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Rocking in the Middle: Modern Band for Middle School

Last night, I had the great pleasure of presenting at the New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA for those in the know) Summer Conference. This is my first time attending and presenting at this conference, and it was a great way to wrap up the summer.

This was also my first time presenting about my modern band program. For those unfamiliar with the term, modern band refers to an ensemble that includes guitar, bass, drums, keyboard, vocals, and technology and performs a wide variety of popular music genres including rock, pop, hip-hop, and, in my case, country. My presentation last night was all about starting a program from nothing. When I first started my modern band course five years ago, I had no instruments, no training, and no clue what I was doing. Thankfully, I had lots of support and a gut feeling that this was the right thing for my school and my students. I dove in and have never looked back.

In case you are interested, here is a link to the slides I presented at the conference . The slides include links to resources related to modern band including lesson plans and song suggestions.

The slides also include photos of my amazing students. They're the real stars of the presentation. Here's a preview of their awesome-ness:

For those who don't want to flip through all my slides, here's a summary of the presentation: Modern Band is awesome, great for kids, and possible for every teacher, regardless of your musical training or background. That's it.

Take me for example. I'm a classically trained singer and pianist. Before my modern band training, I had never held an electric guitar or an electric bass and was terrified of the drum set. Terrified. I had to perform on the drum set to pass my percussion methods class in my undergrad. My hands shook the whole time and my basic rock beat was far from, well, rockin.

Flash forward seven years and I'm rocking with my Modern Band Methods class at Ithaca College and loving the drum set. I'm still not amazing, but I love playing. Today, I continue to practice and play with my students as much as a I can. Every time I play, I improve.

If you're interested in teaching modern band at your school, I recommend starting with some training for yourself.

Here are some suggestions:

Formal Training

You can do formal training with Little Kids Rock. They offer both virtual and in-person options. I highly recommend Modern Band 101 and 102.

Modern Band Summit

It happens every summer and it's fantastic. Since the conference was in July, you can see the conference sessions now on their website (link in my slides).

Informal training via YouTube or LKR Videos

So many of my friends who teach modern band have learned skills from YouTube or Little Kids Rock videos. The goal is to practice and learn, never to be perfect.

Regardless, make sure you’re confident in your skills. But you don’t have to be perfect!

Check out the slides (posted again here) for suggestions regarding song charts, lesson plans, etc. Email or connect with me on Twitter or Instagram with any questions or just to talk about modern band. I love this stuff and will talk to anyone all day about it.

Rock on.


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