Monday, January 5, 2015


How Can I Get All Of This Done?

How Can I Get All Of This Done?
Effective Allocation and Organization of Rehearsal Time
by Brian Britt

There’s So Much To Do
Throughout the year there are so many items competing for our rehearsal time. We have individual and ensemble skills we want to develop musically (and visually during the fall) and we have contests, performances, and community appearances that all require specific preparation as well. At times it can be overwhelming as we try to figure out how to get everything done.

There’s Never Going To Be Enough Time
One thing that all band directors have in common is we all wish we had more rehearsal time. These days, students are being pulled in many different directions as their academics and other interests and commitments compete with their band responsibilities for their time and attention. So, more time is generally not an option. What we have to focus on is getting as much as possible out of every minute of rehearsal time. This requires developing a systematic approach to planning rehearsals. The good news is that this process is one that can be developed by anyone at any stage of their career, and it can be both rewarding and enjoyable if we decide for it to be!

Time Frame for Effective Planning
Using upcoming performances or contests can be a great way to guide your planning. Here are the steps I suggest:

  • Print out a blank calendar for the next 6-8 weeks and put all of the important dates and possible conflicts on it to aid with your planning.

  • Identify the next important performance or contest you have on the calendar.

  • If you have 6 weeks to prepare, for example, make it a goal to have everything taught and ready in 4-5 weeks.

  • You will use weeks 5-6 to polish picky details and to develop mental and physical endurance.

  • Break up each piece of music (and drill in marching season) into sections or “chunks” and schedule these chunks over the first four weeks 4 weeks. Be sure to note the segments of the music that are most difficult and cover them twice as often as the other sections.

  • Now make a specific plan of what to focus on during week 1. Remember, you can’t cover everything everyday, so having the week planned out ensures that you cover everything during the course of the week and will keep things from sneaking up on you or from trying to cover too much on any given day.

Focus on Skill Development
The ongoing development of fundamental skills (playing and marching) is the key to student success. All of the flaws we see and hear in performances have their root in fundamental weaknesses. It is really easy to get caught up in WHAT we are performing while losing sight of HOW our students are performing. Taking a very specific approach to the fundamentals portion of rehearsal will reap huge dividends in performance and more importantly will allow us and our students to enjoy daily rehearsals even more than before as we see improved individual and ensemble achievement. Additionally, developing fundamental exercises that are based on the demands of our music and drill makes the time spent on fundamentals have immediate impact on the students’ success on their music and drill. They will notice this and their buy-in will increase as a result.

How Much Time to Spend?
There are no “hard and fast” rules for this, but this can be a good guideline to start:

Skill Development and conditioning
Detailed woodshedding and breaking things down to learn and make them better
Learning new material
Continuity -- Developing mental and physical endurance, working on “performing” vs. “learning”

Factors that will affect the percentages include where you are in the semester, and even where you are in a given week. For instance on a fall Friday, the focus would shift more to continuity and performing vs. learning new material. The key is developing a sequence that works effectively for you and your students.

Momentum Builds Excitement and Buy-In
As the students become aware of their personal improvement and how much they are accomplishing every day, their excitement will create momentum in rehearsal. Having clear segments in rehearsal provide “mile markers” and brain breaks that make the time pass in a good way. This momentum will keep things moving ahead, because students will be looking forward to more success and will work hard to sustain this feeling. Your weekly and planning will ensure that you are ready to keep them moving along the path to a successful performance and beyond.

Reflect and Adjust To Build on Success and Eliminate Weaknesses
As you go through the week, some things will go better than you thought, some will go worse. Take time every day to write these items down and then consider as you make your plan for the next day. Again, the two most important points are to focus daily effort on specific skill development and to spend twice as much time on the most difficult sections of your repertoire. Then you can conclude rehearsal with detail work on segments that are less difficult as well as on continuity.

Not Easy, But Worth It
It takes courage, persistence, and hard work to invest this type of time to plan and implement this strategy, but the dividends yielded for you and your students will be well worth it. Stay focused on what your goals are and the students you are serving and you will succeed. Good luck!

Brian Britt is Associate Dean of the Weitzenhoffer Family College of Fine Arts and Director of Athletic Bands at The University of Oklahoma. His primary responsibilities include leading “The Pride of Oklahoma Marching Band,” conducting the Concert Band and teaching the Marching Band Techniques course to music education majors. As Associate Dean he is in charge of special projects within the College of Fine Arts. Immediately prior to his current stint at OU, Mr. Britt was the Director of Fine Arts for the Richardson ISD in Richardson, Texas. In this role, he was responsible for the effective and efficient operation of the total fine arts instructional program that includes K-6 elementary music and the band, choir, orchestra, and theatre programs in the junior and senior high schools. Mr. Britt is active nationally as a guest conductor, clinician, adjudicator, lecturer, percussion arranger, drill designer, and consultant. He has presented sessions and served on panel discussions at the Oklahoma Music Educators Association state convention, the Texas Music Educators Association state convention, and the CBDNA National Athletic Band Symposium. Mr. Britt, a native of Durant, Oklahoma, earned both his Bachelor of Music Education and Master of Music (percussion) degrees from the University of Oklahoma. His professional associations include the Texas Music Educators Association, Phi Beta Mu, Pi Kappa Lambda, Kappa Kappa, Psi, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, Tau Beta Sigma (honorary), and Kiwanis International.