From Instructor to Clinician
By Cary Nasatir

As rewarding as teaching is, conducting drum clinics can be even more so. If you think that only mega-paid, highly visible artists with multiple endorsements can give a clinic, I'm here to tell you it "ain't" so. "Why should I do clinics?" The answer is for the exposure, for the community and as a way to increase your teaching roster.

I figured out some time ago that music educators in secondary schools are craving help and direction with the least understood section in their group - percussion. When you think about how many instruments there are in the section, and how little time most directors have studied them, you'll see a niche market that you, the drum instructor, can fill.

Topics to Cover

I have had success discussing stick and mallet selection. This usually leads to demonstrations on snare, suspended cymbals and wood block. Bass drum strokes and hand cymbal techniques are next. I finish with auxiliary percussion demos on tambourine, triangle, claves, afuche, cowbell, and, just for fun, some sound effects. Mix in a little history with a question and answer session and you have yourself a respectable clinic. I always have some handouts for the group (rudiment chart, cymbal information sheet, stick catalog, snare tuning chart). While I try to use the school's instruments as much as possible, I also bring my own snare, tambourine, triangle and cymbals. In many instances, schools have mismatched cymbals, less-than-adequate snare drums, headless tambourines and toy triangles hanging from rubber bands. As a favor to the teacher, I'll also tune drums in the band room. This can turn into a lesson for the group and result in a grateful educator. Other clinics can address jazz band playing, marching or percussion ensemble.

Have A Plan

These days, with a computer, it's simple to compose a creative flyer that announces your services, specialties and clinic topics. Make sure it has your name, phone number and email address prominently displayed, along with a brief bio about yourself. Once your flyers are in order, send them addressed to the director personally in late August when teachers are coming back from summer vacation and again in January after winter vacation. Make sure to follow up with a phone call to the music educator after school is in session.

How To Reach The Schools

Most offices of education at the county level publish a listing of schools that includes addresses and phone numbers. Inquire when ordering whether the list includes private schools as well. You'll find the county offices by looking in the Yellow Pages under "County Government Offices." Look under "Education" and/or "Superintendent of Schools." In my area, these published lists cost between $5 and $10 and usually include postage.

How To Conduct Yourself

It's probably been awhile since you were in school. Dress accordingly, be mindful of your language (no slang or swearing) and call the teacher "Mister" or "Ms" with their last name. You will no doubt be announced to the class in the same way. When demonstrating technique, be aware in this litigious day and age, of how close you are to the students.

To Charge or Not To Charge

I think it is a good practice not to charge a fee to schools in your immediate area. For one, it is good community service. Besides, chances are very good you will pick up a private student or two for your effort. If the director likes you, he or she will make you the preferred outside instructor. When you start getting outside your community, by all means charge a reasonable fee. Most clinics will be from 45 to 90 minutes, depending on the school's scheduling. A flat rate for one clinic and a reduced rate for a second clinic on the same day works well for me. It's best to remember when setting your fees that music departments do not have huge budgets. To defray some of my costs, in addition to writing my own material, I usually work with various manufacturers and music stores in obtaining informational handouts. Music stores love to give away band folders with their name on them, which I use to hold the materials I hand out. Stickers, catalogs and written materials are items that manufacturers want to get into the hands of young players; therefore, they make them readily available to you directly or through music stores.

Working with students is very gratifying and worth your time. Conducting clinics keeps you mentally sharp as well as on top of your game.

Write to to Cary at:
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Cary Nasatir is the Director of the Nasatir School of Percussion, a private teaching facility in San Francisco's East Bay. In addition to the school, Cary is a clinician in two middle schools and three high schools and has published numerous articles on school percussion for various trade magazines. He studied percussion with Roy C. Knapp, Haskell W. Harr and Joe Bethencourt and received his BA from Columbia College in Chicago.