Monday, November 9, 2015
IN THIS ISSUE:
The article below was originally featured on the SmartMusic website and can be viewed by clicking this link. The article is reprinted here with permission from the author.
While this hurricane is raging, there's a little voice in the back of your head saying, "What am I going to do after marching season is over?" Of course, the howling winds at the door don't let you hear, let alone acknowledge that voice. At some point, things will calm down enough to stick your head outside and see a break in the clouds. Look for a moment where you can plan beyond the now and make some time to plan out a successful transition from marching season to concert season.
Where Are You At?
You might have learned early in band camp that the marching band as a whole has consistent intonation issues. Maybe they struggle with clarity of articulation. Maybe they don't read rhythms very well. These are problems you hear all around you in the marching band -- from the show music to the stands tunes to the national anthem. Are you hearing the same issues in your classroom with a smaller group of kids? What have you been doing to address this and why isn't working? What literature can you choose that is going to be challenging but achievable to address some of the weaknesses you're seeing right now?
Where Do You Want To Go?
If you are answering no to these questions, then your first step is not to think about the winter concert, but what you want to play in April. If you can come up with at least one piece that you know will be perfect for contest, then you can come up with a few others that you think will work with that style of piece. Answering these questions will help you ask the next set of questions that will in turn help you figure out what to do for that holiday concert.
This work occurs simultaneously as you are learning the strengths and weaknesses of your group. Let's say you have a once-in-a-lifetime trumpet section and you know it's your chance to play Procession of the Nobles. How do you get those horns ready for that challenge? You really wanted to play Holst's Second Suite in F, but the euphonium player you thought would be able to nail that solo clearly didn't practice over the summer. How will you adjust your repertoire? This process of figuring out what you've got -- and what you eventually want to do with it -- should be happening before you start programming your winter concert.
How Do We Get There?
Maybe you're doing an arrangement of a Bach vocal hymn in your marching show and you want to play Whitacre's Sleep for contest. Can you program one of the Bruckner Three Preludes on the holiday concert to help kids make connections in the development of vocal music over multiple time periods? Will they perform better on stage in April because they have been doing a year-long study on how to play vocal music on wind instruments? Probably better than if the first time they ever worked on a vocal piece was 6-8 weeks before the performance.
Let's say you want to play a piece that’s in 9/8 at contest this year, but you know your kids have never played in 9/8 and they struggle with reading rhythms. Obviously you will be playing some technical exercises in 6/8 or 9/8 or 12/8 to help them with those issues. Try finding an easier piece in 6/8 that you can play on the winter concert also so they are using those technical skills in a musically meaningful way, not just in exercises.
Looking For Alternatives
Plan back-up pieces that might work better for your ensemble if your first choices don't work out. You planned on doing Bernstein's Profanation, but reality kicked in after a couple of reads, so you "downgraded" to Overture to Candide. The students are still getting a great challenge and the planning you've done to help them connect the dots will still work.
In future years, you will have a good plan in place before the school year even starts, but that takes really knowing your kids, your community, and most importantly, yourself as a teacher. You're also trying to determine long term goals for the program and finding the way to reach those over time. As you dream big for your kids and your program, plan ahead for the success that you know they can reach.