Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Doin' The Barbershop Strut...

The try-out went... (wait for it)... GREAT!!!! I couldn't have felt more comfortable. I had a great rapport wit the guys. As soon as I stepped in front of them, all the years of teaching marching bands came back - the good and a tiny bit of the bad.

The bad was mostly just a few conducting techniques that work well for marching band, but not so much with chorus. My baritone, Dave, who has two (count 'em - TWO) vocal music degrees, dropped me an e-mail the day before, reminding me of some of the differences (left hand for expression & cues, no mirroring, eye contact is MANDATORY, etc.) and I started off with a couple of the old bad habits, but quickly remembered them. I was comfortable enough with the guys to tell them to call me out on those things, but fortunately, they didn't need to again. I empowered chorus, humanized myself to them, created better mutual communication, and best of all reminded myself enough to not make the same mistakes again.

I had a "lesson plan" in mind on my way up, which I went over in my head several times (in my ice box of a car). When I got there, however, they went through "I'll Fly Away" and I saw some great ways to improve that. As their interim director/bari section leader stepped down, I asked him if I played with that one a bit, with the understanding that I tell the chorus that whatever I teach is subject to "unlearning" after I leave. He said to go for it - so I did.

I had planned to work on moving ending consonants to the beginning of the next word - a good and simple trick to smooth out phrases, line up attacks, and make awkward skips easier. I did go over this, but while singing "I'll Fly Away" with them, I noticed the interim director trying to find spots for unison breaths, and there simply aren't many good ones in the music. I stepped up and taught them stagger breathing. after about 1/2 hour, a little sectional work, and calling out an individual or two (with a friendly grin, of course), we had 2/3 of the song sounding a billion percent better. Even their facial expressions and body language improved and that's not even something we covered!

As they got better, so did I, making more eye contact, using my left hand more for dynamics, moving around, mouthing words and using facial expressions. I started having more fun than I EVER had in front of a marching band!

I didn't think I stood a snowball's chance at this gig when I first e-mailed the guy in charge of the search committee. Now....I want the hell out of this job. If I could do this for free, I would. It went better than I could have possibly imagined. They spend the next several weeks trying out a couple other directors.

Now begins the waiting game. This suspense will KILL me!!!

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