Written by Wayne I. Coil, Director of Middle School Bands
Preparation for a chamber music concert involving students in grades 6th-12th is a challenging and daunting task. It involves the careful evaluation of each student's ability in their particular instrument and the selection of the proper technical and musical literature to spark each performer's interest in the work to be rehearsed and eventually performed. The final goal outcome is to make sure each student comes out of this experience a much richer individual and growing musician.
The Chamber music is music composed for small groups of instrumentalists. The term originally referred to music composed for a small room, or chamber, rather than music written for the theater or church. Composers did not write chamber music for just any home, they were composing to make a living, so chamber music was written to be performed as light entertainment in homes of the nobility. Because the rooms were usually small, chamber music most often permits no more than one player to a part, usually without a conductor.
One of the great features of much chamber music is that all of the instrumental parts are of equal importance. Although the same applies as playing in a band, during the chamber music experience each musician is more exposed in this setting. We include chamber music in our curriculum because it requires each player to have an added responsibility for his or her own independent part. Members of a chamber music group learn quickly that a small ensemble is only as good as its weakest player, so the overwhelming majority of students take seriously their responsibility to the group. This careful preparation helps to increase individual technical skills as well as allowing for individual expression within the group. Many players find preparation of solos and ensembles to be the most rewarding part of their participation in our program. The skills developed through chamber music enhance the ability and expression of our bands as a whole.
The music performed in the Viking Brass concert on December 11th comes from various sources. There are examples of older chamber music from the Italian Renaissance; transcriptions of Handel, Haydn and Mozart; arrangements of music from the opera and Broadway stage; and music of America.
When they are grown and on their own, students will find that many of their opportunities to continue to play will be as members of small ensembles or “combos” in outlets such as church music, music for weddings, and as entertainment for small parties. We want to encourage everyone to continue to perform music the rest of their lives, not just to the end of the high school experience.
The faculty of Valparaiso Bands is committed in exploring new ways to enhance the musical education enrichment of our students.