarding music, teaching in general, college, being a public sector union employee.....have at it!

Edit: just for the record....I am a trumpet player. My favorite music depends on my mood but really can be all over the place.

Comments: 288 • Responses: 100  • Date: 

editorlightyear26 karma

Have you ever had a scenario where the school board threatened to eliminate the music program and you got all the kids together to play a battle of the bands type scenario to win prize money? or has another teacher stepped up to win an MMA fight to win back the music program?

musicteach23 karma

Not as of yet....though I'm prepared to have a dance-off where winner takes all. Or possibly assembling a rag-tag group of misfits who can rally around their passion for music and covertly show the town they all love it, too.

editorlightyear8 karma

Can I have the movie rights to this scenario?

musicteach24 karma

I'm sure we can work out a deal. I'm always looking for another fund raiser that doesn't involve selling candy.

TheQuietGirl54420 karma

My high school music teacher had the biggest impact on me throughout those years. Thank you for what you do and everything non-musical you teach your students.

musicteach11 karma

Thanks! It's nice to hear that! You should also make sure the local school board and administrators know that where you live or in the town you grew up. Admins and boards rarely listen to their employees (in my experience) but they will listen to the voting community!

RadTadSimpson6 karma

In 5th grade I was a real piece of turd to my music teacher. I'm sorry.

musicteach11 karma

We were all turds to someone......it happens.

Jack_Dony5 karma

Do you enjoy it still?

musicteach9 karma

I love my job but am not happy with the state of my profession or the state. I think our whole approach to education is screwed up at this point and the state is NOT helping. Everything that is happening is just trying to patch a system that isn't working like it used to. I don't know what the best way to fix it is....but there has to be something better than this.

Yes--I love my job and I love my kids. I did think about leaving a few years ago but realized I would miss it too much.

polski_zubr6 karma

music theory needs to be taught in elementry school and not high school/college

musicteach3 karma

I don't disagree...but it's hard to do with the expectations of a performance schedule. Teach theory (in depth...more than just "that's an interval" or "major/minor") or public performances. Don't have time for both.

KoolAidWino5 karma

How do you believe the funding to music education could be improved/what do you believe is necessary for the music department?

Also as a former tech crew member, in Michigan, be sure to treat tech crew great because everything you do is uninteresting to work.

musicteach15 karma

As far as improving funding to music education, it's easy to say we need more money--everyone would be fine with more money--but you really do have to look at it in terms of the entire education package. I think what we really need to find are more efficient ways to use the money we have. Investing in the right technologies (that doesn't just mean iPad's for everyone) that will really last for a long time and provide the most opportunities for learning will free up more money for the things that require yearly investments like arts programs where instruments break and need repairs.

I realize I'm biased here, but people need to realize how important music and arts education is to the overall well-being of the student, too. Right now, our curriculum is just geared towards getting kids to pass tests that, in my opinion, aren't great future indicators for success anyway. So we have an entire education system set up to help kids do better on tests that don't really tell us what we want to know anyway. Awesome.

And yes--I ALWAYS treat the behind-the-scenes people well. We all know those the ones who really run this place!

awesomemanftw4 karma

Why do we always play Smoke on the water?

musicteach4 karma

Because you don't know anything else?

I hate that thing. I've never played it with my groups and don't intend on it. I think the only reason some kids know it today is because it only has a few notes and band directors keep playing it. If people stopped playing it...that song would just go away.

It's not a bad tune or anything....I'm just sick of it. It's 2013...learn something else.

awesomemanftw1 karma

I ask because this is the second year in a row, (the second ever year for a band at my school) we have played the song.

musicteach2 karma

If you're playing it at a pep band kind of thing....that's not uncommon. That stuff is usually repeated every year if the band or the crowd like it.

awesomemanftw1 karma

Alright that makes sense. thanks. What's your least favorite instrument?

musicteach1 karma

I really don't dislike any of them. Saxophone drives me nuts because it's so easy to sound bad but think you sound good. Trombone drives me nuts when the kids get too wrapped up in, "second position is HERE, third position is HERE...." The slide goes where it sounds in tune--not just wherever.

awesomemanftw1 karma

Opinion on the clarinet?

musicteach1 karma

Beautiful instrument! Such a thick tone up high and low....love it!

t1584jb4 karma

And today you're on a snow day. YAY!

musicteach3 karma

Hence the AMA....have to pass the time doing something!

Hamfries3 karma

How difficult would you say it was to get a job in the Industry?

musicteach3 karma

Harder than it was when I started! If you're asking about college--it was difficult....yes. I would imagine most college programs are rigorous but all I know about is my own. At the time (and maybe still today) to get an undergraduate degree in music education at my university required the most credits of any other degree.

Coming out of college, I could afford to be picky with the jobs I applied to. There were lots of jobs (compared to today) and only applied to the ones I was interested in having. Today, jobs are FEW and they're significantly more....varied? The jobs that are available just call for way more duties than since they've absorbed so many other jobs. If I were coming out of college today, I would definitely have to look out of state.

stationcommando1 karma

As a follow up to that, how important is it to have "started" music in a more traditional way? To clarify do you really need to have started off in brass or piano or could a guitarist make it, so to speak, as a high school music teacher? I play various stringed instruments and love teaching and always thought I would like teaching music at the HS level.

musicteach2 karma

Remember that being a high school music teacher doesn't mean being a band director. Guitar classes are growing in popularity for their mass appeal. Music appreciation, theory, and technology classes are out there too. Less common sure...but they're out there.

But...if a guitar player wanted to make that leap, it'd be like anything else--just learn the material and get to know the instruments. I don't know anyone who's done it personally but I'm confident it could be done.

stationcommando1 karma

Another follow up if you don't mind. How important is your knowledge of theory going into a music education major? I have the equivalent of a shade-tree mechanics knowledge when it comes to theory, as in I've been doing it for 18 years or so and have quite a bit of intuitive familiarity with it but there's definitely huge gaps.

musicteach2 karma

If you mean how important is it know theory before college--I don't think that important. Most universities assume you know nothing and, even if you do, they want you to know it THEIR way. I knew nothing other than how to play my instrument (kind of) going in to college so freshmen theory was perfect for me and damn near everyone else.

camsmith3283 karma

What corps did you work with and what is your favorite corp? Also do you currently work with any marching bands and if so how have you all done?

musicteach5 karma

It's very difficult for me to be unbiased here and I don't want to give away too much info. I'll say that my favorite corps are The Cavaliers, The Bluecoats, and Santa Clara.

