Experienced Rookie Looking to Give Advice

This weekend will be our second, full weekend show camp where we learn as much as we can in two days. I knew going in that this wouldn’t be as intense as junior corps but it would still be hard work. In junior corps, you learn the bulk of your show in about two weeks. These days are long, hard, sometimes frustrating and intense, but you are so immersed in the program that you really don’t have distractions. And during the season we consistently make changes, add new features, and clean up work.

Senior corps is a bit different. It’s intense in a whole other way but equally frustrating. On a Wednesday night rehearsal, we learn a feature in about an hour or two and have one hour with do it together with the corps. Then we don’t see each other for another week. We have a show camp every other weekend which is where we learn the bulk of the show. By then, when I’m practicing at home, I’ve completely forgotten what was taught. I’m pretty sure there’s a better way to “work smarter not harder.”

(I’m talking from the color guard point of view. Brass members – aka Justin – might have a different opinion of how the horn/drum line work.)

I’m not saying my way is the right way for this group. But I do think we could take elements of this method and apply them to Wednesday night rehearsals to make our time more efficient.

We recently learned about 64 counts of flag work in about an hour (with drill). As we were running through it, none of it stuck. I had to look at other members who looked either a little confused as to what was coming next or as confused as me. It was a lot of work in a very short time and it wasn’t even hard! And by the time we got to ensemble, we could barely remember any of it! What a waste of time!

In my years of marching and teaching, I’ve learned it’s all about muscle memory. You can’t move on to the next phrase until you’ve taught your muscles how the flag needs to move. If not, it’ll be a hot mess. (Like I was on Wednesday night learning this flag phrase. And let’s face it, every other time learning work with this group.) What needs to happen is this:  teach the first phrase (in our case, it was an 8 count phrase), do it three to four times, more if needed. BUT here’s the key: at a slower tempo. Once the muscles have been programmed, then the tempo is increased.This doesn’t take much longer than say doing it 4 or 5 times at full tempo and having to explain the work each time. It’ll look better and you can check-point (clean it) along the way.

Once that’s firmed up, you move on to the next phrase at a slower tempo then bump up the tempo. Then guess what? You add the two phrases together at a slow tempo teaching the muscle’s how to bridge the two phrases together. And then you can take it up to tempo. This continues until the end of phrase is taught. Seems obvious, right?

Instead of plowing through a 64 count phrase frantically in an hour just to teach it and have us work on it later, this technique could be done in the same amount of time (or less!) and yield better results when we put it together with the corps. And we’ll actually remember it!

I’m sure I’m not the only one, but this would leave me less frustrated. I leave rehearsal almost every time extremely frustrated that I’m expected to practice the work at home. I have no issues practicing at home, but when I don’t remember the work in the first place, it was a completely wasted night for me. What’s to practice?

Since I’m considered a “rookie” they see me as inexperienced in the ways of MBI (Minnesota Brass Inc.) which is true. But methods in teaching equipment are nothing new and it would be nice if they would give this method a try. Let’s work smarter, not harder.

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