Courtney Kuhn

MUE 482

Final Video Reflection: Marcos de Niza

There were a lot of good things about my lesson at Marcos de Niza. First of all, my
conducting was very expressive and legato. My feedback was generally pretty concise
(especially during the warm up) and they improved things fairly quickly. During the conducting
exercise, they did a much better job the second time, and all I said was “let’s try to catch on a
little quicker,” and they did the exercise much better. I also think I did a good job at sounding
genuine with my feedback, instead of sounding fake or unexcited. I could tell the students liked
the piece, and they followed my conducting better than I had expected them to.
I think the main difference about doing the lesson with real high school students was that
they didn’t seem to catch on as quickly about little stuff. Things like sharing music, organizing
the percussion section, and following my conducting took a lot longer to figure out with high
school students. This makes sense, thinking about it now, because everyone in our practicum
class is preparing to be a teacher, so we all know how to take initiative, pay attention, and be
organized. High school kids don’t necessarily have those skills—especially when working with
unfamiliar teachers and new music. An example of this would be when I announced that we were
starting at measure 31, and I warned the crash cymbal player that she played right on the
downbeat. She was staring right at me, and I was about to start, waiting for her to pick the
cymbals up from the stand. After a few seconds, I just decided to start without her, and she
missed the entrance, as I expected. These kinds of lessons can only be learned by spending time
in the classroom. Every school runs differently, and every section has strengths and weaknesses.
I could tell that the saxophone players were all attentive, because they didn’t miss accidentals
and they responded to questions. However, the percussion section looked frazzled throughout the
hour, and it was hard to figure out a way to fix that without sacrificing precious time.
If I were to teach this lesson again, I would probably try to be quicker with feedback.
Both times when I taught this lesson in practicum, I would stop the ensemble after a poor attack
or a missed dynamic marking, and have them repeat that section the correct way. At Marcos de
Niza, I just kept going through the entire lead sheet and I let them play through the entire
rehearsal excerpt before I gave feedback. I think I was trying to get through the music because I
was short on time, but it kind of backfired on me. I found that if I ignored or pushed through a
mistake toward the beginning of the section, I would forget about it by the time they finished,
and I wouldn’t have a reason to go back and rehearse it again.
This year, I think my conducting has improved a lot. My Anasazi conducting was
expressive, but it needed more resistance and better coordination between hands. During my
Salvation is Created lesson, I felt conducting was a real strong point. Another thing I have
improved is teaching cycles. I had a bad habit of skipping the last step, where the students repeat
the activity after I give them feedback. After I was made aware of that, I did a much better job of
completing cycles. It was really helpful to have my cycles scripted out, because that was a real
concrete way of getting feedback for my own teaching. Finally, I think I have gotten better about
being aware of time during my lessons. Even though my warm up was too long at Marcos de
Niza, I went on to the piece once I realized I only had 3 minutes left. Some of the time crunch
had to do with people not having music, which flustered me a little bit.
Next year, I want to become more adept at dealing with surprises—such as the students
being better than I thought, or logistical issues like giving the percussion time to set up during
the warm up. I felt very aware that percussion wasn’t involved in the warm up, but I wasn’t sure
what to tell them to do. It would be useful to get some instruction about how to handle
percussion during a rehearsal. Also, I want my conducting to continue to improve, and I’d like to
find quicker warm ups that can address a number of skills in a short period of time. Even though
a typical class will allot much more time for rehearsal, I tend to want to work on fundamentals
longer than the actual music.

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