Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Sharp or Flat?

One of the ensembles that I work with is the Junior Band, which consists of students who have just completed grades 3-6. It's an amazing educational opportunity. Even though I did not pursue a degree in music education, I am still frequently found in situations in which I must teach private lessons and lead sectionals. Additionally, I have never had the opportunity to work with beginning students before. It's an entirely different ballgame because, well, it's been a long time since I was in their shoes :)

One thing that struck me the other day was the conductor's explanation of how to remember what to do when you're sharp or flat. Some conductors merely say "push in" or "push out," and as you get older, it's almost automatic.

This conductor, however, launched into an explanation that sharp meant that a student's pitch was too high and that flat meant that a student's pitch was too low. He then explained how to fix it with the help of our "magic pencil sharpener."

At the beginning of the session, every student was given a "magic pencil." The pencil was magic because if it was used, no more mistakes would be made. To sharpen these magic pencils, students use the magic pencil sharpener.

If a pencil is flat, you'll want to push it in to the pencil sharpener to sharpen it and release its magic.

If a pencil is sharp, then you'll want to pull it out of the pencil sharpener because it's ready to be used.

I never learned any helpful little tricks like this when I was just beginning band, and it would have helped a lot. It's very enlightening to revisit this time in young musicians' development, especially after completing the first year of my master's degree in performance. It's really bringing me back to the basics in my own way of thinking, and I have already learned many new, creative ways to get a lot of information to the students in a short amount of time (and in ways that they'll remember!).

It has been great seeing how much the kids have improved in just a week and a half, and I can't wait to see how much they will grow in their last few days here. They have their final concert on Friday, and then they will leave camp. It will be sad to see them go, but a new session with new students and new repertoire will start on Monday :)

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