Assessment Tool: Chamber Ensemble Assessment

Anthony Manluccia

Lauren Scott

Chamber Ensemble Assessment

Breakdown:

40% – Rehearsal Progress Sheets (formative assessment)

10% – Compliment/Suggestion Forms

50% – Final Reflection Essay (summative assessment)

Yes/No – Did the students perform their piece for the class?

Rehearsal Progress Sheets:

To be done within the last 5 minutes of a class period when the chamber ensemble group is given time to work on their project. Must briefly answer each question.

Guiding Questions:

  • What did the group accomplish today?
  • What was the process of your rehearsal or creative process your group went through today?
  • What does the group need to improve on, and how will you achieve that?
  • Identify a challenge your group had to overcome.
  • Who primarily took the lead today?

Compliment/Suggestion Forms:

  • To be done by each student during each group’s final performance. Must write down at least one compliment and at least one suggestion. Will be given to students after the final performance is finished.

Final Reflection Essay:

To be done after the group has finished their arrangement/composition and performs it for the whole class. Must address each question, minimum two pages double-spaced.

Guiding Questions:

  • What musical concepts did you learn or were reinforced in this project?
  • What group-work skills did you learn or were reinforced in this project?
  • Describe your process from the start to the completion of the project.
  • Identify two challenges your group experienced throughout the duration of the project.
  • How did it feel when it was your turn to take lead of the group?
  • How was your final performance different from your rehearsals with the group?
  • What did you find enjoyable about the project, and what did you dislike?
  • If you were to do this project again, what would you do differently?

Internship Reflection on Warm-Ups

Your initial ideas: What are your ideas on this topic? What do you already think about it? What have you learned from your own experience as a student? What have you learned from other sources, such as teachers, parents, friends, or research? Explain your reasoning.

I think warming up is an essential element to any ensemble-based class. As a student, I know that sometimes warm ups can often become monotonous or a chore. I have learned so many methods to warm up, for many different concepts, and many different ways to spice things up.

The voice of authority: This will help you clarify what so-called “experts” have to say on this topic. You do not have to agree with their viewpoints, but you need to be sure that you understand them clearly. What do you know from classes or from research about this topic? In the last section, “Your voice,” you are encouraged to disagree with any of these “authorities;” in this section, try to simply report what they say.

Experts believe that warming up is vital to a successful rehearsal in an ensemble setting. Warming up in a band setting is especially vital to get warm air running through the instruments as well as the percussionists wrists moving. It is also a way to engage students and capture the collective focus of the class at the beginning of the period. Long tones, scales and arpeggios, rhythmic exercises, articulation exercises, etc. are all great methods for warming up

Your initial observations: What do you notice in your field experience classroom that gives you hints about your mentor teacher’s ideas on this topic? Make your best guess about your mentor teacher’s ideas before you discuss the topic with him or her. Do you notice anything surprising or anything you didn’t expect?

I have noticed that the class goes through the same warm up routine daily. They start out with a chromatic scale (Concert C to Concert C), 4 whole notes in a row, with a breath in between each set of 4. They call them 4-by-4s. Then they do major and minor scales and arpeggios, sometimes applying staccato, marcato, accented, or legato articulation. I think he knows this to be an effective method of warming up since it covers a lot of bases. I think he knows the students don’t care for them much, and as such he tries to get through them pretty quickly.

Students’ voice: What does the behavior of students in the class suggest to you about this topic? How do the teacher’s words or behavior seem to affect the students? Or, if you are teaching, how do your words or behavior seem to affect the students? If you have time, ask one or two students their opinions on the topic, and record their responses. Does anything you observe fit with your own experience as a student, or are there differences? Is anything surprising to you?

The students seem to not be super engaged while they are doing the warm ups. More so out of necessity. They go into auto-pilot it seems, and thus aren’t as actively engaged in their weaker areas. Most of the students I’ve spoken with agree that warm ups aren’t exciting, and that they know they’re good for them, but not exactly how. I found that surprising.

Mentor teacher’s voice: Ask your mentor teacher about his or her point of view on this topic. You do not have to agree with this viewpoint, you just have to respect his or her opinion. Is anything surprising to you? In your observations, do your mentor teacher’s practices seem to match his or her ideas? Why or why not? In the next section, “Your voice,” you are encouraged to disagree with your mentor teacher’s ideas; here, try to simply report his or her perspective.

