“Music No Matter What”
O’Fallon Township High School Band Program
O’Fallon Township High School
At the start of the 2020-2021 school year, we knew that we would need to devise some creative plans and means of keeping music alive for students and their parents. Illinois was very restrictive during this time, so a lot of our plans were ever-changing but we stayed the course. We relied on innovative ways to communicate with students and parents, and we focused on the individual student and developing ways to maintain their musical skills and keep their interests at a high level. We had weekly video performances and visited students often by delivering music and instruments as needed.
The main objectives to our plan during this school year, were to keep the students involved in music and look after their best interest. Focusing on the needs of the individual student, made us realize that we should have been doing some of these things beforehand. Creativity of lesson plans were a top priority in designing them to reach each student. We did our best to make each zoom call a great musical experience but also a personal one for kids by talking to each of them individually and having fun conversation before the music lesson started. As students needed materials and equipment, we also delivered these items in a timely manner and always included some type of positive note or gift for them. We connected with parents through weekly video updates. Instead of sending out newsletters, the directors talked through upcoming events, and why decisions were being made, due to changing status of guidelines.
Our students were the main focus of this initiative. We are a student-centered program here at OTHS, however, during these challenging times we focused more on the whole student, along with the them as musicians. We communicated with parents in making sure that kids were feeling fine and what we could do to be the class they look forward to. We also wanted to be those teachers that students could continue to connect with more and as often as they wished and needed. All of these adjustments for the better have made our program stronger and family oriented at a higher degree. Music is about relationships and we made that the focus.
During the time that we were in hybrid learning, we could not see the end, therefore, we just continued to plan accordingly within the guidelines. In order to give the students playing and performance opportunity, we did a number of individual video performances on a weekly fashion. We also performed in a few virtual local contests along with the Music For All Showcase Festivals. We collaborated with local schools to shoot a documentary/movie of 12 local bands, who they were maintaining their programs and their video performance. This production was put together by a videographer and viewed by the local community at a drive in theater for a two night showing. We ended our marching band season with a “reverse parade” around our park, which was well received by the community. Parents, family, and friends, looped the performance route 3-4 times to support all of our little marching bands along the route. At this point in the semester, no bands in our area were allowed to have audiences. This reminded us that we not only needed to tend to our students, but also to our family, friends, and audience members. These creative events continued throughout the school year ending in hosting our own Honor Band opportunity, by bringing in a local University conductor to hold a festival experience for our top band for a day, and ending in a concert.
Overview of Planning and Execution
The head band director led these curriculum changes and ideas. The hybrid teaching and zoom calls were shared by the Assistant Band Director and Percussion and Colorguard Staff. Together we would plan each month and made changes weekly when necessary. It made our lesson planning flexible, creative, and cooperative. The time commitment overall was much less than a normal year here at OTHS, however, the thought process on the teacher end of things, was a lot to deal with in regard to the ever changing status of life and conditions.
Tools and Resources
We did utilize a few online music resources, however, what worked best was one on one connection with kids through conversation, private lessons, and house visits. By the end the school year, the directors knew where everyone lived and more about each student personally then they had before. This is a major take away for us, as we live in a more tradition music curriculum know, but remembering that each kid is worth our all!
Marketing and Promotion
We pushed all of our video performances out on facebook and social media. We were involved in state contests and national festivals that still gave the students the exposure that had once before, just on a different scale.
- We paid for a few online programs – $6000.00
- We purchased t shirts for incoming students – $750.00
- We purchased additional chamber music – $350.00
- We assisted with repairs and use of additional instruments – $500.00
- We put a low budget marching band show together – $10,000. – music, percussion parts, drill, costumes, colorguard choreo
I think a lot of what we dealt with was teacher stamina, the knowing what we would like to give our students but were not allowed to do so. Also what weighed on us, was not knowing the end of this challenging time. A lot of what we are seeing now in regard to teacher shortage is teacher’s living through this time, coming back to a half way school year, and realizing what has been asked of teachers is too much. We lost some staff here at OTHS, due to the pandemic, however, all of our main teachers and coordinators are here and our staff is happy and healthy moving forward.
Our measurement of our effectiveness is number of students enrolled in band and parent communication.
We have had a 15% increase in enrollment in our program overall and an 35% increase enrollment in our colorguard program. We continued a high level of communication with parents through our online video podcasts and additional one on one calls to parents.
- Currently, our program has flourished off of the challenging schoolyear of 2020-2021.
- In 2022, we performed in the Rose Parade
- January 2022 – The Wind Ensemble performed at our All State Conference
- April 2022 – The Wind Ensemble was accepted to perform at the Midwest Clinic
- April 2022 – The Marching Panthers were accepted to perform at the 2023 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
- May 2022 – The Jazz Band was accepted to perform at our All State Conference
Everything we did helped keep our program moving and what was best for kids at the time. Now looking back, our efforts and creative lesson plans and event, kept music alive in O’Fallon. In addition, focusing on the individual student promoting individual musical excellence throughout and is now thriving in our program. All of our efforts have had a positive impact on where we are today and headed tomorrow in music education and music experience.
Advice for others?
Our take away is always focus on the individual student, continue to communicate with families, and look to be creative for the good of your program. Because a music program has been a certain way, does not mean it is the best way now for kids. Evaluate for new ways to give life to your program.