It was a quick drive from Chinatown to our clinic at VanderCook College of Music, Chuck’s alma mater. I had my camera ready to take photos as we approached, but our bus driver went in the “back way” so we were there before I realized it. Oops!
The first thing we did was take the students to the bathroom while the parents unloaded instruments.
I think part of the reason this trip is always such a success is because Chuck and I complement each other so well. He’s totally got the music “stuff” totally under control down to the tiniest detail, but doesn’t always think of the practicalities. On the other hand, if it were up to me I’d forget the timpani mallets or triangle beaters or some other thing we couldn’t perform without, but do remember to give the kids a bathroom break. It’s the same thing with the music too; he concentrates on tuning and articulation and hears nuances I miss, while I focus on more on dynamics and the overall “big picture.” Together we make a great team!
There was the usual amount of chaos as the students put their instruments together and got ready for the clinic. Unlike some years, we didn’t need much percussion equipment, which makes the trip around the building and up the stairs much easier.
In previous years we’ve had the students line up and stand “at attention” but this year we seemed to have fewer rehearsals than usual and barely had time to learn the music well so there was no time to work on “extras.”
Chuck led the students in a quick warm-up and tuning, then he had the band perform both pieces for the clinician, Stacey Dolan.
When Stacey introduced herself to the students I was totally confused and wondered if I’d somehow remembered her name wrong. But no, she’d gotten married over the summer and changed her name. Congratulations Stacey! I’m equally happy for you and relieved that I’m not going crazy… Yet.
Chuck stayed to listen for a while before joining the Strings group in their clinic while I stayed with the band.
No, I’m not checking my email; I’m taking notes. I think I learn as much, if not more, than the students do during these clinics! Stacey taught Middle School Band for many years so she really knows how to relate to our students and I always learn a lot from her.
Some of the things I learned this year:
– When striking a triangle the percussionist’s hand should move in a clockwise circle, striking the triangle at the 8:00 mark and continuing to complete the circle.
– A distinct separation should be articulated between repeated quarter notes. I’m usually telling my students to connect their notes more, so I forget to make sure they’re using good articulation.
– Sitting up straighter makes it easier for the winds to play softer.
– It’s impossible to overblow a flute when the embrochure is set correctly.
– A flute player’s right arm should be moved forward to create a 90 degree angle between the instrument and the face.
You can bet I’ll be incorporating these ideas into my teaching next year!
Stacey also has lots of little slogans to get her point across in a way that the students and I will remember.
Some of the phrases I’m going to adopt are:
“Never louder than you can love it.”
“Hearts on Fire; Brains on Ice.”
“The breath that you take is the music that you make.”
And I especially love how she describes the two main types of music: “Pirate Dance” and “Love Song” – I’m totally stealing that for next year. We may even do Pirates of the Caribbean again to reinforce the idea. Not because it’s one of my favorite movies and band pieces…
As always, the time flew by and our clinic was over before I was ready for it to be done. But the students were ready; their lips were TIRED!
Next stop – the Art Institute!