My mentor teacher believes warm ups are a necessity. His practices definitely match his beliefs. He believes doing warm ups is something that is routine that is great for unifying the mindset of the class before actually diving into the real musical pieces. He doesn’t vary the warm ups to support that routine behavior so that the students come to class knowing what’s expected of them. He says his warm ups cover a lot of ground, which is very true.

Your voice: Summarize what you think you know at this point about the topic, based on your observations and the different voices. When you are the teacher in the classroom, what will you do, and why will you do it that way? (It’s ok to choose to do something different than your mentor teachers or the course instructors, if you can explain your reasoning.)

I personally think warm ups are a vital part of any ensemble-based classroom. Concepts that show up in rehearsal should be worked on and reinforced in the warm ups. I personally believe that warm up procedure should be the same at the start of class, but that the actual warm ups should change sporadically to address more concepts depending on the rehearsal’s needs. Other than that, addressing long tones, scales and arpeggios, rhythmic exercises, articulation exercises, etc. are all important things to cover in class before. Warm ups are a foundation of student success in a band room.

Chamber Ensemble Reflection

Lauren and I are both huge video game nerds, and our mutual love for a specific game series called Final Fantasy was one of the beginnings of our friendship. So we knew when we were assigned to do an arrangement and performance of something together, that we wanted it to be fun and meaningful to us. So we took a few themes from multiple games in the series, and did a nice medley of Final Fantasy tunes.

Since Lauren and I have worked together for several other projects in our past three years, working together involved having us mutually led the rehearsals. We both knew the music well, and we’re both comfortable enough with each other to give feedback knowing we wouldn’t hurt each others’ feelings. Since we already knew the tunes, and since it was a matter of blend, balance, and getting the right notes, we both knew what our rehearsals had to consist of. At least one-third of our rehearsals consisted of individual practice, while the other two-thirds consisted of playing together.

For over half of our arrangement, we used aural skills to notate the music in Finale; some of the more complex pieces we had to reference already-transcribed sheet music available online. I think Lauren and I’s process worked really well. We picked which songs we wanted from which game, listened to them on YouTube together, wrote out what we could ourselves, augmented what we couldn’t get using sheet music, and then began rehearsing.

When doing our arrangement, we realized it was slowly becoming a huge production. As such, we had to cut two songs from our initial list of songs we wanted to incorporate. We cut a “not-as-exciting” song and then a rather difficult song to make our arrangement more achievable given the impending deadline. Lauren and I agreed on mostly everything, and whenever one of us would mess up, we would just laugh it off and try it over again.

Lauren has great aural skills, and was able to transcribe a lot of our arrangement just by figuring out the key and knowing the melodies. That proved to be very helpful, as we didn’t have to solely rely on online sheet music. Lauren’s air support and projection abilities on flute really lent themselves to bringing out the melodies of our performance. I personally was instrumental in reducing the orchestral/piano accompaniments to just 4-mallet marimba parts, given what Lauren notated. I was able to make the accompaniments achievable on marimba, while still maintaining their integrity. We both are efficient with our time, and when we got off track, one of us would quickly rope us back in.

What worked really well about our piece was the bend and balance. Since the flute cuts nicely over the marimba voice, and the timbres of the two go well together, it created a nice accompanied solo sort of feel to the piece. I really like how we were able to fully realize the music that we both love so much. If I could change anything about our live informal performance, I would say I would have loved to have a functioning hi-hat that didn’t move around, and then additionally a separate ride cymbal. But, you can’t always have everything, and we made due! My favorite part of this project was the open-endedness, and how the possibilities were endless. It was so much fun seeing what other groups chose to do, and how they put their personalities and personal tastes into their projects and performances. My least favorite part was notating the music without referential sheet music, as I personally don’t have that great of skill for that, and it took Lauren quite some time. The biggest challenge was probably the basically broken hi-hat we had to deal with.

For our class, more time would have been nice to really make our performances a bit of bigger productions that would showcase our musicianship better. I would definitely love to do this type of project with a middle or high school level ensemble. For younger students or students doing this for the first time, a set of small guidelines would probably prove to be beneficial so that it isn’t so open-ended to start. This is something I haven’t personally done in a school ensemble setting, but would really love to do sometime.

