Okay, you have finished the Piece. You’ve Made a Professional Looking Score. You’ve made parts and they are printed. You’ve gotten the okay to have your piece performed. And then, you realize that you don’t have any players. And that you’ve got to put a group together to have your performance.
You are now in the process of transitioning from Composer Person to Personnel Manager Person. This person is very important to your career as a composer. And there are many nuances that come from doing this, so I wanted to make a video about the process of having a successful rehearsal of your music.
Are you putting the Performers Together? If it is something like a wind ensemble reading with the school band, then you don’t have to worry about this.
But if you are putting a chamber group together, then yeah, this can be a tough problem. Especially if you only know composer people.
So, you will need to reach out to your network. What is your network? This is the collection of people that you know that are directly related to your profession and the industry at large. Performers, teachers, conductors, composers, fellow students. If you write music for film, then you would include directors, filmmakers, sound designers. If you write music for games, then game designers. People you know who need music, like dancers or business owners if you do ads.
If you are student, this will mostly be people in your classes.
Your network is extremely valuable, it is essential to your career and your journey as a human being. Because you will see how important it is to be visible in your community. WORD OF MOUTH is everything.
So, if you need to put together a brass quintet, and you don’t know anyone, ask the people in your class who play brass instruments.
Remember, instrumentalists play in ensembles with other members of their instrumental family. Brasses in quintet, woodwinds, in quintet, strings in quartet etc.
This is also why it is SO VALUABLE to be in those ensembles if you play or sing. You will meet people!
Now, before you go off getting a bunch of people together, there is some information you need to have ready.
The Concert Date, Day, Time and Location.
The Rehearsal Commitment
You will want a lot, but this may not be realistic. I aim to have one solid rehearsal, a dress rehearsal and then concert
If you are putting a Large group of people together 6 or more, you will want to schedule the rehearsals and book the room.
You can do a Scheduling Poll for smaller groups
The Incentive for the Players
Can you pay? Probably not
But can you bring FOOD? A pizza goes a long way in helping people make it to rehearsal. (Pizza, or donuts, check dietary restrictions)
So as you tap into your network, try to have an in person meeting if possible. Run into them on campus or after class, or during ensemble warm up. That is ALWAYS the best. But, sometimes you have to send them an email or Social Media Message.
I’ve got a template here that you can use, you just need to add the proper information for them. (Even if you meet people in person, you need to send emails with ALL of the Details
I hope you are well. My name is NAME, I’m a composer and fellow student at SCHOOL.
I am looking for an INSTRUMENTALIST and you were recommended to me by FRIEND.
I am having a CONCERT at TIME, DAY, DATE at LOCATION.
I am looking for REHEARSAL COMMITMENT
PASTE WHOLE SCHEDULE
(INCLUDE REHEARSAL SCHEDULE IF LARGER ENSEMBLE)
This is a volunteer opportunity but I will be providing INCENTIVE.
I have attached the score and your part, as well as a midi rendition.
Please let me know if you are interested and available, I would love to work with you!
Thank you so much,
When people say no, you need to be gracious about it. Just because they can’t do it this time doesn’t mean that you won’t work them in the future. Thank them for letting you know and ask them if they have any recommendations for other players of their instrument.
Whatever you do, do not Ghost people. A simple thank you for letting me know is professional.
When you have your group, you may need to figure out the rehearsal schedule if you haven’t already. Things like a Doodle Poll, or Google Form, or When is Good are free easy ways to accomplish this. I also recommend asking them for their Cell phone number and or a personal email, just in case you need to reach them quickly. You want email to be the primary, but sometimes emergencies happen.
You will send a reminder email the day of the rehearsal and a week before if possible. The schedule is included in every email you send to them.
Now, you’ve got a ROSTER and you have the Rehearsal, you will need to switch gears again to a different person, depending on the context.
IF YOU HAVE A CONDUCTOR
If you have someone conductor your piece, great, that makes your life easier. You just need to be THE COMPOSER. You need to be there with a score, following along in the process. You need to be quiet unless called upon. You need to be patient, because people are going to play things wrong the first time and they are going to have questions for you. You want to be positive and gracious.