I pretty much just work with my own band at this point. I give them 100% of my time so nothing really left for teching other groups.

hrtowaway2 karma

What kind of music do you like listening to?

musicteach5 karma

Totally depends on my mood. I'll listen to damn near anything. In the classical realm, I'm more into Romantic. In jazz, more hard bop. I was a classic rock guy in my youth and still love it...but I'm also a big fan of some more modern groups. Flobots, Asteroid Galaxy Tour, Mumford and Sons, Movits.....I'm really all over the map.

camsmith3282 karma

You said Flobots, therefore your musical spectrum is the true pinnacle of perfection. You are amazing.

musicteach2 karma

The benefits of teaching kids is that you're never at a loss of what's new and out there to listen to.

natstrap1 karma

Great trumpet parts in Flobots songs!

musicteach2 karma

I just think it's cool to hear instruments used in ways that they're not necessarily meant for. We don't expect trumpet in any kind of pop stuff....so it's cool to hear it done that way. My favorite example, though, is rock bassoon (Smokey Robinson, Tears of a Clown). The bassoon is the least instrument to rock....and yet....there it is.

mcfattykins2 karma

The band has influenced me a lot through the years so if you don't want to hear a sap story of how it helped me just scroll through this to the questions. My freshman and sophomore year I didn't really care, another class with a bunch over attached people to a "lifestyle". They annoyed me, playing was a pain, but the director was still cool. It was near the end of my sophomore year that I actually started to like the simple principles of music that no one really appreciated. This time as well I was getting into more complex and well thought out music. For the longest time, I was a metal head. Moving into the sophomore year, again, I got many more influences that completely blew me away. I went from hard rock to more jazz and indie music, but the one band above all else that got me to this phase was Radiohead. Every album was so much more different than the next, it baffled me. I can listen to anything really anymore, but right now I'm stuck on a piano minimalist phase. Anyway, going on, my junior year I took up lessons again, but my director was diagnosed with melanoma. It was caught in the early stages, so he didn't die, but he was gone for a very long time. For band camp that year, he barely showed up. Every other day he drove to Columbus (we were in Dayton at the time so about 1 1/2-2 hour drive) for various things like check ups and medications because that was the closest clinic for melanoma patients. I saw that passion that drove him (literally) to do all this stuff for us. It was awe inspiring. He loved music, teaching it, and kids so much that he would enormous amounts of time out of his personal life to do it. I could go on for hours about his classic "talks" at band camp about life in general and happiness. I guess if you wanna hear more about it PM me.

Anyways, school rolled around and he was still out for many days. The assistant director would fill in but he wasn't as skilled a conductor, director, or really a person (no offense to him at all, he's still a great guy). Eventually he came back 3 days a week. He would be too tired to do too much but he was still there, you could see him fighting it. He brought us together for a concert competition between many local schools in which we scored some one of the highest scores. He was so fucking proud and so many people we just happy to see him happy. What this man did for me was not just show me a love of music, but also people I could get along with. I've made many friends who are passionate about music, even more than myself. He opened so many views to the world, and showed what a little passion can do for a person's life. It's astonishing. If you read this, please take something from this. You can teach so much more than music in 45-1 hour however long you are with kids. You can be a significant influence no a kid that could make a huge difference in their life. Something that kids these days seem to lack now. Thank you so much if you read this, I greatly appreciate it.

Anyways questions: 1. Favorite artist growing up? 2. First/favorite instrument? 3. Best/Worst aspect of your job? 4. Favorite composer? 5. What style of music do you prefer?

musicteach2 karma

Glad to hear the story about you being inspired. I can assure you that the reason your teacher was so driven was because he was likely equally (or more) inspired by his students.

  1. I went through a few phases but some of my favorites were Blood, Sweat, and Tears, Chicago, Offspring, and Dvorak.

  2. My first instrument was the trumpet. Favorite is hard to answer...depends on the music. Answered this (kind of) in a few other comments.

  3. Best aspect: the kids. Not even a contest. Worst aspect: the government thinking they know what they're doing and legislating my job even though they literally have zero experience. Most complications come from that.

  4. Grainger, Holst, or Dvorak.

  5. Also answered early on--depends on the mood. I'm really pretty into almost anything. Classical, rock, jazz--whatever.

kevin110402 karma


musicteach6 karma

It's easy to say trumpet since that's my instrument and I do love it. If I have to pick another, though, I might go with french horn or oboe. NOTHING sounds like either of them and they're just damn beautiful.

But then again...they really don't get to play any of the more modern stuff so they're really missing out. Piano, to me, is really the only one that can play anything and sound more natural.

Tibbel2 karma

I'm 100% with you on the horn and oboe. They both have such unique color, and I get chills when a horn comes soaring over a melody or an oboe comes slithering out from underneath it.

Any recommendations for pieces to listen to which feature one or the other prominently?

musicteach2 karma

For horn, I like March from Symphonic Metamorphosis. Love the horn part. Also, Colonial Song by Grainger. Both pieces on my "favorites of all time" list.

For oboe, the second movement from Moorside Suite.

musicteach3 karma

Almost forgot--sorry! We 're not really in the competitive circuit. I've done it before and it's fine....but I prefer the non-competitive.

thatanthrochick2 karma

Have you ever had a student who was naturally talented on their instrument but didn't do anything with that potential? I've been and experienced kids like this. How do you feel about it, and how do you deal with it?

musicteach3 karma

YES! On some level it's infuriating because I know what they could do with it. But at the same time, I know people who were very talented in undergrad but were clearly just doing it because they were told they were good at it but didn't really have a passion. They ALWAYS change majors. I just hope they find something else they're good at and have passion for.

I do know from personal experience that, when I decided on music, I was not naturally talented and I was walking away from something I was. Don't regret it one bit.

