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September 1955 Rehearsals Should Be Fun, By Joseph E. Maddy

Members of school music organizations are always eager to do their very best when rehearsing worth-while music under capable and enthusiastic conductors. All they need is encouragement and guidance to develop their learning powers as well as to learn the music at hand. Opportunities to hear professional recordings of the numbers in rehearsal will often do more good than hours of drilling and lecturing.
   There is a vast difference, or there should be, between rehearsing a professional musical group and a school group. Professional musicians are supposed to know the music and they need only to check up on a few difficult passages and to learn what the conductor intends to do in the way of changing tempos and personal items of interpretation. The school musician, on the other hand, needs first to learn what the music is all about, how difficult it is, and what the music is supposed to interpret.

The Conductor
   The school music director who apes the professional conductor makes more work for himself and his students and ends up with a bad temper and meager results arrived at by the long, dreary, unpleasant way. Sarcasm has no place in teaching, any subject, anywhere.
   There are two major types of conductors, playing conductors and talking conductors. The more a conductor talks, the longer it takes him to teach his players the music.
   There is no truer maxim than the familiar We learn to do by doing. We all know that a student will learn more about playing any musical instrument by trying it himself for half an hour than he could possibly learn by listening to main hours of lecturing without making a noise on the instrument.
   Playing music is fun. The better you play the more fun it is. The more music you play, the better you can play: and there is plenty of good music to be played. Playing a great amount of good music, with brief periods of suggestions by the conductor, is the best way to develop enthusiasm as well as musicianship in your musical organizations.
   What are the principal things a conductor must teach his players? First, he must teach them to keep going, to find their places if they lose them, to feel rhythm and to read rhythm. Second, he must teach them to follow his directions. There is only one way to do this: keep changing tempos until the players can’t be lost. The school conductor should never play a piece in the same tempo twice in succession, or his players will take that tempo and force him to follow them. Third, he must teach the players what he means by every gesture and baton movement he makes. The major gestures and baton movements should be those which have become standardized through the years. In this way the players will be able to perform under other conductors when occasion demands.

Be Prepared
   The conductor should have high ideals, musically and morally, and should set a good example for his students. He should know the music he is to teach before he attempts to teach it. A floundering conductor cannot maintain the respect of his pupils any more than could an English teacher who couldn’t read or speak English.
   Many conductors forget all about the passage of time when they are conducting. Every rehearsal should be carefully planned in advance with each item planned. This plan should be followed strictly until a habit is formed.
   Every rehearsal should begin with a familiar piece. Follow this by the principal work or works to be learned. Next, go over partially learned   material and some sight-reading pieces. End with a familiar piece. The rehearsal program should be put on the board where the students can see and follow it. Here is a sample rehearsal program:


11:00 Intonation, chords, and scales

11:05 Review: El Capitan

11:10 New: Oberon Dream Pantomime

11:45 Sight Reading: Bolero

11:55 Review: MardiGras

Getting Results
   Every time a piece is played in rehearsal there should be some noticeable improvement over the last playing, so that the players will realize that the repetition was for a purpose as well as for fun. Two or three brief stops when reviewing a number may bring quick responses and immediate improvement, once the players realize that each stop is for a more satisfactory performance.
   At the close of each rehearsal the conductor should go through his scores and make notes for the next rehearsal, while the day’s efforts are still fresh in his mind. With carefully made rehearsal notes on what to stress at the next rehearsal, he will get results in a fraction of the time otherwise needed.
   Every school music organization is a co-operative project requiring the highest type of teamwork. The director is the captain of the team. He must play with the team as well as command it. If he does his part well and uses only worthwhile music, the organization will develop that “team spirit” which spells success in any enterprise.

   Although he is seventy-seven, Joseph E. Maddy is continuing his musical activities. In May he toured Europe as associate conductor of the Boston Symphony; during the summer he conducted at New York’s Lewishohn Stadium, Tanglewood, and Chicago’s Ravinia, besides managing his school in Maine; and during the coming season he will guest conduct concerts in both American and foreign cities.