Arrangement Resource

Alaina Peters and I were given the song “Krazy Klock,” and had to arrange for an ensemble that consists of two flutes, two alto saxophones, a bass clarinet (Bb), a baritone, and drummer. However, the original score calls for flute, two clarinets, two saxophones, two cornets, two Eb horns, two trombones, two euphoniums, and two percussionists. Alaina and I dissected the piece, analyzing what stood out as individual or doubled parts. We tried our best to ensure each part that wasn’t one that got doubled had some sort of representation within in the song, as we wanted to maintain the integrity of the composer’s intentions. Thankfully since this was a beginning band piece, much of the parts double each other, making it easier for a smaller ensemble to cover the various parts. Typically, we always stuck Flute 1 with the melody. Then the harmonies or melody-doubling (from clarinet, alto, cornet, and horn parts) we switched around between the other flute and the two alto saxes. We decided that the bass clarinet would act as the trombone part, and that the baritone would take the euphonium part. For the drummer, we adapted the part so that the wood block parts would be played on the rim, and then the snare parts on the drum head. While arranging, we had to exercise our knowledge of transposing and instrument ranges. Thankfully we both are fairly competent in those areas, and it proved to be quite simple for us.  We employed Sibelius for our notation method and audio.

 

From this project, I learned just how important and handy both transposition skills and instrument range knowledge are! Especially in the future, if I’m ever teaching a class that doesn’t have a full ensemble. It is vital to understand which instruments can cover other part and sound decent, and how to go about arranging the part. Personally, I could stand to learn how to better utilize the various functions of Sibelius. Adding in details like rehearsal marks, editing part names, adding barlines, etc. are all things that I had to Google to find out how to execute. It was manageable, but better familiarity with the program would have been welcomed! At least that ‘s something I have to look forward to becoming acquainted with.

 

Below are the score, individual parts, and our audio.

 

Krazy Klocks Score and Parts

 

Audio:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B84Rgvjti6ofanJ6VlIxWHowYnc/edit?usp=sharing

Bassoon Embouchure and Crowing

In order to properly play the bassoon, like any wind instrument, you must properly set your embouchure, or the formation and application of the mouth and lips to the reed or mouthpiece of a wind instrument. With bassoon, we’ll start by just focusing on the reed. Always be sure to soak the entire bassoon reed in a water cup before playing, and especially before attempting the following lesson.

 

First, you will lower your jaw. Do so by pretending to hide a yawn by dropping your jaw but not opening your mouth. This will help you maintain your oral cavity shape. It is important to keep your jaw and mouth relaxed, and not let tension creep in.

Dropping the jaw.

Dropping the jaw.

 

Next, place the bassoon reed in your mouth. You will have to stick it pretty far in, to where the tips of your lips should be almost touching the first wire on the bassoon reed.

Note where the wire is.

Note where the wire is.

 

Then, to seal off any air from escaping, have your lips form the shape of a closed drawstring bag hole over the reed. Be sure to not bite down or apply extra lip pressure to the reed; the lips should be sealed off but still maintain a relaxed, tension-free feeling. The reed should feel comfortably centered in your mouth.

"Pulling" the lips together like a drawstring bag.

“Pulling” the lips together like a drawstring bag.

"Pulling" the lips together like a drawstring bag.

“Pulling” the lips together like a drawstring bag.

 

Finally, place the tip of your tongue on the tip of the reed. Then use a combination of a “tongue-tap” and strong stream of blowing air into the center of the reed to get your first sound. If your first sound sounds like any of the two videos below, then your embouchure is set correctly!


(For the second video, skip ahead to 0:53 to hear the desired sound.)

 

The sound made on a bassoon reed when the proper embouchure is used is called a crow, as it resembles the squawking, multi-phonic caw of a crow!

 

If you cannot create the crowing sound, here are common problems that can occur:

  • Not enough of the reed is inside the mouth
  • The reed is not properly soaked
  • You are biting down on the reed
  • You are applying too much lip pressure on the reed
  • You aren’t applying enough of a seal on the reed to prevent air from escaping
  • Your tongue is maintaining contact with the reed while you are blowing
  • You are not using a strong enough stream of air
  • The reed you have is either chipped or not properly made to vibrate

 

Now have fun applying your knowledge of the bassoon embouchure to actually playing bassoon!