Tips on Keeping Your High School Woodwind Students on Track and Motivated

by Todd Cope

Date Posted: February 15, 2018

Not registered? Create account
Forgot Password?
Or continue with

Television shows and movies often portray high school is an ‘easy walk in the park.’ In reality, we as educators know that this is not the case. With the increasing distractions and demands being placed on our students, can we continue to steer them in the right direction? The answer is a resounding YES! The following four key areas often leave our students feeling overwhelmed and distracted:

1) Marching Band

2) Other Musical Activities

3) Learning to play an Auxiliary Instrument

4) Increased Schoolwork


Most students who participate in high school band programs also participate in marching band.
Continuing musical development during marching band season can be difficult due to lengthy
rehearsals, football games, and weekend marching band contests. The time commitment is
sometimes overwhelming and may cause students to stray from good performance practices on
their instruments.

Take the time to guide your students through a good warm up before a marching rehearsal
utilizing long tones and scales. A clarinet-specific warm-up should help develop and maintain a
high level of musicianship and will foster a greater enjoyment of the activity. Similarly, playing
etudes and solo works during marching season will be helpful in cleansing the musical soul after
a long day on the marching field.


Some of the more ambitious students may choose to participate in musical activities outside of
the school day - private lessons, orchestra, or concerto competitions. If possible, employ a
woodwind specialist who can work with students individually or in small groups to help students
maximize their potential. Having a private teacher – one on one instruction – may be a luxury.
But if you can arrange it, your students may actually enjoy being pushed into accomplishing their

Participation in other ensembles (non-school groups) often fosters social as well as musical
development. Performing in new environments with other musicians who share a passion for
music can be encouraging and reassuring to our sometimes over-worked students. Encourage
your “go-getters” to participate in a concerto or solo contest as well. While this can be stressful
and demanding, your top students may welcome the diversion and enjoy the sense of
accomplishment that comes from performing individually in public.


Learning a new instrument can be a daunting task. Students may want to – or be required to –
learn how to play auxiliary instruments (i.e. bass clarinet). In order to be successful on an
auxiliary instrument, students should approach it in the same way that they approach their
primary instrument. Insist that they learn proper fingerings and technique from the outset. Help
them find proper equipment, paying special attention to mouthpiece and reed combinations.
Starting with proper equipment and good fundamentals will yield greater success and less stress.


The greatest challenge facing high school musicians is learning how to balance school work with
musical activities. Young musicians deal with papers, projects, clubs, etc. in addition to church
and family commitments. Put band rehearsal on top of all this and you’ve got the perfect recipe
for “how to be stressed out”! Teach your students how to be organized and how to budget their
time efficiently. As a busy high school student, I began each week by writing down a schedule
for the entire week. Try this with your students. They will find that they really do have time to do
their school work, time to practice, time to meet their commitments, and most importantly – time to have fun!

While our students may feel overwhelmed and distracted at times, it’s important for us to remind
them that we have “been there, done that.” We can help them become successful by teaching
them to take a systematic, organized approach to everything they do. Skills learned in band
rehearsals are skills for life. 

Sign up for the We Are Vandoren E-newsletter and receive 4 weekly articles for Players, Students, and Teachers. 

First name:
Last name:
Search Loading...