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Where the most Inspired Musicians
become the most Inspiring Music Teachers

Spring 2023 MECA

Continuing Education Courses


High Needs, Monumental Successes


February 13-May 5, 2023

Course Code



3 Graduate Credits


$1,065 is due in full with registration. $15 Late Fee will be added beginning February 13.


“It is not a student or their socioeconomic background that results in their success. It is the willingness and desire of the educator to bring out the excellence within students.” 

This course is an online community based book study of High Needs, Monumental Successes: Teaching Music to Low-Income and Underserved Students (GIA Publications) with the author Don Stinson. 

From John Bubbet’s book review in School Band and Orchestra Magazine: There are two sides to every teaching job. The “subject content” or the “craft” side of teaching; the reality that making music is the very thing that brought us to this profession in the first place. And then there is the “everything else” or the “job” side of teaching. This book study sets out to detail, provide insight, suggest solutions, and discover the words to use on the “everything else” side of our profession. 

Course members will do a deep dive into the “job” side of teaching through the lens of not only low-income and rural settings, but ALL teaching situations, regardless of subject matter, socioeconomic standing, or availability of resources. The main priority of this course is practicality. Course members participation in weekly online discussions will explore techniques that they can use to improve teaching, learning, and understanding immediately. 

Teachers will explore several topics during this course, including: 

  • Characteristics of Our Students. What poverty means, the students it affects, who they are, and digging deeper into knowing your school. Many topics are examined, including observations of low-income students, the cost of being poor, what is negotiable in our programs, attendance, and family/mobility issues.
  • Understanding “Why” and Acting with Empathy. Explore how to know and embrace your situation, deal with perceptions, why respect and possessions matter to our kids, why some kids have to make adult choices, and how family structures can vary.
  • What Can We Do? In this section, we’ll explore multiple situations and ideas to deal with all types of learners and seemingly hopeless situations. Non-traditional programs require non-traditional approaches, including

Different approaches on practicing, communication, fostering value and self-respect, behavior expectations and classroom management, mental health as it relates to impoverished students, programming, and adapting music for the needs of your ensemble. 

  • Money, Parent Groups, Student Travel. Discussions on the financial side of running your programs. Title I funds, asking for money, initiating grants, and discovering other resources to benefit your students. Travel opportunities for low-income programs are also discussed, as is fundraising.
  • Competition, Motivation, and the Teacher. Are competitions suitable and realistic for your program? Are the stakes too high? What level of motivation do they require? As for the teacher, selflessness is an admirable quality. Neglecting yourself, however, is neither healthy nor productive. Teaching will never be stress-free, but concerning ourselves with attainable goals, appropriate time commitments, and overall self-care can help us avoid career and personal burn-out and help us thrive.


Chat Session

Weekly chat sessions will take place over Zoom on the weekends. Course members that cannot attend chat sessions may view the recording afterwards.



Required Text(s)

High Needs, Monumental Successes, available through GIA Publications & JW Pepper. 

Recommended Texts: 

The Creative Director: Alternative Rehearsal Techniques by Edward S. Lisk, published by Meridith Music Publications. 

Urban Music Education: A Practical Guide for Teachers by Kate Fitzpatrick-Harnish, published by Oxford University Press. 

Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn, published by Atria Books.

Learning Platform Information - Online Courses Only

Schoology is a learning management system that allows you to interact directly with your instructors, fellow students, and members of the greater VanderCook community.

The evening  before your class begins, be on the lookout for an email from Schoology with log-in instructions. Once you receive credentials, visit to login. 

Some courses have specific online chat meeting times (please see course descriptions), while others have a flexible meeting schedule. You can expect all courses to meet together in a live online chat. If a live meeting time doesn’t work, you can work with your instructor to make other arrangements.

More information about Schoology can be found at

Please see specific software/hardware requirements in the course description.

Online course grades are available within two weeks of the course(s) completion.  If you need a transcript, please CLICK HERE to access the online transcript request form. For a faster turnaround time, please submit the transcript request to the registrar prior to the end of your course(s).


don stinson 1

Don Stinson

Don Stinson is the director of bands at Joliet Central High School, only the fifth director in the band’s 110-year history. A Joliet native, Don has the distinct pleasure of leading a program that serves a diverse population in socioeconomic status and cultural backgrounds. Joliet’s nickname is “The City of Champions,” derived from the numerous awards and accolades earned by the band, including National Championships judged by John Philip Sousa, presidential performances, and numerous state and national performances. The band has appeared nineteen times at the prestigious University of Illinois Superstate Festival, including fourteen performances as honor band/honor band selection. In 2020, the band was invited to perform on stage at David Geffen Hall in Lincoln Center in New York as a solo act. Stinson earned an associate degree from Joliet Junior College, a Bachelor of Music Education degree at VanderCook, an MMEd degree at Northern Illinois University, a Masters in Education Leadership Degree and the University of St. Francis, and is a National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Certification teacher. He holds five Citations of Excellence from the National Band Association. In 2019 he received the Chicagoland Outstanding Music Educator Award from the Quinlan and Fabish Music Company. In 2021 he was named one of Yamaha’s 40 Under 40 Music Educators and is a 2021 winner of the Dr. William P. Foster Project Community Development Award. He is a member of the Phi Beta Mu International Bandmaster’s Fraternity, the National Band Association, the American School Band Directors Association, and the Illinois Music Educators Association. Don hosts the music education podcast The Bandmasters Podcast. He is the author of High Needs, Monumental Successes: Understanding: Teaching Music to Low-Income and Underserved Students, available from GIA Publications. In addition, he is the president and founder of Legacy Fine Arts Inc. NFP, a not-for-profit that provides lessons, mentoring and programs for underserved youth. For more information, please visit

The mission of VanderCook College of Music is to enrich the lives of present and future generations by developing uniquely skilled music teachers who exhibit strong character, professionalism, and a commitment to excellence.

© 2023 VanderCook College of Music. All Rights Reserved.
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