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A First-Year Map to Success for New Orchestra Directors

New orchestra directors should apply these tips during their first year of teaching. Tip #5 will surprise you.

In Case Study: A Las Vegas Middle School Orchestra’s Remarkable SuccessKathryn Greene outlined how she took her program to unprecedented heights, despite having no prior strings experience.

She offers new orchestra instructors, a plan to help them succeed in their first year. Like Greene did at Cashman Middle School, you, too, can expand your program and take your students to perform at prestigious music conferences.

1. Consider the School’s Needs: Find out the goals of the administration and partner to achieve them.

2. Crunch the Numbers: “You’ve got to stabilize the budget and figure out where your money comes from,” Greene says. “And figure out your inventory. If you need more instruments, figure out how to get them.”

3. Tailor Your Fundraisers: “A lot of schools [sell] coupon books for $25 to $30,” Greene says. “My families are not going to buy a single coupon book. What I can do is sell a bunch of $6 to $9 items. We also sell candy. Candy sells well, and it’s cheap. We also do a donation drive because some families would rather give money and call it a day.”

4. Look for Opportunities: If your program is cash-strapped, find unique ways to get the resources that you need. Greene acquired and repaired an instrument that another school was planning to throw out. And the music program received a grant from VH1 Save the Music Foundation and Toyota.

5. Cut Yourself Some Slack: “Roll with the punches and forgive yourself for mistakes because you’re going to make them,” Greene says. “Early on while I was making mistakes, I reminded myself that I was going to get better at it. I had an aptitude for music. I was good at working with kids. I was trained. I just needed to not put too much pressure on myself to be perfect.”

Photo Courtesy of James Cashman Middle School

This article originally appeared in the 2018 V4 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.

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