Let’s face it, getting good grades can effectively motivate some students to practice, but many students, especially those at the secondary level, are more highly motivated through peer and social interactions.  A systematic, well-administered challenge system for chair order can prove effective in increasing practice time among these students.


Specifics to suit your particular situation are in order, but I found few simple rules that helped my chair challenges:

1) The student can only challenge the student in the chair directly in front of them.

2) The band director chooses the material for the challenge at least two days ahead of time.

3) Select passages that will help you (the band director) determine the abilities of the players and valuable for them to practice.

4) In order for a switch to take place, the challenger has to play BETTER than (not equal to) the challengee.

5) There is a two-week waiting period before the challenge can be replayed.


As a middle/high school band director, I was sensitive to avoid the band room becoming a contest or a win/lose environment.  After all, music is an art that often includes a good deal of extrinsic rewards without further adding competitive chair challenges.  However, the reality is that many band students are more likely to work at their instrument away from class time given the extra incentive to perform well at challenges.

You may decide that challenges are not needed in your situation. However, I found that many of the students “unreachable” in the traditional ways were more motivated to practice to prepare for chair challenges.  In that sense, I believe them valuable and worthy of implementing.

About the Author

Dr. RICHARD HOUSE is an Associate Professor of Music and Director of Bands at Presbyterian College in Clinton, SC. Dr. House has held similar positions at Claflin (SC) University, Augusta (GA) State University, and Bridgewater (VA) College. Dr. House’s degrees include a Doctor of Musical Arts in Instrumental Music and Masters in Trumpet Performance, both from Arizona State University, and a Bachelor of Music in Music Education from East Carolina University. Prior to college and university teaching positions, Richard taught middle and high band for a combined seven years at Ligon (Raleigh, NC) Middle School, Enloe (Raleigh, NC) High School, and Chesterfield (SC) High and Middle Schools. He is an active professional trumpet performer and has over 30 years of experience teaching private trumpet. Professional societies include membership in the College Band Directors National Association, the College Music Society, the National Association for Music Education, and the International Trumpet Guild.

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