Middle School Band Clinics Offer Unique Learning Opportunities

Middle School musicians performed in the Greater Victoria Performing Arts Festival this week. For many of the Grade 6-8 students it was their first opportunity to participate in a music festival and study in a band clinic.

St. Michaels University School hosted the regional brass performances on campus Monday, as students performed solo pieces on their trumpets, trombones and euphoniums, with a piano accompanist.

“I was very proud of how they did!” says Middle School band director Ms. Regan Livingstone. “I selected the soloists because, if you ask a Middle School student ‘Do you want to do a solo in front of people you’ve never met?’ the answer will inevitably be ‘no.’ So, based upon their performances in class, some individual attention and motivation, we had a good group of students who stepped out of their comfort zones and took the opportunity.”

“It’s not a competition, it’s a learning experience,” she says. “My main objective wasn’t for them to be scared out of their minds and never want to touch their instruments again after getting up in front of people. There are going to be squeaks and things that go wrong. The important things is their ability to perform something and know their piece well enough that if something goes awry they have the confidence to keep going. That’s the thing I’m most proud of with the students.”

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Grade 7 concert band and Middle School jazz band performed a couple of pieces as part of the festival. Afterwards, adjudicator/clinician Brent Ghiglione spent time with the groups to offer his feedback and advice on how students can take their music to the next level.

Regan feels that what the student takes from the experience depends on their maturity.

“These clinics are good because students usually have an ‘aha moment’ when they hear feedback from another professional who isn’t their regular band teacher. They get new perspectives on pieces that they’ve been working on and a lot of them have moments of revelation about their playing,” she says.

Each of the soloists and bands gets a written adjudication, too. Ghiglione provided feedback and tips on each of the performances.

Regan says participating in festivals – non-competitive ones, especially – are a great part of music education, as they provide the opportunity to play in front of an audience of strangers, try something new (musically), and spend time working with professional musicians.

“Music isn’t supposed to be cookie cutter. (Brent) told the kids, ‘You can have 10 different people come up and conduct and they’ll have 10 different ideas of how things are supposed to sound,'” Regan says. “Music is always going to be changing and the way that you present it is going to be different every day; festivals and clinics just really highlight that part of being a performer.”

Tomorrow (Saturday, April 15), three Middle School woodwind trios will be performing at First Baptist Church starting at 9 a.m. as part of the festival.

Watch the Middle School bands perform in last month’s Melodies in March Spring Concert:

(photo courtesy of Audrey Bailey)


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