Create 6eauty by taking the time to fix things

Valves on a French Horn

I have been a substitute band teacher for the last week and half.

I actually have a degree in music education, but after 4 1/2 years of teaching band, God gave me four boys to raise. Fast forward 11 years–my youngest went to pre-k, and I began helping out with the middle school band where we live.

My youngest is now in 2nd grade, which means I have been helping for five years, so I know a lot of the band kids. Covid prevented me from helping out this school year. But the last school year, the band director had to be out of work for the 1st 2 weeks of the year, so I got to start those 6th-graders on their instruments. It was lots of fun, especially because my son was in that class, along with several of his friends that I already knew.

This month the band director had to be out for 8 consecutive days, which ended today. Those same 6th-graders I started last school year are now 7th-graders and most have grown a foot taller. It was great to see them and hear how much they have progressed.

I have also really enjoyed learning the names and getting to know the current 6th-graders. Oh to be in beginning band again. It is such an exciting time to begin learning something completely new. With excitement also comes some frustration, though. Am I playing the correct note? Am I at the right place in the music? Does this sound like it is supposed to sound? Why will my instrument not play?

There is nothing like being excited about playing in band, or playing a new piece, or playing your favorite piece and then realizing there is something wrong with your instrument. If the instrument is not in working order, you are basically stuck just sitting there the entire class period, not able to participate at all.

As a teacher, it is also one of the most frustrating things to try to teach a student how to play when the instrument is not in working order. Do I stop teaching a class of 30 or more children to take 5-10 minutes to work on fixing the instrument so the rest of the class period is more productive for that one child while the rest talk and sometimes get rowdy or do I just have him/her put his/her instrument up until I get a chance to look at it and go back to teaching the rest of the class?

I have chosen both scenarios on numerous occasions. Neither is good. In both cases, I was neglecting someone. So sometimes fixing an instrument gets put off until the next time when one of the above scenarios takes place again and it is put off yet another time.

Today, however, I made sure to look at a student’s instrument during my planning period. Yesterday, he sat in the class and could not participate because I chose the “help the rest of the class” scenario. Today, though, I sat alone in the band room during planning, listening to and singing my favorite Ben Rector song, Note to Self

(listen to it here–>

while I diligently re-strung the strings on the horn in the above picture. It took at least half of my planning period. I have re-strung horn valves before, but it had been a while. I would string it and then have to redo it, time after time.

But then………….

It was fixed.

The horn that would not work yesterday was now a playable instrument that would allow a child to participate for the whole period. He could now play the theme to Star Wars with the entire class; make music with others; be a part of a group; play one note in a chord made up of many notes–playing inside the sound surrounding him.

There is nothing else like playing an instrument in a group. And all it took was to take a few minutes out of my day to do something about it.

Create 6eauty by taking the time to fix something!

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