Vertical Teaching

I am very excited to be part of a new team teaching instrumental music in a vertical setting. In our feeder system we have four (soon to be five) K-5 elementary schools, one 6-7 middle school, one 8-9 middle school, and one 10-12 high school. In terms of band directors, there are currently ~3.0 FTE for 5th grade, 2.0 FTE at the 6-7 building, 1.0 FTE at the 8-9 building, and 2.0 FTE at the 10-12 building. The same system is duplicated for the other feeder system on the other side of town. I am not sure of the reasoning nor the history, but our school district does not have an orchestra program. Our music curriculum includes K-5 General Music, 5-12 Instrumental Music (Band), and 6-12 Vocal Music. We function on a six-day cycle and pull the majority of our students for lessons from their band rehearsal. Some of our students come from choir rehearsals, study hall, or free periods. Students are not pulled from non-music courses. Here is a sample of what the band portion of the schedule looks like:

Period A1 B1 A2 B2 A3 B3 Before School 9-12 Marching Band or 7-12 Jazz Band 1 10th Band & 11-12th Band 2 9th Band 3 8th A 8th B 8th A 8th B 8th A 8th B 4 6th 6th 6th 5 7th 7th 7th 6 6th 6th 6th 7 7th 7th 7th 8 Plan OR Music Theory

Lunch does happen, usually between 4th and 5th period due to the building schedule. Marching Band happens at the 8-9 building for a variety of reasons:

  1. The football stadium is located there.

  2. Most of the 10-12th grade students can drive themselves to before school or evening rehearsals, while most 9th grade students cannot.

  3. Traffic conditions between the buildings are not conducive to having students attempt to travel between buildings before the beginning of first period.

  4. Transportation is provided for students needing to go to the 10-12 building from the 8-9 building following before school and 1st period rehearsals

Jazz Bands occur at the respective buildings, except 9th graders are included in the two high school jazz bands. Transportation is provided for the 9th grade students from the 10-12 building back to the 8-9 building in time for their school day to begin.

What makes our model truly vertical is our team of 5 directors teaching lessons and rehearsals 6-12. Our team’s primary instruments include saxophone, trombone, flute, oboe, and percussion. This allows us to teach the vast majority of our lessons 6-12 to students on our primary instruments. Students are receiving direct instruction from an expert!

In theory, we have four teachers that can teach lessons in any given period, with one on the podium. In practice, we are very close to this ideal. The problem comes in the sheer number of students we have to instruct and making sure they are receiving a lesson, as well as the “pro” teacher not being able to access kids in their own rehearsal for lessons. The pros far outweigh the cons. Kids very rarely miss lessons because we come to them in their rehearsals!

Students in 6th and 7th grade receive lessons in groups of two or three depending on ability level. 8-12th grade students receive individual lessons. Material covered in lessons includes:

  • Instrument-specific Warm-Ups

  • Lesson Books

    • Student Instrumental Course Levels 1-3 (Grades 6-8)

    • Rubank Advanced Volumes I & II (Grades 9-12)

    • Instrument-Specific Books

  • SmartMusic Exercises

  • Honor Band Auditions

  • Solo & Ensemble Literature

  • Concert Band Literature (if struggling)

I will have more information about lesson material in a later post regarding our district’s push for  standards-based grading.

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Burton Hable

Burton Hable is an instrumental music educator from Central Iowa. In 2013 he helped open Centennial High School in Ankeny, the first time in forty years that a school district in Iowa expanded to two high schools. He served there through 2018 as Assistant Director of Bands: conducting the 10th Grade Symphonic Band, directing the varsity Jazz Collective, co-directing the Centennial Marching and Pep Bands, teaching music theory, and providing individual and small group lessons to brass students in grades 6-12 at Prairie Ridge Middle School, Northview Middle School, and Centennial High School. During his tenure in Ankeny, enrollment in band grew from 450 to nearly 700, the jazz program expanded from four to seven ensembles, and ensembles under his direction were invited to perform at Iowa State University, Harper College, and the Veterans Day Parade in New York City.