MUS455: Teaching Instrumental Music

 MUS455: Teaching Instrumental Music


Michigan State University 

College of Music 

Music Education Area


Course Syllabus

Spring 2017


Mondays and Wednesdays



Room 120, Music Building


Instructor: Mitchell Robinson, Ph.D. 

Associate Professor of Music Education



School phone:  517.355.7555

Office:  MPB208 



Office Hours: M, 10:15-11:30am

W, 10:15-11:30am, 1:00-3:00pm


Other times available by appointment




All students are expected to attend class regularly. You are responsible for the class material and all assignments. NO incompletes will be given unless you are in an emergency situation. Check my office door for hours. Consult the course website and use email (a lot!) to keep in touch with me and your classmates.


Always bring a baton and instrument to play during classes and rehearsals. For the first few weeks of the semester, please bring your major instrument; you will also need a soprano recorder. During the course of the term you will be asked to bring at least two minor instruments to play—one of these instruments must be in an instrument family outside of your primary instrument.




This course should help you develop the ability to:


1.  Prepare for instruction based on a systematic analysis of the music, and the abilities and achievement levels of individuals and the ensemble.

2.  Select appropriate teaching methods and evaluate the results; know what has to be done and how to do it.

3.  Demonstrate knowledge of large and small ensemble rehearsal and teaching skills and techniques, including conducting gestures.

4.  Develop a global understanding of the profession you have chosen to enter, and of the specific ways that instrumental music teaching and learning fits into the larger enterprise of music education.

5.  Develop curricular goals/objectives for instrumental music classes that align with your philosophy of teaching and learning.





• Always bring your instrument, and/or a secondary instrument, and your baton and be prepared to conduct (have all assigned scores!).

• Many classes will be held off campus at our Professional Development Partnership site(s) (McDonald Middle School School in East Lansing).  This means you will need to dress and comport yourselves accordingly; we will discuss appropriate dress for the PDP sites in class. Due to the emergent nature of working in a classroom, you will learn flexibility in lesson planning and instructional delivery. We will discuss instructional strategies and teaching assignments before teaching at the PDP sites.

• The schedule for PDP visitation days will be as follows:

  • 7:55am: arrive at PDP site
  • 8:00am: meet in class room for planning, discussions, etc.
  • 8:30-8:55am: sectionals and lessons, as assigned
  • 9:00-9:45am: large group rehearsal; conducting, teaching, playing secondary instruments, as assigned

Assignments in BOLD, due on the specified date

All readings are due for Monday (be ready to discuss on Monday)











Musical Content & Notes




January 9

First class:  Course Introduction and Overview



Read Chorales from Bach and Before for Band, distributed in class



Rote song teaching procedures


Rote Song Treasure Hunt assigned (due Jan. 18)

Make sure you have your

recorder for next week’s classes!

Mary Had a. . .

Yankee. . .

Hot Cross Buns

This Old Hammer

London Bridge






Basic Principles: Aptitude vs. Achievement, Method vs. Technique, Instrumental Readiness


Method Book Review assigned (due Jan. 23--rubric provided below)


Rote Song Treasure Hunt due 


Performance of Student Rote Songs


Rote song partner teaching

Executive skills partner teaching


Read: Are Students Learning Music in Band?


Good Rhythm and Intonation from Day One in Beginning Instrumental Music




Field Trip: Instrument Repair Clinic @ Meridian Winds


Pedagogical Analysis Project #1: Toccata for Band, assigned (PAP rubric provided below, due Feb. 6)


Method Book Review due 



Lab: Bring major instrument and recorder


Introduce Major tonal patterns and skill learning sequence


Read&Rehearse Toccata for Band (see R&R schedule)


Performance of Student Rote Songs

Mary Had a. . .

Yankee. . .

Hot Cross Buns

This Old Hammer

London Bridge
Amazing Grace


Major tonal patterns in familiar order


Duple rhythm patterns, familiar order


Jan. 30

Diagnosing Instrumental Problems: Band Triage


Read&Rehearse Toccata for Band (see R&R schedule)


Arrangement Assignment, due Feb. 8


Starting Beginners: Brass & Percussion


Students will need a minor brass instrument and drum sticks for this class.


