Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Snare Drum in Three Dimensions. How to show students that a percussion instrument can be truly musical.

Sanderl, R (2011). The Snare Drum in Three Dimensions. How to show students that a percussion instrument can be truly musical. Teach Music, Volume 18, Number 4, p.28-33.

Summary of Work:
The article attempts to share valuable knowledge on teaching musicality to percussionists, a skill that many middle school band directors typically have difficulty translating to their students, especially beginning students. "Many percussionists begin on the snare drum, which doesn't play any "pitches" or "melodies". As result, teachers often use a different approach with alternate terminology and expectations. The fundamental aspects of music are not any different for percussionists when compared to other instrumentalists, so why do some educators chart such a different course for percussion instruction?"(27) This initial question starts a conversation about a split or divide between the education of percussionists and Woowind and Brass sections of the ensemble. Percussionists often feel alienated from the rest of the group as their parts sometimes require more time spent counting rests than actually playing. As a result, students feel less worth or value to the ensemble. Teachers and students may sometimes view percussive instruments as one dimensional. "Not only is this untrue, but it's unfair to non-pitched percussionists. I make beautiful music on these instruments that include all the elements the so-called "pitched" instruments have."(28) The article then breaks down 5 essential elements to reinforce when teaching snare drum. Melody, Accompaniment, Phrasing, Contour and Motives. The order in which these concepts are introduced models the way they should also be introduced to our students. Sanderl also included an example of an excerpt he uses to teach his students musical elements of the snare drum which he explains the lesson plan and process in detail. Approaching instruction using familiar terms and strategies that both the teacher and student understand should ultimately ease any difficulty experienced by either side. What's most important is not just creating a competent percussionist, but a competent musician."(31)

Evaluation of Methods:
The article is accurate on identifying a goal teachers should have for any instrumental students. Not only creating a competent player, but creating a well-rounded competent musician. The 5 areas Melody, Accompaniment, Phrasing, Contour and Motives are elements that band teachers should discuss in detail with percussionists. The article begins to shed light on these areas but could have gone into much more depth about how to be completely successful. However, I don't think that explaining the entire concept in depth was the authors intent or goal of the article. The lesson in the article is appropriately scaffolded for educators with little to no expertise in the area of percussion. The article addresses the "divide" that even educators feel when trying to teach the elements in their own practice and in turn makes the concepts accessible to anyone. I would have appreciated a link to a traditional curriculum program, i.e. method book that the author suggests for his students. The lesson that is shared was based on a classic beginning snare drum solo which I think works well for teaching in a one on one lesson environment, but when working in an ensemble/full group setting, I have difficulty seeing how this could be incorporated effectively. However, the concepts are what is important to teach, how it is incorporated into individual classrooms is left up to the teacher.

Relevance to my Practice:
As with many articles I have read from the "Teaching Music" publication, the article shares one expert educators thoughts and experiences with the audience and leaves us with our own questions to consider in our own teaching. "Do I all ready teach these elements to my students? How can I further develop these concepts in all of my student's playing?" These two questions are usually on my mind when I encounter any articles based on teaching specifics or fundamentals of a specific instrument. The article leaves the audience with a good sense of "where to start" in their own classrooms to turn all percussionists into competent musicians.

"Any seasoned teacher can attest to the challenge of teaching percussion. Over the years, I've observed a vast array of teaching styles and strategies, many of which are quite successful. However, one aspect of instruction that I've found to be fairly troubling is the teaching of percussion students differently from other instrumental students."

"It's possible to use the same terminology and strategies when teaching snare drum as you would with any pitched instrument. The implementation is simple and the outcomes beneficial."

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