THE LIMITS OF LEAN AND MEAN

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THE LIMITS OF “LEAN AND MEAN”

Most bands have different categories of student leadership opportunities. These may include:

·       Instructional leaders (drum majors; section or squad leaders; brass, woodwind, percussion, and color guard captains)

·       Logistical leaders (loading crew, field set-up crew, electronics crew, librarians)

·       Elected leaders (president, vice-president, secretary, historian)

For those programs that send their students to leadership camp, or who host their own leadership camp or retreat, it’s common to require instructional leaders to attend because they are most directly involved in the rehearsal process itself. I was one of those directors. Early in my career, I sent only the core leaders—the instruction leaders—to camp in order to develop their teaching, communication, and performance skills. My thought was to go “lean and mean” so we could focus more on the individuals and thereby develop their potential more fully. But there were always kids who tried out for instructional leadership positions who were strong in many ways, but who were not selected because there may not have been a need for additional section leaders, or perhaps they were strong marchers but not strong enough as players. These students were often encouraged to pursue positions as logistical or elected leaders instead, but I stopped short of including them in the leadership camp. I missed a great opportunity!

Then it dawned on me. If I send ALL the leaders—instructional, logistical, and elected—to camp, then I would have three times the number of students who received advanced training. I would encourage the non-instructional leaders to participate in the teaching and communication activities which gave everyone a greater insight and, more importantly, greater empathy for what it takes to be an effective student leader. And the additional students became a larger group of marchers for the instructional leaders to practice the teaching skills in a more realistic situation. Rather than return to summer band with only 20-25 well-trained instructional leaders spread across a 270 to 300-member band, now I had 60-70 students who had gone through the leadership training, forming a much larger core of kids who “got it.” Their influence by example transformed the effectiveness of the instructional leaders and, in effect, transformed the entire band into better leaders.

“Lean and mean” may have its advantages. But for me and my circumstances, being more inclusive helped develop a more pervasive culture—a culture of leadership.

If you have questions or would like more information, contact Frank Troyka at frank@systemblue.org.