If you notice something going wrong and they players are not noticing it, wait for a moment to bring it up. But when you do, you want to be a POSSIBILITY based person, not a PROBLEM based person.
PROBLEM people only focus on the bad. They don’t point out how to make it better and are usually too direct. They are not curious, they are judgmental.
POSSIBILITY people only focus on what the music COULD BE. They ask questions about how to make it better and focus on the group dynamic, instead of individual critique. They are not judgmental, they are curious.
Hey, this section was a mess and we need to do it again. Trombone, I think you were dragging us behind there.
Could we try this section again? Maybe we could go slower to lock in the groove?
They are both acknowledging the same problem. But one is easier to work with. Just think about how your talk to people. You can always defer to the Conductor.
IF NO CONDUCTOR
If you are doing a chamber piece that doesn’t require a conductor, you will need to be THE COACH. The coach has a more involved role than the COMPOSER. You will need to be there to help move the rehearsal along. Depending on the group, you will need to do more or less. In established ensembles, there is an implied hierarchy. For example, 1st trumpet in brass quintet is the default leader. 1st Violin in string quartet, the flute in woodwind quintet, etc. Obviously, not every group functions that way exactly, but there is usually default leaders unless someone steps up to the plate.
As the coach, you are there to observe balance and clarity and offer solutions. If is imperative that you speak to them with respect and possibility. You need your score there and you need to be able to help out. Ideally, they work it out themselves, but some groups will need a helping hand. As long as you are respectful and asking questions of possibility, you will be okay.
IF YOU ARE THE CONDUCTOR
The last option is if you are the one who is going to be conducting, then you need to be THE CONDUCTOR. I strongly encourage every composer to take an instrumental conducting course or a choral conducting course if possible before doing this. The reason I say this is because if you are inexperienced, you may be hurting more than helping.
If you decide to go this route and you’ve never done it before, here are my recommendations:
Practice with a Metronome: You may “know” the piece. But “being” the piece is different than just knowing it. Conductors have to embody the work they are conducting and it takes practice. Use a metronome. If you are in mixed meter, keep the metronome on if possible.
Write in your score description for how you want the texture to sound or feel. “Hey can this be warmer?”
Be a TIMECOP: This means focusing completely on keeping time and a clear beat. You will feel the turbulence of tempo. Don’t drag for them if they slow down, your job is to keep the time. Have them adjust to you.
If you have time, practice giving CUES. 1 2 3 PREP CUE
BE aware of conductor’s deafness/blindness. Because of this, it may be wise to have a friend come and be extra set of ears.
Record Yourself conducting.
Good luck! Be your self. Speak with possibility, don’t get judgmental, get curious. And listen to the players, they will have solutions that you won’t.
Before the Rehearsal, arrive early, set up the room. Bring your score, an extra score and copies of all of the parts. Bring the Incentive. Set up your Phone on to Record. Put it on Airplane Mode to have the whole rehearsal. If you are conducting or having a conductor, use your phone as a conductor cam. You may want to wait until everyone arrives.
At the beginning of the rehearsal, give clear goals. I want to read the piece down and then rehearse it. Do not waste time with ICEBREAKERS or explaining where the piece came from and why you wrote it. It’s not that those aren’t important, but valuing your performer’s time is the most important thing you can do. It isn’t about you, treat it like a business, with respect and professionalism.
The worst I’ve seen is a conductor spend 15 minutes of a rehearsal learning everyone’s name and whether they liked Game of Thrones instead of rehearsing. At an 8am rehearsal. On a Saturday. That was volunteer. Don’t do that.
When you are finished with the rehearsal, Thank everyone, make sure they get the incentive.
Don’t forget to set the room back the way it was.
You will send a Thank you email the next day.
Every email that you send to them should have the whole schedule included at the bottom.
I would also recommend writing down sections to revisit in the dress rehearsal while it is still fresh in your mind.
And that is that! Thank you so much for watching. I’m curious, what did you do to have a successful rehearsal? And what are your horro stories? Leave a comment, I read every single one. Cheers