Here are some additional thoughts with regards towards effectively planning for educationally focused rehearsals, potentially delivering long-lasting, valuable learning and artistically rewarding outcomes.
To continue from past discussions, rehearsal plans should regularly include provision for the sight-reading of worthy repertoire that is both suited to the strengths of the ensemble as well as incorporating the application of our training material and learning processes. Remember that programming for successful outcomes, even in sight-reading should remain a part of our overall investment strategy. Students will continue to invest in our performance ensembles if the rewards of their investment lead to rewarding outcomes!
Sight-reading of significant repertoire will also aid in fuelling the student’s desire to continue developing technical and musical skills so as to fully experience musical success in performance. The more developed their skills and music intuition become, the more engaged and motivated they become in their music investment. Their exposure to quality repertoire should inspire students to the greater possibilities of music performance. Therefore a major goal of large, educationally based ensembles should always be to both introduce and familiarise students with the recognised, standard repertoire, which will, in turn include recognising each individual work’s attendant technical and interpretive musical challenges. Another important function of sight-reading is that it can serve as a system check, allowing conductors and students alike to see how well their acquisition of skills and musical expression is progressing.
To this end, rehearsals need to contain appropriate learning and performance strategies for overcoming the reading challenges contained in sight-reading, firmly establishing the correlations between technical studies and performance practice. It is important then to choose repertoire that will also provide the ensemble opportunities toward acquiring the expertise in meeting ever increasing technical and musical demands. One needs to possess the knowledge and passion for excellence that will grow their ensemble’s skills through exposure to attainable challenges, leading to positive outcomes through providing the necessary learning strategies and skills.
With the above in mind, one should be able to successfully define and conyey their musical and educative reasons for all or their repertoire choices, including training material, performance works or sight-reading literature.
To assist in understanding of the developmental needs of your ensemble, try writing a three-sentence profile on each of your students, outlining their known strengths and weaknesses. Then write a four-sentence profile on your ensemble, outlining it's known strengths and weaknesses. Ensemble rehearsals may constitute one of the few places in which the rewards of technical skill acquisition are clearly demonstrated and celebrated. Focusing solely on learning a specific work, without assisting members through introduction and application of practical practice strategies and a functioning learning process will ultimately lead to frustration and unrealised potential.
Rehearsals should also provide group listening experiences that can offer our students opportunities to experience a variety of fine performances, both live and recorded. Human learning is greatly assisted when models are provided and can often offer great impetus and inspiration. My high school band director exposed our ensemble to the wonderful recordings of the Eastman Wind Ensemble under the direction of Fredrick Fennell. In fact, one of my fondest memories of my high school band experience was when our director arranged for our entire ensemble to attend a performance of Puccini's La bohème, performed by the San Diego Opera Company. It made an incredible impact on me.
Finally, we conductors must be willing to keep growing personally, continuing to seek and search for opportunities to learn, experiment, share and give. We must remain impatient with the present limitations of our knowledge, seeking to move forward. The acceptance of the mundane and mediocre must remain a constant enemy. We must remain committed to the nurturing of our musical souls.
Five keys to successful rehearsing:
- Love music (and value your individual ensemble members)
- Learn how to motivate your ensemble (through your love of music)
- Never tire of seeking for knowledge (tempered with wisdom)
- Bring a moment of significance to every rehearsal
- Be a person of integrity
If one agrees that educational ensembles give concerts because they rehearse, then part of the entertainment value, and its ultimate satisfaction factor should be derived from the communal joy of a successful progression from one level of performance achievement to the next. School concerts, while entertaining the audiences of friends and families, should also provide reality checks for the conductor, the ensemble and each students’ overall musical and learning progression. One should avoid sacrificing the product-producing process gained through the mastery of fundamentals for the sole pursuit of the concert itself.
Therefore, concerts or the performance of substantial repertoire should never constitute ultimate destinations. Instead, concerts should be viewed as vital stops on the way to the final destination; The laboratory experience that assists in producing independent life-long learners who will make the valuable connections of process learning to their overall educative experience. It will be the day-to-day learning journey, of which rehearsals form a vital part that will ultimately remain and impact our student’s lives, empowering them to succeed in any endeavor.
In conclusion, school performance ensembles can provide excellent opportunities to reinforce and consolidate the individual student performance practice and attendant general academic training for their members. They have the potential to give students the experience and tools necessary for enjoying a lasting experience in music making, while forming a valuable part of their overall education.
Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts and musings on developing and planning for educationally rewarding rehearsals.
Best wishes for a wonderful conclusion to your school activities.
Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!