The Band Director as an Effective Servant-Leader

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Albert Schweitzer once said, “Of this I am certain: The only ones among you who will be truly happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.1 Schweitzer seemed to understand that true and long-lasting happiness comes when we serve others.

One of the greatest challenges we face in band programs today is ensuring that every band room has a competent, enthusiastic band director. We need people who see their desire to be a band director as a “calling” – where they demonstrate their love for kids and want to be a part of their students’ development. The effective band director must be a fine, well-trained musician who loves music and has the ability to explain the importance and the complexity of music, and the relationship of music to the human condition.

Richard Freed, the distinguished American music critic, annotator, and broadcaster, asked this rhetorical question while delivering a keynote address: “Why is it that our young people get involved with drugs?” He answered his own question by saying,

“While some of our severely disadvantaged kids are facing outright hopelessness, the reason our kids from all economic groups get involved with drugs is that their lives are appallingly empty. Without the stimulation of music and the other arts, they have nothing to fill the thirst all humans, and especially developing adolescents, feel for something to touch them spiritually, to stimulate their productive inquisitiveness and all-around intellectual energy. They may not be able to define or describe the emptiness they feel, but they have dramatic, and all too often very destructive, ways of making it known. For many of today’s kids, performing in a band is their last and only chance of participating in something of value.2

Not only must we encourage bright and gifted young people to enter this grand and noble profession of band directing, but we must also retain them. MENC reports that a disappointingly large number of new teachers leave the profession before completing five years of teaching. Many leave because they have become disillusioned, unsuccessful, under-appreciated, and unfulfilled.

Perhaps some of those that have become disillusioned, and feel unsuccessful, under-appreciated, and unfulfilled need to re-focus and re-examine their mission and goals. Effective servant-leadership is the discipline of deliberately exercising inspired influence within a group to move toward goals of beneficial permanence that fulfills the group’s real needs. This requires that band directors exercise wisdom. The band director must be able to discern those goals that are long lasting and fulfill the group’s real needs. In short, the band director becomes an effective servant-leader when he or she serves the students in meeting their needs – not wants.

Students, their parents/guardians, and administrators will respond favorably when band directors emphasize excellence over entertainment, and the process as well as the product. By doing so, the band director becomes an effective servant-leader and experiences the joy, satisfaction and happiness that come with serving others.

Work Cited
1 Tim Hansel, Holy Sweat (Waco, TX; Word Books, 1987), 159.
2 Freed, Richard, Keynote Address, Why Band? Why Music? Washington D.C., 1988.

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Bruce Pearson is an internationally recognized music educator, author, composer, clinician and conductor. His newest band method, Tradition of Excellence, offers the most advanced interactive curriculum that is second-to-none. His best-selling band method, Standard of Excellence, has provided a solid foundation for scores of music education programs around the world. His extensive correlated repertoire has helped music educators expand their programs to reinforce learning through performance.

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