Musicians are usually noted for being free spirits, doing things by the “seat of their pants” and not always planning and organizing well. But, when you take time to plan out things, it makes for smoother, well planned rehearsals, smoother, well planned performances and less frustration overall.
I was reminded of this over the past weekend, being at a handbell festival and a children’s choir festival. At the handbell festival, the clinician, Michael Glasgow, encouraged directors to be teaching their groups what to do with music, specifically dynamics. When you are not prepared for rehearsals, and flying by the seat of your pants, dynamics, or other important musical details get left out. At the children’s festival, I was reminded of how every minute of the time needs to be planned and prepared so that there is no opportunities for boredom or talking to take over.
Both of these and many more items like this I have struggled with over my years in being a director. I have sat down and made a plan, but either didn’t completely lay it out as thoroughly as it needed to be, or just skipped over what I planned out.
You may be a director reading this and saying, “Gee, these are great ideas. I can’t wait to start them in the fall. We’re almost to Easter, and I am trying to cram everything in now!” That would have typically been my response reading a blog post like this. But I am going to challenge myself, and I challenge you, director who is reading this, to sit down and plan out your rehearsal. Sit down with your music, circle dynamics, melodic lines, vowels, consonants, whatever you need to accentuate, and integrate those into your rehearsals.
The blessing for me is that I’m starting on new music with my children’s choir, youth choir and handbell choir. I’ve spent some time planning and preparing, but I know that before our rehearsals I need to spend even more time being as detail oriented as I can. The success of the group depends on the musical ability of your group, yes, but it also depends on how you as the director lead, guide and direct your group. If they don’t play dynamics well, double check that you are teaching them correctly. And then, (the part I really struggle with!) don’t have low expectations! If you have an expectation for a forte sound, don’t stop until you get your forte sound!
You can do it just as much as I can do it. I’ve been directing for 14 years now in many capacities, and I know that I am far from the answers that I need. But that is part of the journey. We all must continue to seek opportunity to improve as directors. For the sake of our groups, for making excellent music, and because it is our role as directors to be the best that we can be!