Building a solid foundation
Jenny Adam smiled when she was asked about the differences she sees in her bands at New Hampton Middle School.
“Let’s put it this way,” the band director said, “the Fifth-Grade Band doesn’t look anything like the older kids’ band. The energy level, the seriousness, it’s entirely different.”
She paused and laughed.
“But that’s OK because that’s absolutely how it should be,” she said. “They’re obviously going to sound a lot different, but it’s more than that. By the time you’re an eighth grade, you’re treating band different. I’m not saying we don’t have fun, but they’ve advanced far enough that they can really take it seriously.”
Whatever Adam is doing, it’s working.
The middle school band director has more than 125 students in her three bands, compared with 73 the year before she and her husband, New Hampton High School Band Director Justin Adam, arrived in the district.
“Part of it is that these kids have some continuity,” she said. “Before we came, they had dealt with multiple band directors over the course of a few years. And that makes it hard sometimes to retain kids. Expecations are different, teaching styles are different. They kind of know now what they’re getting with me.”
And the fact that she and her husband both work in each other’s schools at times helps, too.
The “retention rate” of this year’s high school freshmen and sophomores is the highest in years for the band program.
“I don’t know if they think of it as a good thing or a bad thing,” Adam said with a laugh, “but when my kids go to high school, they know they’re going to see me from time to time. In all seriousness, I think that’s a good thing. Again, it’s about continuity.”
For Adam, it’s a hectic schedule. Not only does she meet regularly with her bands, but each student has an individual or a group lesson once a week.
But before they get to band, they need to pick out an instrument, and for band directors in middle school, it’s a fine line between “balancing the band” and making sure students have an instrument in which they’ll find success.
For more of this article, see Tuesday's Tribune.