TME Podcast Season 1, Ep. 4: End of the Year Reflections Pt. 1

Description: Today we are going to take a moment to discuss a tremendously important task that all music directors should do at the end of the year. Reflect. End of the Year Reflections for the Music Educator, Part 1, is a post that will address the tasks that music teachers deal with throughout the year. Since this topic could span the length of a book, this topic will be split into multiple blog posts. Reflection contributes to the philosophy, professional development, and maturity of an effective music teacher, no matter what level he or she teaches. In part 1, we will reflect on prominent aspects of being a music teacher. You guessed right. MUSIC.


Without music, music educators would still be essential role models, but the thrill of our profession would lack a sort of passion. Reflecting back over the course of this year I made sure to write down (or at least take a moment) and evaluate my effectiveness in using music as a tool for learning.


Music is one of the most critical components of having a music ensemble. Without it, a music ensemble would be lacking purpose. A music teacher's ability to carefully select and program a group's music will determine a group's success during a live performance. What is important to you when choosing music?

When deciding what music to consider:

  • Type of ensemble

  • Age of ensemble

  • Experience of group

  • Strengths/ Weaknesses of players

  • Instrumentation

  • Time of year

  • Amount of time for concert preparation

  • Contest vs. concert

  • Instrument quality

  • Cost of purchasing new music

  • Learning objectives for music ensemble

Selected music should include a piece that challenges the students beyond what they can currently play successfully. Other pieces should contain some contrast. I typically play a march, overture, a quality modern piece and a fun piece with my concert groups. Publishers that I use include,, and

Quality of Music

The quality of music should always be one of the biggest priorities when selecting music. Remember that quality music does not mean it has to be difficult. Varying levels of quality music range from beginning performers to professionals.

Quality music should include:

  • Appropriate ranges for the level of the performer

  • Clear melody, countermelody, harmonic and bass lines

  • Positively engages the performers and audience

  • Provides a clear musical form or structure

  • Has teachable elements

  • Contains stylistic ingredients that are consistent with the genre

Time for Concert Preparation

Time for concert preparation depends on the way you use your class time and how much the students need to develop their skills. Are there enough resources to meet the needs of your students? Are your students quick to learn music or do they need regular repetition? These are all customized considerations required when you have to decide how you are going to use your time with the programmed music.

When planning my class rehearsals, I want my kids playing 80% of the time. This develops their musical skills and limits the off-task talking in the classroom. Also, I want to make sure to include the most mentally challenging material and instruction toward the beginning of class. Since attention spans are somewhat limited, I am sure I change mental focuses every 5-8 minutes with my students.

Always include a warm-up that engages what your students are learning about and make it a point to reinforce previously acquired skills. If I carefully use the remaining time for concert preparation, then I can get a song set of 3 to 4 pieces ready for a concert in a month and a half. For more help with deciding on an effective rehearsal plan be sure to read Habits of a Successful Middle School Band Director. The skills, forms, and recommendation in the book can be transferred to various disciplines and can save a tremendous amount of time and stress for music teachers.


Warm-ups provide an opportunity for music teachers to strengthen student fundamentals. These fundamentals should include:

  • Breathing

  • Rudiments

  • Scales

  • Range

  • Articulation Variations

  • Style

  • Sound Development

  • Tonguing Techniques

  • Specialty Techniques

  • Flexibility

  • Alternate Fingerings

  • Solfege

  • Air Speed Control

  • and Sight-Reading

Special emphasis should be placed on performing warm-ups with a purpose rather than mindlessly running through them. One way to get students in the right frame of mind is to have them demonstrate their mastered skills in front of a live audience, or record them with an external recorder. Take a moment and reflect on what activities you and your students are engaged in.

This concludes the End of Year Reflections for the Music Educator, Part 1. Be sure to take a moment and reflect on how you prioritize your music programming decisions. You may find you will be working smarter rather than harder if this process. I also want to invite you to subscribe to my blog for all the excellent resources, tips, and tricks that you can use tomorrow in the music classroom. Finally, I encourage you to read all of the great content available at your fingertips on The Music Educator blog.