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I've seen very few school band programs where the teacher uses an instrument to demonstrate ideas or techniques during concert band rehearsals. If a teacher plays at all, it's usually with jazz or pep groups. On the other hand, a private lesson teacher will often continually play with their students. Sure, the instrument can get in the way sometime of conducting, but I've always felt that the conducting should be secondary, and that a group should be able to play satisfactorily without someone waving their hands in front of them. The band director should feel free to move around the band.

I'm curious from teachers what the logic would be behind NOT using your instrument in your classes even once in a while, as I'm sure there must be a good reason. It's just something I've wondered about for some time.
 

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Sometimes, because they can't do it themselves. I was in a school funk combo once when the teacher, a trumpet players, wanted us to accent a phrase a certain way. He'd sing it, we'd play it back the way he sang it, then he'd tell us we were wrong and we'd repeat the process. He took his mouthpiece and used a students trumpet to illustrate his point. It sounded exactly the same. If he really wanted us to play it differently than we were, he couldn't demonstrate it on the horn.

I fear that a lot of band directors, after years of teaching and having no real performance outlet, lose a lot of their ability to play. As they get better as a director, they lose their effectiveness as a player.
 

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Well one of the teachers (teaches the 2nd band and our jazz band) plays trumpet and he usually pulls his out...but hes smart enough to know if he tries to show to explain and can't do it he'll say he stinks at it haha.
 

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Agent27 said:
Sometimes, because they can't do it themselves. I was in a school funk combo once when the teacher, a trumpet players, wanted us to accent a phrase a certain way. He'd sing it, we'd play it back the way he sang it, then he'd tell us we were wrong and we'd repeat the process. He took his mouthpiece and used a students trumpet to illustrate his point. It sounded exactly the same. If he really wanted us to play it differently than we were, he couldn't demonstrate it on the horn.

I fear that a lot of band directors, after years of teaching and having no real performance outlet, lose a lot of their ability to play. As they get better as a director, they lose their effectiveness as a player.
Good point Agent27. IMHO band directors generally no longer have the time needed to keep their performance skills at the level it should be. This is not necessarily bad since as band director their role is more strategic/macro (aka giving overall direction to the band) than tactical/micro (developing each band member's skill). But of course, there should be a minimum skill level that a band director must have to be effective at his job.
 

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Back in the 70's I had THE BEST band director. He COULD and WOULD demonstrate on every instrument from bass drum to F horn and oboe. The guy is phenominal. Put any horn in his hand and he'll play anything from classical to modern rock from memory. I wish he was still teaching.
 

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I use my sax when I give workshops to band directors on jazz phrasing for concert band (how's that for an oxymoron :scratch:).

But to answer your question more broadly, I would guess that the majority of problems a band director is correcting has to do with ensemble playing; balance, intonation, rhythm, etc and the solutions to these problems are done more by the group rather than by individuals.

I have no doubt that there would be times when it would be more directly effective to play a passage if, ie, a problem was one of phrasing. But dynamics, balance, intonation, etc, these are not solvable by demonstrating with your horn.

Plus, I would assume that with all the running here and there, administrative duties etc, it's just not practical to be packing and unpacking your sax throughout the day.
 

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Because they aren't young enough to "know it all."
 

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If you're directing an ensemble, your mind is focussed on the totality of the music and the ensemble - the ensemble is your instrument for producing music at that point of time.

I find if I pick up an instrument partway through a rehearsal I usually make unsatisfactory noises - it's cold, the reed is dry, but most importantly my mind is not currently engaged on me managing my playing, but on a whole bunch of other people (and what they are/are'nt doing) instead.

Some people may be able to multitask better than this, but I'm not one of them.
 

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Back when I first came to the site, I recall I ruffled some feathers complaining about an elementary school band director who played along with the kids at concerts; sometimes taking the choice parts/solos that one of the kids could have handled. He did less and less of it as the years passed however; I think realizing he was stealing their thunder a bit. As for rehearsals, I have no problem with that, but if the teacher is incredibly talented it might be a bit imposing to the kids; depending upon the age, I guess.
 

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I've been trying different appraches to this - Play along, demonstrate, teach only from the piano. There's items I consider when playing along.

1) Is this to help the students or just prove to myself that I've "got the goods." Many middle school age kids perceive my playing as "showing off."

2) By playing along with students or constantly demonstrating, the students become unable to figure things out on their own.

3) MOST IMPORTANTLY - I don't want the limitations of my own personal playing to hold back my students. I'd like to think I'm the best player on the planet but that's simply NOT TRUE. So I encourage kids to listen to the REAL masters and not just a middle school band guy playing loud.

My first gig out of college was in a small school. I was the 5-12 band director. During my first jazz ensemble lesson, there was a little kid playing bass. UNBELIEVABLE - He could read notes, changes, and play by ear but only on electric bass. So there I am 25 years old looking at a 15 year old bass virtuoso. What am I goint to teach this guy? I found a 1/2 size up-right bass - got is in playing condition and added a pick-up. I insisted that this put away his electric and play everything - band methods, jazz, concert music on the up-right.

Senior year he purchased a Blond Kay bass and when to Northwestern as a jazz bass major. Now he's in NYC playing somewhere.

MY POINT: Teaching isn't about what I CAN do - It's about getting the kids in the right place at the right time with the right skills. Oh yeah, and hopefully have a little fun on the way.
 

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I had a professor who told me once the key to running a good band was to never let your students know which instrument was your major instrument. If a student thinks you play the same instrument as they do, they think that their instrument is the coolest one.

From experience, I never use an instrument during band rehearsals, but I almost ALWAYS have one for their group lessons. Lessons are the chance to demonstrate and work with students one-on-one, band rehearsals are the time to make the group is working cohesively.
 

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Good points here. I would always demonstrate to beginners, and conduct more advanced kids. I never played along on concerts.
 
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