Melvin82 karma

My brother was a music prodigy when he was a child. Perfect pitch, perfect scores on competitions, placed first in the state every year, etc. I still have people come to me, angry, because he quit playing music entirely and went to medical school. People he knew through music, teachers who worked with him, etc. You are much more reasonable than the people I've encountered.

musicteach2 karma

I'd be bummed if he didn't go into music....but ultimately it's not my choice. He's the one who has to be comfortable and it really is important if he figures out it's just a hobby--sounds like a good doctor though!

play_or_draw1 karma

Are you infuriated because they chose not to pursue it as a career, flat out quit after high school, or just didn't apply themselves under your direction?

musicteach1 karma

Speaking specifically of the really gifted kid who doesn't follow music as a career--because they could be really great in that field professionally but don't have the passion for it. You can't force passion, though, so I don't ever tell the kids they let me down or anything. The proverbial, "to thine own self be true," and what not.

FVmike2 karma

Ah awesome! I'm currently student teaching with 6th-9th grade orchestra (I'm a band guy, a horn player) in southeast michigan. In March I will switch over to teaching with 5th-8th grade band. I do actually have a bunch of questions, feel free to answer any (or none!) that catch your eye.

  • If you have a limited budget how do you deal with it?
  • What is your favorite piece of lit for each level of band?
  • Would you ever consider teaching an orchestra? (it's quite fun, as I'm finding out)
  • What's your best/worst first year of teaching story?
  • What is most helpful thing you learned in your first year of teaching?


edit: AEA?

musicteach3 karma

  1. Prioritize what is a "need" and a "want." When the budget runs out...you really start to re-evaluate those two things. See what you can borrow from others and not buy right now. Those new crotales may sound cool (....probably not....) but you don't need to buy them.

  2. Oh come on....unfair question. Some of my favorites for "A" or "B" groups are A Moorside Suite by Holst, American Civil War Fantasy by Bilik, or some new stuff by Balmages (kids love that stuff). For C/D groups, Broege has some good pieces and you can never go wrong with Clare Grundman. For MS, McGinty and Edmondson have lots of quality stuff. PLAY....MARCHES. Bands play marches--period. Kids hate them because directors hate them and are unable to find the music. You find the music in King and Sousa and show it to them and they'll love them.

  3. That's way outside my comfort zone and not really something I'd' have to worry about in my area...but if I had to, I'd need to do some homework first.

  4. The kid who emptied the whole bottle of valve oil into the carpet and didn't understand why it was a problem was funny. When I decided I'd let the custodian deal with him, kid figured out it was a problem.

  5. Telling isn't teaching. Know you're stuff, know who you're stuffing, then stuff'em. Observation--diagnosis--prescription. Above all else--you must be yourself. Don't try to be your mentor teacher.

denkyuu1 karma

On the march front, I grew up hating marches, and I'm just now starting to figure out that they can be useful. I have, however, figured out that I do like English marches along the lines of holst (think the suites for military band).

Have you found whether English marches hold the same educational value to replace a lot of the cheesy american marches, or am I going to have to bite the bullet and dig in before I get a job if I want to do my students justice?

musicteach1 karma

Do them all! If you want your kids to appreciate what makes an English march "English" they'll need something to compare to. If you call the American ones "cheesy" then that's what they'll think. Are some cheesy? Sure. Just don't play those ones! There's cheesy music in every genre.

You really should play American marches, though. It's kind of our "thing" as Americans. Started in Europe sure but we really did take it and run with it.

rrcecil2 karma

Do you watch Glee?

musicteach3 karma

Nope. When it first came out my principal did and asked me if we could have a class like that. When I explained to him that it was TV and what it would really take to make that happens, he backed off.

rrcecil2 karma

I like you a lot. My girlfriend goes to a musical school and that is all she talks about. You are officially my favorite music teacher Mr. Teacher

musicteach2 karma

Thanks Mr. Person....I think....

mattosaur2 karma

When I was in music in junior high, we basically just rehearsed classical pieces. While there was some learning involved, it wasn't until years later on my own that I started learning about music theory and really understanding the things I had been briefly shown when I was younger.

Do you have any thoughts on why music programs rarely teach about musical theory in a practical way? Why do they mostly ignore the music people actually listen to? Had I learned about basic chords and progressions in the music I listened to all the time, I probably would have understood the more complex stuff we played in band class a lot more.

musicteach2 karma

  1. Answered a bit in another comment, but the rigors of a performance schedule are great. We are held to an expectation by parents, the community, administrators, and even students to give X number of concerts a year at a certain level. If I take time away from preparing for that to teach theory (which could be very beneficial), I sacrifice the performance aspect. I'm not saying the theory wouldn't be time well-spent....it's just tough to make choices. Not to mention--I'd say that most kids need all that performance stuff under their belt before they're ready to learn some of the theory. AND...the best theory teaching is going to happen without the student knowing. My elementary kids can tell the difference between tonic and dominant chords and how to improvise (basically) within them. They don't know that's theory....it's just music.

  2. Why ignore the music people actually listen to? I'd disagree with ignoring music of today but I see what you mean so I'll go with it here. Why ignore it? Because you already know it. Education in general, to a degree, should be about exposing students to new things and the fact is most of the older music (that has direct connections to the music of today by the way) is largely ignored. Also, there's quite a few modern pieces that do have connections to pop music as well. I'm not talking about playing Lady Gaga with my concert band....I'm just talking harmonies, form, melody. Music is music.

iamahipcat2 karma

You probably won't read this, me being 6 hours late and the fact that there are nearly 200 other comments on here but I plan on becoming a music teacher one day. I'm only in high school so I'm still looking at colleges but I was wondering how hard it is to become a music teacher?

musicteach3 karma

That question is answered in parts throughout....but it's hard. Don't just do it if you think it might be fun. Do it because you can't see yourself doing anything else. The job market is the hardest it's ever been right now and the coursework isn't easy....but it can also be extremely rewarding. Good luck!

WonderBoyMan2 karma

High five to a fellow Michigander! I was thinking of learning how to drum. Any advice?

musicteach2 karma

What do you want to play and how old are you?

