Preparing Your Band for Festival

 This excerpt taken from “Preparing your Band for Festival” by Bill Hoehne.

You begin preparing for festival the first time a future ensemble member hears your current group perform, or hears somebody talk about your group!

The attitudes and standards of musical performance and behavior of any group define their festival performance potential.  The director must insistently and consistently inspire the students to the highest musical standards.  These standards are defined by the director’s musicianship, personality and attitudes, the professionalism of the program’s organization, the attitudes of the students and the school community, and the characteristics of the school environment.  Pragmatically, this translates to specific strategies.  Include in the design of your life continued involvement with playing and making high-level, high-quality music.  

Lead by presenting the highest possible example of commitment, enthusiasm, preparation, responsibility and integrity, and encourage those who cooperate.  

Lead by presenting the highest possible example of commitment, enthusiasm, preparation, responsibility and integrity, and encourage those who cooperate.  Guide and nurture the development of positive, reasonable, ethical and mature attitudes.  Continually pursue the most efficient tactics for every organizational element of your program.  If something is too challenging,time consuming or expensive- fix it.

Establish high expectations for the maintenance of your facility and equipment(rehearsal room, office, storage facilities, instruments, etc.) and insist on a perpetual mode of respect, manners and courtesy.  The psychological impact of clutter is distraction, which diminishes the potential for focus, and tolerance of disrespect of any kind will retard all musical efforts.

As philosophical as these standards may seem, the level of achievement of the musical parameters of tone, pitch adjustment, rhythm, balance and expression will be defined by the levels you establish of these standards.

The selection of literature for festival performance is a process that requires careful consideration.  The key to success is the coordination of literature selection with the realistic assessment of eventual performance mastery by each student.  The instance of the presentation of literature beyond the ability of the performers to master is rampant at festivals.

The difference between the director’s and the adjudicators’ assessment of mastery will be the essence of the value of the ensemble’s evaluation.Instrumentation is another factor that will significantly affect your establishment of musical standards, your day-today music making, your selection of literature and the assessment of your groups at festival.

The recruitment and development of bass instrument performers is crucial for bands of any classification, and should be considered one of the highest priorities.  Bands hoping to successfully present mastered A and AA literature must also first meet the challenges of maintaining a supply of proficient double reed, low reeds, French horn, baritone, and concert percussion performers.  The director must make these facts known at the beginning of each school year, and constantly promote appreciation for students willing to play these important instruments.Successful directors are continually searching for quality literature because the instrumentation and mastery potential of their groups are constantly changing.

Fortunately, the availability and variety of quality wind band literature,especially at the mid-level (Grade B) has improved significantly in recent years.  Although an exact definition of quality literature is elusive, generally recognized characteristics include the presence of additive counterpoint,distinctive articulation style, sequential and evolving musical texture, and melodic and harmonic intrigue.  One of the most effective ways to select appropriate literature is to collect and review recordings of pieces on the SCSBOA Festival Literature list in which you recognize these (and other) characteristics.  Other lists, published in journals and periodicals, or as ensemble literature resource books, can also be useful for the exploration of literature and the collection of recordings. Make sure that you are receiving the annual recordings freely distributed by wind band music publishers, and listen to all the music that is appropriate for the level of your groups.  

Your fellow directors are also constantly searching for and trying new music, and will have many pieces to recommend.  Remember, however,that their standards and the characteristics of the group that enjoyed success with a favorite piece may not necessarily match your current group and situation.  

Finally, design your festival literature presentation to include pieces that are contrasting and complimentary: fast and slow, legato and articulated, traditional and contemporary, etc.

See original article here.

Bill Hoehne is the Director of Chamber Winds and Percussion at Citrus College.  He is an accomplished musician with over 27 years experience as a professional woodwinds performer and 25 years as a music educator.  Mr. Hoehne earned a Bachelor of Music Education degree from the University of North Texas, a Master of Music degree from the University of Miami at Coral Gables, and is pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the University of Southern California. 

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