If you are anything like me, you are obsessed with HGTV shows such as Fixer Upper and Flip or Flop where people purchase a home and spend the next two months turning the house over for a profit or creating a beautiful home for a lovely family.
When I took a new band director position this past spring, I inherited a “fixer upper” band hall. Over the summer, I spent my days “flipping” my band hall to prepare for the upcoming school year.Day One
When I received my keys, I spent the first hour exploring the room. My band hall felt dark, small, and cluttered. The entire room overflowed with large furniture and odd spacing issues.
Thirty years of trophies covered the timpani cabinet, and it was evident that they had never been cleaned. Old composite photos of previous bands with feathered, Farrah Fawcett hair covered the walls. The instrument inventory was stacked on top of the lockers, blocking light from the lowered lip of the ceiling. Two euphonium lockers held overflow paperwork from the office. That’s right… they had overflow from the office.
When I walked into my new office, my episode of Hoarders REALLY came to life.
In addition to the 10+ pieces of furniture, old papers, supplies, books, and homework from 1991 filled every surface, drawer, and cabinet.
Before I moved in and got started on materials for the year, I had to overhaul the band hall completely. I’ve watched enough HGTV to know that the first step of flipping a home is...
Just as in Hoarders I sat down, reexamined my entire life (or in this case, the past lives of former directors from days gone by), and then proceeded to THROW IT ALL OUT! In all, I threw away eight full trash cans from the office alone including graded homework from the 90’s and enough condiment packets to stock a fast food restaurant.
Before and After of the Office Supply Shelves
My goal was to organize salvageable items like mouthpieces, reeds, valve oil, neckstraps, lyres, flip folders, cleaning supplies, tools, etc. It also helped me understand what supplies I already had and what I needed to invest in for the future (for example, I will never need to purchase another paper clip for the band hall EVER.) I mostly did it for my sanity.
There is no way I could have been productive in a space so cluttered and unorganized. I eventually removed everything from the office so I could start from scratch. The entire process of cleaning out the band office took about four full work days to complete.
Renovating the Band Hall
Next, I began removing large furniture from the band hall. Anything that I didn’t deem necessary went to the “graveyard,” AKA the back hallway. Seeing all the items in one location was a compelling vision. I couldn’t believe all those items could even fit in the band hall.
The Graveyard of Extra Items
Let’s open up this wall
The locker room/ library was a large room with two doors. Lockers sat in the middle of the room dividing the room in half and creating a lot of blind spots. File cabinets took up one entire wall and lockers took up the other two walls. Just like the band hall, this room felt cluttered, dark, and dingy. This space is functional but doesn’t serve as many functions as it could.
I share a small ensemble room with my fine arts team, but besides the band hall, there is no extra space dedicated just to the band. The space wasn’t utilized well, and my lack of a secondary teaching space meant I needed this room for any masterclasses, sectionals, or pull-outs I wanted to do with my groups. Just like in Tiny Homes, everything needs to have its place and serve multiple functions in such limited space.
My extensive research of all things HGTV taught me that open floor plans are in style. This meant I could “open up that wall” to create an open floor plan in my locker room. Since I got rid of all the large furniture, I now had a little wall space in the band hall to put my lockers.
My principal felt unconvinced when I first suggested we move the lockers out into the band hall. She came out to measure the lockers to see if they would fit. I don’t think she realized how much space we gained during demo day. After extensive measuring and a couple of conversations, I convinced her.
(Huge shoutout to the Denton ISD maintenance crew who helped me move these lockers. My “crew” was terrific!)
Just like in many band halls around the state, my classroom owned a beat up percussion cabinet. We all know that young percussionist isn’t the most graceful creatures in the band and they tend to treat their equipment a little roughly. That percussion cabinet lived through some rough times, but I knew that with a little love and a lot of TLC, I could bring this percussion cabinet back to life. A $10 can of black paint, and some 409 did the trick. This percussion cabinet looks brand new (except for that horrible green carpet on top, but that’ll be a project for the future.)
Flipping this band hall not only allowed me to live my dream of being Joanna from Fixer Upper, but more importantly, it gave me a space that was mine. The band hall feels brighter and bigger. The “band smell” that all old band halls seem to exude has been reduced. There’s no doubt that my new students will walk into this band hall and see this is a space where we can learn together and hopefully create beautiful music along the way.
Strickland Middle School Band, are you ready to see your Fixer Upper?