Monday, November 10, 2014


Opportunities For Teaching Musical Nuance | 7 Steps to Overcoming Procrastination

Opportunities For Teaching Musical Nuance
by John Bell

Serving as an adjudicator in the region on numerous occasions, I've had the opportunity to offer suggestions and recommendations about music performance at various marching festivals and to comment on festival concert performances. Directors and their students are always concerned about "playing it right" but often do not take advantage of indications composers and arrangers offer in the music to elevate the "playing it right" aspect of their performance.

Prompting students to go beyond what they see on the written page can be somewhat intimidating. However, the best place to begin the process of focusing on musical nuance is to bring to students' attention indications in the score marked by the composer or arranger.

I know this seems like an obvious statement, but I'm often disappointed when ensembles do not convincingly convey nuance indications in the printed parts. As an adjudicator in these circumstances, my attention is then immediately drawn to all of the markings in the score, and (barring wrong notes, rhythms, blend and balance issues, questionable intonation, etc.) my attention becomes focused on what the ensemble brings to the musical aspect of their performance.

When I work with any ensemble, or make comments at festival performances, at some point I inevitably make the comment; "Use the markings on the page as opportunities to do something different with a note or phrase in the music". This is always in relation to markings for various articulations, crescendos and decrescendos, tenuto markings, tempo changes, subito dynamic indications, etc. With these markings, the composer/arranger of the work being performed has given us permission to do something other than just play the black marks on the page!

When rehearsing an ensemble, even this statement does not always convince the group to "use" markings convincingly. So, I usually follow by saying," more than you think you should..." particularly regarding dynamic changes and articulations. This is always tempered with a plea to NOT do more than is expected with fortissimo markings...which apparently is the only marking in music universally accepted to play with abandon!

After all of the technical aspects of a work are under control, when an ensemble experiences this expressive freedom musical nuance can become the focus of future rehearsals and ultimately the performance. Obviously the choice of music being rehearsed and performed has a tremendous impact on the opportunity for meaningful musical nuance. But by beginning with a focus on the composer's or arranger's written indications, any work can become a more musical experience for all involved, and your students can develop meaningful insight to the expressive nature of musical performance.

John Bell
Palen Music Center - Liberty
[email protected]

John Bell serves as a road representative for our Liberty Palen Music Center location. During his thirty years of public school teaching, he was Director of Bands and Music Department Lead Teacher at both Park Hill South HS and Park Hill HS. Previously he was Director of Bands and Orchestra at William Chrisman HS. He holds degrees from Central Missouri State University (now UCM), the University of Illinois, and completed extensive postgraduate work toward the DMA in Conducting at The University of Iowa. John is a recipient of the John Philip Sousa Legion of Honor. Active as an adjudicator and clinician throughout the Midwest, he currently serves as Director of Bands and Orchestra at Northwest Missouri State University, is the co-conductor of the NorthWinds Symphonic Band of Kansas City, and is Musical Director and Conductor of the Medical Arts Symphony of Kansas City. John can be reached by email at [email protected].


7 Steps To Overcoming Procrastination
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"Imperfect action is always better than perfect procrastination"
--Brandon Barber Coaching Group

Procrastination is born of fear -- in this case, fear that it will not be done perfectly or fear of failure. When we are motivated by a need to do things perfectly we run the risk of not doing these things at all. Sometimes it is better done than perfect.

Here are seven steps to help you ACT NOW:

Step 1: Be True to You
When striving for perfection, we often put our needs and wants aside to live up to the real or imagined expectations of others. Focus on your own dreams! Identify what you want, and then break those goals down into small daily, weekly, or monthly increments

Step 2: Set Realistic Goals
Whenever you feel anxious, unhappy, or scared about a task, ask yourself whether you've set a realistic goal. Your emotions may be telling you that you are trying to achieve an unrealistic outcome.

Step 3: Focus on the Process
Start thinking about small process oriented goals instead of larger outcome oriented goals. When you fall in love with the process, your results will follow.

Step 4: Change your Verbiage
Instead of talking about all of the tasks you have to do, start saying get to, want to, and choose to. Choosing to complete an activity helps sustain motivation.

Step 5: Identify your Time-Wasters
Keep track of how you are spending your time for one week. Write down everything you do and how long it takes you do it. You may be shocked to discover how much time you waste watching tv, texting, surfing the web, etc.

Step 6: Set a Timer and Reward Yourself
Break down a large task into small increments. Take a task you have been putting off and schedule a specific amount of time per day (or per week) to work on it. During that time period, focus only on that task. If you feel you did the task without interruptions, reward yourself with something small.

Step 7: Don't Fear Mistakes
Mistakes are a part of life. They can even provide rich learning experiences, if you have the courage to examine them. Your mistakes can teach you far more about life and your abilities than your successes will. Make a real effort to learn from each mistake you make.