Well, my concert was on October 30 and I started writing this the very next morning, but thanks to 200 plus honor band nominations and, let’s be honest, poor planning on my part, I had to put this aside. But pretend you are reading this on Halloween. Trick-or-treat!!
The concerts over and a few things may have happened. Your band knocked it out of the park, or maybe there were a few issues. Or maybe it was a combination of both! What do you do after a concert? Are you set up to move on from the concert? Are you set up to learn from the concert? Here are a few things you might want to think about once the dust settles:
- Was I prepared enough to conduct each piece well?
- Was my ensemble prepared enough for each piece on the concert?
- Did I teach my ensemble effectively?
The last one is the most important of the three! But I will start with the first two because they are related. To me post concert analysis can’t happen correctly unless you begin the day you start rehearsals. Do you videotape your rehearsals? Do you take notes after rehearsal is over? Oh, and do you find time to watch said videotaped rehearsals? Every performance has a note pad. Day 1 I start taking notes for score study and then after every rehearsal, well after most rehearsals, I take some notes on how things went, or how I thought things went. What went well, and what could have gone better. What do I need to focus on for the next time that piece is being rehearsed.
My vision of each piece changes over time. If you were to look at my notes at the beginning of the cycle and at the end, you would find that my first impression of music is not always my last impression. As I hear the music I might adjust how I rehearse it and how I feel about it. After the performance I go through my notes to see how things went. I am very honest with myself and will realize that from time to time I forget to fix something, or I don’t spend as much time on part of a piece as I should have. Was my initial vision better than my final vision? Did this change cause issues in how well I was prepared? I find that my notes are pretty accurate and reflect where I find I have troubles with the music.
As for the group. How did the performance go? Once I get the videos and watch, does my impression of the concert change? Most of the time I am pretty spot on between my initial reaction and my post video reaction. I have learned to be very honest with myself, and with my ensemble. Don’t lie to your ensemble about their performance. If there were issues, be honest with them, in a positive, constructive way. Let them hear themselves and write an evaluation of how they thought the concert went. What could they do better? Did they personally prepare enough? I tell my students that there is always at least one spot in each piece that needs just that little more attention. Did that happen? Your students might be more honest about the whole thing than you are.
What could you do better next time? Ask the students what they need to do better next time. Take some time to answer the first two questions above!
The last question above, the most important one. Did I teach my ensemble effectively? If you teach to the concert, and are just worried about a knock out performance, chances are the answer to that question is a resounding no. If you have to start all over again with basic music concepts as soon as you break out new music, than the answer is a no from high on the mountains. What did your students learn? Did they learn anything musically? Did they learn any concepts? Did you hold them responsible for anything outside of just playing the notes right and following the conductor. Every concert should build on the previous concert. The next set of music you select should build on the music you just performed. If you pick music that teaches the same basic concepts all over again, your ensemble is not getting better. You need to find a way to raise the bar each time you “start over.” Don’t become the band director who just spins his or her wheels teaching the same concepts over and over again.
You might not get something right the first time. Look at the paragraphs above to find out how you can figure out why it went wrong. Pick a similar piece and then find a new way of teaching the material. Don’t just pick a similar piece and teach it the same way.
If we teach our students correctly, and if we teach them concepts and not just how to make the music sound good so the performance rocks, we have been successful. And you just might be shocked that the concert will sound pretty good if you teach them more than just the notes. It might even be better…