“We don’t often know what we don’t know.” anon
I suggest that we need tools, such as reputable method books, additional teaching materials and comprehensive pedagogical training, which includes an in-depth understanding of the instrument families and their specific and unique details such as proper hand position, posture and embouchure/mouthpiece/reed placement; basic instrument mechanics, along with sound production and breathing considerations.
We will also need people skills, organisational skills, consistency, curiosity, patience/impatience, confidence in our knowledge and methodology, and finally passion for our students, music, and teaching.
We may have to re-calibrate our thinking with regards to how we were taught (for we will teach as we were taught), and how we have taught, or seen beginning band taught in the past. If we haven't already, we must realise that our beginning band programme/ensemble is an investment in 'futures': both theirs and ours. We cannot afford to sacrifice the scope and sequence of the weekly systematic rehearsal-training programme for short term, questionable feel-good performance targets. A piece-meal, performance oriented approach to rehearsals will generally leave our students with an incomplete understanding of music performance, as well as a limited skill base. These students in fact, constitute our future advanced ensemble members... or someone else's. How we train them will affect their musical future enjoyment and relative success for years to come! It is therefore our responsibility to introduce and reinforce effective rewarding generic learning strategies, skill-development and personal discipline, leading to personal ownership and engagement with their personal learning.
We must be committed to igniting a passion for music through sharing the intrinsic joy and pleasure of successful music-making. When Leonard Bernstein asked the great maestro Serge Koussevitzky to teach him how to conduct, Maestro Koussevitzky replied, "First, prove to me that you love music!" We need to be able to convey to our students the musical passion that originally inspired us.
My personal teaching experience over the past 40 years convinces me of the importance of following the sequential learning process found in ours, or our department's choice of a beginning band method book along with the conviction and perseverance to finish the book. Of the many available, I have found the “Traditions of Excellence”, “Essential Elements”, Accent on Achievement or “Sound Innovations” to be the most widely accepted methods available. Ed List's research, teaching strategies and writings, including "The Musical Mind of the Creative Conductor" from the “Creative Director” series continues to be effective in affirming and validating of my personal teaching style. Other authors and texts I have found relevant and supportive are as follows:
Daniel Kohut - "Instrumental Music Pedagogy", "Musical Performance"
Robert Duke – “Intelligent Music Teaching”
James Jordan - "Evoking Sound" and "The Musician's Soul"
Elsa Findlay - "Rhythm and Movement: Applications of Dalcroze Eurhythmics and Dalcroze"
Virginia Hoge Mead - "Eurhythmics in Today's Music Classroom"
Rudolf Laban "Movement Studies"
Timothy Galway - "Inner Game of Tennis"
Neil Postman - "Teaching as a Subversive Activity".
For meaningful and rewarding musical experiences to take place, students will first need to be provided opportunity to pursue personal ownership of their learning from day one. "When a man finds out what he wants to know, well, that's the beginning of education" Duke Ellington. Transferring learning ownership, means preparing each rehearsal as a lesson on ‘how to practice at home’ with the accompanying rewards experienced in rehearsal.
Stay tuned in for the next installment…!