In that so much of our students’ playing time will be done practicing at home, we can augment what they are doing to challenge them, enhance their growth, provide variety, and motivate them to practice more and better. In addition to assignments in their lesson books and band music, we can have them record the first part of a duet, then play the second part to that recording. Perhaps we can have them record themselves doing a rhythm sheet where each of the four spaces of the staff represent notes they will perform by clapping, snapping fingers, stamping feet, or hissing/sizzling (that they compose or we create for them). Challenge them to a “long tone contest” to see how many seconds they can hold a sound with beautiful tone. How about doing a hissing or sizzling contest to see how long they can sustain that sound? Have them use a metronome to create a “speed contest” for playing their scales, or a specific etude, ever faster. Or have them play their part to recordings of band pieces to feel that sense of being part of an ensemble. There really is no limit to the number of things we can offer our students to do when practicing. I think we can all agree that the trick to their success is that we make those activities enjoyable, achievable, approachable, accessible and interesting. Students will practice if we create that magical balance of it being challenging with it being fun, where they can truly feel accomplishments and success along the way.
Peter Loel Boonshaft, Director of Education
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