This is a business!

Though most universities do not include a business education in developing band directors, every new director finds that there are elements to making their program run smoothly that falls in the realm of business management. 

When we look at the average marching band program, repertoire and excellence are generally lacking. Average programs do not raise the funds to hire a professional design and instructional staff. Whether this be due to the culture of the community in which the program resides, a philosophical position with the band director, or lack of human resources available in the area, these programs find it extremely difficult (and often times, frustrating) to compete with programs that do place attention on these important financial endeavors. 

When I say "professional," I am referring to those individuals who have made a career choice to be a designer or instructor for a living. These individuals are indispensable to a program because most of the skills of their craft are not available in a classroom anywhere in the country. Designers typically begin as an apprentice under a qualified drill writer or choreographer, learning the unspoken theory of visual design and developing tutelary relationships with the judging community. 

Should you choose designers and instructors who do this for a living? Absolutely! These people focus on staying relevant and contemporary. They are on a first-name basis with the judges and are aware of the different trends that come and go in design and technique. 

Remember the importance your collegiate educators placed on observation and assessment? Think about the experience of your staff versus your own. It might humble you to see that an instructor who works with multiple groups is able to gain more information about the efficacy of a technique or a teaching method than you in one year. After all, you're only with one band per year. After ten years, you might have ten different bands throughout your teaching history from which to develop your teaching style and methods. But, a seasoned instructor or designer may very well have anywhere between twenty and two-hundred in the same amount of time!

Paying your professional staff well and on-time is more than just a courtesy. It's essential. Having the knowledge of these subordinates makes your job much easier, less stressful, and imparts aspects of the arts to your students that one director alone cannot achieve. 

In finding the staff that is right for you, it is best to find those professionals who know that their first priority is making you (the band director) look good! After all, no matter who you hire to do whatever job you need done, you're the one that gets the credit in your community above all. Having a staff that is committed to you and your career is like cloning yourself!

Don't be late paying your staff. If you cannot avoid a late payment, communicate as soon as possible so that these professionals can prepare their personal budgets to accommodate the delay. Imagine if your principal held your paycheck from you for a few days longer than you were expecting. It would bring on hardships to you and your family. This is what happens when your professional staff isn't paid on time, too. 

Developing a relationship with your staff, a chemistry between you and them is a treasure hard to find anywhere else. Though this activity requires hard work and discipline, it's also supposed to be fun! There is nothing like working with like-minded individuals in an endeavor you both love. Many in this industry have developed lifelong friendships both professionally and privately. On a human level, this could be said to be the very reason , the foundation for the activity itself.

Treat your staff with respect and honor your commitment to meet their needs and your job will be fun, rewarding, and successful!

The Thousands Club

Years ago, I started something with my color guard students to improve their technical skills. I realized that the kinds of adjustments that we need them to do requires much more familiarity with their hands than they can gain during mere ensemble rehearsal hours. Therefore, I began what I call the Thousands Club.

Students have to log in a spiral notebook every attempt they make at each toss they have in their training syllabus...and they have to do 1,000 of each! After throwing this many tosses they gain a familiarity with the micro-adjustments required to solidify ensemble technique. At the basic levels, they working with larger muscle groups and placement. In order to get to the more advanced levels of performance, they need to have an understanding and discipline to make smaller, harder to improve adjustments that only the pressure of time and repetition can give. 

Once a week, we look at the students' logs and see how often they're practicing on their own and how far into their 1,000s they've gotten. We encourage them to practice daily and explain the benefits of their efforts. 

Many times in the past, I've heard that some instructors don't like their students practicing at home because they are afraid that they might develop bad habits. Though this can happen, through repetition and familiarity students can break those habits. Getting your students onto a program like the Thousands Club can have terrific benefits and reduce lengthy training blocks where the most basic rudiments are being grilled. 

Look to my Video Training program, On Color Guard for a terrific foundation to creating a training syllabus for all pieces of equipment and movement from basic to advanced skills.