That was the first question Cory Meals, a doctoral student in Music Education and an assistant director of both the symphonic band and Husky Marching Band, asked us in chapter. Since the Gamma Chapter has been working to develop a definition of musicianship this year, Cory was invited to give us his take on the subject as part of a post-membership-education lesson. Right off the bat, Cory emphasized that he wanted to teach us something beyond the standard spiel of what makes a good musician, because a definition is no good if you don’t know how to achieve it. Cory broke down his talk into 3 themes: preparation, intention, and communication.
One of his points that resonated with me is that effective communication about the music shouldn’t stop when the bell rings for the end of class. In many of our classes we close our books when the hour is up and forget to look at them again until the night before that big project is due, but in band we are charged with more than that. We don’t stop thinking about the music when band ends, so that means that we shouldn’t stop talking about it either. Cory brought up how it can be difficult to talk to your fellow musicians during a rehearsal, so it is important to remember what you need to work on for later, and that talking about spots that need to be worked on can save weeks of frustration by getting everyone on the same page. If you think something sounds wrong, or you have an idea to make it better, start a dialogue with the group to address it.
Something that Cory seemed to repeat over and over that caught my attention was that UW bands were very different from bands anywhere else he had taught. When I asked him why, Cory said that he thought it was because so few of the members of each band were music majors. His classes were instead filled with scientists, engineers, writers, and anthropologists. At a nationally ranked research university like UW, the spirit of discovery and innovation permeates everything we do, but I hadn’t spent much time thinking about how we brought that same spirit to our music program, other than when skimming the wide range of majors attached to names in concert programs. In each discipline we approach and answer questions in different ways, and that means we each bring different viewpoints to the rehearsal room as musicians, and our overall musical expression is richer for it.
Thank you Cory for sharing your ideas with us!