ABC: The Ultimate Master’s Degree for Band Directors

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I am nearing the end of my first summer here at American Band College, and figured this would be a good time to reflect and tell the general public what this degree program is like.  It is certainly the only one of its kind, and for band directors, that is a very good thing.

The foundation of the program is::

  1. ABC is only interested in you knowing exactly what you need to know to be a good band director.  They won’t dig into philosophy, they won’t have you work on general education requirements that have nothing to do with running a band program.
  2. You only have to study what you don’t know.  Upon arriving in Ashland, you take an entrance exam.  While they give you study materials, they encourage you not to stress about studying too much before you arrive.  It is designed to assess what you do and don’t know at that time.  Then, the next day they give you the results of the exam.  Every master’s candidate has “weakness areas” that they didn’t test above 70% on their entrance exam.  People have anywhere from 3 to 24 weakness areas.  Anything that is not considered a “weakness area” you no longer have to study.  You already know it.  You will not be tested on it again.
  3. You will be forced to learn what you don’t know through project-based learning.  In addition to several incredibly practical projects that all students partake in (conducting assessment, video-taping the teaching of a piece throughout the rehearsal process, adjudicating bands, etc.) each student does three Practical Application projects that they choose based on their weakness areas.  Since I understand woodwinds already, I chose to do my first project on learning more about the French Horn.  You can watch my website take shape at hornsupremacy.com!
  4. This is a place to collaborate.  Everyone in the program is in the same boat you are in, or they were very recently.  Candidates come from literally all over the country (and world – we have students this year from Germany, South Korea, and Canada!) to be better band directors.  I firmly believe that music teaching is the most collaborative profession in the world.  I have never heard a band director say “I’m not telling you how I warm up my band – you might beat me at state!”  We all share and learn from each other constantly – both online and here in person.  It’s one of my favorite things about being a music teacher.  I admit how young and dumb I am, I seek out those who know more than me, and I absorb everything I can from them.  And they welcome and encourage it!  ABC is the perfect place for collaboration.

Not to mention, it’s in an absolutely lovely part of the country.  Western Oregon is truly beautiful, and many people here from around the country are taken aback by the mountains and the delightfully dry climate (as opposed to much of the hot, humid south).

Ashland Mountains

 

They also build a day off into the schedule so that people from far away get a chance to explore this part of the country.  This year, we went to Crater Lake.  It’s easy to forget how positively blue that water is.  Pictures truly don’t do it justice.

Crater Lake

 

This first year of ABC is nearly over for me.  Tomorrow we play in a parade here in Ashland and then play a Fireworks concert on the high school football field.

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Then we take our final exam on the 5th where we are re-tested on our weakness areas to see where we made improvements during the two and a half weeks we were here.  And then home to finish our first year projects, which are due on August 8th.

 

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If you are or know someone who is a band director who has not done their master’s yet, they seriously need to come here.  I wholeheartedly believe that this will make me a better teacher.  I have gained so much from our clinicians, conductors, and my fellow candidates in such a short period of time.  And the best part is – there are still two more years left in the program!  For the next two summers I will come back and I will continue to learn and grow towards becoming the phenomenal teacher that I want to be.

 

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