Music Ed Mentor Podcast #004: Macro Planning Your School Year

Music Ed Mentor Podcast 004 Macro Planning Your School Year

Summer is coming to an end. Whether you’re excited about the coming school year or just dreading it, now is the time to make sure that you (and your classroom) are prepared. Spending time and effort now to formulate a plan for the year will pay significant dividends in the coming weeks and months.

Yes, you really need to plan the entire year. Creating long-term systems and plans will not only give you peace of mind now, but they will make any emergencies that do occur later in the year easier to deal with.

In this episode of the Music Ed Mentor Podcast, I chat with Tamarie Sayger, a veteran band director and contributor to Tamarie is a master at this kind of long-term planning and in this episode she covers the process step by step.

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In This Episode, You’ll Learn How To:

  • Plan backwards, taking into account all relevant curriculum requirements and important dates (like concerts and festivals).
  • Adjust your classroom layout to make day-to-day life easier for you and your students.
  • Create a routine for lesson planning that ensures your rehearsals stay on target (and that you teach to standards).
  • Mitigate risks by having a clear communication plan with students, parents, and administrators.

Free Checklist

Tamarie and I have put together a free checklist so that you can implement the steps covered in this episode.

Three Key Takeaways

“Go as slow as possible in the first semester, as fast as possible in the second semester.”

This might seem like it only applies to beginning band, but holds true for all music classes from elementary to high school. Spend the first part of the year on fundamentals, going slowly to make sure students have them fully internalized. Then, push your students in the second half of the semester and see how far they can go!

“Over plan the first couple weeks. Minute by minute is not too much!”

Your lesson plans at the beginning of the school year should include too many activities. It’s better to be over-prepared as you get to know your new students and get reacquainted with returning kids. Have backup lessons ready and be flexible so that you and your students can adjust to anything new. Don’t rush at the beginning of the year. By October you can “automate” things like your beginning-of-rehearsal routine.

“Over-communicate — in this world of information overload, parents expect to get information more than once and in multiple ways.”

Realize that parents set very high expectations for communication. If someone complains, don’t take it personally. Keep trying to do better, and document conversations by sending a follow-up summary via email. Remember that having lots of data to communicate helps smooth this process as well.


Elisa Janson Jones specializes in helping music educators build, grow, and manage thriving school music programs. With an MBA alongside her degree in music, she is also a coach and consultant to small businesses and nonprofits around the country, and serves as the conductor of her local community band. She has been teaching music for nearly 20 years and currently holds the prestigious position of elementary music teacher at a private K-8 Catholic School in Grand Junction, Colorado. Elisa was a top presenter at the NAfME National Conference in 2017 and will be presenting at state conferences in 2018. She is the founder of the International Music Education Summit and the author of The Music Educator’s Guide to Thrive.

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