5-Minute Read: “The October Doldrums”

Greetings all!  I’ve been out on business travel and family visits for two weeks, so this is a belated post.  However, in my travels, I’ve enjoyed seeing several college and high school bands, and those experiences reminded me of something we all experience this time of year: the October doldrums.

You’ve been rehearsing the same half-time production for months now.  Everyone, staff and students, is getting tired of each other.  School is becoming a grind.  And it feels like everything you or a judge could possibly say about this show has been said and rehearsed ad nauseum.  Of course we’re in the doldrums!  So, here are a few ideas to shake things up and reenergize your band’s performance and competition efforts.

Call In an Extra Set of Eyes and Ears

After hearing and seeing the same show for weeks, it’s easy to start acclimating to your band’s sound and marching execution.  And it’s only natural that, no matter how much wisdom you’re imparting to your ensemble, they will stop being as attentive to your instruction.  It’s human nature.  So bring a friend.  College and high school band directors alike are always excited to visit other ensembles and provide feedback.  So consider a swap with a colleague!  Or, ask someone to be your guest for a day or two.  Having a new voice will invigorate your ensemble, provide new perspectives on your rehearsal goals, and most importantly, allow you to sit back and focus your senses completely on listening and viewing your band.

Divide and Conquer

It’s happening right now.  Student performers who can’t quite play that one lick, are faking it.  They’re hiding and faking, and you just haven’t found it yet.  Maybe it’s because of the complexity of the drill, or the size of your ensemble.  But if you could get those individual performers up to 100% on an individual basis, then your entire ensemble will be rewarded.  So, divide and conquer!  Bring individual students in for individual playing demonstrations.  Or divide the band up, with only a half portion on the field rehearsing drill, while the other works in sectionals.  Maybe assign players as A, B, C, or D groups, and have them take turns.  Not only will these new rehearsal techniques be a breath of fresh air for your performers, you’ll be much more likely to hear and see areas of weakness that have avoided detection.

Record, Record!

As I mentioned earlier, our eyes and ears become acclimated over time to our ensemble’s look and sound.  In addition, we’re aren’t equipped to devote our full listening and visual faculties while we’re instructing.  Maintaining rehearsal discipline, classroom management, roll, and more, all sap our ability to just listen and watch.  So record!  Simply making a video recording of your band’s show, once a week, can be a great way to identify areas of need.  I suggest that you first listen to the audio only (don’t look!), making note of issues you can address in balance, pitch, rhythm, and more.  Then, turn down the volume and just watch!  You’ll see the areas where forms don’t hit simultaneously, who’s feet aren’t in phase, and where your performers demonstrate indecision on direction changes.