Expectations for Your Program

By Tom Aungst

When setting up or researching any type of successful high school instrumental music program, it is important to look at the feeder program. The interest and enthusiasm for learning how to play with the proper technique begins at the elementary and middle schools. Dartmouth public schools, where I teach, is a small school district in southeastern Massachusetts consisting of four elementary schools, one middle school and one high school. Fortunately, I have direct control over the percussion development from grades four through twelve. I am a certified instrumental music teacher who is responsible for the development and teaching of all percussion students in the district.

Having goals and expectations for your beginning students are obviously very important to their growth as players. My list of expectations includes rhythmic development, rudimental knowledge and use of primary percussion instruments. This list of goals is used as a guide where I think students should be by the end of each grade level. Depending on the ability of each student, the class size, instruments available and sometimes scheduling, the expectations for each level may change year-to-year or class-to-class.

Occasionally, a student who takes private lessons may be more developed musically than the other students in the class. In this case, you may want to adapt the goals in order to better challenge that individual student. Obviously, you will want to integrate topics such as musical forms, composers and phrasing while teaching rhythm and rudiments. Even after mastering the knowledge of each of these concepts, some students may still struggle with their ability to perform them. The performance quality is not as important as the hands-on experience your students will have after exploring the different units of study.

Allowing the students to experience the various instruments and concepts is really what you are striving for at the introductory level. Whether or not you can implement a detailed curriculum or specific list of expectations, the important thing to remember is your involvement at the elementary and middle school level will help determine the levels of success you will achieve with your high school percussion program. Getting involved with your feeder program should make a noticeable and positive difference.

Expectations for Grade Levels


(Bells 1st half, snare, 2nd half)

Rhythmically (playing and reading ability)


Buzz rolls: long roll, 9 & 17 strokes
Scales : Bb, F and C

Primary Instruments

Snare, Bass, Cymbals, Bells



Rhythmically (same as above, plus...)

Applying dynamics to rhythms above

Rudiments (same as above, plus...)

Single, Double, Triple Paradiddle, and Paradiddle-diddle
Basic Flam
Open Rolls (long roll, 9, 5, and 17 stroke)
Accented Patterns in Duple
Scales (Bb, F, C, Eb, g)

Primary Instruments

Snare, Bass, Cymbals, Bells, plus Timpani if available


Rhythmically (same as above, plus...)

Incorporating rudiments with various rhythmic combinations:
16th Note Triplets:

Rudiments (same as above, plus...)

Flam Accent
Flam Taps
Single Drag
Single 4 and 7

Primary Instruments

Snare, Bass, Cymbals, all types of mallet instruments if available, Timpani, quads, various auxiliary percussion instruments



Rhythmically (same as above, plus...)

Advanced combinations with various meters

Rudiments (same as above, plus...)

6, 7, 10, 11, 13, 15 stroke rolls
Triple Stroke Roll
Lesson 25

Primary Instruments (same as above, plus...)




Rhythmically (same as above, with a strong quality of sound


Rudiments (same as above, plus...)

Single, Double and Triple Ratamacue
Drag Paradiddle 1 & 2
Triplet roll patterns:

Mallet players introduced to 4 mallet playing

Primary Instruments (same as above)



"Music Speed Reading" by Dave Hickman

"A Fresh Approach to Mallet Percussion" by Mark Wessels (check it out by clicking HERE)

"Primary Handbook for Mallets" by Garwood Whaley

"Musical Studies for Intermediate Mallet Players" by Garwood Whaley

"Alfred's Drum Method Book I" by Sandy Feldstein and Dave Black

"Simple Steps to Snare Drum" by Anthony J. Cirone

"Contemporary Rudimental Studies and Solos" by Lalo Davila

Row-Loff Productions (Percussion Ensemble Music)