In her college program, my daughter is studying to be a school band director. During High School she got her feet wet by doing an internship in the elementary school band program in our area. She traveled around to the various schools assisting the band teachers. Most often she ran section rehearsals and worked with individuals having trouble with their instruments. She built a reputation for her ability to trouble shoot and fix problems with the instruments. Occasionally, she even got to substitute for the regular teacher.
She has told me some interesting stories about working with the young band students.
First day of directing a new piece: "The children were to learn about playing as an ensemble. They had been practicing their separate parts in section rehearsals for a few sessions. Today was the big day when all the various parts and pieces were to be played together. I lifted my baton and gave the cue. The noise of all the kids blowing their instruments was deafening. I dropped my baton and asked them to look at their music. 'Notice in your music if you have notes that are solid black or notes with holes in them.' I was speaking of quarter notes and whole or half notes. I explained to the children that if they had long held notes -- the notes with holes in them -- they were to play very softly. And if they had the faster moving notes -- the solid black notes or quarter notes -- they could play them a little louder. Once we got that concept straight, we were on our way to understanding how to make music together. There's a lesson in TEXTURE for you."
Sometimes as a director, you have to speak in very simple language. The children were mastering the simplest rhythmic values of the notes -- whole, half, quarter -- but they did not have the concept of how to play together to make music. The simple visual reference between spotting the solid black notes and the ones with holes really helped illustrate the point. They needed to understand about volume levels and how to allow the melody to sing over the harmony. They needed instruction about when and how to bring out the moving parts.
The play between melody and harmony in a band seems to be a metaphor for life. We all have to learn when to lead out and when to provide support. We will all be called on to sing the melody at some points in our lives, but most times we will be providing the harmony. My hope is that we will understand how important it is to be a team player, pay attention the dynamic markings, and know how and when to bring out the moving parts.