The 2015 edition of the Band Student Leaders Workshop saw at least 400 student participants over a period of 5 days from 3 to 8 September at Tanjong Katong Secondary School.
This annual event organized by the Wind Bands Association of Singapore (WBAS), teaches practical leadership character and skills in music, peer tutoring strategies for instrument sectionals and student conductor training in full band practice.
The Band Post speaks to renowned clinician Dr Tim Lautzenheiser, Mr Frank Troyka and his team of instrumental teachers, Dr Jeff Loeffert and Mr Irving Ray on their thoughts and advices for students in leadership and motivation.
Why is it so important to develop student leadership?
Tim: Probably the most important thing is to take ownership of the organization instead of having everyone trying to do something. You will have a lot of pride in doing so, and not to mention that the band director will need a lot of help. By doing that, it can free up some time for the band director, so that he or she can then go ahead and do things that are only for the band director, such as the study of scores.
What is the greatest challenge after the workshop? What is the best way for teachers to follow through with the students?
Frank: What facilitates a kid’s success is that the band director can be there to share and experience with them. So some of these kids at the workshop are at an advantage because the band director knows what they are working on, and what they are exposed to, so that he or she can facilitate it. The other strategy, however, is to have these kids go back and introduce these ideas and share their experiences with their band directors, not as a means of telling them what to do, or try to change things, but inviting them to the experience that the kids had. By doing so, the kids will feel comfortable discussing their experiences, and invite their band director to follow through with them or take advantage of the things their kids are exposed to.
Through the teaching sessions for Woodwinds and Brasses, what particular traits did you observe about the students, and how do they react to your teaching?
Jeff: I agree with Frank that these students this year are really well prepared to receive the information. It is only my second year so I guess I don’t have much to reflect on. The students were really eager, and they want the information. A lot of what we do in the technical components is for the students to integrate the information in playing to be taught to their peers, or their juniors.
Frank: Well, the business part of this entire workshop is to give them the anecdotal sort of material and give that a context, so we have Irving Ray, Jeff Loeffert, Damien Kee, and Ramu Thiruyanam here to take the information out on a smaller level and work to give nuts and bolts skills on “here’s how you do it”. I get a little bit of that as well, with the ensemble because I get to work with the student conductors and introduce them to some strategies that honestly are strategies for band director, as much as they are for kids.
And these are the very same things I work on when I work with teachers and college students. What’s neat about this is that it is really not age specific but awareness specific, so as long as they are aware that the information is available to them, it is making them aware first. I had some of the most amazing questions asked to me after the conducting workshop. One kid walked up and said, how can I increase my musical awareness? He said to me, you hear so much, and I said, “No I already know what the piece sounds like, that is why I hear so much.”
How to increase your musicianship is that when you are in a rehearsal, listen to your band director and before they say anything, anticipate what they are going to react to, and compare with what they react to with what you heard. So you are not just a passing member of your band, but you are also an active listener who is constantly thinking, “What would I do or say”, which is when you also train your ears.
The thing you do is becoming intimate with the music, because the more you know the music, the easier it is to compare what you are hearing in front of you with what you are hearing inside your head and then prioritizing those differences to know what you want to focus on.
How would you advise student leaders to motivate their juniors?
Jeff: The first part obviously is that they should model the right behavior. I think so much for motivation, it is not a singular instance, not usually, but it really is to model the behavior consistently. And I think ultimately that’s the most profound sort of motivation that inaugural students would get, so if they really want to motivate the juniors, they should tend to showcase proper behavior. I think the way that they prepare for ensembles, how eager they are to volunteer, it can demonstrate the leadership. I mean we can fuse leadership with the singular instances of greatness; but it is not really how it works. It is behavior. So I think modelling is the most effective and profound form of motivation.
Tim: Jeff is spot on. Leadership isn’t something you do, it’s something you are. You are it all the time, so you constantly are looking for every opportunity to kaizen, to make something better than it already was. Everything, like this office, you clean up, you can sharpen the pencils different, you can reorganize it constantly, and the motivation part, again, he’s spot on. You cannot motivate another person, but you can create a space or they can be motivated if they choose. The most motivation is manipulation and you manipulate them with a trapper or trophy or some other reward, and that wears off pretty quickly.
Frank: Yes that is why it has to be ongoing. You can’t just pretend, you have to become it. If people tend to be excited about something that you are excited about, like I think when kids are around me, they know that I have invested in this, they know that I love it and I wear that out on my sleeve, so they inherently come to sense that, “well this must be important”… just because I make it so.
