As a young music educator in Minnesota, Logan Burnside found a unique way to glean wisdom and knowledge from seasoned directors who have developed great instrumental music programs. He created a podcast called The Band Director’s Lounge and interviews band directors from around the country. Some of Burnside’s favorite pieces of advice from recent episodes of the podcast include:
- “A great band program helps students get better. It doesn’t matter if they are the best band in the district or the country — it matters that they improve and find joy in music. That can happen anywhere.” — Elizabeth Jackson Kirchhoff (episode #28), Eden Prairie (Minnesota) High School
- “A great band program is a program that makes a difference in your community, and that can look different wherever you teach.” — Robert Baca (episode #35), University of Wisconsin Eau Claire
- “You can’t teach excellence without having achieved excellence.” —Scott Guidry (episode #34), Bemidji (Minnesota) State University
These podcast interviews have resulted in Burnside growing his own music program at Jordan High School with some innovative programs, such as the Jordan Band Academy, a peer-to-peer music lesson and mentorship program where high school students volunteer to teach lessons to middle school students. Burnside and his middle school colleague, Tracy Cederstrom, pair up high school and middle school students based on their combined knowledge of students’ skills, abilities and personalities. “Then we just get out of the way and let the high school students work their magic! We have found that the student volunteers are very benevolent and truly want to give back and help make the program grow. Likewise, the middle school students want to learn and improve. Our three district buildings (elementary, middle and high schools) are across the street from each other, so students are able to easily walk back and forth,” Burnside says.
Another special program at Jordan High created by Burnside and Kathryn McKnight, who teaches choir at the school, is “Music Theory Lunch.” Because the school does not offer a music theory class, the two teachers co-teach a brief lesson during a weekly informal lunchtime meeting for students interested in music-theory-related topics, such as composition, sight-singing and rhythm-reading. According to Burnside, the students who attended and brought their lunch down to one of the music rooms, loved it.
Burnside also expanded student leadership roles in the band room. “Shortly after I began teaching, I invited students to nominate peers to be their student leaders,” he says. “This leadership group met once a week before or after school to learn how to be effective leaders in the music room, in their academics and life at large. I prepared brief topics for discussion at each meeting, drawing from musicians and non-musicians alike, including Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser, Simon Sinek, Steven R. Covey, Jocko Willink, Jon Gordon and more.”
Students responded well to this, and Burnside believes that they are the main reason for the positive, inclusive and encouraging band culture that exists in Jordan High’s program. “More importantly, it gave students ownership over what was happening, providing opportunities to voice concerns and learn how to co-lead the bands,” he says. “As a result, it only made the band environment better and drew more students to want to be a part of the ensembles.”
Burnside continues, “Band is the place that it should be — safe, supportive, challenging, rewarding and fun. I am incredibly proud of my students, who they are and who they go off into the world to be outside our high school. However, I am filled with joy by how many students cite feeling supported and cared for in band. They openly talk about feeling like they belong to a team and family and they have fun as part of their band experience.”