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“Today was the first day of school; I am so scared. I don’t know if I can do this.”

James M. Rohner | September 2013

    Twenty years ago this month, I worked on my favorite article ever. It was not an interview with a famous director or composer. Instead, Ann Crawford, a young director teaching middle school in Wisconsin, described her first year of teaching in painstaking, vivid detail. We have published a number of director diaries over the years, but this one was special because of the author’s complete honesty. She did not sugarcoat the difficulties she faced in that first year, the problems with certain students and the struggle to gain acceptance from parents and administrators. Anyone who has ever stepped in front of a classroom of students and wondered what to do next can identify with her. Two decades later, every word remains true.
– James M. Rohner, Publisher

Full article available here.

September 24: I am beginning to dread seeing certain kids every day. I am also tired of hearing about how the old band director did things. If something he did worked well, I would be willing to try it, but for the most part I have to find my own way of doing things.

October 5: I passed out an arrangement of Batman to the symphonic band. They loved it, but I feel that I sold out. I guess it’s O.K. to play something fun, as long as there is some musical content, but I feel guilty because I did it as a bribe. We will only play the piece as long as they behave.

October 23: Today I took the horn over for that kid’s first lesson. The smile on his face made my entire year so far.

December 18: My first band concert went fairly well, but I felt like a temporary conductor filling in for the regular one. I worried that parents measured me against the former director and wondered how I got the job.

December 21: I made it to winter break. I can’t wait to have time off to see my family. You would think we could relax a little after our concert, but the district band festival and Band-O-Rama are only four weeks after vacation.

February 16: Many kids have not signed up for seating auditions yet. I told them that it’s part of their grade, but some students are still dragging their heels.

February 22: The ninth graders were almost unanimously shocked that a seventh grader had outplaced a ninth grader for alto saxophone. I tried to be positive during today’s rehearsal, but the morale was visibly low.

March 19: Rehearsals are going better. I think symphonic band is going to play well at the contest. I would love to get a first place rating, but I’m afraid to get my hopes up.

April 5: We received ratings of 1, 2, and 2 for an overall contest rating of 2. At first I was disappointed. The students had rushed sometimes and didn’t make as much dynamic contrast as  they could have, but overall I thought they performed well.

April 20: I have never seen them work so hard or so quietly. I think it’s partly better teaching, but they are letting me teach instead of fighting it.

May 19: I finally feel a sense of ownership of the program. I am looking forward to next year when I can start out with the feeling that the bands and students are really mine.

May 27: The principal came into symphonic band to observe me for the third time. The class was attentive during the rehearsal and sounded good, too. Afterwards he just said, “I think they like the music they are playing.”

June 4: I think the kids going into symphonic band next year are really excited. I’m looking forward to having a good group and already have some ideas about the music we will play. I learned more this year than in my entire four years of college, but I’m glad I don’t have to go through it again.