A moment of truth?

So this week is a pretty big week. There is no concert. No recital. There is a playoff game which yours truly and his marching band must attend, perform, and cheer – but that is a mere formality (if we don’t know it by now, we never will). The big week actually comes to a head on Tuesday evening as I take students to Westminster College to audition for the PMEA Honors Band. Months of preparation on a college level instrumental solo lead to a 4 minute audition, and depending on how successful – a spot in the Honors Band Festival to be held later this month. As the title of the blog infers, it is a critical and decisive moment in time – like the reference to the matador making the kill in the bull ring – but it is only one moment. Will the matador win? Being that it is today’s public education, I doubt that the matador will actually be able to take a sword into school without facing expulsion. Good thing I armed the matador with an inner ipod (Thank you Dr. Cameron!)…

This moment comes back to an axiom for me that I have made it my mission to teach by: if the process is good, then the product will be just fine. There is a huge carrot here for the students to go after – by making the band they get days out of school and get to rehearse under an accomplished conductor (looking forward to seeing Dr. Dennis Glocke, (PSU) work again this year). But why study the solo? Just to make the band? One could answer yes that is the only reason, but I believe it serves a great purpose. More so than the chamber literature, the solo literature becomes a real push on the students musically. I don’t expect them to play like a college or university level student by the time they complete their study of it and go to the audition (please check out “Auditions Anyone?”).  I expect them to have made individual improvements as a musician that will carry over to every other part of their playing. I expect them to make better musical decisions in small groups and the large ensemble. I also expect their confidence and ability to be a musical role model to their peers will have increased exponentially.

I must be careful in not only the musical preparation, but the mental preparation of each student. For all their daring wit they can show in our classroom, these are just kids and they don’t realize as Sting says “How fragile we are”. Nerves can kill you in an audition, and everything that has been built up in them for months can be taken away quickly. The students I am sending to audition are wonderful people. They are developing into wonderful musicians. The result of the audition is not going to demean either of those values in my eyes, and it is something I will share with each one of them prior to Tuesday. I hold these students in high regard for choosing to better themselves musically – because you know as well as I there are less tedious, time-consuming options out there that can occupy your free time (note the absence of a link here on the word Youtube). I will encourage them to play to the best of their ability, and to show the judges what they can do. We haven’t spent months on this solo to go into the audition and play poorly. We have spent this time making you into a better musician, so go and show it.

The one thing that I would encourage my peers to do as leaders and teachers of students is to be the face that your students need to see leading to auditions. Some of them need a joke to relax, some students need a clever word or two of encouragement, and yet others want nothing but facts. Whatever that student needs from you as coach/motivator – give it to them because it shows your sincerity and interest in their endeavors. Be confident in them, and show that in your demeanor and individual work. Be honest and confront them about where they are musically – as Coach K says “Confrontation is meeting the truth head-on”.

It is only one moment. It is a moment of truth. Not THE moment. I believe that these young ladies and gentlemen have prepared themselves in such a way that they have grown as musicians. They are each musical leaders within the ensembles in which I can place my trust. In each of them, my level of respect has grown tremendously and I appreciate them making music such a priority in their busy schedules. I know these students will make our band program proud. And that all fans of the bullfight should recognize as the moment of truth.

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  1. Great post, Travis- I think we all have felt what you describe here…I know that for my kids, just having the experience is worth the effort. I always teach my students that “if you work hard, good things will happen” be it a competition, festival, audition, or just their personal lives. I also stress for them not to hang their entire self worth on the outcome (competition, audition, etc.) because it is the JOURNEY that is important!

  2. Owen,

    Thanks for stopping by! The journey was worth it last night – of the 11 students who auditioned, 7 qualified for the band. 1 missed by a chair, and the other 3 posted good scores. It is truly wonderful how our unique subject matter delays instant gratification and makes students concentrate their hard work and effort – two things mainstream America seems to have lost all sense about! Hope all is well Owen, and I will talk to you later!


  1. Always on the move…or at least thinking about it… | Travis J. Weller - [...] Tuesday, I will be taking students to audition for our District Honor Band at Westminster College.  It is always…


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