Read&Rehearse Toccata for Band (see R&R schedule)

Erie Canal

Student rote songs

Triple rhythm patterns,

familiar order







Teach rote songs in class





Continue with PAP Debriefing from Monday...



Minor tonal patterns, familiar order

Student rote songs


Mock auditions




Performance of Student Arrangements (if needed)




Arrangement Assignment due & Performance of Student Arrangements



Assign Repertoire Search Project (due March 1, 2017)






Starting Beginners: Woodwinds


Students will need a minor woodwind instrument for this class.


Performance of Student Arrangements


Read&Rehearse piece in class (see R&R schedule)



Different Models, Effective Practices








Feb 27


Pedagogical Analysis Project #1: Toccata for Band due (see Assignment #3 below)


Read&Rehearse piece in class 


Mar 1

Read&Rehearse piece in class 


Repertoire Search Project due


March 6-10



School Instrumental Program Design & Balance



15 @PDP site


Read: Find a band/orchestra handbook online and reflect (guide given in class)


20 @PDP


Guest speaker: ?

22 @PDP

Warm-Up/Tune-Up Assignment (due March 27, 2017)



27 @PDP


Rehearsal Techniques & Strategies

Warm-Up/Tune-Up Assignment due

29 @PDP


Rehearsal techniques & strategies




Choose one improv article to read and introduce to class

·      Hickey

·      Azzara

·      ??


Intro to Improv


ELPS Spring Break


Cover Tune Arrangement (due April 5)


Repertoire Project due

5 Lab Band

Jazz Ensemble Basics


ELPS Spring Break


Cover Tune Arrangements performed in class

Jazz Ensembles and Improvisation in the School Music Program

Read: “Alternative Assessments” (Robinson) for Tues. 4.9.13

10 @PDP

Making the Grade:  Assessment Practices in Music Education



12 @PDP

Rating scales, pass-offs, chair tests—pros and cons


17 Technology in Instrumental Music

Building a resource list, grants, etc.


19 on campus

Class and Seminar

The Job Search: Resume/Cover Letter, Credentials, Interviews, Placement Services


24 on campus

Class and Seminar

The Job Search: Resume/Cover Letter, Credentials, Interviews, Placement Services


Teacher Evaluation

26 on campus

Miscellaneous: advocacy, teacher research, cross-curricular collaboration?








All assignments are to be completed on time and are due at the beginning of class.  Due dates are included on the course calendar (above).  Written work is to be typed, error-free, and in proper essay form.  You may revise written work one time before the end of the term, attaching copies of the previous version.  All written work must be submitted electronically (preferred format: Microsoft Word) via email ( or, unless arranged otherwise. Corrections and edits will be made electronically and returned via attachment.


ASSIGNMENTS (more detailed information will be provided as projects are assigned)

1. Rote Song Treasure Hunt—due 1.20.16

2. Method Book Review—due 1.25.16

3. Pedagogical Analysis Project #1—due 2.8.16

4. Arranging Project—due 2.10.16

5. Repertoire Project—due 3.2.16

6. Warm up Assignment—due 3.28.16

7. Cover Tune Arrangement—due 4.6.16


Attendance and Participation:

Class members are expected to attend all classes, as learning in the class is enhanced by the attendance of all. More than two absences may result in the course grade being lowered .5, and .5 for each additional absence beyond that. There is no such thing as an excused or unexcused absence, so save your absences for when you really need them. I appreciate knowing why you miss a class, but notification is not required. If you have an unusual situation that results in extended absence, please contact me so that I am aware of the situation and can make arrangements to meet your instructional needs.  


There will be frequent class activities based on the readings and class discussions that require participation, and students are expected to be prepared. Class participation will be factored into grading. This means doing the required reading and actively participating in class every day so that discussion can be as meaningful as possible.

Student work must be turned in on time. Grades on individual assignments and projects will be reduced by .5 for every day that they are late.



Class participation and discussion 20%

Professional Development Site responsibilities (planning, teaching, conducting) 30%

Assignments 50%


Failure to complete any portion of the above requirements may result in failure of the course.


