Planning: The key to success for the itinerant teacher

The following was first published in the September 1999 issue of Fanfare Magazine. Fanfare is published by Marching Show Concerts, 829 Lawrence Drive, Ft. Wayne, IN 46804. 1-800-356-4381. This article was reprinted with permission.

Randy Navarre, DMA


The key to success for the itinerant teacher



When faced with teaching instrumental music programs in several different schools, the new teacher must be organized and have a plan. This article can get you started.



                Many music majors dream of their first job in a fantastic program, with great administrative support, adequate budget, and motivated students. They graduate, apply for multiple openings, and, after interviews and several rejections, are offered a position, often in less then their "dream" position. Sometimes, the position requires the teacher to coordinate programs in multiple schools, especially in middle school, private, and parochial school situations. Thus is born the itinerant teacher. This article will help the itinerant teacher develop an organized plan before meeting the students.

Get Organized

make a folder (or spiral notebook with sleeves); include blank sheets for notes

put principal's name and each school's phone number in the folder

obtain a school calendar

write in the school's closing number (the number used for unexpected closings, i.e. inclement weather)

if schools notify teachers of closings through phone chains, get on the list!

write the teaching day/time on the folder (if you know)

Visit The Schools

meet the principals and ask/discuss:

how many students were in last year's bank?

what is the school's total student population?

decide on a teaching day and time (subject to coordination w/other schools); don't rely on the principal to decide; they will often give the best times for them, not you, causing difficulties with other schools

gernerally, plan a whole day of teaching in one school if its band exceeds 35

if 20 or less, schedule an afternoon

20-30, a morning schedule

if all schools' bands exceed 35 students, schedule schools with the most beginners for morning half days

assure principals of your cooperation; make them your biggest supporters; assure them that you will take care of scheduling, recruiting, assemblies, organizing the program, etc.

offer to open assemblies and other school functions when the band is ready

know the best route from one school to another; let the principal help

after contacting all principals, make/distribute tentative schedules

meet and become friends with secretaries and maintenance staff of each school; they can be invaluable allies

visit the classrooms

lesson locations may be different from band rehearsal locations, especially in small, private, or parochial schools; don't be surprised by cramped, unventilated poorly lighted locations

make sure enough chairs and music stands are in each location

Enlist the help of maintenance allies; be as patient and accommodating as possible

Teaching Preparation

know fingerings, slide positions, and proper hand and stick positions for each instrument

practice the instruments; be able to play/demonstrate; this builds confidence in your abilities and helps you understand beginners' difficulties

choose a method book

looks good

looks easy

is easy for students to follow

few activities that take away from playing the instrument

if the book comes with a CD or tape, get it

have reeds, oil, extra sticks, pads, repair kits (at least a small screwdriver) handy at all times

4. Recruiting

set band demonstration (during the school day) as soon as possible after school starts

the longer you wait the less students will join the band

if band recruitment was in the Spring, re-recruit

if possible, do demonstrations one class/grade at a time, allowing students more personal contact with the instruments

if you must have assemblies, split into 2-3 shows

parent meetings

schedule within 1-2 days after band demonstration

students and parents will start to lost interest after 3 days Instrumentalist, June 1995 for more in-depth recruiting details

set up 1st day's lesson schedule, i.e. 9 a.m. all interested in playing flute, 9:30 a.m. clarinet, 10 a.m. saxophone, etc. until all instruments are covered

make sure the principal knows this is for 1st lesson only

supply principals with schedules (with names) for subsequent lessons, update periodically

2nd lesson: (this will work only if you took names of everyone interested during the first lesson)

group in like instruments

list names with each group

put names on chairs (makes a big difference)

5. Advanced Band Scheduling/Rehearsal

set advanced band rehearsal as soon as possible, even if the first rehearsal is a different day then the regularly scheduled lesson and rehearsal day(s)

decide when to have rehearsals/lessons but insist on lessons during the school day; rehearsals can be before school, after school, during lunch, recess, etc.

have music ready

if abilities are unknown, include variety of levels

never include music that is too hard on the first day; students need to fell good about their sound and showing you how they play


The itinerant teacher must be prepared and organized before the students enter the room. Although the teacher may not know the quality or quantity of students, a plan can be quickly adjusted to fit the situation. Without a plan, panic can ensue, the students will know it, and the teacher will have an unsuccessful first day on the job.

Obviously, the teacher should love what he/she is doing. Students should feel as if the teacher is sharing something that is the greatest fun in their lives. Enthusiasm is contagious and will carry the students through the tough times ahead. Do not be embarrassed or hesitant to allow your students to see it. It will make a world of fun for all.



RANDY NAVARRE, DMA, has been active in music education for over 28 years, having started this teaching career in the Philadelphia Public Schools in 1973. He is the founder and director of Northeastern Music Programs, Inc., providing general and instrumental music educators to schools in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. Dr. Navarre is also the founder and director of Northeaster Music Publications, Inc. specializing in school band and orchestra publications.

A frequent clinician, Dr. Navarre is also a classical saxophonist, having appeared in numerous concerts and festivals in the United States and Canada. As an author, previous articles have appeared in The Saxophone Journal, The Instrumentalist, and BandWorld. He is currently completing a comprehensive textbook, The Instrumental Music Teacher's Survival Kit, slated for release in the fall of 2000.