I think the student leaders, the way they motivate their peers, first of all is just by being relentlessly consistent to being the right kind of person and being excited about it, and not being daunted by the things that the lesser committed people are put off by. I don’t think there is any real difference between the leaders and the band members, I just think is the way they use whatever is available to everyone of them; there is nothing that is proprietary here at all so it is a matter of what they do and the opportunities that are created of them.
What will be your best advice for students to gain respect as a leader?
Irving: One should set an example all the time, not just in a band room. This is doing the right thing at all times. It is a lifestyle, and you have to choose. Well it is not always the easier choice, sometimes the right thing takes twice as long as doing the wrong thing. As a starter, that is where you should begin, to earn their respect and to keep their respect, is to continue to do what is right. It is the way you treat someone, or even the way you treat yourself.
Frank: You are missing something (Irving). It’s because you can’t see it because it’s you. See, Irving, the way you get respect is because one, you are kind, you are generous, you are giving in yourself, but you are also really good at what you do. And that is the combination that earns respect. Because on what level are you falling short, well he’s a really good Euphonium player, he really cares about you, he will spend more time, he anticipates what you need, so these are all things that you cannot see, but that what we can.. so I am mentioning that for Irving. That’s for Irving. But that is really what it is.
< bursts of laughter >
But you can’t see that, because is it not as clear to you. But from outside looking in, you can see those things.
Tim: Everybody has a mantra, or a part about themselves. For me, it’s solely simple, do the right thing. There is never a wrong time to do the right thing and there is never a right time to do the wrong thing. There you start. Never settle for less than excellence, and when you get it, never settle for that. If you settle for less than excellence, you get lesser than you settle for. And the last one is to devote yourself to giving; whether sweeping the floor, taking flowers to somebody, or calling your buddy. And you hold on to those 3 things, and you have made a good musician on top of it, you could end up being a college teacher or something.
Is there something that you take home from this workshop, which makes you a better person, or something that you have learnt from the students?
Jeff: In our closing remarks, I mentioned that I really did get as much out of this as they did. And it’s true. One is from being with these great people. Frank is a mentor of mine and Tim is a legend in the field. I remember being in this workshop with Tim as my tutor and this is pretty special. I really admire the culture here for a lot of reasons, like you have diversity here like the United States, but it seems like it is really embraced here that unfortunately, in the States, it is not the same way. So that is impressive. The students are really attentive and really eager for information, and there’s nothing we have to coax.
You know I like how respectful they are, and these are the sorts of things that I take back. It is a well-run culture, and in the classroom setting, these students are really wonderful. If you can get them out of their shell a little bit, that’s when you really start to see progress very quickly. They are really well set up to receive information, like what Frank has said in the beginning, and if we work to get them out of it, we start to see tremendous progress. I take all that stuff back. The entire experience, it is just really wonderful.
Irving: For me, I enjoy this respect and culture they have here. I tend to speak more than I listen, and I love the fact, maybe because of how the course is run, it is always important to constantly listen more than you speak. It is really important to me, and to learn how to change the side of me to speak my mind constantly and I feel like I am always running very fast when I’m thinking or talking to someone so it is a nice change.
Jeff: The students are inquisitive here. We have to always allow extra time at the end of our sessions because we know there is going to be a line of questions at the end of the sessions. I am really both grateful and appreciative, of that opportunity to share this information and it is something that I wish that we can foster better with our students to sort of inherent and drive and I really see it in the students as they really want the information and it is just the matter of getting them out of the shell although that is a challenge.
Frank: Well, I can tell you something that is very tangible I have taken away as a teacher from these experiences. There is a little bit of communication barrier from time to time, and if I made an expression in US English, it doesn’t necessary mean the same expression with British English or Singapore English. So it has made me think of how to communicate and it has made me think to assume more responsibility with the communication back home. Because as I start to look at it, what does it mean to them? And what does it mean to me? That has been a really great thing for my growth as a teacher.
Tim: We are all musicians. For me, there were a lot of takeaways. There’s never none. There is always what is there for me to learn? Hanging out with these guys is like playing with the good jazz quartet. You know you play the bad ones too. I mean, it’s like I know what they are going to say, and you could throw the ball and you know they are going to catch it. Everybody’s got everybody’s back. To work with a group like that, is synergy, and I surf on that. And there have been times, where you pass to somebody and they are like, you weren’t even watching right? Because everybody was supporting everybody, the quartet was seamless, only if you get to work like that, that’s just fun and you don’t want to quit.