Standard of Excellence: A percussion pedagogy project


A recent trend in classroom teaching is when students receive content outside of the class and practice or 'experience' it during class time, under the teacher's guidance. This is called a 'flipped classroom.' Usually, the 'lecture' is in the form of a video, so students can pause when necessary and take notes at their own pace. Then in class, as students apply their knowledge, they can ask pertinent questions and the teacher can observe their learning and give appropriate and timely feedback. Not a bad idea, right?

For large ensemble classes, this can be a really useful strategy. To take a specific example, one of the courses I teach is beginner band. Most years, I have a combination of students playing either a woodwind, brass, percussion or string instrument. Needless to say, starting them all at the same time in the same class - each instrument with its unique embouchure, fingerings, slide position, playing position, notation, etc. - is a proper challenge. Add to the mix the percussionists, who learn a range of instruments (each one with its own nuances), then you really have to think about how you use time, in and outside of the class.

The method books I chose for my beginner band class is the Standard of Excellence series by Bruce Pearson. The percussionists' drums + mallet percussion book not only has two pages for each of every other instrument's one page (one for mallets, one for snare drum + bass drum) but there is also a book for timpani and auxiliary percussion. While very useful, this is a lot of material to cover for the little class time that we have. So I decided to do something about it.

A couple of years ago, I started creating educational videos with Alan Fleming (One Humped Camel productions) to teach my students techniques and select pieces from the books. After getting permission from Bruce Pearson and the NEIL A. KJOS MUSIC COMPANY, I recently decided to publish these videos to my YouTube channel for other educators to use. After all, I make use of their woodwind, string, and brass videos!

It's an on-going project and one that I enjoy immensely. The standards may stay the same, but the way we learn and teach is changing.

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