Developing Student Understanding of the Music-Making Process Within a Band Rehearsal

October 27, 2008 / By: Amanda J. Kaus

The intent of this inquiry was to determine to what extent middle school band directors teach to and identify in their students’ understanding of the music-making process within a rehearsal.  The sub-problems in the study focused on the techniques band directors use to teach to, and identify students’ listening skills within a rehearsal; ability to analyze their individual performance within an ensemble; ability to analyze the performance of the entire ensemble; ability to evaluate their individual performance within an ensemble; and ability to evaluate the performance of the entire ensemble.  Additionally, the extent to which band directors involve students in making decisions during rehearsals was examined.

Thirty-four members of the Minnesota Band Directors Association who teach seventh- and/or eighth-grade band voluntarily completed an online survey containing thirty forced-choice statements regarding the various teaching strategies they employ within a band rehearsal in regard to listening skills, analysis skills, evaluative skills, and student involvement, as well as their level of agreement to statements regarding their role as director/educator.

Results of the study revealed that middle school band directors believe that they frequently involve students in multiple aspects of the music-making process, using a variety of teaching strategies to address the musical problems and challenges that arise in a rehearsal.   Directors believe that they often encourage students to actively listen, guiding student listening through questioning techniques while sometimes utilizing strategies that lead students to analyze the information that they take in through listening and make decisions regarding their performance both as individuals and as an ensemble.  Focus on evaluation skills occurs less often than listening and analysis skills, with slightly more attention directed towards individual evaluation than ensemble.   Subject responses indicated that not only do the directors use a variety of strategies to adjust musical problems and challenges to the students’ level of musicianship, but they also guide students to transfer their acquired knowledge and skills to problem solving situations within a rehearsal.

In conclusion, the findings of this study suggest that, based on the opinions of directors, students are provided opportunities to learn music through band and think musically about their performances.  As students continue to develop their level of musicianship, the performance level of their ensembles should also continue to increase and reflect the musical understanding of each student.