It is that time of year when summer clinics, sectionals and band camps begin. There is so much information to be given and so much hope for the success of the upcoming fall. It takes time to put together a winning product and it takes time to mold the students into the best version of themselves. When giving them warm-ups, music and basic fundamental thoughts, remember that our goal is to get 100% of the students to learn 100% of the information 100% of the time. In order to do that we must slow down and not be in such a hurry. The elaborate warm-ups and chorales are nice but if the thoughts running through their minds are not right, what will it sound like?
Start with one thought, and make sure that thought is learned by everyone.
At some point some of the information we give students will need to go on “autopilot” because there is simply too many things to think about. In order for things to become a habit the student must be taught exactly what to do, and each thought must be practiced over and over apart from the music. If it is how to expand when breathing, that single thought must be focused on apart from other thoughts. We cannot continue giving the students 10 things to think about while expecting them to play a difficult 8th note exercise perfectly. Have you ever tried to rub your tummy and pat your head at the same time? That is only 2 pieces of information and it is difficult to master. It takes time and organization. Help the students train their brain and be very organized with your thoughts so the students can master 1 step at a time.
It is not simply enough to give the students the correct information. The best educators give the information and then continue through the process with ensuring the student understands it and can master it. Many educators are not organized with their own thoughts and come into the situation without a clear vision of “what do I want my students to master and how do I make it happen?” Assuming students can do it without slow, organized methods usually leads to an ensemble doing many things but not mastering any. A “jack of all trades and a master of none.” Some educators think they hear the New York Philharmonic from their ensembles but in reality it is closer to the local middle school ensemble. Learn to hear what is really there! As we get ready to put together a fall marching show, take the time to break it down for the students. Don’t overload them with information. Each step should be mastered by 100% of them. Take it slow and organized.
A book recommendation that talks about this very thing is called Effortless Mastery. It is a short read and talks about when students begin to master things at a professional level, no matter how small, it breeds confidence and encouragement. Check out this short audio clip of me discussing this very topic with regards to breathing concepts.
Have you recently felt you are overloading your students?