I love this time of year. Region Band auditions are over. Solo and Ensemble is over. Band Auditions and Benchmarks are still somewhere over the horizon. The possibilities are endless. This is the time of year I can once again mold my students into powerful musicians and not just chasers of notes and rhythms. And it is Spring (well, maybe not officially yet, but Punxsutawney Phil did say it would be early this year).
The competitive focus in my bassoon and saxophone studio thrums with intensity during the fall. Focus on region etudes and scales drives most practice sessions, many times stifling technical and musical growth because of the kids’ one-track focus . Lessons attempt to balance fundamental musicianship with cramming notes and rhythms. All in all, the fall is hyper-intensive, super-focused, and driven. It wrings me out like a sponge - hearing the same music every day eventually begs questions of sanity.
At the same time, the local foliage goes through a transition into dormancy - much like my students’ musical development. With a fiery burst, trees abandon their leaves, littering the ground with the past year’s greenery. We are left with bare branches and skeletal woodlands.
Winter arrives. Again, my students have a singular focus - solo contest. While their efforts are more individual, their pieces catered to their own specific skill level, and I regain a measure of sanity from the variety of music, the students still have a short period of time in which to learn a complex piece of music. Their attention has a little more flexibility, and just like in the fall, lessons work to balance good musical skills along with the solos, but they still prefer the solo to fundamental practice.
Now, Spring approaches. The Spring season is my favorite and write I about it every year. I love the newness in the air, the fresh balance of a chilly morning and a warm afternoon. I can’t wait to get outside and plunge my hands into the soil, to take winter’s leavings and craft them into something extraordinary. I look forward to the explosive emergence of greens, reds, blues, yellows, and every other imaginable hue and shade this beautiful planet offers.
In the same way that the planet emerges from the slumber of winter dormancy and explodes in growth and life, so do my students. Now that individual competition sits behind us for the moment, I relish the opportunity to develop the personal strengths of each student, to tackle individual weaknesses, to foster a strong understanding of music theory and how to apply that knowledge to creating a beautiful phrase. I cherish this time of year because I get to grow musicians.
The cyclical nature of our planet means I get to experience this feeling again and again. If it always remained Spring, I wouldn’t appreciate its arrival. In a way, I love the anticipation as much as I do the release. In fact, I think I will focus on that particular aspect of making a phrase this week. Because I can.
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