If you’re a regular reader you know I’ve been in rehearsal for the last 2 weeks for our annual Family & Friends musical. As such my last couple of blogs have been about subjects along the those lines. Last week I wrote about how to survive a mass choir rehearsal. One of my readers, Tracey, wrote me to say she enjoyed it, but then she brought up a situation I had never thought of. ” Do you have any tips for musicians?”, she asked me. She went on to explain that she has been in mass rehearsals where the instructor taught the song completely wrong musically. Tracey also shared with me that when she tried to tactfully get the instructor back on track there was animosity.
I have to confess, I haven’t had much experience with such situations. I’ve been really blessed to work with the same group of musicians for many years now, and we’re very much in sync. So while I can’t give you much information on what to do in such situations, Tracey, I can tell you how we avoid it at my church. The short answer is we communicate. And we do so often. We do it to insure just such a thing doesn’t happen. We do it to make sure that we’ll all be on the same page at rehearsal.
When we have a rehearsal coming up, my Minister Of Music informs all of us what we’ll be learning. She provides us with the music, lets us know exactly which songs to be ready for and confirms that we’re all learning it in the same key. We all have a copy of the same version of the song also.
Musician’s rehearsal is also something we always, always do before a major event like a big musical. On the night of rehearsal we ask that the director be there along with the key song leaders. We go over all of our songs with these people. This helps us insure that we’re all in sync.
I think though, that Tracey may be dealing with a problem that I’m afraid tips like these won’t help much. The sad truth is, some people simply aren’t very good at teaching songs. To do this and do it well, you really need to have a pretty deep understanding of music, harmony and song structure. There are, unfortunately some people who teach who don’t know much about it. Early meetings and communications whenever possible can go a long way towards at least figuring this out in advance.
If talked about before rehearsals you as a musician might be able to catch potential problems before the actual rehearsal. Express your interest in meeting with the clinician/instructor to insure that you both will be on the same page. If he or she is open to it, you might even listen to the music together and talk about the particulars. All of this assumes, of course, that you’re going to be working with someone you’re not familiar with already.
It’s a touch situation to be sure. But when you find yourself in a situation like this, where the person(s) you’re working with simply doesn’t have the necessary skills, it’s important you maintain a level of professionalism and dignity as much as possible. If there’s nothing you can do to help, simply roll with things as much as possible and help as much as you’re allowed.
Communicate with other personnel as much as you can, get on the same page as much as possible, talk about teaching styles and any other policies that may help you do your part more efficiently. After that all one can do is pray and remain professional.
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