WonderBoyMan2 karma

Just basic drums like you'd play in a rock band. I'm 16.

musicteach7 karma

Not to sound like a jerk: but everyone thinks they're a drummer. If you want to actually learn something and separate yourself from everyone else who can play boom boom crash, boom boom crash.....then find yourself a teacher and practice. I'm not saying you can't learn drumset on your own....but a private teacher who REALLY plays can teach you so much more.

I always think the best drummers are the ones who can rock with the least amount of equipment. So many people just buy stuff and think that'll make them awesome. It won't. I actually only give my drummers a snare drum and a cymbal to start. When they master that, they get a tom. Then another cymbal. They earn a bass drum last because it's the one they'll lean on at the start at the expense of learning how to really use the others.

Don't just buy a double bass pedal because you think it makes you awesome. It doesn't.

RainbowDildo2 karma

How has the youth changed in the passed decade? Have they gotten worse since drugs and sex start at a younger ages now? Or do you think kids aren't as bad as people generally think they are?

musicteach5 karma

In the past decade, I don't know if they've really changed that much. I definitely see differences from when I was in school but in the past 10 years--I don't know that they've changed any more than what you'd expect. Kids do seem more loose with their language which I attribute to that being more liberal in the media (TV, movies, internet, etc.) Word like "fricking" or "pissed" some don't see as being inappropriate in the slightest but I do. People use those words but they shouldn't be used in a professional environment or used simply because you're too ignorant to know any other words.

I think kids get "worse" (if that's the word you want to use) because of the examples set for them. As a society, keep becoming very gradually more and more accepting of things and then we all get up in arms when kids become what we think of as disrespectful.....maybe if we kept tabs on ourselves more we wouldn't have to deal with this as much.

Kids are still good if you set high standards for them and expect them to live up to them. I have no problem telling my kids my classroom expectations but also my personal expectations and they rarely let me down.

schadly2 karma


musicteach3 karma

Because you were bad in a former life. Or maybe that's why we teach it....I forget.

More likely, because the recorder is an easy one for little kids to learn, they're cheap, and durable.

AdloraOfSolitude2 karma

I know this isn't exactly fair but I've got 3 questions...

How many students have you had who genuinely wanted a career in music rather than just an easy A?

Do you sill remember your college Music Theory?

Can you help me with MY Theory homework? =P

musicteach1 karma

  1. Most don't want a career and I think I've made it clear that it's not an easy A. It's a class like any other and there are expectations. Students who think they're getting an easy A get a rude awakening (and really, they know that before they get to HS--we send HS students down to do Q and A with the younger kids so they get an honest answer about what HS is like). It's not about just letting kids in who want a career...but providing them a positive experience and skills necessary to be good people. Hopefully, they will have the skills to pursue music in whatever way they want--be it professionally or otherwise.

  2. I loved college music theory. Still have my texts and use them when I need to.

  3. I could help you.....but you'll remember it better if you can figure it out on your own. If you have a question about it, though, I might be able to help.

Melvin81 karma

Thank you so much for doing this AMA! And for teaching music in general. I apologize ahead of time for having so many questions. :)

It is really interesting to me that you have taught band, choir, and general music. I assumed that whichever group you studied in college would automatically be where you would get a job. When I was an English undergrad I took several voice classes and a wind methods course, on top of hours and hours of symphony, chamber, violin lessons, orchestral repertoire, etc. If the world was perfect, I would want to teach band, chorus, and orchestra (though preferably not simultaneously.)

  • How feasible is this goal? That is, teaching all three at some point in my life.
  • Would I have to pursue music education degrees in both instrumental and general?
  • Is a music education degree necessary if you have several years of professional experience in performance? Can you still get hired?
  • Did you feel prepared to teach choir, even with your background in trumpet?
  • How necessary is a Master's degree for teaching music?
  • Did you ever consider teaching at the college level? If so, what dissuaded you from it?

Sorry for the deluge of questions. If they're too much, it's okay. If you get too busy answering questions here, and want me to wait until a later date, just tell me. Maybe I could PM you sometime?

musicteach2 karma

  1. On the one hand, it's more and more common that districts are having fewer music teachers who do more things so it sounds reasonable....but...if districts usually have bands, choirs, AND orchestras, they're probably smart enough to invest in teachers who are really experts in each of those fields. It's more likely that you'll be the K-12 music person and have some of those things in addition to elementary music.

  2. Probably not....at least not in Michigan. The certification for teaching music is not specific to instrumental or general--it's just "music education" on my teacher certificate.

  3. If you don't have a teaching certificate from your state--no one will give you a job. That stupid "law" thing.

  4. No....not a bit. Luckily the choir I had was NOT good so their skills were not at a point where I really needed vocal technique. I needed to know if they were on the right or wrong note. I certainly improved as the year went on and asked for a lot of help, though.

  5. Not necessary but, given the requirements you need to go through to keep your certification, best to just get it while you're teaching.

  6. Yes...but then no. I have a few friends who teach there and it's even more competitive than public school with WAY more moving. It's jumping around from tiny college to tiny college waiting for something bigger to open up. Not very good for really settling down and just having a life.

henderson_exp1 karma

I'm sure over the years there would have been that one student that you didn't see eye to eye with. Did you ever have a breakthrough with the student?

musicteach1 karma

I've had a few students where I thought they weren't going to make it. Quit, suck, whatever.....and then they stuck it out and turned into great contributors. Those are always the ones who make me the happiest.

happythoughts4131 karma

I was almost a public school music teacher. Then I switched majors to elementary ed, because that shit is tough. I couldn't deal with having to justify the existence of my field every time I applied for a job.

musicteach1 karma

It's one of the worst things. I hate it so much. As a teacher, I sometimes feel like a second-class citizen. As an arts teacher, I sometimes feel like a second-class citizen among second-class citizens.

McHaven1 karma


musicteach1 karma

It's a great piece. Lots to offer!

SasquatchPhD1 karma

Are band kids a sexually repressed/grope-y as I remember?

musicteach1 karma

I have no idea. I don't ever think about that stuff with them.

WhatMichelleDoes1 karma

What has been one of the most fun and successful activities that you have done with younger elementary school students?

musicteach5 karma

This is my first year doing elementary since college so I'm really only about one lesson ahead and the way our school sets up the "specials" for that group is a little weird.....but we did a sort of rhythm syllable "spelling bee" and divide the class into teams. Each team sent up one member and I would give a rhythm pattern on a neutral syllable. The first team who could echo it back using the proper syllables (Gordon) got a point. Team with the most points got to line up first. Points could also be deducted from teams for poor behavior.

