Academic journal article Journal of Band Research

Attitudes of Arizona High School Band Students towards Solo and Ensemble Activities

Academic journal article Journal of Band Research

Attitudes of Arizona High School Band Students towards Solo and Ensemble Activities

Article excerpt

Solo and ensemble festivals have been a part of the music education landscape since the first school contest appeared in Emporia, Kansas in 1912 (Holz, 1960) and continued to grow throughout the rise of school band programs in the 1920's and 1930's, particularly with the help of the contest movement. As contests such as the National Solo and Ensemble Contests arose, many states began to conduct their own solo and ensemble festivals, utilizing many of the same rules found in the national contests. Since this time, researchers and educators alike have shown interest in the benefits of solo and ensemble performance. Latten (2001) states that performance in chamber music ensembles fulfills Standards 2, 3, 4, 7, and 9 of the National Standards and promotes interpersonal skills and communication while also teaching problem solving, critical thinking, and work ethic. In his book devoted to chamber music in schools, Kinney (1980) provides a strong framework for inclusion of chamber music in school curriculum, stating that such experiences develop music education values, including individual playing technique, listening skills, independence of music reading, sensitivity and self-confidence. Kaplan (1966) supports Kinney and Latten 's assertions, saying, "The presence of small units, well coached, but in some part self-reliant, is perhaps the clearest indication that a school performing music program is dynamic." (p. 54)

Solo and ensemble participation has also been shown to have an effect on how young musicians view their own performing. Self-regulation and student-controlled practice, present in solo and small ensemble performance, has also been shown to positively affect student motivation, self -concept, and goal orientation (Austin, 1988; Bailey, 2006; McAllister, 1995). Chamber ensembles may also better serve students because it affords the opportunity for individual attention and may influence the pursuit of music activities after high school (Gary, 1966; Schoenbach, 1963).

One of the unique benefits of small ensemble music is the interaction necessary between students in order to perform at a high level. Di Natale and Russell (1995) point out elements of cooperative learning principals present in chamber music participation, noting the presence of social skills such as basic interaction, communication, conflict resolution, and team building. Djordjevic (2007) found that chamber ensembles were more interactive, spreading the control of the rehearsal amongst all the students rather only the principal player, fostering listening, a greater variety of rehearsal strategies, and more evidence of problem solving by the members. Berg (1997) also found interaction between chamber music students effected their movement through Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development by asking one another to elaborate on ideas and points that were expressed. Bononi (2000) points out that chamber ensembles may be a more effective means of examining the musical skills students learn in their large group experiences.

While interaction is an important component, the independence of musical lines in solo and ensemble performing benefits individual musicians. Dackow (1981) wrote:

The performance of chamber music represents the highest degree of sophistication in ensemble playing, and makes substantial technical demands on the individual players. Too often, the only kind of playing experience the high school instrumentalist has is in a band or orchestra, whose section members play the same part. But the performance of chamber music requires the player to function as an individual, while at the same time contributing to a complex group sonority. Because all parts are readily accessible to the listener, the player must prepare to a greater degree than he or she probably would for a band or orchestra performance. When the player does perform in a large group he will more likely be conscious of intonation, will have a wider variety of tone colors and articulations at his disposal, will be more sensitive to the subtleties of ensemble playing, and will not depend excessively on the rest of the group or section, (p. …

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