Schools are rapidly moving into the remote working environment. ASBOF General Manager, Pat Devery, speaks with some leading music educators to provide some practical advice for music educators as they move into the world of online remote work.

As music educators move into the online environment they will be faced with a number of opportunities and challenges. In order to be most effective and to maintain a safe and professional presence online there are a number of factors they should consider.

We contacted the ASBOF Advisory Board members, all leading music educators working in schools, in order to put together a short guide as to what music educator might consider in the days ahead.

Moving to an online environment will present Music Directors with a unique opportunity to reinforce with their school leadership and parent organising committees the essential role they play in the ongoing success of the school instrumental music program.

MDs will need to develop a detailed plan to keep the students on track with the short and longer term goals set for the program. This will ensure no loss of participants and should guarantee the program is ready to go when the schools reopen down the track.

It is imperative that MDs work closely with the studio music tutors during this time, although typically the strongest music programs will already be doing this. You are encouraged to consider the following steps.

  1. It is very important you commence by discussing your proposed program with your Principal to ensure they are aware of how you intend to proceed. Best practice would be to have the Principal endorse your external online program with a written letter outlining the program expectations to the parents.
  2. Ensure you have an effective and permissible process to distribute the charts on which the students should be working. Given the remote environment it might be useful to allocate some duet/trio or small ensemble charts which you can work on in sectional or small online groups.
  3. Consider having your tutors record the individual parts of the band charts. If using video recording have them highlight posture, holding the instrument/fingering, breathing etc.
  4. Ensure that your tutors are working on the band charts during any individual or small group lessons they may be conducting.
  5. Provide the students with the appropriate scales, arpeggios, and rhythmic exercises to support the ensemble pieces on which you are working.
  6. Develop and publish an online rehearsal/sectional schedule. This will keep students on track and accountable.
  7. Make sure you keep working through new material. New charts every couple of weeks just as you would in regular rehearsals. Maybe include a sight reading activity during your regular catch ups.
  8. Keep the parents involved. Work with the parents to ensure a routine is established for the student. Encourage parents to listen in to the lessons where possible so they might assist their child during the week. Encourage them to have their child practice in the main area of the house where appropriate, not hidden away in a garage.

The ASBOF is working hard to assist MDs and schools in these uncertain times. ASBOF has written to APRA asking for some clarification as to how things might be handled once all school rehearsals go online.

ASBOF has been in contact with the publishers of method book, Sound Innovations, and they will shortly be making an announcement as to how they might be able to support remote learning in the coming months. We believe other publishers may be considering similar options.

ASBOF have also been in contact with a number of Australian music publishers who report they are doing it tough, so MDs and schools are encouraged to keep supporting this vital arm of our industry where they can.

Moving to the remote teaching and learning environment will present its own set of technical issues for MDs and tutors.

It is to be hoped that schools are using the short time available to them while still open to test the various platforms they might use once they move to remote delivery.

Secretary of the Independent Education Union Australia ACT/NSW, Mark Northam, urges educators to keep child safety issues central to any decisions they are making when it comes to delivering online lessons.

‘The IEU has published advice (see link below) regarding a range of issues concerning remote teaching, says Northam. ‘At this stage, all I would say is that unless you are using a school approved Learning Management System (LMS) you should seriously consider the need for engaging in video conferencing with students in their home environment.’

Also, be mindful that conversations and interactions which seem perfectly fine when face to face can sometimes be misconstrued or misunderstood online.

Programs such as Zoom and Microsoft team are very useful tools, but they do have the capacity for viewers to record you, often without your knowledge, says Northam.

The ASBOF will be working closely with other organisations such as ABODA and the NSW Band Association to investigate what financial assistance is being made available for music educators and instrumental ensemble programs.

ASBOF wishes all the music educators the best throughout these trying times. You are reminded that there are many forums and organisations to which you can turn for support, advice, or just to share some stories including the ASBOF website, the education and musician Unions, ABODA, and Sydney Band Directors Facebook page. We are also putting together an online TIPS FOR WORKING REMOTELY which contains suggestions from experienced music educators. Feel free to email us with your contributions and stay safe.

The following is a link to the IEU Working Remotely document. While this paper is targeting classroom music teachers there are many elements which should prove relevant for music educators.

Working Remotely IEU Advice

ASBOF Tips for Working Remotely