They also like anything with boomwhackers.

morrisseygirl1 karma

How much do you know about/pay attention to the surrounding states marching bands?

musicteach2 karma

Not a ton. I know my ensembles "niche" and I'm good there. I know what's happening in the marching world because of my professional connections and just being a fan....but I don't really go out of my way to see what's happening in other states.

hayzee6051 karma

Do you enjoy Dave Matthews?

musicteach1 karma

Some.....not really a big fan. Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King is my favorite.

ETL4nubs1 karma

My band teacher in High School picked a lot of his songs through Gustav Holst. Do you do the same? F Suite or E-flat.

musicteach3 karma

Holst is the man. One of the first "big" composers to write for bands. His First Suite in E-flat was one of the first pieces orchestras borrowed from the rep other than the other way around. If you want to play the "classics" of band lit....you're going to play Holst. I'm not saying he's the best ever....but he's a giant.

Sparkism1 karma

Devil's advocate here.

I'm what you'd call a musically retarded student, and my interest in music goes only to the extent that it is a pleasant background noise. Why do you think the education system force a mandatory credit class in a subject where you insist on embarrassing a student in which they have no talent what-so-ever, and the only people to benefit from getting a 90 are the asian kids with 5 years+ of piano lessons?

I understand the important of the arts, but it's cruel to punish students and jeopardizing their GPA (if they're in high school) for not having a talent in something while they might shine elsewhere. What's the justification for this?

musicteach10 karma

Couldn't we make the exact same argument about any subject? If I'm not a "gifted" math student, why do I need to take it? What about PE? English? We could do this for anything.

Arts are important for a well-rounded person. If your teacher takes the approach of making everyone perform at a certain level and embarrasses you if you don't....then that's a crummy teacher. The idea shouldn't be to be a world-class performer--it just should always be to be the best possible at whatever you're doing....not just as good as you think natural talent will take you.

And really....the Michigan DoE doesn't really force the credit. There's an incredibly easy "out" if you don't want it. To me--calling it a "requirement" and then giving that easy an out doesn't really make it a requirement.

As far as your statement about GPA...this ties back to one of my earlier comments about the education system in general. Grades are stupid. I think the only reason we all think we need grades is because we have literally all grown up with them for hundreds of years. Why not focus more on the skills and experiences than some stupid letter.

commongiga1 karma

I don't think people realize how tough this job is, nor do they realize just how much education goes into a Music Ed degree. Frankly, I tried my hand at a Music Ed degree before realize the life wasn't for me. Thanks for being awesome and teaching kids how to love music. I guess my only question is: what's more painful, listening to an 8 year old try to learn violin or clarinet?

musicteach2 karma

8? Clarinet...because he's probably not big enough to play it. You can get violins in different sizes so he at least has a chance.

CaptainHaggles1 karma

How's it going?

musicteach3 karma

Good. You?

seanayb1 karma

You are answering a lot of questions! Excellent AMA-ing!

Kodaly? Orff? Dalcroze? I'm a Kodaly guy myself, but I'm definitely down with the Dalcroze. Orff isn't really that useful to me but my mind might change. (I'm currently studying to be like you!)

For non music teachers: they are three prominent music education gurus with three respective prominent music education philosophies. At the risk of GREAT oversimplification, Kodaly involves do-re-mi stuff, Orff involves xylophones, and Dalcroze involves dancing.

musicteach2 karma

I'm a Gordon person. I believe in it completely and I think should be included in your list. Music Learning Theory makes so much sense but it needs to be a K-12 (or at least K-6) approach to really yield benefits. I use mostly Gordon but also some Kodaly and Orff. Keeping in mind that I'm not really an elementary music person. If they have me teaching these classes more than this year I'll invest more time in it professionally.

yummymarshmallow1 karma

Any good videos out there you recommend that teaches you chords well? (Particularly, I need help with piano chords for the left hand)

musicteach1 karma

Are you looking to learn the theory or piano technique? I've never looked myself but I'm sure there plenty of YouTube videos on theory.....no clue on the piano technique.

yummymarshmallow1 karma

Well, I've seen people take basic piano sheet music and turn them into crazy improvisation (mostly with the left hand). I just want to know how to do that. All I can do is read sheet music, but I have no idea how to improvise / add additional notes to make it sound nicer.

musicteach1 karma

OK....you want to check out some jazz improvisation. I'm not REALLY a jazz guy but can give some input here.

  1. Remember that each chord is supported by a scale. Know your scales--all of them--not just the majors. Know the majors, minors, modes, all that stuff. Then, when you figure out what chord that scale is supported by, you'll know what choices you have. Within that scale, certain notes will be more stable and others more unstable. So....figure out the scale (which gives you your choices) then which notes are stable and which are less stable. Don't AVOID the unstable notes...rather....figure out how to treat them.

  2. Some entire progressions can be supported by one single scale (i.e., a blues scale). I say start with the blues and go from there.

Niptacular_Nips1 karma

What do you think of doing a concert with your students where the repertoire solely consists of British marches?

musicteach1 karma

Boring. It's like having an entire meal of one food family. Variety....spice of life and what not.

Arthane1 karma

As a private piano instructor, I don't envy you. Do you ever wish that you'd gone private just to avoid all the politics and hassles of the public school system?

musicteach2 karma

No. I couldn't handle just the private stuff. I want the big ensembles and all that!

braddf961 karma

I'm currently in A-level music and I've thought about becoming a music teacher but I dislike classical music, do you think that would be a problem?

musicteach1 karma

I'm not sure what "A-level music" is so I'm not sure how to answer....but I'll say this: you have to know the difference between liking and appreciating music. I don't like all classical music....but I appreciate damn near all of it. I don't like a lot of what the kids in my class listen to...but I can appreciate it.

