I’m excited to be in attendance as members of the Backstreet Boys (#backstreetsback) will be present in Commonwealth Stadium this Saturday, September 18 to be recognized by the University of Kentucky. The University of Kentucky Wildcat Marching Band will perform my “Backstreet Boys” show arrangements at halftime of their game hosting the University of Florida. Along the way, I’ll get the chance to observe and work with the Wildcat Marching Band as they rehearse and prepare the show. Thanks to Assistant Director of Bands Scott-Lee Atchison for inviting to be a part of this special event and to hear his fine band!
The Blue Stars Drum and Bugle Corps (#bluestars) will once again send me on an outreach tour to guest lecture and clinic at multiple colleges and universities throughout the Midwest this fall. The Blue Stars, who’s ranks include music education and performance majors from a wide variety of college programs, constantly endeavor to support and develop music education at the collegiate level.
The tour will include guest lectures at the graduate and undergraduate levels, conducting clinics, presentations to collegiate chapters of the National Association for Music Education, clinics of college concert and marching bands, and guest lectures to music education classes.
My 2015 Guest Lecture Tour kicks off Wednesday, November 16 and continues through the end of November. Additional tour destinations may be forthcoming, so watch drwardmiller.com for the latest updates.
2015 Blue Stars Guest Lecture Tour
- Wednesday, September 16: Minnesota State University – Mankato
- Friday, October 23: University of Minnesota – Duluth
- Wednesday-Thursday, October 28-29: Miami University of Ohio – Oxford, OH
- Monday, November 2: Purdue University – West Lafayette, IN
- Tuesday-Wednesday, November 3-4: Marian University – Indianapolis, IN
- Thursday-Sunday, November 5-8: Youngstown State University – Youngstown, OH
- Monday-Tuesday, October 9-10: University of Kentucky – Lexington, KY
- Thursday-Saturday, November 12-14: BOA Grand Championships – Indianapolis, IN
Thank you to the Blue Stars for their support of collegiate music education, and to these fine institutions who have graciously invited me to their campuses.
It’s happening right now. Student performers, who can’t quite play that one lick, are faking it. They’re hiding, and you just haven’t found them 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!
Creating mini “ensembles within the ensemble” can provide a great opportunity to focus your ears, and your students’ ears, on show music that isn’t being executed by the entire ensemble. So try this strategy as you learn and clean more of your half-time show. Let’s say the wind section of your band looks like this:
- 9 flutes
- 6 clarinets
- 12 alto saxes
- 3 1st trumpets
- 3 2nd trumpets
- 3 mellophones
- 2 trombones
- 1 baritone
- 2 tubas
- 1 bari sax
You could create three, fairly evenly voiced wind sections from this group of 42 performers. Your mini-bands might look something like this:
|Team A||Team B||Team C|
Of course you’ll want your top most talented performers to be spread amongst the three teams to keep them as evenly-matched as possible. These teams can be assigned now and then invoked any time, and in any rehearsal format, for the rest of the season. Rehearsing a particularly tough drill and music segment of your show on the field? Try having the band perform that segment with only one team playing while the others march and sing. Not only will this save chops and preserve patience, it will help pinpoint which performers on the field are failing to execute the music on the move. Performers will focus and produce more sound when they feel that eyes and ears are upon them personally, and musical passages that they just plain can’t or aren’t playing will stand out starkly. Now you can target those individual issues in sectionals or individual lessons. This strategy can be reduced (two teams) or enlarged (four to eight teams) depending on how large your band is and how much individual attention you want to give.
Have Sectionals on the Field
Focusing your ears on a smaller portion of your ensemble can also be accomplished by using a sectional approach to a show segment. For example, if sets 12-20 are a tough portion of your show, then try rehearsing it a few times with only the low brass playing, while everyone else sings or “bops.” That way, visual concerns and timing become the primary focus for everyone who isn’t playing, and your ears can listen for issues in the low brass. This can be repeated, moving the playing responsibility around the ensemble. Giving students one job (cleaning up the marching) instead of two can allow for greater results, and again, patience and embouchures are preserved as you get the necessary reps on a tough show segment.
Don’t Forget Individual Checks!
No matter how well and hard we rehearse on the field, our band will never sound better than the weakest player. One person missing a release or playing a wrong note is all it takes to break the unified sounds we seek. Therefore, never forget to check on your individual performers. If you (and any assistants or staff, if you’re lucky enough to them) can hear an individual play their music from memory, you’ll have an instant snapshot of any wrong rhythms, notes, technical executions, releases, or pitch inaccuracies. Requiring memorized play-offs will guarantee that your students truly know the music and aren’t faking or guessing on technical runs or other challenging passages. And when the music is truly memorized, more brain power can go to the difficult task of marching and maneuvering during the field show. Just don’t try to do all the music or all the performers at once! Space it out, with “Show Part 1 for Woodwinds” due individually by Week 1, and “Show Part 1 for Brass” due individually by Week 2. This spaces out your performers’ responsibilities and gives you the time to hear everyone.
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. Along the way, you’ll save your performers’ rehearsal chops, and you’ll make sure your infinite “one more time”s are targeted at those who need it the most. Try it this week!
It’s Darius Milhaud’s birthday! Born on this day in 1892, Milhaud grew up in Aix-en-Provence, France. It’s not too late for you to program some of his works with your ensembles! Wind Ensembles can always enjoy revisiting his Suite Française. And chamber groups will relish tackling Symphonie de chambre No. 5 “Dixtuor d’instruments à vent”, Op. 75; Le bœuf sur le toit, Op. 58; or my favorite, La création du monde, Op. 81.