Most of us that are part of a marching percussion ensemble will experience a staff change during our four years of high school or college band. That new direction often brings new techniques, styles and energy. It can be difficult at times to say goodbye to one instructor and hello to a complete stranger. As a student—especially as a student leader—in a group going through a transition, you have the most power to make the transition as easy (and fun) as possible.
Give a Warm Welcome
Younger students will always look to the older ones for how to act, so providing them with a positive role model who warmly welcomes new instructors is paramount. There’s nothing harder as an instructor than coming into a new situation—especially if the previous instructor was well liked and successful. You will get the best out of a new instructor if you make them feel welcome.
Absorb New Ideas
Having new instructors means receiving new information. Maybe you’ve struggled to play flams, but hearing a new set of information will help it to click. This is a great opportunity for you and your ensemble to get better fast. Take the best of what you were already taught and marry it to the new information you’re receiving. And if you have aspirations of teaching yourself, now you have multiple versions of exercises and techniques to choose from as you grow into an instructor.
Finally, it’s important that you commit to your new instructors for the long term. Most new teachers need a few years to develop the technique needed to build toward their goals. It is important to understand early that success will come by committing to a program and an instructor over multiple years and not dismissing it after one week, one month or even one season. Often you may graduate long before your percussion ensemble reaches its full potential.
Committing to new ideas during your time in school will allow you to feel proud watching the ensemble improve long after you are gone because you were a key part in setting it up for long-term success.
About the Author
Lane Armey is the battery percussion coordinator for Homestead High School in Cupertino, Calif. During the past 15 years, he has worked with various groups including Northwestern University and the Bluecoats Drum and Bugle Corps.