A band director has to rely on a lot of different people, and that can be pretty daunting – especially when it comes to section leaders. There is always something a little bit harrowing about giving added responsibility to teenagers, but section leaders are an important part of running a musical ensemble. This is especially true for marching bands who have to travel most weeks. Cut Time can help you organize a lot of that, but you still need to rely on your students.
With that in mind, we’ve compiled the five most important attributes of a student section leader:
It’s not all about skill, but your section leaders need to be pretty good. Fellow musicians are going to look to them for answers, and they better have them. Plus, the more talented musicians in each section will better respect a leader who is talented as well. That said, leadership doesn’t always mean you’re the best in the bunch. There’s a lot more to it.
The fact of the matter is that some people will take advantage of any opportunity you give them to get away with screwing around. That’s true at any age, but especially when you are dealing with teenagers. You need a section leader who is going to recognize that, while their duties are important, the position doesn’t make them any less subject to the rules.
This isn’t a popularity contest, but we are talking about teenagers after all. If you appoint a section leader who can’t get along with the rest of the section, you may get discipline issues where you didn’t have them before. Even students who respect your authority are likely to cause mischief if they don’t care for their section leader. This can be a common problem, as directors tend to pick out the most adult-seeming students to lead – but how many adults did you listen to when you were 16? Probably, not that many…
The long and the short of it, though, is that you need your section leaders to make sure each section holds itself together. They may guide practice, send out reminders for practice and performance, or just generally relay information that their section needs. That means your section leader needs to be attentive to directions. If they aren’t, the whole section will be lost!
Finally, you need your section leader to have a mature mindset. Quite frankly, your students are going to misbehave from time to time, and though it may seem contradictory to the “Amiability” quality, your section leaders can’t be afraid to come to you when things go sideways. Teenagers can have a near Mafia-esque dedication to the principle of omertà – that is, no snitching. Your section leaders are, at least from time to time, your eyes and ears in the band. You need to know that, should something big go down, they won’t be afraid to tell you, even if it means drawing the ire of their section.
Ok, so we recognize that it’s pretty hard to find a student with all these attributes. If a perfect section leader exists, we haven’t met the kid. But take these pointers into consideration next time you’re making your choices – we promise they’ll help!