Humor in the Band Room
Updated: Dec 9, 2019
I learned this from Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser, who mastered the art of using humor as a way to bring minds away from fear and toward risk.
Let's face it. Most of the kids we teach won't become professional musicians. But there are ways to help even the strongest resisters become allies, and this connection may help a student continue on to the next year. Humor is a strategy. Hope is not.
The idea is to open a mind to learning, and fear closes minds. The fear of judgment in these anxious youngsters is strong, and we have to be social-emotional teachers more and more. Humor opens minds to be receptive to the learning, and may even help with retention.
Let's look a few uses of humor (primarily for middle schoolers):
1) Caricature - This is the idea that if something is a little deal, blow it up into something huge. When they rush, I might pretend they are a runaway horse and I'm riding it, about to fall off. It's never that bad (ok, it is), but if I overdo it, they really get the point.
2) Opposites, spoonerisms - This is like saying "Guys, do me a flavor and listen to the bass clarinet." This is silly, but it works because you've given them a reason to smile and listen. Another one is switching the words around if I say something errant - "You mean what I know."
3) Non-sequitir - Something that doesn't make sense. This is more of a tool to get students to pay attention. Could be a explanation, but with an accent (use good judgment)
4) Get over-emotional. When they do something well, I might pretend to cry from joy.
Remember that it's a tool. If this doesn't sound like it will fit your personality, try a different tool. If it won't serve your rehearsal goals, try something else.