Issue: Oct-Dec 2006
Bandworld Magazine Page


My Rehearsal is a Riot! (continued)
10 Years Ago in Bandworld
Click here for part 2
by William Fry and William Prescott

Guides for Well-Disciplined, Interesting Rehearsals:

  1. Train your ensemble to give you immediate attention when you step on the podium!
  2. Train your ensemble to continue that silence as long as you are on the podium or even when you are off the podium, but talking to them.
  3. Train your group to immediately look at you when you stop for a correction, and to mentally ask themselves, "why did he/she stop?" and then wait for your answer.
  4. Keep interest at a high level with a fast-paced rehearsal, with results obvious to students themselves:
    • DON'T be a "stop-&-fixit" conductor, stopping for every tiny error; many times students fixit themselves.
    • DON'T be a time-beater; you can get a flashing metronome for that. Time beating is monotony, turns students OFF and doesn't teach MUSIC. Your baton should SAY something.
    • The first three minutes (3 minutes) are the key to the whole rehearsal and are critical to establishing the mood of the rehearsal. No announcements, no paper-passing, no distributing music, no talk, JUST MUSIC, RIGHT OFF THE BAT.
    • Make the last five minutes of the rehearsal the impetus for the next rehearsal.
    • DO put your rehearsal agenda on the blackboard before each rehearsal.
    • DON'T use long warm-ups; they're boring, repetitious and break the 3-minute rule. Any warm-up should be meaningful and should relate to the rehearsal (stress balance, dynamics, intonation, tone, following the baton, technical fundamentals) but definitely not the same every day, ad nauseum.
    • DON'T talk if your baton can say it for you. Teach your students the expressiveness of your conducting motions. The less talking you do, the more concentrated the rehearsal will be. If you must talk, make it short, concise and clear.
    • Know exactly what you want to accomplish during each rehearsal. That means knowing your score, knowing what spots need work.
    • Always give as much praise as possible to individuals, to sections, and to the whole group.

Anecdote: Arturo Toscanini stopped an NBC Symphony rehearsal in mid-stride and asked William Bell, the famed tuba player, to play a certain passage. When Mr. Bell finished, Toscanini asked him to play it again. Mr. Bell was flustered and asked, "Maestro, what am I doing wrong?" Toscanini beamed and said, "you play it so beautifully I just wanted everyone to hear it again." The power of praise!

Music directors recognize that music classroom situations are more complex and dynamic than the average school class. Music ensemble classes are not like other classes. This unique educational setting requires discipline approaches different from other academic classes. For your first meeting of the school year (for those of you who are new to a particular situation), the first meeting or rehearsal is the time to put your best foot forward. That first meeting should be an experience in exacting demands, in what you want your students to learn, in your hopes and expectations; what you expect of them in rehearsals. You set the tone for the entire year. They can leave that first meeting all enthused and expecting great things-or they can walk to the guidance office and change their schedule!

The story of Toscanini's first rehearsal with the fabulous NBC Symphony is a classic: He walked on stage, stepped on the podium, raised his baton and gave the downbeat for the first bar of the Brahms First Symphony, all without saying one word. Only after the Orchestra had finished a breath-taking performance of the first movement did he say his first words to the Orchestra: "Not bad, not bad." Don't you think he got the attention of those world-class players on his very first meeting with them?

Discipline is often the result of the physical environment of the rehearsal hall. The setting influences attitudes. Make your rehearsal area pulsate with interest, with past history and pictures, with up-coming events, with musical themes. Always neat and clean and well-ordered, with chairs and stands always properly placed, never a messy area! Discipline is negatively impacted when students walk into a messy room.

Discipline is sometimes improved by your stepping off the podium. Leave aisles down the middle of the group so you can step down from the podium and circulate down the middle or along the sides-right in the middle of the rehearsal. It will improve the effort of the students. It also helps if you wish to work for a few minutes (repeat: few) with a particular section in the rear or middle of the group.

Your facial expression can be a powerful discipline tool. It can express your pleasure or displeasure without the disruption of words. A frown can say "STOP!" or your face can express satisfaction with behavior, or your pleasure with the performance of a certain passage. Facial expressions are also used by excellent conductors to convey emotion in the music.

Your approach to rehearsal should always enthusiastic. It will carry over to your students. Wear a smile!

Involve your parents. Inspire them to be in tune with your philosophies, your rules and your discipline. Get them to support you on your goals, your aspirations for the group.



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