Only a few hours ago did I conduct my very first string orchestra.  Overall, I had a lot of fun and I think the kids did, too.  Kids; haha.  I am a first year master’s student, and they are all undergraduate students of the same university.  We are the University Strings!  There is no audition requirement and I didn’t entirely know what I was getting myself into.  Tonight I chose to focus on getting everyone connected and getting an idea of how everyone played.  Here is a list of what worked, and what didn’t.

Because I am focusing on positive thinking, I will begin with the things that worked.

  1. Business casual attire for myself.  I felt I looked like I had authority without being overbearing or completely in another world.  After all, I’m a student, too.  I didn’t wear makeup and I put my hair back in a low ponytail.  I did wear my glasses and earrings that I wear daily that I feel make me look more put together anyway, when I choose not to wear make up or really do my hair.
  2. Easing into class.  We didn’t tune and play until everyone had been introduced and I went over my thoughts and expectations for the class.  I made sure to keep the humor light and my personality present so that there was an air of comfort in the room.  No one likes to play in front of others when they’ve never met, especially when they aren’t confident about their playing; let along TUNE in front of them!
  3. Reading pieces [most] everyone was familiar with: Eine kleine Nachtmusik by our string-friend, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and two arrangements of pop tunes, Kiss the Girl and Don’t Stop Believing.  We were only able to read the first half of the first movement of Eine, but we did manage to make it through the other two.  I will assess their level based on these results and go from there.
  4. Gathering info on a card during class.  I wanted to know things like, what’s the hardest piece you’ve played either solo or in orchestra; what is the highest position you feel comfortable playing in; which orchestras have you played in?  This way students didn’t have to feel embarrassed about sharing their performance experience in front of new people.

And now for the things that didn’t work:

  1. My shoes.  They were flats, but tore apart my heels.  I walked home in socks.
  2. I talked too long in the beginning.  About the first 30 minutes of class was just talking.  I think next time I’ll time it and shoot for 15 minutes so we get to more tuning and playing.
  3. I forgot to ask everyone to put their own chair and stand away.
  4. I didn’t confirm the room, and set up the wrong room!  Thankfully it was just across the hall and the kids were all waiting outside the other room.  Next time…

Overall I am proud of the first day.  I wanted everyone to feel comfortable, check.  I wanted to get a sense of how everyone played, check.  I wanted to learn how I could best serve them and create a space for fun and learning, check.

The vibe created itself and that’s what I’m most satisfied with.  I let the students talk and I created a rapport by being my dorky self while still expecting them to follow my lead.  I look forward to a great semester with this group and I’ll continue my reflections here.


Until next time,