A few weeks ago I wrote about changing statements like “do it again” in rehearsals to make them actionable. Let me share with you another often-non-actionable statement that wastes time and is ignored by students because they don’t know what to do. That is when we say, “Listen.” Think about it. When I hear conductors say it in rehearsals (most of the time that conductor is me when I forget!), I envision a room full of performers silently saying, “Yup, my ears are still attached to my head and they seem to be working, now what?” Think of how much better we could inform our students with actionable words like, “Trumpets and clarinets, listen to each other as you play the accents in the countermelody so you match intensities,” or ”Flutes, listen to make sure your forte volume isn’t so loud that you can’t hear the bassoons.” This kind of guided listening will ensure students know what to listen to and why. So, the next time you’re tempted to say “listen” in rehearsal try adding the specificity of who, what, why, when, or how. It will make a world of difference.
Peter Loel Boonshaft, Director of Education
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