Pennsylvania Elementary Band Directors' Methods for Student Instrument Selection

Open Access
Trautmann, Erin Louise
Area of Honors:
Music Education
Bachelor of Music Education
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Linda Carol Porter Thornton, Thesis Supervisor
  • Ann Callistro Clements, Honors Advisor
  • instrument selection
  • music
  • education
  • elementary band
  • student
  • instrumental music
The selection of an instrument is an exciting time in the life of a young musician. A close look at how this process takes place can be of use to both elementary band directors and pre-service teachers. The purpose of this study was to examine the methods used by elementary band directors in Pennsylvania to help their beginning students select instruments. Associated research questions included how the selection methods related to the balance of the beginning ensemble, what directors thought the ideal balance of a beginning ensemble should be, and directors’ priorities when helping their students select instruments. Of 1,086 randomly selected elementary schools in Pennsylvania solicited to participate, 133 beginning band directors completed the online questionnaire. Teachers were asked questions about their own background, their instrument selection process, their band program, and their school. Preliminary results indicate that the majority of responding band directors (79.7%) began instruction in fourth grade. Most teachers limited the instruments available to be chosen by beginning students. The most commonly restricted instrument was bassoon (118 teachers), followed by tuba (81 teachers) and oboe (69 teachers). Approximately one-third of responding teachers (30.4% and 30.1% respectively) reported having “considerably fewer” euphoniums and French horns than desired. When teachers were surveyed about their priorities when helping students select instruments, the most popular responses were student preferences (88%), balanced instrumentation (45.5%), and physical characteristics (43.2%). Most teachers allowed students to switch instruments if they were unhappy with their first choice, and a majority of teachers (62.7%) had changed their methods of instrument selection since they started teaching. The most common selection methods teachers used were teacher demonstration (59.8%) and having students try instruments (56.8%). Other common methods were student demonstrations (34.1%), examining physical characteristics (11.4%), and limiting the number of percussionists.