You don't have to like it--but remember that is the music that will make up a large part of your curriculum (or at least, it usually does)

mprhusker1 karma

Where did you teach in DCI? I marched pioneer and phantom regiment.

musicteach1 karma

Didn't teach any of them and I didn't really teach that long. By the time I was really getting into it is the time I was getting my "normal" career going and I kind of had to make a choice.

henderson_exp1 karma

What is the largest animal you think you could teach a musical instrument?

musicteach2 karma

If we can train a whale to hold onto a mallet somehow, we're all set.

Teach22121 karma

As a fellow high school band director, I tip my hat to your sir. How do you juggle home life vs school life? I'm finding it harder and harder to keep my job separate than what my "life" is. If I'm not working on something, I feel almost guilty because whatever I work on, it will positively affect my students. 95% of the days in the fall, I leave home at 6:30am and don't get home until 10:00pm (Damn marching band ha). Spring it eases up a bit, but with Jazz band it still leaves me at school until 10pm 2 days out of the week. So how do you handle your work life and home life?

musicteach1 karma

I totally understand. It's not easy. My first job was rough/awesome because I lived less than a mile from the school. I just worked ALL THE TIME. Nights, weekends...it was easy to work! Now, living a little further away, it's a bit easier but you get it--the long days are crazy and I totally get the "guilt" feeling. It's easy to say but I do try to leave work at work and just be home at home. I am single with no kids so I don't have to worry about that. I fully realize that's a whole several layers of complication I don't have to worry about. Maybe one day when the family thing happens, I'll have to really re-evaluate everything.

MrBeardedLady1 karma

As someone who has been considering a career as a music teacher for quite some time now, what advice can you give about your profession?

Also, I just want to say thank you for being one of the best positive role models students can have. If I had quit band like I originally wanted to all those years ago, I honestly don't know how I would've made it through high school.

musicteach1 karma

  1. Make sure you're sure about your career choice. It's not a field to really experiment with in my opinion.

  2. Practice your instrument. When you think you're done--you're not. Practice more. I'm not exaggerating here for impact--go practice.

  3. Go to all your classes. Study. Pass. Failing a class is just throwing money away and puts you behind where you're supposed to be.

  4. If you're still in high school, you can't over prepare for your audition.

  5. Don't listen to everyone who says, "oh man...you have to learn all these instruments and blah blah blah." You'll learn all of that in time. Right now--focus on you. You be the best at your instrument right now that you can be.

kizm3t1 karma


musicteach1 karma

I started in band in 5th grade but was not the slightest bit serious about it until maybe my sophomore or junior year of HS. It's not too late...but you've the nail on head as to what the difficult part might be: motivating yourself. You are at the age where you don't need your parents to push you--either you're going to make yourself do it or you won't do it at all. As far as what will do it? I don't know you well enough to know.

Do you think you can do it? Do you REALLY? If so--prove it. Don't just say, "Oh I can do it...I just don't want to." I call BS on that every time. If you could--you would. So....do you think you could do it? No--it's not easy and I get how it can be discouraging when you have people around you who are doing it....but put your ego aside and just focus on the goal. Or rather--focus on how you'll feel reaching the goal. How would that feel to you?

Different things work for different people. At various points in my life, what motivated me was the fact that I THOUGHT I could do something but I needed to prove it to myself--so I'd do it.

Set small goals. Don't say, "I'm going to be the best guitar player ever," when you don't even know one song. Set a reasonable goal--reach it--then set a new one. It's a marathon--not a sprint.

joshd191 karma

I'm a junior at a high school with a large and fairly well known music program (in Chicago suburbs, if that rings any bells. Our director of 20-odd years is retiring.) In any case, I play the clarinet pretty well and regularly do solo festivals and stuff. I'm 2nd chair in the school; 1st is a virtuoso and definitely going to Oberlin or Eastman or something ridiculous. I also play the ukulele (edit: actually play and practice, not 4-chord Pachelbel bullshit) and to a lesser extent, guitar and piano. I create a lot of electronic music in my spare time and I like that a lot.

I have no desire to do anything professional with clarinet, and frankly I've all but totally removed Music Ed. as a career option. I would want to work exclusively with high school+ which obviously isn't a guarantee, and I'm not sure if it's worth the money I'll pay for the degree.

Can you convince me otherwise?

musicteach2 karma

I'm confused. If you want to work with high school kids, how is that not you getting an education degree? If you want to go to a music school for anything--you have to play an instrument. They don't care if your education, performance, therapy, composition....whatever. You need to be a musician first and they'll expect that on an instrument or on your voice--period.
I'm answering as best I can but I feel like I'm missing an important part of the question.

flowerdicks1 karma

I'm a tech at a school that has a feeder school with a large band program. The band director at the feeder school openly discourages the graduating students from participating in marching band in high school because it will "ruin their jazz chops", or something along the lines of not being able to play jazz well anymore. As a results our numbers are quite low even with a feeder school with a large program. What are your thoughts on this and can you give me any advice?

Another question, in a band you will of course find students at different levels. How can I help the more advanced students improve without shunning the less advanced students, and how can I help the newer students without making it completely boring for those who play at a higher level?

musicteach1 karma

  1. If the HS director isn't willing to do anything about it, you're kind of stuck. If I'm the MS director, I'm probably not going to listen to anything a tech says to me. I'd expect the HS director to talk to me about it. So--if the HS director doesn't think it's a problem....you're kind of stuck. The whole idea of marching band ruining chops is so ridiculous in my mind. Playing anything POORLY will ruing your chops and playing WELL won't. The idea that you play one way in marching band, another in concert, and so on is just stupid. There's two kind of playing in your instrument: good and bad (or, to some, right and wrong).

  2. I'm a big believer in students helping students. I actually don't have any funds for techs so I rely heavily on student leaders. The leaders are the marching and music techs. They're given extra training on what to do rather than just saying, "you're a leader--go for it." That gives them the opportunity to put their expertise to good use and helps out the less advanced students. If you're talking about marching--advanced students can just think at a higher level. Calculating their own mid-sets for example. That'd probably be a bit much for brand new students. Musically--maybe your older students can be all over intonation and phrasing while the younger kids are just freaking out about playing the notes.

GFMReddit1 karma

I'm currently going to school to be a public school music teacher, so sorry about bombarding you with questions!

