By Andy Zweibel
Republished with permission from MusicEdMajor.net
While in Washington, D.C. for MENC’s Music Education Week, I had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Kriston Feldpausch, one of the Executive Directors of BNC Education. I have had a small amount of interaction with BNC Education before; one of my personal blog posts was featured in the June edition of the Music Education Blog Carnival, which they hosted on their blog. It was wonderful getting to put a face to the name, and get to have some great conversations with Mrs. Feldpausch.
One thing I did not know about BNC Education when I arrived in Washington is that they have published a book! Mrs. Feldpausch, along with Mr. Steve Raybould (the other half of BNC Education) published a book in 2008 entitled Teaching Band and Chorus in the 21st Century: A Director’s Guide. When I informed Mrs. Feldpausch of what I was doing here at MusicEdMajor.net, she asked if I would be interested in writing a review of the book here on the site. I, of course, was thrilled with the idea, and this review is the result of that encounter!
There are plenty of books that have been published on pedagogical techniques, books that “teach you how to teach.” This book is different, though, in that it is geared towards teaching you many things youwon’t learn in your method’s courses, and some that you will as well. As the back cover explains:
Teaching Band and Chorus in the 21st Century is a practical, common-sense guide to efficiently running a band and chorus program.
Essentially, the authors highlight details of absolutely everything that a teacher could encounter, from ways to structure lessons and organize rehearsal time to advice for how to build your program’s budget. It is really an all-in-one crash course in being a band or chorus teacher.
The book is laid out in four sections. The first section is entitled “Your Students” and discusses topics that will involve both you (the teacher) and your students (for example, listening, classroom management, and assessment). This section is the main area that discusses pedagogical techniques; most of the rest of the book focuses on the “extra stuff” that all teachers encounter. Section two is called “Your Program.” This is the longest section in the book, and covers topics such as marketing your program, planning concerts, financial considerations, paperwork, and parent communication. The third section, “Your Place,” is about relating your ensemble to the community. It includes advice on recruiting, collaboration, and administration. Finally, section four is entitled “Your Life” and focuses on your well-being as the director. The three issues covered in this section are getting a job, professional development, and things to do over the summer (a topic that has also been covered here at MusicEdMajor.net).
In addition to the content of the book, the authors have added small segments, which appear in sidebar format on some pages, or take up full pages elsewhere, to add additional insight. The first of these are called “Technology Tips,” and they include ideas for integrating technology into the music program. The “What if…” boxes anticipate “what if…” questions that are likely to come up based on the content around which they are placed (for example, the “What if” box in the budgeting section is appropriately titled “What if my budget gets cut?”). The third type of section is called “Reality Check,” and appears every so often on it’s own page, with a reminder that as ambitious as we are as musicians, we cannot do everything, and our program is not the center of the universe. Finally, the authors place a segment called “Blogging at North Central…” at the end of each topic. This segment chronicles the lives of two fictional teachers, band director Barbara Ritter and choral director Conrad Wallace, telling stories about encounters they have had that coincide with the topic they follow. The catch is, all the stories themselves are true-the names have just been changed!
This book will not find its home as a textbook in a collegiate Music Education program any time soon, but it does serve its purpose extremely well. The information and ideas in the book are fresh and exciting, and they are delivered in an extremely passionate voice. The book is written in a more informal voice than a typical textbook, which makes it significantly easier to read. The authors (one of whom is a choral director, the other a band director) do a good job of citing specific examples from both of the concentrations equally, although there are some sections that focus specifically on one concentration where a broader view might be more beneficial to the reader. All in all, though, the book does a great job at doing what it is billed to–providing a practical, common-sense guide to running a program.
On a scale of 5 stars, I give this book 5 stars! It is an extremely helpful resource to beginning educators, and I would call it a “must-have” for any first-year band or chorus director. The book seems to have less application to veteran teachers than it is billed to, but it does provide the opportunity for revitalization for a veteran teacher who has fallen into a routine and is looking for new ways to go about things. This book by no means is a substitute for a 4-year Music Education degree, but it is a fantastic handbook for being out in the field, and should be on every first-year band or chorus director’s shelf! It is not necessarily cheap at $21.95, but I feel it would be a good investment for a beginning teacher!
Have you read this book or others like it? Please leave a comment with your thoughts or questions about the book, and I will be happy to answer anything I can! Don’t forget to pick up your copy of Teaching Band and Chorus in the 21st Century today!