GSI – How do you convince department heads that a guitar program is worth investing in or expanding?
Gregg – It depends on the perspective your question is asked from. If you are talking about an established program then some things that help keep what I do relevant are:
- Performances at school events. Parents love us and ask us to do all kinds of banquets, etc.
- Volunteering performances as part of fundraisers (silent auction, whatever)
- Recording and releasing CD’s
- Student acceptance into college music programs
- Scholarship offers
- Showings in competitions
- YouTube videos
- Hosting guest clinicians (among others we do a yearly workshop with Roland Dyens). Others include professors local and national as well as performers.
If you are talking about establishing a program where none exists there are several scenarios that have proven successful. I’ll explain mine; I was hired as a band director for what was a pretty poor music program at the time. Guitar classes (with no real rigor, curriculum or specific style) were part of that load. While improving the band I slowly improved the guitar program as well. We added advanced classes in my second year and over the next few years became successful enough that the administration allowed me to concentrate full time on guitar and theory and appreciation classes. They did not request a guitar program nor did they completely realize they wanted one. When we started to become successful they became enthusiastic about the program. I’ve called this ‘sneaking the guitar program in through the back door’.
GSI – What comes first – the curriculum or the program? Did you have a curriculum in place when you started your program, and, if so, how much tweaking was there in early years? Are you still constantly tweaking, fine tuning, or is it just a machine by now?
Gregg – I borrowed the skeleton of a curriculum from the beginning classes I taught at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale while I was a graduate assistant (brilliant course developed by Joseph Breznikar).
When I was hired ten years ago I was pretty much ‘dumped’ into an existing ‘guitar class’ (no expectations, mostly just screwing around) and started paddling to stay afloat.
The plan (which developed over time) was a ten year one in two five year phases. I just completed year ten last year and finally everything is in place. It is a constant state of vigilance to evaluate curriculum and tweak, take ideas from elsewhere and use what you need, be sensitive to parent/student needs/expectations and still put out a high level product.
I think that every good teacher is constantly tweaking their curriculum.
Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of our interview.
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