Jan 17, 2015

Rehearsal Activity: Giving Students a Voice in Choosing What They Want to Play

Over the years, I have often allowed my students choose a piece of music to perform. It really has never been anything formal, a simple hand vote is all that has determined the outcome.  I chose 2-3 pieces that the group could pick from, we briefly played through and rehearsed each piece, and a couple of days later they voted.  VOILA!  We have our piece!

Recently I began to think that this could be made into a much more engaging and thoughtful process. I wanted the students to be able to explain why they chose a particular piece.  What was their reasoning?  I enlisted the help from the Band Directors Group on Facebook to pose possible questions the students could answer in their quest to pick their favorite piece.  Those questions can be viewed on this Padlet.

Before I go any further, the two band pieces the students could choose are Prairie Songs or In the Forest of the King.  Both are composed by Pierre LaPlante, one of my favorite band composers.

What process would we use to pick the music?  A Google Form of course.  And here's why. This would allow the students time to think and share their reasoning.  Plus, everything would be documented.  The final question of the form was to vote for one of the LaPlante pieces.  I was happy with whatever the majority of the students chose and clearly communicated that to them.  I would honor their voice.  Both pieces were excellent choices and would allow us to work on key concepts in our curriculum and ensemble skills.

Complete page can be viewed here
What was most surprising?
How much these kids wanted a challenge!  Their answers clearly showed this.  Plus, I was impressed that some chose the piece they would learn the most from. If you look at the Wordle below, the words 'challenging','6/8 rhythm' and 'learn' are larger because they were used more frequently in the students answers.  
This class activity all took place on January 6th.  We have just now completed a full week of rehearsal on Movement I - In the Forest of the King.  The student's progress has been amazing in just 4 days.  The focus and effort have probably been the highest all year.  This is saying a lot since it is mid January in suburban Chicago and the winter blues tend to set-in.  I attribute this success to the student buy-in and the quality of the music. I have also tried something new in order to keep rehearsals organized and students involved with the work that is expected.  They each received a rehearsal outline, including all playing assessments for the next 6 weeks leading up to our concert in March. 

Feel free to use any of these ideas and resources and try this activity with your own group. 

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