Teach Style First

Teach Style First

We find ourselves in the thick of contest preparation already……..how time flies! 

I am really quite busy doing clinics now.  It is a time of contest season I thrive on and have always loved.  Really digging into good literature and helping bands move to the highest level of performance possible.  Bring it ON!!!! 

Do you struggle to get your music students to play with the proper style?  Do they learn the notes, but seem to have a hard time playing musically?  If yes, this article is for you!  Teach your students to play more musically by talking about style from the beginning!  This is a great read for middle school band directors, choir teachers and orchestra directors.  Great tips on teaching music style from a seasoned band director!

I have noticed something through my early clinics this year having to do with teaching style within a particular piece.  It seems that many of us are really caught up in the details of learning music that sometimes we actually ignore some of the most important musical elements, making it more difficult to add them later on. I believe I was probably guilty of this also, at least for a while.  So while we work meticulously on notes, rhythms, and the technical elements of a piece, we allow important elements to remain dormant in preparation.  Elements like style and phrasing often are left to touch on after everything else is in place. 

Many years ago a colleague and I discussed this very issue as young high school directors with, perhaps, seven or eight years experience.  His comment was that he tried to read the piece in its’ entirety and as much “straight through” as possible for the first reading.  Even on the first reading he addressed style, and continued to do so through the preparation of the piece for performance.  As I thought about it he made perfect sense!  Students would learn stylistic concepts along with others, correctly, from day one. 

The greatest benefit of this in my mind is not having to go back and “unlearn” whatever style students played by happenstance before the director began  trying to teach the correct style. As you may have learned by now, unlearning is difficult and really hardly ever fully effective.

So!  My challenge to directors of all experience levels.  Examine this area of your teaching.  Try approaching your musical preparation in a wholistic manner, even while getting after those details. My guess is that the back side of preparation will feel more satisfying without the “unlearn” factor in the way.     

Cody Myers is the Director of Fine Arts for Amarillo ISD in Amarillo, Texas.  Almost 40 years ago Myers began his career as Director of Bands in West Texas schools.  He is an active clinician and consultant, and a passionate advocate for music education in Texas and across our nation.

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