How to motivate high school trumpet players?

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by CaptainAddy, Jun 2, 2011.

  1. CaptainAddy

    CaptainAddy Pianissimo User

    Nov 14, 2010
    Camden County, GA
    Hey gang- I'm in somewhat of dilemma. In a few months, I will be working with my son's marching band's trumpet section as a sort of clinician. Here's the thing though- he's asked them if they want to continue playing trumpet in college and most he said, responded with yes. NONE of them have a copy of an Arban's book, and show no interest in getting one despite my son telling them how much of an asset it is to his playing. He's also the only one with a professional trumpet there as well (the school's main focus is football, so the band is stuck with 15 year old bottom rung student horns, so no hope of renting either.), and the funny thing is, he STANDS OUT with his Strad, instead of blending!ROFL

    So here's the deal- what can I do to impress upon these kids what they need to do in order to become successful, not only in high school, but on their road of continuing education as well? Many thanks,

  2. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    There are two things that have always stood out to me as motivators for a school based music program:

    1.) Incentive
    2.) competition

    You'll have to figure out what the incentive is. When I was growing up the incentive was that it was a good thing to be 1st chair, or at least in the 1st section so the incentive was to work and practice so that you could play well enough to attain it.

    It might be some cash out of pocket, but you could set up a thing where you could dangle a carrot - once the whole section can play a specific thing to a certain degree of proficiency, then give them a pizza party or something along those lines, with a prize going to the top 3 players. Very few kids do it for the intrinsic rewards of being a good player anymore, so you have to offer them a WIIFM - what's in it for me - as a means to get them to work for a goal. The idea there is that you give them extrinsic rewards so that they'll do the work which then leads to the intrisic rewards.

    Those are my only ideas.
  3. Satchmo Brecker

    Satchmo Brecker Piano User

    Jul 19, 2010
    One word answer... Maynard. His MF Horn albums are just plain awesome, exciting, and approachable. By that I mean they're not "old-fashioned" (as perceived by a high school student). And his playing isn't so technical as to turn off a kid (as in, that's way to difficult, I'll never be able to do that). After that, I think the saying "you can lead a horse to water..." applies.

    EDIT: +1 what trickg said. It seems sort of funny for us older folks to pay kids as an incentive, like get good grades, practice, etc. But many countries do it, and I know a couple child therapists who've recommended that approach as well. Kids are just different these days.
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2011


    Apr 1, 2011
    When the kids said they wanted to continue to play in college, they may have just meant they wanted to be in the marching band and go to all the football games. If they want to play in the audition required bands, they will need to know their way around the instrument, and an Arban's would be beneficial, but not necessarily better horns.
  5. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    Judging what we get here at TM for issues from players with at least a passing interest, you have a pretty tough job ahead of you.
    What are the issues:
    no downloadable cheat to avoid honest earning of skills
    no current commitment to quality
    nothing to blackmail with
    plenty of competition for the interests of those other players

    How have others been successful:
    patience and a commitment to a long term building program - this takes years/generations
    Commitment from the school - additional credits, budget for special things
    an event where the kids really have a desire to perform
    really cool arrangements
    support/praise from the outside - good press - PTA support

    Going in with the desire to save the world will probably only end up in frustration for you. Success is built with hundreds of small steps. If you are in this for the long haul (meaning your son is still in school for a couple of years), then you have a chance to change attitudes. If we are talking about a year max two, you will only reach those that have interest. Run with them. Then there are at least a couple more than can help carry the ensemble.
  6. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    Robin, I had some success working with a local high school band's brass for a couple of years clear back when I still had the time to do it.

    I didn't demand or even suggest that they go out and buy method books or new horns. What I did do was to demand a higher level of performance, and I wouldn't accept anything but their best efforts - I pushed them. They had plenty of music to work with - Arbans is great, but it's pretty dry to a kid who doesn't want to really play, so I used what was available - the music they already had - to work various aspects of their technical ability.

    In some cases I had them running through certain phrases over and over until it was right. Sometimes I put them on the spot and made them play individually. I rewarded improvement with praise, made good use of the "compliment sandwich" (compliment/critique/compliment) and occasionally put a WIIFM out there - I'd do a long tone thing where the kid who could play the longest long tone (or that could beat me) would get a dollar from my wallet. Same thing for a kid where I noticed improvement. It was less about the dollar and more about the fact they received recognition and a reward - kids love being validated for their efforts. I had no controll over chair placement, but I did what I could with what I had.

    I'm not going to claim I made miracles happen, but I did get a lot of good, solid work out of them and improved the section sound tremendously. I had to be realistic about the fact that while they wanted to be good in the moment, few of them had any desire to do it outside of school, or to continue with it past high school.
  7. veery715

    veery715 Utimate User

    Mar 6, 2007
    Ithaca NY
  8. CaptainAddy

    CaptainAddy Pianissimo User

    Nov 14, 2010
    Camden County, GA
    Unfortunately, he's becoming a senior this this year Robin, meaning he won't be able to do much else other than influence others for that one year. However, he will be section leader, so that'll give him a definite voice.
    Patrick, I think I'll take your WIIFM idea and run with it. I think I may go over the solo that's in the arrangement that I've been given, which isn't too hard, of course, and whoever is most improved and whoever can play it overall the best, respectively, by the end of the week, I think I'll give them 5 bucks or something.

    Thanks for all the input and great ideas everybody!
  9. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    I played a lot with the section too, usually bolstering parts that were weaker.

    I've heard conflicting thoughts on this - I had a band director that used to sing and play the parts for us, and I've had other directors who refused, stating that they felt that if they helped, then the student would never learn. My thought was that it is ok to lead the way - it gives the students something concrete to hear while they see the music so they can then recognize what it's supposed to be - learning happens regardless.

    I think that in general, even though a kid will state that they don't care (hence the reason they suck) that the opposite is true - they actually want to be better, but don't have an idea about the way to get better, or they don't have the gumption to be proactive about it, and those are the kids that need to be led the first. I had one kid who was really rough and stated that kind of attitude, but once he started getting a handle on things, while he was never the best player in the section, he definitely wasn't the worst and improved more than most of the others.

    I kind of wish I had continued working with those kids, but ultimately the band director and I didn't see eye to eye when it came to the subject of expectations and the material he was asking them to do, along with the timeframe he wanted them to do it. I think a good challenge is about the best thing you can throw on a band. However, I think that there is a difference between a challenge, and hitting them with a goal they can't realistically hit, and so I left because I wasn't going to be a part of setting the kids up for failure. We're talking professional level big band charts with parts going by too fast for the kids to pick up, and lead parts written to Fs and F#s with a kid who was stuggling to hit High Cs. The band director was like, "just practice it for a few days," and didn't seem to understand that this kid might not be able to handle that part in a few years, much less days. He wanted to do that chart at the next concert, which was only a week or so away, and for that group of kids, I just didn't think it was possible.
  10. ccNochops

    ccNochops Piano User

    Sep 30, 2006
    White Marsh, VA
    Tell them if they can't cut it as a trumpet SECTION, you'll give them all clarinets to play :shock: Trumpets carry a marching band, they all need to be leaders, no free rides in the section. Teach them they are all important, leads need to get in the 3rd parts & help them learn the charts. 2nds, need to learn how & when to help the leads out. SECTION< SECTION< SECTION. Trumpets rule the planet and the sooner they learn it, the better the band will sound!:play::cool:

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