Technique is Secondary to the Music

An educator shares a startling moment of revelation.

In the spring of 1973 I had the opportunity to take my high school band — the John Marshall Junior-Senior High School Symphonic Band — to the University of Wisconsin-Madison for a clinic session with H. Robert Reynolds, then Director of Bands at the University of Wisconsin. Forty-four years later I can still recall the repertoire that we performed that morning: Second Suite in F by Gustav Holst, Trauersinfonie by Richard Wagner, and American Salute.

A smiling man on a balcony.
Craig Kirchhoff.

Following our short performance and Bob’s hour-long clinic, he escorted me to lunch. I was surprised and touched to find him extremely complimentary about the band and our performance. I specifically remember him commenting upon the band’s excellent intonation, ensemble, control of articulation, dynamics, balance and technical facility.

I was feeling quite elated about Bob’s positive evaluation until he looked at me, paused for what seemed to be an eternity, and said the following: “Now that you have accomplished all of this, when are you going to start worrying about the music?”

It was at that moment when the earth seemed to stand still.

I can attest to the fact that it was a very long and conflicted 90 mile bus ride back to Milwaukee. That day changed my entire philosophy about teaching and band conducting. Today, that startling moment of revelation continually reminds me of the daily challenge in rehearsal to remember that technique must always be the “servant,” and music the “master.”

Photo © 2010, Joyful Girl Photography


This article was originally published on the Yamaha Educator Suite blog. 

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