By Bob Phillips
I am often asked what the factors of success for instrumental music programs are. There are a variety of things to consider such as starting age, time on task, facilities, equipment, scheduling and many others. One of the most important resources for any instrumental teacher is a well thought out curriculum. A comprehensive curriculum paired with great supporting materials allows educators to teach with efficiency and success.
It was Lewis Carroll that said “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there”. The best instrumental curriculums pair national/state standards and best practices with local situations and traditions. Teachers tend to be more successful when they have input into the curriculum and the strategies for implementation. There are many great resources for music curriculum design such as the Music Educators National Conference and the American String Teachers Association. Professional organizations such as these offer many ideas and resources online and through their member services departments. Local teachers can then use these resources to help them design curriculums that meet the needs of their individual students and communities.
The exit outcomes for each grade level or age must be determined. Knowing what we want our students to be able to do is the first step in creating a great program. The second step is assessment, so we can monitor students’ progress toward those outcomes as well as our own growth as teachers. Assessment is a key component of any curriculum and is what makes it a living, breathing document that will be used and revised.
Another important part of any curriculum is method books. Instrumental teachers have a wide variety of books to choose from. Ideally any materials chosen should be flexible enough to meet the needs of the curriculum. The best materials take into account the teacher’s teaching style and the learning styles of the students, schools, and community. Alfred Music Publishing’s new methods, Sound Innovations for Concert Band and Sound Innovations for String Orchestra allow teachers to create a Directors Choice edition. Teachers are able to make pedagogical decisions as well as select some of the music in the method. The customizable version allows teachers to choose tunes from a wide variety of genres include Christian, Jewish, Latino, African-American, American Folk and Patriotic and many others.
In a recent national poll over 93% of Americans thought that music should be taught to all students and was an important part of the curriculum. If music is to play an important role in the school curriculum then music curricula should be written that allow all of our students to be successful and participate in our instrumental ensembles.
Bob Phillips is well known in the music education community as a successful teacher, composer, teacher-trainer and conductor. He is the Director of String Publications for Alfred Music Publishing and the President-elect of the American String Teachers Association.