The 2016 ASBDA / TBA Summer Symposium was a great success! The Tennessee chapter of ASBDA Young Directors Symposium had over 40 directors present and featured sessions about what to know when buying school brass, the pros and cons of being OR having an assistant band director, the new standards for music in Tennessee, and a very productive session of “let’s talk band.” Directors with less than five years experience had the opportunity to pose questions about anything related to teaching. Alfred Watkins, our TBA clinician for Friday, was already in town and came over and participated in that discussion along with many veteran directors from Tennessee. The discussion covered several topics and some excellent information was shared, after which many of the participants adjourned to Carole Grooms’ house for a cookout and some social time.
Friday morning about 40 students from Brentwood, Franklin and Ravenwood High Schools served as a demonstration band for a fantastic three hour session with our TBA Summer Symposium clinician Alfred Watkins. The how’s and why’s about seating arrangements, choosing music for assessment, structuring rehearsal time, prioritizing the fundamentals time of the rehearsal, rehearsal discipline, pacing…the morning was a comprehensive how-to-teach-band session that kept the students AND the 50 or so directors in attendance engaged from beginning to end. Many comments were overheard regarding how quickly the morning passed.
Mr. Watkins’ expertise as a teacher was on full display, taking a pick-up band of students at various skill levels and demonstrating how to shape phrases, build precision, develop ensemble tone, and a host of other techniques that we could all take and apply immediately when we return to the classroom. I found his use of questioning to keep students engaged particularly inspiring, especially when he would ask individuals what specific aspect of their playing they were focusing on, immediately after they stopped playing.
And I don’t want to forget to thank David Aydelott at Franklin High School and Mark Kinzer and Brant Poindexter from Ravenwood for their invaluable assistance with putting together the band for the morning session as well as their students for showing up before 9:00 AM and giving up a morning to be a huge part of the symposium!
Friday afternoon was a focused “Alfred time” for over 40 directors – Alfred never shies away from saying exactly what he thinks, especially regarding being a band director. His commentary was always to the point as he covered what he calls “Non-Negotiables of Superior Rehearsals.” I will paraphrase a moment that stuck with me:
Stop being so concerned about what the obstacles are that you see standing in your way of achieving your goals; focus instead on developing a plan to overcome them. As long as you have a chair…and a child…and an instrument…a music stand…and music, you can work toward that goal. The best bands are the best because they are filled with great players. We teach individuals and the individuals combine to create outstanding ensembles.
Other insights included many techniques for teaching for quality sound, and for the personal side, how to make sure you have a life away from your job. We finished the day with some birthday cake and some celebratory time, since Alfred came to be with us on his birthday!
Even though the weather did not cooperate for our planned outing to hear the Nashville Symphony’s outdoor concert Friday night, several of the participants did discover a great little Mexican restaurant in downtown Nashville, The Little Donkey – they highly recommend it!
For this to have been the first summer professional development activity for TBA, at least in many years, I felt like it was hugely successful. On Saturday during the TBA Forum we had a great discussion about next year and how we can continue to make this an event directors want to attend as well as started a list of suggested clinicians. More about Saturday in another post.