January 19, 2011 – Organizing an Ensemble

Organizing an ensemble of students is a burdensome, but rewarding, task. Ensembles allow students to create music in a group. Making sure that students have musical involvement outside of their individual private lesson is very important to keep them motivated in playing.

Here are the basic steps to organizing your students in an ensemble:

  1. Decide upon a purpose for the ensemble. Is this ensemble just to play together, or will a performance occur at the end of the set of rehearsals? If it is just for educational purposes, maybe you should question whether or not a performance could benefit the ensemble even more. My vote is that the group will always be working toward a performance in the future. Each ensemble experience should be planned around this fact.
  2. Decide upon the level of the students. Will the class be forĀ  your Twinklers or for your Symphonic ensemble? Each requires a high level of commitment from the director, but larger scale ensembles require additional preparation time before the lessons.
  3. Find a location. This can sometimes be the hardest part as an independent Suzuki teacher. Consider pairing with another teacher or forming an organization to host your group classes. Churches and other organizations that generally donate facilities generally prefer working with established organizations. Sometimes your location may need to change depending on where you are hosting them. Be flexible, but make sure your groups needs are met. If you are using a church that is donating space, consider giving a donation to the church for the use of the facility and to further music programs there.
  4. Establish a schedule. Regular schedules are helpful in getting people to events. Your ensemble class may have low attendance to begin, but eventually, people will get used to a regularly scheduled event and make time for it. After you make your schedule, do as the postal service does and always deliver. Cancellations make participants doubt whether you really have what it takes to be a good director.
  5. Communicate. In today’s world, an e-mail newsletter goes a long way. Don’t forget about putting a hard copy of the schedule in your participants’ hands. The refrigerator is still the go to place to put schedules, so give them a hard copy to stick to the “fridge.”
  6. Plan your class or ensemble. Well planned meetings are best. If you don’t make time to plan what will happen during the class, you may not be able to come up with ideas in the heat of the moment. Make necessary copies and keep your paperwork organized.
  7. Keep it real. Make achievable goals for your group. Don’t expect too much, too soon. Start with baby steps, then maybe one day you can attack that symphonic literature.

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