Everyone loves free T-shirts! Just try creating one-- it usually happens in high school or college when you finally get to be on some kind of committee to create THE T-shirt, the one that will create waves when everyone WANTS one, but can't get one unless they're involved in YOUR organization. It's a 'cool' factor, but not only is it a unique advertisement, but it usually creates a clever, strong, and motivational way to tell people what you're all about.
In the 2000's, you could find these strong quotes scattered around my high school, among others:
"Pain is weakness leaving the body."
"Without music, life would be a mistake"
But what does this have to do with music? Why, what a brilliant question! Why NOT incorporate this idea of a "catch phrase" into the world of music, where motivation, discipline and repetition are the main factors in creating great musicians?
Well, it seems that others have been thinking the same way...
"Head - Thinking, Heart - Musicality, Stomach - ... !!!!!" - Cliff Colnot
I've been through hundreds of rehearsals with numerous groups led by an extremely diverse group of conductors, and none of them compare to the rehearsals led by Cliff Colnot. A noted conductor, arranger, composer, teacher, advisor, and bassoonist anchored in Chicago, Maestro Colnot is known for conducting the Chicago Civic Orchestra, leading the MusicNOW program for contemporary music, and, around Indiana University, for his rigorous yet effective orchestral rehearsal technique.
Before every concert, after at least 8 required rehearsals and 2 voluntary sectionals for every section in the orchestra, Mr. Colnot takes a moment at the beginning of the dress rehearsal for a "pep talk," of sorts. He points to his head and says "Head -- thinking, technicality". He points to his heart and says, "Heart -- Musicality". And finally he says, "Stomach --", and shocks us by throwing out his fist and stomping his foot to create that "OOMPH!" factor that every conductor hopes to evoke from an orchestra. He quickly nods his head and raises his hands to begin rehearsing as the idea of creating an incredible performance resonates in our bones. We raise our instruments to begin one of the last times we will get to perform our well-rehearsed version of a great work of art with such a group of musicians.
After four different concerts under Cliff Colnot, his rehearsal technique is unmistakable. Yes, it's exhausting -- mentally as well as physically, but he wastes no time, encourages section communication, and fixes mistakes with a word. For every bit of constructive criticism he has, he never forgets to compliment the group. All of these factors combined create an unmistakably high level of performance from even the least experienced musicians, making every second of work worth it.
So when that pep talk comes around and the silence afterward tells us all what words couldn't, we all finally have the same understanding of what our conductor wants, all because of the High School T-shirt complex. Repetition in its finest form, all for the love of music, and ultimately I'm forced to remember that bright yellow text on a blue background peppering the halls of our high school -- that "without music, life would be a mistake."
Ariel Detwiler is an active freelancer and teacher in the Twin Cities. Ariel has a DMA in Bassoon Performance with an emphasis on music education, and actively works with band directors in Minnesota and Iowa to create a positive image surrounding the bassoon.