Monday, January 18, 2021
The following suggestions are a compilation of my experiences in successfully preparing bands for contest and concert appearances. With the extra challenges we are all experiencing due to Covid-19, I feel planning is even more important. Though we all know our plans are constantly changing right now, I feel having a plan at least gives us an opportunity to recognize what is most important when we do have to make changes. Remember, Covid or not, a plan is a means to meeting a goal; the plan itself is not the goal. Stay focused on your students receiving the best experience.
Pick appropriate music.
- If you are selecting music for contest, be familiar with your state's prescribed music list. Know how many pieces you must program and if you must program a march. Pieces should be "contest appropriate". Pop tunes are not usually acceptable, unless you are attending a theme-park style invitational. It never hurts to run your ideas by a veteran teacher to ensure you are choosing music that fits the event while showcasing your group's strengths.
When selecting contest pieces, the following should be considered:
What section(s) in your group is strong?
- What are their specific strengths?
What section(s) in your group is weak?
- What are their specific weaknesses?
- How often will you get to rehearse together?
- Length of entire program.
- Ranges of instruments & technical demands.
- How much of your class time is likely to be interrupted?
- How comfortable are you with the format of the score (condensed vs. full score)?
- Will you need to edit parts such as high clarinet or flute parts? It is always preferable to write out any changes you plan to make before passing out a piece to a student.
- If you are not comfortable assigning percussion parts, give yourself enough time to get percussion parts to a trusted friend or colleague to assign parts--preferably before beginning to work on the piece in class to avoid percussionists either not getting to participate or having to change parts later.
- What section(s) in your group is strong?
- Create a calendar that lists when additional sectionals, clinics, and recorded assignments will be due. With most all of us going 1:1 now, your students will likely have devices to record themselves on and you will likely have a platform in which to receive the assignments. Worst case scenario, you can have your students email you their assignments. Due to Covid and the restraints on time we are allowed to be together, we will likely limit our amount of "extra" time together this spring.
- If you decide to have your students submit recordings, one very helpful thing to do (when you aren't concerned with a deadly virus) is to also have your students turn their music in. This allows you to check their parts for appropriate markings, and you can mark their music directly with your critique and their earned grade. Be sure to plan this for a day you know you can complete all grading and return the next morning.
- Schedule your recorded assignment due dates so that the students will have turned in virtually the entire contest program to you by at least a week before contest. When assigning a portion of the music to be recorded and turned in, consider appropriate lengths of assignment for the students and how long it will take you to grade all your assignments. *If you cannot assign this much music with the time you have, consider selecting the most important sections of the music that need to be assigned. Keep in mind that if it is repetitious, you only need to assign a small section to get a snapshot of your students' progress.
- By listening to your students by themselves you get a much better idea of who needs some extra help, who needs a possible rewrite, and whether or not everyone is really contributing to the ensemble at their highest level.
- You should be recording at least a portion of your contest program weekly. This helps you be honest; "podium ears" are not always the most honest ears.
Additional tips not already mentioned:
- Be sure to get your contest entry entered by the deadline.
- Fill out your bus transportation requests now so that you don't have to worry about it later other than letting them know your actual times when you know them. Also, with Covid restrictions, this may take more time to sort through.
- Think about sharing recordings of your group with trusted clinicians. Also consider bringing composers and artists to your classroom through Zoom or other online meeting platforms. We have had a great experience with just the little bit we have done this.
- In-class pull-outs are a nice way to enhance the individual attention that your students get if you have the staffing. This extra attention to individual detail can be super helpful.
- Always approach each endeavor with tons of positivity and enthusiasm because the students will reflect our personalities and work ethics. These are characteristics that will be absolutely essential to their success in life!
Good luck & stay safe!!
|Alex Claussen is currently the H.S. Band Director, Instrumental Music Supervisor and Fine Arts Chair for the Bartlesville, Oklahoma School District. He earned his BME from the University of Central Oklahoma and has taught at the middle school, high school, and university levels in Oklahoma. Mr. Claussen is a National Board Certified teacher who was named the 2016 Outstanding Band Director of the Year for the state of Oklahoma by the Oklahoma Bandmasters Association. His bands consistently experience a high level of success, earning several OSSAA Sweepstakes Awards and finalist positions in marching competitions across the region. This past January the BHS Wind Symphony performed at the OkMEA Winter Convention as an honor band. His bands have performed in Hawaii, Germany, Austria, Ireland and Italy. Additionally, Alex serves as the band coordinator and has been on staff since 2003 with the Oklahoma Ambassadors of Music, an honor group that tours and performs across 7 European countries in the summer. Mr. Claussen has been active in leadership roles with many professional organizations throughout his career including serving as president for the Oklahoma Bandmasters Association, the Oklahoma Chapter of Phi Beta Mu and the Oklahoma Music Educators Association. Alex is married to Amitia, a 4th grade teacher at Wayside Elementary in Bartlesville and they have 2 daughters, Abbie and Katie.|
Jimmy Roffmann began his career in instrument repair several years ago as an apprentice at Palen Music Center in Liberty, MO. He grew up in the Ozarks, but relocated to Kansas City to take part in its rich and vibrant music scene. He received a bachelor's degree in Jazz Studies from Missouri State University and currently teaches and performs on the saxophone in the Kansas City area. His hobbies include composing music for video games that don't exist yet and spending time with his best (dog) friends Kioko and Yuki.
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