I spent this evening smiling, laughing, and listening to amazing stories and jokes by other musicians and music teachers. I love to laugh with musicians more than almost anything! I mean, playing with them is really fun too, but especially to laugh. It is just the best! And it is one of my teaching techniques which works remarkably well. They say that when you laugh, you actually learn more and are motivated to come back for more knowledge. So, let’s talk about incorporating humor into your rehearsal
Stories – One of my favorite ways to incorporate humor into my rehearsals is to tell funny stories. And you may be thinking that you don’t have many funny stories. Well, to be a truly great story teller, you have to have a bit of exaggeration.
So, say that we are working on the William Tell Overture (any arrangement) and we are specifically working on the ricochet bowings. I might relate this to a story about my crazy cat Iggy. And while I will not go into the whole entire story, it would involve the following:
me running/bouncing/whatever it is that cats do that looks exactly like a ricochet bowing in the same way that my cat does when he is chasing some minuscule insect that I can’t even see!
the conclusion in which he runs into the wall
my students attempting to mimic this saAme motion with their bows
Feel free to poke a bit of fun at yourself, at your students (but be nice!), and at the music. The kids will get a kick out of this and will look forward to coming back to your class for more. When I was in jazz band, our director would tell the cheesiest jokes EVER! We looked forward to going to his class so much. “Oh no! What is he going to come up with next?!?!”
Be Silly – Allow yourself to be silly while you’re up on the podium. I know, I know, we are supposed to be professional, but we are working with students here. So, let them enjoy the music as well as the talking about the music. Don’t be afraid to sing for them (even if you’re not so good), try funny accent day (HUGE HIT with Middle Schoolers!), try making up crazy lyrics to those tricky rhythms. Ooh, or even better yet, make up lyrics about your own students! They get a kick out of that!!!
Genuine Musical Humor – I wish I could put this into words in a better way, but you may know exactly what I mean when there are just funny things that happen during a rehearsal. Sometimes I will find myself cracking up over some weird rhythm or harmony. Oh, or the looks we give one another during various ritardandos. It’s so much fun as a conductor, to hold the fermata FOREVER during rehearsal and to start doing weird things like moving in circles and jumping up in down (NOT IN CONCERT) while holding the fermata. My students kind of love these weird little things.
Basically, encourage your students to have fun with music and with your class. When I surveyed my students, the vast majority said that their favorite thing about my class was my crazy stories. And I actually don’t tell them all that often, but students remember them. This brings them back day after day for another taste of our favorite thing in the world: music!
Now go forth and LAUGH!!!