What do you do when you can't practice every day? Many of my students ask this question, and it is beginning to dawn on me that during my class is the only time many of students play their instrument. I only get perhaps around 10% return on my mandatory weekly practice assignments, and some of those I am suspect about. It is very unfortunate that we do not have a culture here that encourages instrumental practice, and the lack of private teachers makes changing that a very difficult reality.
So as a teacher I must use the time in my class most effectively. That means the maximum amount of critical playing per student every time I have class. For my middle school intermediate/Advanced group, this means sectionals. I thankfully have great 8th grade leaders, and every section is improving. Students used to get lost in the sea of 47 bodies, now they are getting the attention they need. Problems of counting and note identification are being fixed at a much faster rate than if I try to run a large rehearsal every time.
Of course I am going around make sure the sections are on task and constantly need to isolate issues within the section. I provide feedback and instruction, and most of the time I see great student collaboration. Considering I only see the orchestra every other day (block schedule style), it is necessary that the students own their sound individually and do not forget what they learn. Ideally they would practice on the off day, but most do not make it a priority.
The kids are excited, enjoy orchestra, and are making progress. When we do have large group rehearsals there is significantly less stress, and we actually accomplish a lot. Who would have thought such a simple tool such as sectionals could make such a difference?
More entries: November 2013
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