Workshops are a wonderful way to meet and play with fellow recorder and early music enthusiasts and work with some of the finest recorder teachers around. The season is upon us so what better time to talk about making your workshop more successful? Here are a few suggestions from a perennial workshop participant of things we can all do to make the workshop experience worthwhile.

  • Be on time for classes. So that everyone maximizes the allotted time with your instructor, have y our recorders ready, your music stand up, and your music out a few minutes before the scheduled start time.
  • Save your practicing for the practice room. Warming up in the few minutes leading up to the scheduled start time is a joyous and welcomed cacophony. However, once class begins the time is now the instructor’s. Pay attention to the advice being given to all parts, even if it is not yours--most likely, the advice being given will apply to you as well! If you need to practice a difficult section, run the fingerings without blowing into the recorder.
  • Engage with the instructors. The instructors are why we are there and it is important to listen to what they have to say. They are imparting wisdom on technique, musicality, and how to bring out the best in our playing. Also, when they count off to start playing we need to be ready and not delay the entire class because our minds wandered off to that delicious cafeteria meal we just had.
  • Forget mistakes and move forward. We all make mistakes. In the classroom setting, the best thing to do when you make one is to let it go and keep playing and not lose your place in the music. The other students aren’t looking for a break in the action because you made a mistake. You can self-identify what went wrong and do your best to do it better the next time!
  • Count rests! OK, this is more of a playing tip than advice. But rests don’t mean rest. It is an active silence. Count your rests silently and keep your place in the music.
  • Count unobtrusively. Someone once asked Pablo Casals what was his secret to greatness. His answer: “you have to count!” As a listener it is natural to tap your foot to the beat, but as a player we should tap silently inside our shoes.
  • Are you feeling lost? Workshops are pretty informal and the participants/instructors are relaxed. If you find yourself lost in the music, stop playing and: 
  • wait until a break and restart with everyone else at the place the instructor chooses;
  • listen for other people playing your part and get back in when you are sure of the place;
  • listen for the instructor to call out a measure number.
  • How to handle when the instructor calls out a measure number. Sometimes the instructor will notice that some folks are lost and they’ll call out a measure number. In my experience they call it out on beat one of that measure. For example, she calls out “33” in a piece in 4/4.  When that happens, immediately start counting “33-2-3-4, 34-2-3-4,” etc. When you are able to find that measure, you’ll know exactly where to start playing. 
  • Mixed level classes. Most workshops offer classes for players of different levels, and it is a good idea to try to choose your classes to match your ability. However, sometimes new players are thrown into the fray with more experienced players. When this happens, keep in mind that workshops are an individual learning process, not a competition. Do your best to keep up and challenge yourself.

Most importantly, embrace the camaraderie you share with your fellow students. You have all taken time from your busy lives, paid workshop fees, and in some instances, traveled significant distances. You are now all together to improve your playing and ensemble skills, experience new music and develop new and lasting friendships. Have fun and remember that these workshop experiences are one of the great joys of playing the recorder!

David Podeschi
President, ARS Board of Directors