  1. Do you know of any grants/scholarships that my crappy financial aid counselors might not know about?
  2. How quickly after graduating did you find a job, and were you able to keep that first one?
  3. I'm hoping to be an orchestra teacher. Did you choose band, or was it the first job you were offered?
  4. Did you choose the location where you work, or did you have to move to accept the job?

musicteach1 karma

  1. Sorry....too out of the loop to really know of any. Just get all over the internet and see what you can find.

  2. I found a job for the school year immediately after graduating and kept that job for a few years before getting another. Finding a job now would be considerably harder since there are so fewer jobs.

  3. I've always been a band guy. Strings are outside my comfort zone so I probably wouldn't look for an orchestra job for myself.

  4. I moved...related to the 2nd question.

play_or_draw1 karma

Do you think music education might be better off being privatized rather than not getting the love it deserves from administrators?

musicteach1 karma

No. I've not seen privitization work in any other place in the school and I really don't see anyone being attracted to that kind of job. I mean....the job is barely attracting people as it is....who would possibly want it for even less pay, job security and benefits (assuming there were any at all)???

RocketRay1 karma

What drum corps did you march and/ or instruct?

musicteach1 karma

Answered this one in part already....in the name of not giving out too many details, my experiences have mostly been with The Cavaliers and the Bluecoats.

DR_NOCK3RS1 karma

This isn't really music based. I've always wanted I ask a teacher this. Is it obvious when students smoke weed? I always think my teachers know. But they never do anything about it. Haha.

musicteach1 karma

Depends on the teacher and if they really know what they're looking for. Better idea--just don't smoke weed then you don't have to worry about it.

biggunsmagee1 karma

I am a bass player of 5 years and have been in orchestra, jazz band, and marching band. I was wondering if there is a way that i could get my own music out into the world without having to do it during school? Any ideas from a music teacher perspective? Thank you for all that you do, and keep teaching.

musicteach1 karma

What do you mean get your own music out into the world? Do you mean get your stuff published? I think I'm confused.

ellisdeez1 karma

1) Where did you go to college?

2) Orff, Kodaly, and Dalcroze in a cage match, who wins?

musicteach1 karma

  1. Undergraduate work at Michigan State.
  2. Gordon comes out of the crowd and takes them all out in a stunner.

Theecats1 karma

what would you say is harder, music theory or jazz theory? and are you on the western side of michigan?

musicteach1 karma

Well....jazz theory is more specific and encompasses a lot of the same rules so I'm going to have to say jazz theory just because it includes all the other stuff, too.

The_Real_Slim_Shady11 karma

Why must music teachers torture students with the blasted recorder?

musicteach2 karma

It's an arrangement we have with the devil. We torture you with recorder and, in return, we don't go to hell for making kids give up their lives to practice.

Actually....answered this already in another comment.

ICanSpellCheckForYou1 karma

Any tips for a trumpet player seeking to play as the only trumpet in the school musical (grade 12)?

musicteach1 karma

What's the show? If you haven't already, get a recording to play along with because you can't frack any of your notes. Start practicing for a long time to build up your endurance. As the show goes on for a few nights, your endurance could be a problem if you haven't built it up.

ICanSpellCheckForYou1 karma

Man of La Mancha. I'm playing the first trumpet part, and this my first time ever playing in a musical.

As for endurance, I know my lungs can hold up, and I think my lips can too. Any suggestions for things that build lip endurance so they don't get really tired or too dry?

musicteach2 karma

Everyone thinks their chops can hold up....but you'll be playing a lot. Don't roll the dice. Really--you just need to be playing your horn for a few hours a day. You don't need to practice anything special for that really--just play. A lot. Play until your chops are dead...then the next day practice longer, then longer, etc.

gangnam_style1 karma

I know that you don't teach younger kids but I was wondering what you do for kids who really don't like music. I really disliked music at a young age because literally all they played in music class and at home was classical, oldies and classic rock. I really didn't care about music until I found an Iron Maiden CD and thought that was amazing.

musicteach2 karma

The idea is to give students the ability to know about music--not just the stuff they life. The trick is finding what that "in" is going to be. Young kids almost always like music--not as a class...just in general. I'm not saying there aren't kids who don't enjoy music....but almost all of them do and don't judge like older kids will. Young kids don't feel pressured to like/hate based on what they think others will think....it's refreshing!

I just try to make my classroom a fun place to be where learning about music is just what happens while we go about what we do every day. So far...so good!

picardythird1 karma

In what ways do you deal with parents or administration when there arise problems between you and the students, or when issues come up regarding funding, curriculum, etc.?

musicteach1 karma

The issues between myself and students typically are handled there. If it gets beyond there, it's usually because I brought it up with the powers that be. I'm a big believer in communication taking care of most issues and sometimes that means having unpleasant conversations. I hate HS drama because kids don't talk to each other....I refuse to play into that. If there's an issue--I talk about it openly. It's rare that I really have to bring it to parents or admin.

With funding--there's not a whole lot I can do honestly. Bottom line is if there's no money--there's no money and, right now, there's no money. No amount of complaining will just make the money appear. I'm confident in my district I'm not just being short-changed...it's just not there. We continue to look for fund-raising on our own to help replace what gets cut.

denkyuu1 karma

How are teaching jobs up in the midwest? I'm about to graduate with my music ed degree from university of Georgia, and I'll likely end up following my fiancee up to Indiana where she's going to go to vet school in the fall. I worry that the competition might be really tough there (i mean... BOA is IN Indiana.)


musicteach1 karma

It's not easy.....best of luck to you. Your best bet, in that case, is to probably find an assistant gig some place. The BOA schools are more likely to have assistants than just one person in charge of everything. Don't be picky with your job hunt--you can't afford to be.

daisybear1111 karma

Do different instruments have different personalities?

musicteach1 karma

They can--yes. The Instrumentalist had a really funny "article" on this years and years ago.

apirateoftheair1 karma

Are most band directors, well, eccentric? All three of the ones I know are a bit quirky to say the least.

On another note, of the pieces you've had your students play, which one was your favorite? More importantly, did the percussionists like it?

musicteach1 karma

Some are eccentric....some aren't. Totally depends. It's the eternal question: are people band directors because they're eccentric, or are they eccentric because they're band directors???

