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Rehearsal Critique

Jason Crews

I observed two rehearsals on December 5, 2006 and December 6, 2006 at

Florence high school in Florence, AZ. The band director’s name at Florence High School

is Nora Gnader. Nora is an experienced band director who formally taught at Higly High

school. She spends half her day at the high school, and the other half at skyline

elementary school. Her primary instrument is clarinet, but she has also taught private

lessons on and can play saxophone.

On both occasions I observed her concert band. The woodwind section was

comprised of six clarinets, seven flutes, three alto Saxes, one tenor Saxes, and one oboe.

These two rehearsals are the last two rehearsals preceding their concert this Thursday

night. As a result the rehearsal focused primarily on run thoughts with only a few stops.

It was fairly obvious that the band director’s primary instrument is clarinet. The

clarinets were probably the most consistently good section of the woodwinds. Most had

good posture and hand placemen. However the tone of the section was very bright, this

was most likely cause by the instruments they were using. While I wasn’t able to

examine the make and model of each and every clarinet, the instruments I could see

seemed to be student line rentals. Mostly plastic, and interestingly enough rented from

Milan’s here in Mesa. Tuning was also a constant issue, but not as much of an issue for

the clarinets as for some of the other woodwind sections.

The flutes posture, hand placement, parallel relationships, and other fundamental

concepts seemed lacking. Many of the flutes had lazy right arms dropping the flute on

the right side, and in turn dropping their heads. In many cases this then caused them to
drop their collapse their hands around the flute, impeding dexterity. In some songs one of

the flutes played the piccolo flute. The flutes suffered from many of the same issues as

the clarinets. Most, if not all of the students were playing on beginner, nickel or silver

plated instruments. I didn’t see any open hole flutes. The flute section, as a hole, had the

most notable intonation issues. Mostly because of their written range their pieces and the

sheer size of the section.

The saxophone section could have been one of the most overlooked sections.

Their technique and tone wasn’t bad, but they did have a few interesting habits that are

worth mentioning. First, most were resting their Saxes on their chairs as they played.

Second, most of the players didn’t use neck straps. I asked the Nora if this was normally

and she said they aren’t necessary if the student is strong enough to hold it up on their

own. Like the rest of the band most of the payers had beginner rental. Their tuning

wasn’t as bad as some of the other sections, but their sound was buried most of the time.

The ensemble will be playing three songs for their concert. Salvation is Created

by Bach, Sleep by Eric Whitaker, and Themes from the Pirates of the Caribbean movie.

Considering strictly technique I think the songs were very appropriate, for both the

woodwinds and the band as a whole. Conceptually and musically the entire group

seemed to struggle. Salvation and Sleep may not be technically challenging, but

musicality is much arguably more important than technique. The group, as a hole

struggled to achieve any of these higher level concepts, but chose, rather, to lay as

individuals unaware of their surroundings or the other players in the group.