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Conceptual teaching requires the secondary music educator to focus their attention on musical concepts that can be used to address various technical deficiencies. This can be as simple as teaching a student how to tune independently of a tuning device or encouraging students to perform without a conductor. The tendency in music education to evaluate ensemble programs via assessment rubrics puts pressure on music educators to place a great deal of focus on technical achievement often to the detriment of musical expression and meaning. To that end, the conceptual teaching of sound, articulation, balance and blend, and student engagement will be discussed within the corpus of this work. To enhance the argument for conceptual teaching, five master teachers have been interviewed for this study. Three of these candidates are high school band and orchestra teachers, one was a long-time middle school band director, and the final is a collegiate orchestra director. The success of a secondary instrumental ensemble relies on the mindset of the educator, on how he or she instructs individual students to perform, think, and conceptualize musical ideas. This assertion frees educators from the limiting formula of success based exclusively on teaching with a focus on technical skill.