With summer approaching, you might find yourself looking for something fun to add to your schedule. I would like the make the case for you to consider joining your local community band, choir, and/or orchestra. I’ve been a part of 4 very different community bands and 1 community choir. Here are 10 benefits of joining a community ensemble from a music teacher’s perspective.
It’s a place where you can completely forget about what’s been stressing you out. During one particularly stressful week, I found myself counting down the hours until band. Once there, I could forget about my problems and make music for a solid 2 hours. Even when I have to drag myself to rehearsal, I don’t regret coming once I’m there.
I’ve been a part of bands that perform once a month, and in bands that only give winter and spring concerts. If you have the time, I’d advocate for a group that performs more often. It provides more ways to give back to your community and visit new places. Community ensemble venues include parks, festivals, schools, universities, hospitals, nursing homes, charity events, and more.
Have you been wanting to learn how to play a new instrument? Your local community band may be in need of a bass clarinetist or tubist. It’s also a great venue to sharpen your skills on a secondary instrument. If you’re an instrumentalist who has found herself teaching choir, joining a community choir is an amazing way to learn how to direct a choir. One year of singing with a community choir will give you a hundred ideas to use in the classroom.
Community bands also provide a low-pressure environment for practicing some extended techniques. Try developing your circular breathing, double/triple tonguing, or singing with another section. As a saxophonist, sometimes I like to throw in a few altissimo notes if I can get away with it. 😉
There will always be other music teachers in community ensembles, so it’s a great way to network. You’ll have time to get to know other band members if there is a reception, picnic, or potluck after a performance. Members of a band have connected me to private students, and I’ve connected others as well. I’ve even helped a friend land a full-time job through a job announcement at rehearsal.
Chances are that your conductor has connections to other influential conductors and musicians. It’s always great to be exposed to another talented composer or conductor’s style. They also bring their fun analogies to describe how the music should be played.
I am lucky in that my current community band is always on the look-out for new music. We love crowd-pleasures, like “My Shot” from Hamilton, as well as new music, such as Steven Bryant’s, Miniature Suites.
Even if you are the best singer/player in your section, your skills will improve. If the player next to you is hammer-tonguing every accent (as annoying as that may be) you’ll become more aware of your own articulation style. If the person next to you is able to perform a long phrase with one breath, you’ll strive to do the same. A community ensemble is also a great place to recommend to students taking private lessons. Some schools don’t have bands, orchestras, or choirs, this is where a community ensemble can really fill a need.
There are community bands that play at a high level of musicianship. I’ve subbed for bands like this and had a great time. After moving to North Carolina, I joined a band that welcomes players of all levels. The band is huge and has over 100 players! The group started 30 years ago with about 7 members. One reason the band is so large is that our director has an enormous heart to match. He sets the tone for kindness, ownership, respect, humility, humor, and an appetite for new ideas. He has turned the band into a space where you check your ego at the door. We learn from and support the other members of the band. Sometimes we play for communities for the differently-abled. Our director has no problem turning over the baton to an eager audience member during a march. He uses music to bring JOY to the lives of the players as well as the audience and it’s very inspiring.
Most, if not all, of the folks in your local band or choir, are there because a music teacher helped get them there. This is powerful. You can see firsthand the how music education touches people across generations, for generations. The age range of my current band is about 13 – 88 years old. It is inspiring to watch an old-timer teach a high school student a few tricks of the trade. In return, it’s a blessing to see the enthusiasm from younger players and to watch them grow as musicians.