1) Interview – This is the traditional interview where we ask questions related to your experiences, musical studies, understanding of working with students, interpersonal skills, areas of strength and areas for growth, etc.. From this interview, we draw some conclusions regarding the candidate as a colleague, if his/her experiences match the position we have available, and if there is a match in teaching philosophy.
2) Performance on a primary instrument and a secondary instrument – We ask the candidates to prepare a piece on their primary instrument and also play a piece on a secondary instrument. This is my favorite part because I get to listen to some wonderful musicians. We do expect that a fairly difficult piece be chosen by the individual for their primary instrument. Sometimes the piece they choose also tells a lot about the candidate’s abilities. From this part of the screening, we are able to see if the music educator is also a practicing musician. This is very important to Fayetteville-Manlius. When playing on their secondary instrument we review their technique just as much as we do on their primary instrument. Although we expect that they are excellent at their primary instrument , it is critically important that they have good technique on their secondary instrument since they will be providing lessons for these students.
3) Ensemble or small group lesson – We also always have students either conduct a larger group of musicians or work with a small lesson group. In either case, candidates are provided music before they arrive to prepare. When working with a larger group, we look to see if they have a command of the group, are students on task when the candidate is leading the group, what type of warm-up activities do they utilize and do they blend well with the music that the students will be performing. While working on a piece of music, we look to see if they have a good ear and are able to help the sections improve by providing appropriate feedback. When teaching a small group lesson, we look at the use of the time, the amount of student engagement, and the type of feedback they provide. Did the feedback shared help the students improve? In either case, the most important part of this screening component is the connection they make with the students. Whether at elementary, middle or high school, does the candidate know how to share their enthusiasm for music with the students and pass their energy on to the student? Do we see an ability to connect with the students at this particular age?
Final thought: A professor at Syracuse University once told me, “We hire teachers as people first”. This is still very true. A candidate who knows best practices, has a strong skill and knowledge base of the content, and is a virtuoso on his/her instrument is not necessarily the candidate chosen unless the he/she is someone that the educators in the building/department feel they can enjoy working with every day. So don’t be afraid to share your personality with the committee and the students you will interact with during this process. The teachers who have the best relationships with students and peers are those that enjoy that human interaction that we get to be a part of everyday in education.
Assistant Superintendent for Personnel