How to be a Good Section Leader

Want to be the best section leader ever? Here are some tips!

  1. Listen to your band director. Congrats on being section leader! Your job is to lead your section to play its best. Know the chain of command—who do you report to? If it’s your band director, be sure to listen to what they have to say and reach out to them with any concerns.
  2. Lead by example. It’s not necessary to always verbally tell your section members what to do. As a musician, your section will be listening to how you are playing. This is a great opportunity to practice listening across a section. Your section will also be watching you.
  3. Speak to your peers respectfully. If you need to address an issue in your section verbally, don’t speak down to them. Instead of shouting “You missed that Eb!”, try saying “Hey folks, don’t forget to mark the Eb in this section.” People tend to tune out others who do nothing but yell at them.
  4. Know the name of everyone in your section. It’s not okay to frequently forget or mispronounce someone’s name. You’ll be spending many hours a week together, so if you’re unsure about how to pronounce anyone’s name, make sure to politely ask and repeat it back several times until you feel confident.
  5. Ask your section members for their opinion. You’re in charge, and that includes listening to your section members. It’ll be important for you to listen to the concerns or ideas your section members may have.
  6. Keep up with your personal responsibilities. Make sure to keep your grades up. Come to practice early and prepared every single time. Learn your music before anyone else in your section. Flakiness will destroy your legitimacy as a leader.
  7. Praise more than you criticize. Many experts recommend giving three positive or friendly statements for every negative statement you must give. Where possible, give compliments in public and criticism in private.
  8. Learn how to mediate conflict. You don’t have to be best friends with everyone in your section, but everyone needs to be able to work together as a team. If you notice friction developing between some of your section members, talk with them in private and get to the root of the situation. Read about good conflict resolution strategies here.
  9. Show humility. Assist with setup and cleanup. Be the first to volunteer when someone needs help. No job is “beneath” a good leader.
  10. Remember: it’s a team effort. Not everyone in your section will be a virtuoso, and that’s okay. To be honest, it’s possible that some of your section members will struggle, even if you spend hours working on technique with them. Some people might not be very enthusiastic about marching band, no matter what you do to build up team spirit. You will be working with an essentially random group of people at various levels of ability and interest, and you’ll have the challenging job of encouraging them to work together to create their best possible sound as a unit. In the end, your section will sound fantastic as long as everyone is in sync and compensating for each other’s weaknesses.

— Kacie Wright and Sally Podrebarac

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