Concert Reflections, Part Deux

As I type, I am listening to a CD recording made of our concert by Bryan Helsel of Helsel Music. He does excellent work, and has very quick turn-around. My concert was only last Thursday, and I received my CD today, less than a week later. He also does a very nice job printing the inserts with all of the students names and a complete track listing. Thanks Bryan!!

Anyway, just some more reflections as I am listening. I like to see if the recording really reflects what I thought about the concert. In this case, the recording does reflect accurately what I thought after the performance. The pieces that I thought sounded good do sound good, and the pieces that I thought didn’t go so hot didn’t.

While I am listening, I am reflecting on how both the middle and high school groups sounded when I first arrived here. I may even pull out the recording from my very first holiday concert, even though I know exactly what it sounds like and even shudder at the idea of hearing it! It was not good! HA! Anyway, it is a good feeling to know that this program has progressed so far, and that maybe I actually am teaching these students something!

I really challenged these students this semester with the difficulty of music that they were playing, and I am very proud of their performance. They gain more confidence with each performance, and they become better musicians with each performance. Some particular points: 1. Intonation within the group is getting better. Still a few “nasty” spots, but overall really MUCH better (darn those high clarinet parts!) 2. Balance and blend is MUCH better as well. We always talk about “playing inside the bubble” of the group’s sound. For the most part, the group does a pretty good job of this (darn those high clarinet parts!) 3. Dynamics are getting better as well. The students are finally starting to figure out that dynamics are what make a piece more interesting than just playing notes. 4. The kids are finally starting to play with some emotion! This is very exciting! They are finally starting to figure out that playing with emotion makes a piece more interesting than just playing notes!

Overall, I think it has been one of the best Middle-High School band concerts yet! There are clear signs to me that the students are improving musically, and this is very re-assuring!

4 thoughts on “Concert Reflections, Part Deux

  1. It’s always wonderful to reflect on the progress that our students have made through the school year and I enjoy hearing parents tell me how impressed they are with the improvements of the overall band from year-to-year. Sometimes I wonder if the band is getting better or am I becoming more accustomed to the sound of the group. Do you find yourself thinking the same thing? I get worried that perhaps I’m “forgetting” what a very good group sounds like as I adapt to the sound of my smaller band.

  2. Hi Ben,

    Thanks for the comments. Yes, sometimes I get worried that I think the band is better than it really is. But, in order to combat that, I try to listen to recordings of very good ensembles. For example, if I’m playing a piece that is in the “Teaching Music Through Performance in Band” series, I will compare our performance with the recorded example. Sometimes I try to find performances on YouTube as well. I think it’s important to keep perspective of where your group really is. My college wind ensemble director used to say that when he thought we were starting to sound good, he would go listen to some recordings by the Marine Band. That would give him a perspective, and I have tried to follow that same advice with my high school groups.

  3. Your a great director Mr.B., never worry about that. I think the program has improved greatly since you took the helm. Mostly because you know what your talking about and your one of the most dedicated people I know to their craft and job. I know myself, I’m a much better musician. I know for a fact that if we still had our old director there is no way in hell that I could have just picked up a tuba and trombone my senior year and started playing. Keep up the great work! I can’t wait to see those number’s climb in the next few years!

  4. Hey Doug!

    Kudos to you for a great year. It is not unrealistic for us to be thinking about these things no matter what size our group is. Quality has to start somewhere and we should always keep an idea of what the next level can sound like. It is very easy to fall into the trap of listening only to the group in front of us. Our great fortune as directors is having more resources available to not only train our ears but train our students as well.

    It is exciting to move past the notes and rhythms and really get to the music – dynamics, balance, phrasing, and the fickle mistress of intonation. There are few more demanding endeavors than performing in a band, and for a director we should be energized when our students realize just how much more music demands of their care and attention.

    It is a pleasure reading your blogs, and following the growth and development of your career and your ensembles. Have a wonderful summer!

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