Teaching By Yourself

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Sometimes a teaching situation requires you to be the only percussion instructor for your group. Being the “pit tech”, “battery tech” and “Caption Head” all at once comes with some unique challenges. Obviously it is ideal for the percussion to be all together, all the time if you are the only instructor, but sometimes things like drill and music learning necessitate the groups to be seperate. This situation poses some unique questions, especially if you are dealing with a marching band rehearsal setting:

Do you work with the pit while the battery is learning drill?

During band camp, who teaches the battery how to march if you are teaching the pit?

Since the battery tends to spend more time with the winds, do you have the pit on the field when the band is learning or cleaning drill?

When I am teaching by myself, I do try to work with the pit as much as possible while the battery is learning drill. In any group where there is not a designated “pit instructor”, the front ensemble may easily fall into feeling like they are “unimportant” or “seperate” from everyone else. It is of utmost importance that they recieve just as much attention and instruction as the battery. Their playing and technique needs are just as important and their contribution is invaluable to the success of the group.

I do try and work with the battery at the beginning of the marching rehearsal to work on the “percussion specific” marching techniques. It takes some planning and organizing because you need to give the pit some specific goals and things to work and accomplish if they are going to be working by themselves. Learning a specific section of the music is usually a good thing to assign during this time.

Yes, I do have the pit on the field more during drill cleaning and even sometimes during drill learning. It can be a good thing because the pit often will need to translate drill moves and counts into their music so they will know exactly how long each phrase of music will be and where to start and stop with each phrase or “chunk”. This is especially helpful if the drill is not written specifically to the rehearsal markings of the music or if rehearsal markings do not exist. It is a good idea for the pit members (maybe just the section leader) to write down the counts, phrases, or chunks in his/her music so the pit will always know where to start and stop. There is nothing more annoying, time consuming and detrimental to the flow of a rehearsal than having to have someone yell down a “pit translation” every time a specific drill move is to be run or rehearsed. Also, the pit can work on being quiet and patient in an ensemble setting, as there is obviously a lot more waiting around for them in a drill focused rehearsal. It is sometimes good to have a rehearsal where you are focusing on these concepts for the pit because it is something they will be able to do well as the season progresses if they are going to function at a high level. In a beginning group especially, the ability to be focused, quiet and attentive is quite often the most important key to being successful.