Envisioning & Developing the Complete Music Program

Having a successful music program takes more than just good teaching. It requires teachers to go beyond the traditional program mold, and reach out for ideas that will help motivate and build students’ confidence in the teacher and his/her goals.

Question to Ask Yourself…

  • What are the qualities of a successful music program?
  • What exactly are you trying to accomplish?
  • What is the ultimate goal?
  • What are your strengths?  Weaknesses?
  • Where do you see your program in a year?  5 years?  10 years?  Make plans!

Self-assessment and reflections are important pieces in the improvement of your teach and your students’ growth.  Don’t ever get too comfortable with how things are going, as there are always ways to improve.  Also, don’t get down if something doesn’t go exactly as you planned it.  More opportunities await!

Successful Music Programs Have…

  • High musical standards & execution
  • A variety of musical & social experiences
  • A large number of ACTIVE participants
  • Students taking private lessons
  • Students involved in “extras,” such as youth orchestras, solo & ensemble, camps, etc.
  • A strong parent organization
  • Community and administrative support
  • A great sense of pride and ownership

Revisit Your Curriculum… (Orchestra & Band)

  • Method book #1
  • Method book #2
  • Technique Book (book #3)
  • Advanced Technique Book
  • Sight-reading materials
  • Chamber Music
  • Other Supplements (Rhythms, Alternative Styles, Orchestral Excerpts, etc.)

A framework for beginning orchestra curriculum.Screenshot 2014-02-15 09.00.55

More than teaching music…

Musical organizations teach essential life skills!  Here are some of the skills I taught and reinforced when teaching orchestra.

  • Opportunity
  • Respect
  • Concentration
  • Honesty
  • Effort
  • Self-Discipline
  • Trust
  • Responsibility
  • Attitude

What life skills are important to you and your program?

What does music mean to your students?  How can you show you care?

  • Explore ways to learn about your student’s musical interests.  You will learn a lot!
  • Express your love of music through your dedication. Quality teaching and thoughtful personal interactions are crucial

Getting Organized

How would you describe the organization of the following?

  • Office
  • Classroom
  • Music Library
  • Uniforms
  • Other Equipment.
  • Inventory Labeling system

You can use cloud-based programs such as Charms Office to help you organize everything in your musical life.  To mark your inventory items, I highly recommend purchasing an engraver, such as this one on Amazon.com.  They are inexpensive and can conspicuously mark your school’s property.


Communication with students, parents, and administration is key to having a positive relationship.  Your communications help build and preserve your image among these people.

  • Send out regular emails/newsletters to parents, students, and administration
  • Create a website/blog/wiki and post important class news, announcements, and supplemental material
  • The next step is to integrate your website with social media
  • Send home letters or emails of encouragement & support.  Don’t just target the problem children.
  • Wording impacts your image.  Example: “orchestra” vs. “strings”.  How is this different?  What images do these words portray?
  • Get to know your students on a personal level.  Find one thing that helps you better relate to your students.
  • www.Remind101.com, a free one-way text messaging system!

 Build Your Identity

  • It is important to build an identity within  the school & community.  Music classrooms are often separated from the rest of the school, so try to break out and show everyone what your students can do!
  • A custom-designed logo for use on:
    • T-Shirts
    • Letterhead
    • Website/Blog
    • Banners/Flyers
  • Business cards

Some sample logos…



Use QR codes to allow your audiences to find you on their mobile devices.  You can create QR codes to show a lot of things (websites, images, calendar items, etc.).  Check out www.qrstuff.com to make your own QR codes for free!

Music Programming

  • Marketing is key to attracting a big audience and being seen
  • Find music that will challenge but not overwhelm students
  • Themed concerts are lots of fun and can lead to a variety of enrichment and cross-curricular activities
    • “Bachtoberfest”, “A Night at the Movies”
  • Give students a say in music selection
  • Hang flyers in school and around community for every concert.  Involve students in this process.
  • Make tickets for your concert, even it is free.  Helps serve as a reminder and shows the value of a concert
  • Email the entire district & community – make it a big deal!


  • Get together with your art, drama, and other core subject teachers to come up with some ideas
  • Partner with outside arts support groups, businesses, etc.
  • Find ways to celebrate everything your students do!

Encouragement & Enrichment

  • Reward systems
  • Growth beyond your classroom
    • Private lessons
    • Summer camps
    • Youth orchestras
    • Solo & Ensembles
    • Social practicing/playing – rehearse-a-thons, etc.

Technology Integration

  • We must reach today’s students by continuously adapting our teaching style to the world as is changes around us
  • How much of a role does technology play in our lives and the lives of our students?
  • Motivate students to practice and get excited about music, orchestra, and their instrument


  • Not a “season,” but a continuous activity
  • Visit to your feeder schools frequently
  • Vary your presentations
    • Teacher solo, small groups, big groups
    • Pass out goodies (pencils, t-shirts, flyers)
    • Check out www.forteachersonly.com for personalized pencils

Student motivators

  • Recognition programs – example: “String Stars” of the week
  • Challenges
    • allow younger students to play in a more advanced group
  • Provide students with music that will stretch their abilities, talk it up

Get Everyone Involved

  • Booster organization
    • A strong group of parents can be your best friend
  • Administration
    • recognize them at concerts, have them perform with your orchestra
  • Community
    • guest artists, soloist on concert
    • guest conductors

 Always Be Looking Ahead…

  • Stay on top of the newest trends by attending professional development conferences (Congrats for being here!!)
  • Subscribe to publications, blogs, Facebook Groups, Twitter feeds for inspiration and ideas
  • Always keep an eye out for the best materials
  • Remember that some of the best ideas are borrowed!

Feel free to comment or leave your best practices to share with others!