In the past months, I using a new teaching form in my conducting lessons. Students used to take turns, standing in front of the group. But instead of that, now the group is forming a circle and each student gets a few minutes to work on the music. Below, I’m describing this work form in more detail.
In choral conducting classes, the usual way to go about is that students are conducting the choir for ten or fifteen minutes, with the instruction to study on a piece of music. The choir is formed by the other students from the classes. After the turn, the student get feedback by the professor. This way of teaching seems to be a logical choice, because this situations resembles the conductors work in real life.
However, this teaching method doesn’t really always work. Students often are quite nervous standing in front of the choir. And of course nerves inhibite learning. As a teacher, I try to create a relaxed learning atmosphere and let the students know that nerves are common in such situations. But a lot of students remain nervous. Another drawback of this kind of teaching is that the singers in the group do not really get challenged. Because the conductors are unexperienced, the speed of rehearsing is not mostly slow.
Therefore, I choose for a different way of working, in which the students get less nervous and in which all students keep an active attitive. The idea is the following. All students are sitting in a full circle. All singers get sheet music and we divide the voice groups. (In most lesson, I let the singers sit mixed.)
Together we rehearse the piece. The teacher decides what passage is being rehearsed and the choir tries to sing these notes. One by one the students get to be the conductor and work on the music for a couple of minutes. Each student may decide on the subject to work on. After a few minutes, the next student in the circle get to be the conductor. For example, suppose that a student is working in a good way, but is using too many words. The teacher might ask the student to do the same things with the choir, but talk less.
The teaching method described above, might be called Rehearsing in rotation.