Episode 33 features an interview with two outstanding educators who are no strangers to Pass the Baton – Amy Rever-Oberle and Lauren Staniszewski. Amy is the band director at Hart Middle School in Rochester Hills, Michigan, where she teaches 6th through 8th grade band. Lauren is the band director at Stoney Creek High School, also in Rochester Hills, where she teaches three high school concert bands, marching band, jazz band, and collaborates with Amy to teach one section of 6th grade band. Both educators have found that empowering their music students begins with teaching them to become independent musicians. 

Episode 33: Fostering Independent Musicians

It Starts With Problem Solving 

Teaching students independent musicianship skills begins by teaching them to problem solve and figure things out themselves. Not only does that help them as musicians, but it helps them as human beings! Amy acknowledges that in beginning band, the fundamentals must come first. That part is often very teacher-led. But beyond that, students learn where to go when they have questions. They don’t always have to ask the teacher for help with a fingering when they have a method book, classmates on either side of them, and a device in their pocket! 

This initial work Amy does at the middle school, teaching students how to be independent and problem solve, transitions to them being able to think critically and express themselves more richly. Students learn to both use and shape their voices, thinking artistically about the musical decisions they make. Lauren has also found these skills help in shaping the culture of the high school band program. The high school has a robust leadership team, with student committees to handle various aspects of the program, including social, managerial, and even performance activities. 

I want them to understand just how powerful their voice is….not only the sound they make with their instruments, but through their actions and what they do.

The Benefits Go Beyond the Music 

Throughout the interview, both Lauren and Amy share what these independent musicianship skills look like in their programs. Some of the highlight include: 

  • At the high school level, students are thinking and listening more critically
  • For middle school students, there is more ownership and buy-in for the band program 
  • Amy has seen students take skills they learn in middle school band beyond the band program and benefit them for years to come, including those gained from the Genius Hour projects
  • Student-run chamber performances, composition projects, and full-ensemble arrangements that students take ownership of, following their passions
  • Starting with little steps and letting mistakes happen. Everyone has to be comfortable (teachers and students) as students take more ownership in the music room 
  • The power of making eye contact and using students’ names
  • It’s okay to have fun and connect with students outside of the music-making 

Somebody makes a mistake and we thank them for making that mistake. Oh, you know, I bet somebody else had that same issue too. Thank you so much! I love that you did that, because I can see where other people might have that problem.

Both Amy and Lauren have taken the time to build relationships and trust in their band programs. As a result, students feel empowered and can take ownership of their music making, developing into lifelong musicians. 

Be sure to check out the full interview on YouTube or your favorite podcast platform: Fostering Independent Musicians

Connect with Amy and Lauren: 

Listen to the full interview on your favorite podcast app or here, on Anchor!

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