Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Getting Out of the Way

I had a wonderful experience yesterday in my rehearsal with the Intermediate Concert Orchestra at Interlochen that I would like to share with you today. Every Tuesday, the ICO string faculty attends my rehearsal and participates in a side-by-side experience with my students. The string faculty at Interlochen are fantastic players and teachers and it is a real honor to share in these collaborative rehearsal situations with them.

In these rehearsals, I try to use the faculty members to provide examples of style, bowing, and habits of orchestral playing for my young students to emulate. After we play a passage, I often ask the faculty members to give any thoughts or ideas to their section or the ensemble. These rehearsals are wonderfully positive and productive each time we have them.

Yesterday, we were working on the first movement of Haydn's Symphony Number 107, arranged by Robert McCashin. During the rehearsal, rhythmic accuracy was less than desirable and I felt like there were many moments where the individuals in the ensemble were sort of fighting against each other. I decided to stop conducting and simply get out of the way. What a magnificent change that created for the ensemble.

As soon as I stopped conducting, the entire ensemble began to watch and listen to the leadership that my colleagues were providing. Almost immediately, they became more unified in style and expression, not to mention rhythm and accuracy. As I watched my colleagues hear this change as well, it was fantastic to see the smiles on their faces. It became clear to all of us that the students were having one of those magical, impactful musical experiences that happen occasionally in rehearsals. This was one of them!

So, my thought today is a brief one, but important. Teachers, get out of the way of your orchestra. When they don't need you swinging the stick in front of them, don't swing the stick in front of them. The answer to unified ensembles is not always "watch the conductor." Sometimes it is "listen to each other." I think that we all need to be reminded of this from time to time. As teachers and conductors, we tend to be somewhat conductor centric. It's not always about the guy with the stick in his hand.  Sometimes it is about listening. Students must be encouraged to open their ears, listen to each other, and act and react to each other as thinking feeling expressive musicians.

These are my thoughts this morning as we move towards our performance on Friday. I wish you many magical moments in rehearsals and performances.



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