“You have to do your own growing no matter how tall your grandfather was.” Abraham Lincoln
Like many of you, I’ve been cleaning out my rehearsal briefcase and assorted rehearsal bags during the last few weeks. The centerpiece of each rehearsal bag, besides my folder of music, is a legal pad folio with a pen and pencil stuck inside. I have a briefcase or bag for each choir I direct and a separate folio as well. I hand write each rehearsal’s plan with the date (I’ve tried printing rehearsal plans out—not the same!) on the top sheet of the legal pad and number each part of rehearsal from the beginning warm-ups to the ending announcements. I tick off each item as we go along. After rehearsal while it’s still fresh in my mind, I make comments after each item to help me remember what happened. As I begin to plan the next rehearsal, I refer to the previous rehearsal’s plan, tear it out of the folio and fold it up, then stick it in the folio’s pocket so I will be able to look at again it if I need to. I often photocopy my plan for my accompanist but not always. It’s only after each concert cycle is over I throw out (I actually recycle the paper) those rehearsal plans.
This system has served me well through the years. It’s a combination of what I observed as a young music student and what has worked for me in my adult teaching/directing life.
My legal pad system came from my first conducting teacher, the late Dr. David Larson. He had a stack of yellow legal pads on the desk in his office, one for each of the university choruses he directed. His office was right off the student lounge and when he was in, left the office door open so his students could talk to him. I asked him once about the legal pads and he told me used them so he didn’t forget what he wanted to get accomplished in the heat of rehearsal. He checked things off as he went along, he said, because it helped him move on to the next item. It made sense to me and I have adapted it as my own.
As I bundled together for recycling all my folded rehearsal plans in the last few weeks, I remembered all the little things I have observed and gleaned from the mentors in my life. It’s the little things that seem to mean nothing but can make our professional life run a little smoother and more efficient. The separate rehearsal bags for each choir, three-hole punching music before handing it out, keeping the same folder number (with the director and accompanist, no matter who they are, always having the same numbers) from concert to concert and going over in my mind what happened in rehearsal as soon as possible after to help with planning the next rehearsal…those are the things I remembered observing and have made my own. And I know those strategies have helped me be a better director and conductor.
What are the tricks and strategies you have taken from your own teachers and mentors? Summer is the time to get organized for the coming choir year, so let’s help each other!