"Lost in the Middle"
Do your middle school percussionists seem like they are off in another world? Do they lose mallets, forget to bring instruments to the performance, or look at you with a blank stare?
You are not alone. Percussionists are a special breed of musician that require more attention than wind players in the band. By attention, I am speaking about music that is challenging and commensurate with their abilities. For example, middle school band literature that is chosen for concerts is often too easy for the percussionist. This causes many problems during class including behavior disruptions, disinterest in music, and a negative attitude toward playing percussion.
Often times, band directors fail to organize their classrooms and rehearsals in a way that sets the middle school percussionist up to succeed. The diagram below is an accurate description of the time that is taken away from the aspiring percussionist. How can we change the weight of the amount of non-playing time to more playing time for our students?
How do you set up your classroom environment so that your percussionists will succeed? Here are some ideas for ways that you can organize the percussion space in your room that will eliminate problems before they occur. I have also included ideas for challenging your percussionists so that they do not get discouraged by easy music that isn't helping them grow as a musician.
1. Organize the percussion area with instrument assignment charts
2. Organize the percussion cabinet to include areas that are labeled
3. Post and track progress of the rudiment of the week
4. Offer percussion ensemble opportunities for students (This could be at school or with a community partner that offers middle school percussion ensemble)
5. Include the Percussion Ensemble on the Concerts
When percussionists are set up to succeed, they will follow the structure that is set before them. There are a lot of great resources for middle school percussion ensemble pieces being written today. I have used several pieces of literature from Drop 6, Row-Loff Productions, and TapSpace that are of excellent quality that serve to educate and inspire the percussionists who are lost in the middle. If you have questions, suggestions, or ideas to further inspire the young percussionists, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What can you do to change this graph to include more playing time for your percussionists?