Selection Of Student Leaders


System Blue Band Director Tips and Strategies

by Frank Troyka, Band Director of 30 years & System Blue Director of Education


March 2016

As you start your selection process for next year’s student leaders, System Blue would like to offer the following for your consideration:

  • Let the audition reflect the duties of the position.
  • Be sensitive to the other demands on students’ time.
  • Make the audition transparent.
  • If your student leaders help teach marching, then consider having a marching component to the audition. Similarly, it’s seems only logical that student leaders should have to demonstrate musical competency as leaders of a musical organization. Consider an achievable playing audition as part of the screening process.

Training student leader candidates may take several weeks. When designing your training schedule, keep in mind that the spring is often a very stressful time for high schoolers with AP exams, term papers, and other big projects on the horizon. Rather than post a “mandatory” schedule of training sessions, consider offering a “pick one” approach. That is, offer 2 identical training sessions (or even 3) per week and allow the students to select the one that works best with their schedules. This keeps them from being so stressed and shows your sensitivity to their lives outside of band. You’ll be surprised at how many kids show up to the duplicate sessions to hone their skills.

The more skill-based the audition, the more likely everyone will be ok with the outcome. I used a three-phase audition: Phase 1, playing and marching; Phase 2, teaching; Phase 3, conducting (not every student participated in all three phases.

For more detailed info, contact Be specific with your expectations and be certain the student understand those expectations clearly.

This will help them see themselves more objectively. When the audition is too subjective, it can appear that the directors are “playing favorites” rather than selecting the “best” leaders.

SIDE NOTE: I once had a student say to me, many years ago, “Why do we even have a tryout? You’re just going to pick who you want.” My response was, “Of course we’re going to pick who we want! Why would we pick who we don’t want?” This actually validates the student’s question! The answer is, “So that each student, by way of the training and tryout process, has a chance to reveal his potential and his worthiness in ways that may not be obvious in any other context.”

A good training and selection process will almost always select the best leaders, but only if the tryout is congruent with the job itself. Here’s another strategy to consider as you design your tryout. In the words of author Stephen Covey, “Begin with the end in mind.” That is, ask yourself what you want in a student leader, and design training and tryouts to identify and reveal those individuals.