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Rachel Ollestad

MUSE 375

Dr. Palmer

14 March 2017

What do Band Directors Even Do?: HAT Journal Summary

What is a band directors job? This is a question that I have often heard

spouted from the mouths of parents, students, and even professors alike.

Sometimes this question comes from a place of condescension, but it seems

that oftentimes, many people simply do not understand all of the

qualifications and requirements of a band director position. Band directors

must do everything from deciding how to organize their entire program to

selecting repertoire that fits into a well-rounded curriculum to studying

scores intensively in order to run an effective rehearsal. The amount of time

a director actually spend in rehearsal may be minimal compared to the

amount of time they spend doing administrative work or preparing for

upcoming rehearsals or concerts, and if a director is lacking in any one of

their duties, their program may be largely unsuccessful.

One of the first tasks that a band director faces when they start at a

new position is how to organize their overall program. Most likely, the new

director is stepping into an already established program, and they may or

may not want to make extensive changes to the band program as a whole.

The goal of any good band director is to organize the program in such a way

that best facilitates learning for all students. Cooper argues that directors
should seriously consider taking the approach of a wheel with concert band

at the center and all other ensembles (like jazz band, marching band,

mariachi band, etc.) are spokes on the wheel. Only when the center band is

strong can the other ensembles thrive. That is not to say that courses such

as music theory and history are not important to a well-rounded music

program, but directors should put their focus on their large ensemble

because they are able to teach the most musical material to the most

students in that ensemble. Directors must also keep in mind that when their

program reaches over 100 students, they most likely will need to add a

second large ensemble. Similarly, directors must consider ensembles that

are important to the administration or community. Oftentimes, marching

bands or mariachi bands are staples in a community and the program may

be damaged by their removal.

Once a director has decided how to organize their program, the next

step they need to take is developing a curriculum and building up a band

library of high quality repertoire for their ensembles. The repertoire selection

process can and should be quite lengthy as it is important that directors

carefully consider the musical and educational merits of their selections.

Music should be tailored to fit the needs and requirements of each individual

ensemble, meaning the pieces should challenge the students in some way

but be achievable for them technically and musically. Directors also have the

obligation to think of how the piece will be used. Will it be used only in

rehearsal or will it be played for an audience? If it is to be played for an

audience, what type of audience and what will they get out of hearing this

piece? The most important consideration directors must take when choosing

repertoire, however, is what the students will be able to learn from the

music. Directors have to listen and research new, quality music constantly

and choose pieces that will further the students academic and musical


After a director has chosen repertoire and and developed a good

curriculum plan, they need to begin the process of score study. Score study is

another extremely important duty of a band director as it allows the director

to be completely prepared to teach their students. Many people may think

that the directors only job is to keep time and show dynamics, when in fact

directors should be teaching musical concepts to their students through the

music they choose. By knowing the score, directors will also be able to

anticipate problems before they occur and detect errors as they happen

during a rehearsal. Good score study also allows the director to interpret the

score correctly and convey accurate information through conducting to the

ensemble. To study a score well, directors should start by getting an overall

view of the score, much like you would study a screenplay. Only after

completing a macro analysis should a director move in for a micro analysis of

the piece. During this portion of the process, directors should analyze

harmonies, melodies, rhythms, form, and textures more closely. Some might

find it helpful to play a piano reduction of the score on the piano, and, while

listening to some recordings may be helpful, it is important not to listen to

too many and not to listen to recordings too early as they may influence a

directors interpretation of a piece. Finally, a director has to be able to

translate the score into musical gestures and teach any appropriate concepts

related to the piece. Much time must be spent on this step so that the

director can internalize every note!

When the score study step has been completed and the director feels

confident in their ability to conduct a piece, the rehearsal process begins. A

director may choose to manage a rehearsal in a variety of ways, but

Lautzenheiser suggests finding a balance a demand for excellence and a

desire for excellence. Demanding directors may see results quickly but their

students could fear them to the extent that they cannot trust. Directors that

focus only on a desire for excellence could have unfocused rehearsals in

which little gets accomplished because the students are given too much

freedom. A director should not be overly concerned with accurate notes but

should also strive to find a balance between technicality and musicality. Once

the director finds a balance between these styles of teaching, they will see

great gains in productivity and learning. Directors should also think about

how to pace their rehearsals. One effective technique is the Big-Small-Big

technique in which a director starts by having students play a large section

(or entire piece), then goes back to rehearse a portion of the piece, and ends

by playing the large section once again. Directors should have a lesson plan

so that they come to the rehearsal prepared for what they want to

accomplish and the warm-up exercise should get the band ready in some
way for what they will be learning for the rehearsal. Directors should be clear

with their language so as not to waste valuable rehearsal time and should

strive to build a warm environment through effective use of the I

(authority) and We (collaboration). The ultimate goal is to get students

excited to learn about and play music, and directors must do whatever

necessary to accomplish this goal.

Assessment is a critical component of being a band director, and it

comes in many forms. Directors should constantly be assessing students

during rehearsals and performances in order to monitor their progress. Self-

assessment, however, is another huge component of being a director and a

teacher. Once the rehearsals or concerts are over, the director must reflect

and decide whether they accomplished their goals and how they can

improve for the future. A directors job is not easy. They must plan a

program, select appropriate repertoire, and sufficiently prepare for and

effectively run rehearsals. But perhaps the hardest and most rewarding part

of a directors job is that it is never over. A director must complete all of

these tasks, reflect, make necessary adjustments, and then start the process

all over again. Perhaps the best thing about the job is that once one goal is

accomplished, the director can set another. Students are constantly able to

grow and improve, and directors are able to come to work every day and

make amazing music while teaching vital lessons to their students. So, what

does a band director even do, you might ask: a whole lot. Just try asking one