By Fran Kick

Are your students better today than they were yesterday? Do they know if they’re getting better each day? Are you better today than you were yesterday? Do you know if you’re getting better each day?

For both you and your students, improving “what you do and how you do it” each day is the real competition! It has very little to do with what the adjudicators may say, the scores may show, or an audience appreciates. The real competition ultimately is improving your self.

So what can you do to make sure you and your students are learning week to week? Well, here are a few things you can try:

Encourage students to use one of those inexpensive audio recorders

Have them record themselves individually in two different settings: in rehearsal with the full ensemble and at home practicing individually. (Simply set it on the stand and hit the record button). They can give it a listen and follow along in their music with a pencil in hand. Have them put a small check mark next to the sections they need to work on and have them work on it! 

At the end of your practice session, re-record yourself playing the same sections you check marked

 If they’re better, erase the check mark. If not, you still know what to work on next time you practice. Color guard can even use a similar approach via video. Ask someone you know to video tape you (kind of close up) during your next run through at practice. Use the tape to review what you know and what you don’t. 

Have someone else listen to and/or watch your performance on tape

Give them your part and let them follow along and make the check marks. You might find some other areas you thought were okay, but in truth still need some work.

Developing self-assessment skills will enable you to improve what you do and how you do it. Learning week to week and improving yourself, now that’s the real competition.