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Lessons Learned from Past, Present and Future Festivals

Look to the past and the future to help with your students’ performance assessments during your current festival performance.

As we prepare for upcoming festival performances, we must remember that this is all about students attaining full facility of the skills required to become independent music-makers within the framework of the ensemble.

To borrow from “A Christmas Carol,” Charles Dickens‘ famous holiday tale, let’s focus on festivals past, present and future.

Festivals Past

All performances reflect the skills taught up to that point in time. In fact, festivals are the very definition of a “performance assessment.” Ensembles that demonstrate quality tone production do so because they learned the techniques required to produce that sound consistently. Those that play with proper blend and balance have been taught how to make appropriate adjustments by way of their acquired listening skills.

So why do we still hear festival performances where students do not demonstrate these qualities? Is the music too difficult? Is the director still working on developing his pedagogical bag of tricks? What can be done to ensure a more musical and impactful performance?

Festivals Present

The most memorable performances occur when our students are completely prepared and all that remains is to enjoy the moment. What does this mean for the director?

Directors must prepare students to perform with absolute confidence as individuals and as members of the ensemble. In other words, students know that they are ready because they already own it!

The festival performance should bring fulfillment to our students as music-makers and joy to the audience as the beneficiaries of an inspirational performance.

Festivals Future

The best directors continually improve their teaching skills to provide their students and future students with more comprehensive and enriching musical experiences. Whether competitive or not, adjudicated performances provide us with just this type of helpful assessment.

The festival assessment can serve as a prescription to help identify our own professional development needs and set the course for learning strategies that will result in higher quality performances in the future.

With musical growth comes a deeper understanding, commitment and passion for the art of producing the pinnacle performance and this is our target — music-making at the highest level.


 cover of the 2017v4 issue of SupportED featuring the Boston Brass

This article originally appeared in the 2017 V4 issue of Yamaha SupportED. To see more back issues, find out about Yamaha resources for music educators, or sign up to be notified when the next issue is available, click here.

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