I have new favorite pieces every year. Some have awesome percussion parts....some have none. I've done Colonial Song with my groups which has essentially no percussion and it's one of my favorite pieces of music ever. I also like stuff by Balmages or Hazo which often has awesome percussion parts. If I program a lot of stuff without perc parts, I at least try to give them a percussion ensemble piece for them to dig in on.

unrealism171 karma

You don't happen to be the High School band teacher at St. Johns High School?

musicteach1 karma

No. Been through the area a few times--but no.

WanderinPonderin1 karma

How much do you relate to the movie "Mr. Holland's Opus?" Did it inspire you at all?

musicteach3 karma

I remember, before it came out, we all hoped that movie would be this groundbreaking thing.

It wasn't. It's a fun movie but I wouldn't really call it inspirational to me at all. To tell you the truth, I really hate the fact that the whole movie is that, for him, teaching was his fallback plan. Teaching should be a first choice and a calling--not a back up plan.

WanderinPonderin1 karma

I can see that - but I thought the ending was that he actually fell in love with his fallback job and it ceased to be a fallback.

Follow-up: How do you feel that his "American Symphony" wasn't actually a symphony? :P

musicteach1 karma

Yes...that was the ending and it wasn't a bad movie....I just didn't feel like, after seeing it, that it was this truth-baring movie that everyone would learn from.

And as far as his "Symphony"--whatever. Our use of musical terms today has become very generalized anyway.

IndecisionToCallYou1 karma

How much do you hate recorders?

Iamducky1 karma

Do you play any instruments?

musicteach10 karma

By trade I am a trumpet player but have some skill on all of them. Some more than others. Brass I do fine on. Clarinet and saxophone I'm OK. My piano skills have improved in the last several years as a necessity but I wouldn't call myself a piano player.

Sle082 karma

I'm a newly graduated music educator. My focus is on oboe. I am just wondering your approach as a brass musician to teaching double reeds.

musicteach2 karma

My benefit is that, as a HS band teacher, I can rely on my strong MS counterpart to get them started. Private lessons for all double reeds is HIGHLY ENCOURAGED. Those damn instruments are picky enough and far enough out of my comfort zone that I defer to people better than me when I can. Kind of a cop out I know....but it's not important to always have all the answers...just know who to call when you need them!

Butterlegs1 karma

Any string instruments?

musicteach2 karma

I took a strings class in college but haven't touched them since. I'm sure I could figure it out but it wouldn't be pretty.

[deleted]1 karma


musicteach2 karma

Yes! Though few actually go on in in professionally, some do still keep up with it somehow playing in bands and what not. Actually, I feel like I'm a good example of this myself. I was always a last/second-to-last chair player but go more serious in 10th grade. I didn't know what I was doing really but I knew I didn't sound good and needed to be better. Seems to have worked out for me!

What's more common, though, are the kids who come in as freshmen and they're not good players or just not good workers but they find a love for being on the team maybe don't become all-starts but the come solid, contributing members.

[deleted]1 karma


musicteach2 karma

I admittedly don't go out to a lot of rock/pop concerts and I've recently decided that needed to change in a big way. I did see Chicago when I was younger and really enjoyed that show.

ajay0070011 karma

Two questions 1.) what trumpet do you play on the most 2.) how different is DCI from normal marching band

musicteach2 karma

I play on a Bach Stradivarius though, if I could justify spending the money, I'd buy a Yamaha Xeno. I am in love with that horn.

DCI is like marching band on steroids. It's a different environment where everyone there is probably some kind of badass "back home" and yet there will still be people who are awesome and people who are not (comparatively).

You should check out some of the DCI subreddits for more info but, the short version is it's everything you do in marching band cranked up to the nth degree minus all the BS. You wake up, eat breakfast, bust your ass, eat lunch, more ass busting, dinner, ass busting, snack, sleep (dream about your dots), then repeat.

tickgrey1 karma

What's your favorite DCI show of all time?

musicteach2 karma

Cavaliers 1995.....goosebumps EVERY. DAMN. TIME.

akdubs471 karma


musicteach1 karma

I'm not sure where p-ville is.....but no. Thanks for playing!

tnova1 karma

What is the market like for teaching jobs in music right now? I used to be a music education major, but switched to composition last year. I still have a lot of friends in music ed. though.

musicteach1 karma

The market for teachers is bad in general...but for music teachers maybe more so. Districts have lots of English, math, science, etc. teachers....but only a couple music teachers. Prospective teachers need to be willing to travel to find a job.

yepthisissecordary0 karma

For your elementary music - what do you TEACH the kids?

Do you believe the elementary music 'teachers' who just clap and sing should be cut to save the money they're wasting?

musicteach2 karma

It's not a waste if you actually care about the arts.

If you want to tank a music program--cut your elementary teachers. It's cutting the tree off from the roots. The leaves--the part everyone sees--is the high school program (marching bands, concert bands, choirs, orchestras, all that). It's the most visible but also the easiest to grow back. Your middle school program is the trunk--if it's strong, the leaves will be strong. But the elementary program are the roots. Cut them off and the tree dies.

I teach my kids how to listen to music and internalize the beat and the melody. It's not about making performers down there...it's just about giving them a musical vocabulary.

You have to be sure you have REAL elementary music teachers in there, too. I'm high school music person who has some elementary experience now teaching some elementary....but there are GOOD TEACHERS out there who prepare their whole college life to teach that age level. Hire those people if you want really great high school programs.

If you want to think about it athletically, I would argue that the places that have the best football programs year in and year out also have good football coaches at the MS or maybe even elementary level. It's easy to want to cut those because no one sees them....but what happens when those kids get to HS now with none of that knowledge? You start from scratch.

I will always advocate cutting HS programs before elementary. Cutting HS is a short term loss. Cutting elementary is long term.

yepthisissecordary1 karma

I am a music major. I was not affected by my elementary music teacher at all. We were not taught rhythms or to read music.

musicteach1 karma

I never said anything about reading music. Reading is important sure...but not at that age. Reading should come after you have a vocabulary.

If you didn't enjoy your elementary music class, hopefully you will be able to give your students a better experience (assuming you're in education that is)

MrJackdat0 karma

Can I call you "Mistro"?

musicteach7 karma

You mean Maestro...and I don't know that I've earned it yet.