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Innovator's Mindset in the Band Room: Student-Led Rehearsals

It all started when this happened...

George Couros came to Rochester Community Schools yesterday, inspiring hundreds of teachers in his wake. If you are not familiar with George Couros (@gcouros), he is the author of the widely recognized, highly regarded educational manifesto entitled "The Innovator's Mindset" as well regularly writing on his blog, The Principle of Change.

There are many aspects of the "Innovator's Mindset" that I find appealing. We agree on many, many points: the power of positive connections, cultivating passion, and the need for teachers to give students space and voice to take charge of their learning. This tweet though, sums it up for me:

If students have a compelling reason to connect, they will put in the work. Teachers are the resource, students direct their own learning. As educators, especially music educators, we are charged with giving students the tools, guidance, and space they need to find their own voices and perform. They ultimately are the ones who are heard. Although I've been working to give students more voice through student-led warm-ups, opportunities to run chunks of marching band rehearsal, and encouraged additional musical leadership up to this point, is there anything more I can do to embrace these ideals and encourage students to become even more independent musicians?


An idea occurred to me while reading Couros' book. It was one of those ideas that stopped me in my tracks; but when I first thought of it, I made a note of it in my copy of the book and figured I'd come back to it when the time was right... Maybe in a few years after we've had more leadership development, or when I had more time to plan it out....

...Or maybe now. Now seems good.

Even made a button of this at our PD session yesterday!

A follow-up PD session today in our individual buildings charged each department with the task of implementing an idea inspired by "The Innovator's Mindset". Before they even finished explaining the task at hand, I knew it had to be this. #SCHSinnovate

The Idea
Each ensemble/band class will have the opportunity to select as a group one piece for our Winter Concert on December 12, 2018. In addition to selecting the piece, students will be completely charged with preparing the piece for performance.

The Rules
  • Our ultimate goal is to perform whatever piece of music selected to our fullest potential and abilities. 
  • Every student is to be given a voice throughout the selection and rehearsal processes. Although every student has the opportunity to voice their thoughts, every student also recognizes and understands that the full group is not always able to carry out the wishes of every voice while still making progress on our goal. 
  • Students are able to ask me for help, guidance, and/or assistance at any time, but students will ultimately be charged with making decisions. 
  • Students will determine a rehearsal/teamwork process that gives any student who wishes to speak/contribute the opportunity to be heard. 
  • Students will decide who (if anyone) will direct the piece on the concert. 
  • Students can choose to use recordings, metronomes, other additional technology to assist in the rehearsal process. 
  • Students will select their piece from short list (2-3 pieces) of appropriate literature picked based on instrumentation and ensemble levels. 
There is a LOT of risk here. And a whole lot more to learn than just music- teamwork skills, social skills, and respect just to name a few. I know have students who do not get along with each other in my ensembles, and for them especially, this will be a GREAT challenge. The fact of the matter thought is that no matter where life may take them-- whether performing in groups, working in a medical team, bringing people together for a non-profit, or any other of life's many pathways-- this task will not only require them to be stronger musicians, but better teammates and collaborators. Life skills will enhance rehearsal skills and musical skills, and vice versa. Balance is balance- in music, and in life. 

Whether or not it produces the truly great opportunities I believe it will for my students-- I will be modeling the type of courage and initiative I hope for my students to find in themselves and will learn a GREAT deal in the process.

I am excited about this. I am passionate about this. And I'm scared crapless about this. But ultimately, I can't wait to see the GREAT things we will all learn by going through this process together.


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