I know that I have posted before about the challenges of selecting repertoire for youth orchestras. This continues to be a primary topic for me, particularly in that I always seem to feel stress over selecting quality repertoire that provides the appropriate challenge for students and yet leaves some meat on the bone (time in rehearsal) for teaching musicianship, tone quality, and other orchestral concepts. My guess is that many music ensemble instructors out there feel the same stress on a regular basis. So, music teachers, and particularly ensemble directors, this post is for you.
This is an unending challenge: appropriate technical challenges for the top students, appropriate technical goals for the less advanced students, and plenty of time to work on ensemble technique, advanced musicianship (phrasing, tone, balance, rhythmic push/pull, etc), and team building. The point of this post is to simply say, "We all feel it!"
I have been doing this now for over 28 years. I have been in front of elementary, middle, high school, and collegiate ensembles. I have conducted for camps, festivals, all county, all regional, all district, all state, university festivals, and others. I have worked with very advanced young musicians to under-instructed young musicians. I have sort of seen it all. And yet, I still feel that stress!
I believe it grows from an overwhelming desire to give students all that we possibly can. And, that process only happens when the repertoire is appropriate. If the rep is too hard, we are only chasing notes. That is SO unsatisfying for the players and the conductor. If the music is not technically challenging enough, there can be an air of disappointment that is very tough to overcome in a rehearsal. Trust me, I have dealt with both of these issues over the years. Perhaps that is why I am so focused on repertoire selection as a topic.
In the end, I love "selling" a piece to an ensemble. I love it when their first reaction is less than enthusiastic and I can bring them around to loving the work. What a kick. But, I also love it when I walk into rehearsal and everyone is just so excited to get going because of the repertoire. That is really fun!
But, for all of you music educators, young and old, that read this today, simply know this: you are not alone. We all struggle with repertoire. We all want to give our kids the best. It is an inexact science and I don't believe we will ever fully figure it out. All we can do is forge ahead, learn from our mistakes, and work to be better every day, every concert, every school year.
I hope that these words resonate with some of you! Please let me know if you have any further thoughts on the subject.
In coming days, I will be discussing the repertoire that I have selected for my Intermediate Concert Orchestra at Interlochen this summer. Perhaps I can share a title with you that you haven't considered yet and help out with your repertoire selection process.