Professional Expectations:

I view you as professionals, expect you to view yourselves as professionals, and, therefore, to act as professionals. Just as you will expect your students to attend class regularly and arrive on time, I expect the same from you. This is an interactive class, and we will be learning from each other. At this point in your education, you should prepare yourself for the professional world. I would not expect a professional to skip work; therefore, I do not expect you to skip class. Other expectations include, but are not limited to, full preparation and participation in class, appropriate professional attire when teaching or at observations, cell phones/iphones/blackberry/pagers that are turned completely OFF (you may not use these devices to take notes in class), and prompt and regular attendance. You are now making impressions on your instructors that will persist throughout your professional preparation and career. 


Academic Honesty: 

Article 2.3.3 of the Academic Freedom Report states that, “The student shares with the faculty the responsibility for maintaining the integrity of scholarship, grades, and professional standards.” In addition, the School of Music adheres to the policies on academic honesty as specified in General Student Regulations 1.0, Protection of Scholarship and Grades; the all-University Policy on Integrity of Scholarship and Grades; and Ordinance 17.00, Examinations.  (See Spartan Life: Student Handbook and Resource Guide and/or the MSU Web site: Therefore, unless authorized by your instructor, you are expected to complete all course assignments, including homework, lab work, quizzes, tests and exams, without assistance from any source. You are not authorized to use the Web site to complete any course work in MUS455. Students who violate MSU rules may receive a penalty grade, including but not limited to a failing grade on the assignment or in the course. 


Accommodations for Disabilities: 

Students with disabilities will need to contact the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities (353-9642 or and work with me to arrange any needed accommodations, per the Center’s recommendation. It is the student’s responsibility to register with the RCPD and to inform faculty of any special accommodations needed by the student as determined by Disability Specialists at the RCPD; Faculty do not determine accommodations.



The College of Education’s Professional Criteria for Progression to Student Teaching require that all education students be reliable in terms of attendance and punctuality. Students with unexcused absences and frequent tardiness may be withdrawn from the teacher certification program.


*I would prefer not to have a final examination, but will be happy to do so if the class desires one or if it becomes clear that class assignments and/or readings and assignments are not being done or taken seriously.




Course readings will be taken from a variety of sources, including the journals below. Also, become familiar with the locations of the following journals in the library’s holdings, as some of our readings will be drawn from their contents:  Music Educators Journal (MEJ), Update: Applications of Research in Music Education, Journal of Research in Music Education (JRME), Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education (CRME). 





Selected scores and other materials (TBD)

Erickson, Toccata for Band, score

36 Chorales for Band, score and parts below (also available at




Grunow, Gordon, and Azzara.  (1999).  Jump Right In: The Instrumental Series—Teacher’s Guide, Books 1 and 2, 2nd edition.  Chicago:  GIA Pub.  


Miles, R., et al.  (multiple). Teaching Music Through Performance in Band. Chicago:  GIA (I have these texts in my office, available for loan)


Froseth, J. O., and R. F. Grunow.  The MLR Instrumental Score Reading Program, Compact Disc, set (4). 


Gordon, E.  (1977).  Learning sequence and patterns in music. Chicago: G.I.A. Publications. 




This syllabus is a guide. It may be varied as needed.


Major tonal patterns in familiar order
JPG Image 49.7 KB
Jan. 9 Slides
Adobe Acrobat Document 13.8 MB
Repertoire Program Project.docx
Microsoft Word Document 97.1 KB
Repertoire Selection.docx
Microsoft Word Document 53.3 KB
warm up assignment.doc
Microsoft Word Document 21.0 KB
IMG_1298 5.jpg
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IMG_1299 5.jpg
JPG Image 1.9 MB
Graphic Interchange format 16.6 KB
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Graphic Interchange format 14.7 KB
rote song treasure hunt.doc
Microsoft Word Document 23.0 KB
Microsoft Word Document 91.0 KB
Method Book Review.doc
Microsoft Word Document 24.0 KB
Microsoft Word Document 49.0 KB
arrangement assignment.doc
Microsoft Word Document 24.0 KB
Adobe Acrobat Document 3.0 MB
Good Rhythm and Intonation from Day One in Beginning Instrumental Music
Music Educators Journal-2003-Conway-26-3
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Microsoft Word Document 41.5 KB
Microsoft Word Document 42.0 KB
Adobe Acrobat Document 1.9 MB
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Chorale_04_Bb Clarinet_v1.0.pdf
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Chorale_06_Alto Bari_v1.0.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 1.9 MB
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Adobe Acrobat Document 1.9 MB
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