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.

What is Bore Size, and Why Does It Matter?


SB10 (.459 bore) vesus SB12 (.464 bore)

Trumpets have what is called cylindrical bore, which is when the bore diameter is consistent throughout the instrument until you get towards the bell section when the flare begins.

Cylindrical bores give a well projected and direct sound. Typically, a medium bore (the SB10) may be a little easier to play from an air standpoint, have a slightly sweeter sound, and can benefit younger players. A larger bore (the SB12) may have a broader sound, have less resistance through range and volume, and benefit lead type players.

One is NOT a beginning horn while the other a professional, as many professionals play on medium size bores.

A sports analogy would be size and weight of a baseball bat… One player may like a smaller lighter bat to increase bat speed, while another may prefer a larger heavier bat to increase power.

Preparing for Leadership Tryouts


It’s that time of year when we start thinking about marching band for next fall! That means it’s also time for leadership tryouts. If you’re hoping to earn a position on your band’s leadership team, let your skills do your talking rather than your mouth! Consider the following thoughts on leadership and excellence:

  • Be a musical leader first! Play your instrument well! This is the most challenging part of being a great leader because HARD WORK is the common ground for all great leaders.
  • If you have to march as part of your leadership tryout, be the finest example of a marcher you can imagine. No one learns how to march (or ride a bike, or swim, or ski) by being TOLD how to do it. We’re SHOWN how to do it. The best things a student leader brings to the position is the ability to demonstrate! If you want to distinguish yourself in the marching audition, NAIL YOUR TECHNIQUE AND HIT YOUR DOTS!
  • If your leadership tryout includes an interview, figure out what your directors are looking for and anticipate their questions. You might be asked something like…

    Who in the band, past or present, do you admire and why? What did you like about last year’s leaders and what would you do differently? What is the most difficult or unappealing part of being a student leader?

  • Avoid phrases like, “I think” and “I feel.” Rather, use strong statements like “I would,” “I will,” “I am,” and “I can.” They sound decisive and confident and create a strong contrast with those who are less self-assured.
  • If the interview questions don’t allow you to discuss everything you’d like the directors to know about you, it’s perfectly ok to say, “Before we wrap up, may I share a few things with you?”

Let your skills do the talking for you. Practice, prepare, and go after it. But remember, any leadership candidate who quits or becomes resistant because he/she didn’t get selected only reinforces the good decision the directors made NOT to select you! If you’re not selected, dedicate yourself to being the best example, the best attitude, and the best performer you can imagine. That’s the kind of person you WANT to be anyway, right?