25 Years ago in Bandworld
Improving Rehearsals (concluded)
by Stewart Ross
Vol. 1, #3, p.13 (January - February, 1986)
11. When presenting a composition for the first time, give a short background talk about the composer, historical period, style, etc. If the composition has no information on the front cover, do some research on your own.
12. Make sure that each student has a sharpened pencil with a good eraser. It might be helpful to supply pencils with the band's title imprinted on them. Changes or nuances must be marked on the parts. The younger or less experienced the student, the more marks that are needed. It is important to train musicians early to mark measures with unusual rhythm patterns.
13. Periodically walk off the podium while the group continues to play. Besides giving the director a different perspective, it often encourages students to find a "group beat." The more the ensemble members are forced to listen for the beat, the better the chance they will mentally subdivide the beat.
14. Learn early which students play better with extra pressure and which need constant encouragement. Too many compliments often lead to lazy musicians; too few compliments can make some give up. Be a psychologist on the podium.
15. Before beginning a rehearsal make sure that all eyes can be seen.
16. When possible have a sectional with percussionists before the first rehearsal of a new composition. There are special problems associated with the use of many different instruments along with the problem of movement from one instrument to another during the same piece. At the very least, assign percussion parts ahead of time to minimize confusion.
17. Don't be afraid to give up a full rehearsal every once in a while for a sectional. If good section leaders are available, sectionals can often be as helpful as full rehearsals.
18. Encourage instrumentalists to portray the music visually, especially by not slamming instruments down at the end of a passage or the end a composition.
19. Plan each rehearsal for maximum carry-over potential. It is not enough to simply teach students how to press valves and pull slides. They must remember concepts and styles and be able to transfer this learning to new compositions (e.g. all Sousa marches have some of the same stylistic problems).
20. Practice what you preach. If you demand memorization of some material, long hours of practice, promptness, good manners, dedication, etc., then you must be ready to demonstrate these traits to the students. Players tend to mirror the attitude and personality of their director. They will most often do as you do, not as you say.