||Teachers of Conducting:
Take The Trials out of Teaching Techniques by Trying
Tin Can Toccatas
The frustration of teaching ensemble conducting with no lab drew me back to the old adage of “necessity” being the “mother of invention”.
If you have the good fortune of teaching conducting in a school that boasts a dedicated conducting lab, read no further and pass this on to a colleague who needs some encouragement.
After teaching beginning conducting to a class of students that was made up of an alto sax player, two flutists, five violinists, a cellist a soprano and bass-baritone and attempting to somehow make that rag-tag group become a lab ensemble with no common music written that we could find for that instrumentation, I decided to do something about it and set to work on my Tin Can Toccatas.
You heard me. I turned my next class into a Tinphony Orchestra. The basic idea was to put everyone in the class on an equal footing with each member of the ensemble equipped with a half inch wooden dowel about nine inches long, a tin can chosen for its unique sonority.(This can be a lot of fun if you engage the class in selecting and mixing and matching these sonorities.) Each student also has a baton for practice and podium time, one set of parts for each toccata and a full score for each Tin Can Toccata in the set. If you are buying the material for class use as it is intended to be used, you will need only one set of parts for each toccata. However, each student will need his/her full score for each toccata.
These short rhythmic ensemble compositions are written in five parts that can be anything you want to imagine they are. The point is each one addresses challenges for the conductor that are the same as they would face if they were conducting a real band or string orchestra or brass choir etc. The pieces are relatively short yet long enough to give the conductor enough podium time to feel like a conductor. It is a real kick to see the conductors become more and more confident as the pieces become gradually more complex addressing how to start a piece, how to make meter and tempo changes, dynamics and balance, and cueing. One major benefit of playing the short compositions is that they teach singers how to count.
The Tinphony Orchestra is divided into five sections creating opportunities for cueing and balance control.
You can enhance on the ensemble sonority with the inclusion of NON-SUSTAINING percussion instruments such as tambourine, claves, bongos. But I’ve found that the players prefer the cans to all the rest.
I’m here to tell you that this concept really works and when the set has been concluded you will see confident conductors where once lived nervous Nellies.
This material is available at Really Good Music
Eau Claire, WI 54701