So rehearsal, whether it be choral or instrumental can make or break a group. This is a post that I’ve had partially written since August and it seemed like a good time to finish it. The funny thing is that as I’ve edited the post today, I’ve been reminded of what I want my choir rehearsal to look like EARLY tomorrow morning. 🙂
Rehearsing an elementary ensemble, or any ensemble is it’s own special brand of theater. I think that a good rehearsal is a perfect balance between a collaborative student centered approach and a teacher centered “maestro” approach. On one hand, you want everyone, even the most reluctant learner engaged, because that old adage IS true that “we” are only as strong as our weakest ensemble “link”……. And at the same time, as the conductor and big boss musician, you want every member of your group right in the palm of your hand, at the edge of their seat, on the balls of their feet and right on the downbeat of your baton. Essentially rehearsal is as good as our ability to balance the needs of our students with the demands of the conductor
1. ENERGY! – I feel like I’m teaching (rehearsing) like a house a fire! I’m not acting crazy or anything, but I do my best to avoid down time, give quick instructions and to keep students moving toward the goal of mastery so that we can establish a beautiful sound….. Because we’ve got a lot to learn and are running short on time, the pacing is quite fast…… but not too fast…..
2. AWARENESS! – Sometimes you miss your mark and have to lead the students through the skill again….. It’s better to stop a bad habit by replacing it with a good one than to leave it unaddressed and reinforce the bad habit by practicing repeatedly. Also, as the one who can see everyone, be constantly aware of fatigue, boredom and focus….. You can sing the same thing innumerable times if you change it up. Keep expectations high and be their biggest cheerleader….. If they don’t get it, don’t lie and say they did, be honest and say, “that’s not quite it, but keep working at it”….. If you expect your students to keep working, be ready with new strategies for each repeat…. .If memory work is your chore for the day…. they can sing to their shoes, to the ceiling, to their friends, anyone…. Also, don’t be afraid to let them move….. I love performer etiquette too, but movement and play are normal and my students sing more sweetly when they get to do both, ESPECIALLY in rehearsal. PLAY = LEARNING! Any time I can get my notes learned in a playful way, I’ve noticed that my students sing more freely and sweetly. If I don’t have room to move, I work hard to be light hearted and funny. A little well placed and wise humor can earn you several minutes of serious effort. I especially love “playing” with hand singing as we do in ETM so that learning music with solfa becomes a puzzle type game rather than a chore. Using hand signs and other motions offers students a visual reinforcement to the notes they are singing.
3. URGENCY! – A sense of urgency, rather than impatience can give your students a touch of “giddy-up” that they may need. I’m not rude about it, I’ve just learned that intensity counts…..warming up is essential, but once my students are working, I’ve learned not to let up, I use every minute.
4. KNOWLEDGE! – It is impossible to have intensity, awareness or urgency if I as the conductor don’t know my music….. I’ve got to know it six ways to Sunday so that I can build it up, tear it down and build it back up again…. Without knowledge, there is no way that I can go in and correct minute mistakes…… Conductor! KNOW THY MUSIC!!!
5. CONVICTION! – When I rehearse I am a cheerleader. I play a part of the most enthused and dedicated lover of whatever I am teaching. We don’t always have a choice about what we are presenting for the students to sing, but it’s weird how a love of the song will improve the performance of even “hot crossed buns” ….. on recorder…… IF you can convince those children that those flamin’ and toasty buns are the best buns you’ve ever eaten in your LIFE!!!!!!! Instead of plodding, you get spritely…. instead of rushed, you get stately, instead of black notes on a page, you get music…… Seriously, if the only stinking song you can think of to sing or play with your children is Wee Willie Winkie then We Willie Winkie better be your best pal and the coolest most fun song you have ever had in your life!!!!