5-Minute Read: “Help Your Substitutes!”

Hello, all!  This is the first 5-Minute Read of 2017, and I hope that the year is treating you well! For much of the country, this is the semester with a lot of music teacher absences, as we head to state conferences, festivals, and more.  And the eternal question lingers: “How do I leave an effective plan for my substitute teacher?”

When I was teaching high school, I dreaded leaving my band members with a substitute teacher.  At best, the kids would behave long enough to watch a video, and at worst we’d have a sub who didn’t monitor the students properly, leading to classroom disorder. But as with any procedure facing your classroom, some planning can turn this into an opportunity!

Find an Expert

While this is often difficult, your first and best substitute choice is always an experienced music educator.  Is there a retired director still living in your area?  Can the assistant director at a nearby program spare a day to sub for your ensembles?  It’s always in your best interest to work with your central office to get these kinds of options on the sub list.  When you know and can choose to assign your ensembles to a true music educator, then your absence has become a wonderful guest clinic paid for with district funding!

Give Student Conductors a Chance

There are certainly students in your ensemble who are aspiring music educators and talented leaders in their own right.  Your absence can be a great opportunity for them to get some podium time and for their fellow students to experience peer leadership and cooperation.  This is an especially great tool when you can’t get an experienced music educator as a substitute.  Your substitute can handle the nitty-gritty responsibilities of attendance, discipline, and other classroom management tasks that can’t be left in a student’s hands, while your student conductor (or conductors!) can rehearse your ensembles.

Provide a Seating Chart

As an experienced substitute reacher myself, I can’t stress just how powerful a tool the seating chart is. Simply calling out every name on a roll call is time consuming, opening up your classroom to behavioral issues, and it allows your students who shouldn’t sit next to one another to talk and disrupt rehearsal.  On the other hand, a seating chart not only allows your sub to properly set-up the ensemble, it allows them to simply scan for empty spaces in the group.  Finally, it’s far more effective to speak to students by their names, which is easily accomplished with a seating chart!

Provide a Real Plan

Substitutes dread the following two phrases: “allow the students to work silently on their own,” or “watch the DVD.” Babysitting students for 45 minutes to an hour and a half while making them be totally silent is boring, clearly a waste of time for all involved, and a guarantee of behavioral issues popping up.  And no matter what movie you put in, half of the ensemble will be uninterested and disruptive to the viewing experience of those who are interested.  So provide a detailed, written plan that details your ensemble’s rehearsal procedures and goals.  Include your warm-up and tuning process, what specific parts of which tunes you want rehearsed, and in how much time and what manner you want your classroom cleaned and “reset.” Finally, always include your e-mail address and phone number so that the sub can ask you any emergency questions, as well as provide you an end-of-day report on how the classes behaved.

It may seem like a lot of work, but doing this now during a planning period will ensure that your band not only avoids behavioral problems in your next absence, but thrives!


Need a Concert Clinician or Adjudicator?

The winter semester is in full swing and we’re all preparing for upcoming concerts, clinics, festivals, contests, and assessments! If you’re looking for a fresh set of ears and eyes to work with your band, I am available as a consultant throughout the coming months.  Join the other programs across the country that bring me to their bands for multi-day concert band intensives that will help bring your performance to a new level! In addition, I am an experienced adjudicator and honor band clinician, so don’t hesitate to contact me to contract my services.  Best of luck to everyone as they prepare their young performers!

Looking for New Concert Works?

Reading contest/festival/assessment literature with your concert bands? Try these pieces for your ensemble!

  1. Pineville Celebration Overture (grade 4+): Any concert will benefit when programmed with this exciting and well constructed opening work for concert band. Every member of your ensemble will experience just the right balance of challenge and interest, keeping them fully engaged and involved. Three motives are woven together in an inventive and compact fanfare that will make a strong opening statement. http://www.jwpepper.com/Pineville-Celebratio…/10617158.item…
  2. Song to the Moon (grade 4+): A gorgeous setting of Dvorak’s “Song to the Moon” from his opera Rusalka. This piece feature alto sax and flugelhorn solos paired with harmonic voicings reminiscent of Grainger’s best works for band. http://www.jwpepper.com/Song-to-the-Moon/10617160.item
  3. West Seneca Rush (Grade 4.5): A wild ride from start to finish, this short, energetic piece makes for a great concert opener. Written for the wind ensemble at West Seneca West HS (West Seneca, NY), this work harkens to the sardonic gallups and farces of Kabalevsky. This piece is a real workout for every member of the band! (Not yet available in stores. Contact me for this score and parts)
  4. Three Rivers (Grade 3): Brand new and just premiered in Cincinnati, Three Rivers is a 5-minute portrait of the waterways that bound the region of Cincinnati. With rich harmonies, sweeping motives, and a memorable ostinato supported by lots of percussion, this piece will be a hit with your band! (Not yet available in stores. Contact me for this score and parts)

My “Three Rivers” Premieres in Cincinnati

Congratulations and praise go to Ohio district 14 8th grade honors band today. They were a pleasure to work with over the last few days, and they did a magnificent job in their finale performance this afternoon. I am so proud of the job they did, especially in their premier of my commission “Three Rivers.” Bravo!

My New Commission “Three Rivers” to Premiere in Cincinnati

Hello all, and happy new year! I’m coming to you from Cincinnati, Ohio this week, where I have the honor of serving as a guest composer-conductor to the OMEA District 14 8th Grade Honor Band.  I’ll be rehearsing these talented young people throughout the week on several works, including their new work they commissioned me to write: Three Rivers.  The work will premiere this weekend at the finale concert of this wonderful week-long event.  Thanks to the band directors here in Ohio for inviting me to work with their fine students!