Professional Development

Technique vs. Emotion  Early in my conducting career and marriage, my wife, Amanda, and I were talking to one of my colleagues about a major orchestral work. He was going on and on about the conducting technique required to lead such a work.
Don't Be Afraid to AskI was teaching general music at a private middle school in Tampa, Florida. Shortly after I was hired, the headmaster informed me that it was traditional for the 8th grade class to do a musical in the spring. The musical that year would be "Damn Yankees" because the youngest son of George Steinbrenner, the owner of the New York Yankees, was in the 8th grade class.
Begin with a Question  What has led to the greatest growth in my students and in my teaching was developing the mindset of a conceptual teacher. As a young educator, I provided entirely too much information to my student performers. 
Positive Working Relationships​  One of the most important lessons I've learned during my career is the significance of positive working relationships. 
As educators, we can always glean new insights from the teaching practices in other countries. Japanese schools, for example, strive to take excellence in music education to a new level. They emphasize an early appreciation of music, with mandatory classes in elementary school and junior high. 
​In the blog post, Jeff Coffin: Professor Rock Star, we learn how Coffin draws his teaching techniques from his professional career as a soloist, leader and performer with several groups including Béla Fleck and the Flecktones and Dave Matthews Band. He provides the following advice to fellow music educators.
I worked in a music store for many years, and one of the most common requests we'd get from customers was help with picking a mouthpiece. The conversation would often include something like this: "I need a new mouthpiece. I want something that lets me play higher … and sound really good!"
After a long season of percussion activities, it's time for a much-needed break. Of course, this includes your percussion equipment. Every ensemble can (and should) be proactive in protecting its equipment. Your gear has taken a lot of stress and strain, but the good news is that keeping your equipment in top competitive shape for next season is a matter of following these four steps. 
From Another Angle  The first time I ever participated in a conducting workshop, the clinician tried to get me to conduct the shape of a multi-bar phrase, rather than every single beat and note along the way. The teacher was outstanding, but I just couldn't get it — either I wasn't yet ready as a musician and conductor, or the concept wasn't explained in a way that resonated.
It's All About the Music  I will never forget, as a young director, walking into an all-state band rehearsal. My intent was to pick up a few rehearsal pointers. To my surprise what I observed transcended all that I thought rehearsals were about. 

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