The importance of practicing our conducting skills and attending to score study and preparation
It is important in our rehearsals to keep our attention off our conducting! Rehearsals are not about developing one’s conducting and score reading skills, so prepare the score, and practice conducting outside rehearsal. Since conducting is really about sharing musical interpretation, remember to use it as a tool for showing, rather than telling, as showing is generally a more effective communicator than telling. Effective rehearsal technique requires us to get the score in our head, not our head in the score!
As young band scores rarely require eyes to remain in the score for any length of time, the junior band repertoire should provide ample opportunities to focus on 'looking' like the music, so don't be afraid to convey the score through utilising expressive gesture and emotional engagement. It is the ensemble’s responsibility to keep the pulse, not yours. This is especially true regarding the method book or technical exercises. If you choose to use the Ed Lisk programme of study, one is not allowed to conduct the exercises. Lisk exercises are designed towards developing internal pulse and independent decision-making, without a conductor. Besides, when not conducting, we generally 'hear and see' more effectively what is going on within our ensembles.
It is important to use student’s strengths in addressing their weaknesses. When the need for verbal correction arises, always identify a strength that is present while linking it toward addressing the problem at hand. When most of our rehearsal time is spent on identifying and correcting mistakes we take on the role of ‘band corrector’, thereby inhibiting our student’s development in self-motivated learning. Instead, encourage student responsibility by asking them to take an active role in problem identification and solution suggestions.
It is essential for our student's successful learning and progress development that we introduce and employ effective personal ‘listening/reflection assessment skills’. These skills will assist them in acquiring the ability to engage in the process of reflecting on identifying, responding to, and mastering both the technical and expressive challenges in music learning. This will effectively aid in personal musical growth, development and pleasure. Our rehearsals should foster the ability to both identify and master, through aural, and body feedback, the technical and musical challenges. If our students are to progress, they must be able to experience both the extrinsic and intrinsic rewards gained through personal responsibility and accountability. To this end, actively encourage personal ownership and participation in their education and progress.
The importance of seeking professional development:
- Never tire of developing and searching out new teaching/learning pedagogical strategies.
- You must be aware of what your rehearsals are producing, allowing for regular accurate measuring and assessing progress.
- Video your rehearsals and work out personal assessment criterion. The camera is one of the best teachers you will meet! Why not share them with your mentor?
Learn to identify your educational and musical targets/goals and Student Learning Objectives:
- Work toward developing internal/individual pulse, while reinforcing the importance of meter/natural accent.
- Insist on consistent correct pitches and commitment to aural/sight cognition, thus training our students to both hear and see what is before them.
- Work on improving sensitivity in phrasing towards interpretive note-grouping and inflection.
- Introduce and reinforce key/tonal relationships through scales, interval practice, including method book exercises.
- Finger patterns: develop automatic responses through ‘mindful’ repetition.
- Foster rhythm vocabulary acquisition, through 'mindful- repetition'. Share and use your favourite counting system.
- Establish the importance of understanding the harmonic context in phrase shape, nuance and contour.
- Insist on accurate articulations - accent, staccato, legato, marcato, slurs, ties, etc. They are not optional.
- Musical intuition/sensitivity – Be sure to make time to regularly introduce and share recordings of fine performances.
- Regularly provide opportunities to demonstrate the immediate reward of success through employing the ‘5 minute’ goal strategy.
- Remain committed to modelling and sharing effective self-learning skills in each rehearsal and don't forget to reinforce the intrinsic rewards of investment in the above points!
- Encourage motivation through introducing definable, achievable and rewarding goals in each rehearsal.
- Regularly celebrate your student’s successes, especially during rehearsals!
- Foster an effective, personally rewarding home practice routine.
- Consistently reinforce personal preparation and practice through providing opportunities in your rehearsals to engage students in developing their process of reflection and critical assessment.
The establishment of high expectations, professionalism, respect and pursuit of excellence is essential for a lasting, positive impact on our students. Remember, we wield a powerful influence for good or for ill, as there are no ‘on-off’ switches in the teaching profession.
For more information on the Ed Lisk material, check out the website "the Creative Director series - http://www.meredithmusic.com/the-creative-director-series