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How to Manage a Young String Ensemble in Church - Lessons that I Learned Along the Way Pt 2
In my previous hub, I shared about my privilege of arranging music for a string ensemble. It was such a precious experience I have decided to write a hub about it to share my joys and to prevent my mistakes from being committed by someone else hopefully! This hub is a continuation of it.
LESSON THREE: DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THE USE OF TECHNOLOGY
In my case, I learned about Noteflight - an online notation software that allows you to share your music with anyone you choose. It is an amazing software, and is available free online. You can upgrade it to a more powerful version called Crescendo - but Noteflight works great for most occasions.
Noteflight allows you to hear what you have written, and it is really handy for those players who need to hear what they are supposed to play in order to play it well. I would strongly advocate this software if you have music needs. It’s like Finale or Sibelius - not as sophisticated of course, but sufficient.
LESSON FOUR: KNOW YOUR PLAYERS AND WRITE PARTS THAT THEY CAN MANAGE
One of songs that we were singing had a very epic chorus. In my imagination, I could hear soaring strings playing running notes to accompany the congregation. Happily, I wrote it down. And told my players to play it. It was the only ‘hard’ part in all of the songs we had to play, and I genuinely had thought this would be the only part they would need to practice.
The older players were mostly fine with it. Yes, they did have to practice a little, but that was fine. The younger players however, were not as able even though they tried.
I learned that the easiest things for string players to play would be
- melody lines
- sustained notes
- easy things (yes, if you can sing it easily, they could probably manage it easily)
- scales, when not played too fast
So what did we do with those who struggled with what I had wrote?
LESSON FIVE: ALWAYS BE GRACIOUS, HUMBLE, AND QUICK TO SEE THE HUMOROUS SIDE OF THINGS
Well, I honestly felt quite bad that they had really tried to play, but couldn’t keep up. But I also realized that this was really God’s string ensemble, not mine. So that gave me the assurance that however good we sounded, was really by His grace and because we were obedient in allowing Him to multiply the little that we had.
Being encouraging to the little ones really helped. I told them that I admired what they were doing cause I had not done that so young, so I honestly didn’t realize the steep learning curve they faced. I apologized about the small score, and I think their mom explained to them why I had originally written such small notes.... so there was no residual sadness or misunderstanding on anyone’s side.
And for the epic chorus that had a challenging part, I joked with them to say that they could just play the first note of each bar, play the melody, take a break during that chorus, or start to sing. Haha! Basically, I just wanted them to know that it was alright, cause God saw their heart more than anything else, and I really wanted them to experience the joy of serving God and making music for Him without feeling stressed by a particular section that they couldn’t keep up with.
LESSON SIX: BE INTENTIONAL ABOUT YOUR REHEARSALS
One amazing thing about children is that they rise up to the occasion. You might want to rehearse the transitions of the songs and tell them when to be extra alert, so they are able to react accordingly.
In fact during rehearsals, if the string ensemble is playing while people are singing, you should ideally have someone sing the song while they are playing, so that they realize that they play an accompanying role, which is different from playing exam pieces where you count in your head how fast or slow you ought to be playing.
In your rehearsals, always try to remind everyone that they are playing for God - and we want to serve in such a way that He is pleased with our musical offering. This is especially important when we are working with young ones who are serving for the first time. It is not a performance, but it is a musical offering that we are bringing to God in praise.
LESSON SEVEN: PRAY, PRAY, PRAY!
Now this is so important. Whether in known or unknown projects, we have to have a prayerful attitude. I daresay that in this case, there were particular prayer points that had me on my knees, but committing this entire project to God in prayer really helped me to stay joyful throughout.
LESSON EIGHT: KNOW THAT GOD IS IN CONTROL
Indeed, God is in control, so we just need to do our best, and commit the rest to Him. Yes we are sensitive to the needs of those we are serving with, but when we have done all we could, we can rest in His promises with the assurance that God will take care of our concerns.