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Five Tips for Building a Band Program

The keys to success lie in doing these five things.

In our recent blog posting “Connect, Empower, Improve,” we described the numerous innovations introduced by Dr. Melissa Gustafson-Hinds, director of bands for O’Fallon Township High School in Illinois. Here, she offers five keys for building a successful band program:

1. Offer a variety of programs: One reason that the O’Fallon Township High School band program attracts so many students is the variety of ensembles it offers. Gustafson-Hinds oversees several concert and jazz band groups for different skill levels, so that all students can participate.

2. Connect with prospective students: Gustafson-Hinds runs clinics with the band programs at feeder middle schools. She also puts on joint concerts for middle and high school students. This early interaction stirs younger students’ interest in the high school band.

3. Connect students with each other: O’Fallon offers a private lesson program where high school students teach private lessons to students from feeder schools. This program teaches high school students leadership skills and prepares middle school students for high school band.

4. Offer big opportunities: Gustafson-Hinds organizes a variety of trips around the country for her band program. She makes sure that each year’s students get to do something new and exciting, whether it’s a parade, a bowl game or a major concert hall performance.

5. Be humble: Despite the program’s success, Gustafson-Hinds chooses to remain humble. She teaches her students to take their success in stride and to be grateful for the opportunities they have. This quality has also made her receptive to others’ advice, which leads to improvement.

Photo courtesy of Lisa Blankenship, LB Photography

Cover of Yamaha SupportED magazine for Fall 2016 issue. Cover photo is of African American violinist dressed casually holding his violin in front of him with text "Daring To Be Different" and "Black Violin" across cover.


This article originally appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of Yamaha SupportED. To see more back issues, find out about Yamaha resources for music educators, or sign up to be notified when the next issue is available, click here.


Savy Leiser is an author, journalist, editor and creative writing teacher living in Chicago. She graduated from Northwestern University in 2015, where she spent four years playing saxophone in the Wildcat Marching Band and was a member of the music sorority Sigma Alpha Iota. In addition to writing for Yamaha SupportED and Halftime Magazine, she writes children's and young adult books.

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