Preparing for College Juries

Jeff Coffin

At the end of each semester or year, college music majors are likely required to perform “juries.” In juries, students typically perform in front of a weary-looking panel of teachers, some of whom they know well and some they do not. Juries usually have a bearing on their final grade and can be intimidating.

I’m not a big fan of these types of situations. I feel that too much pressure is put on students who are practicing art. That said, I still have to prepare my students to perform at their highest level.

Archive Materials

Getting ready takes clarity on both our parts. I use Google Drive to archive their lesson information, so they can see what we have worked on and what is upcoming. This way, there is no confusion about what their lessons were or are. I also provide links to various solos, transcriptions, listening examples, and other material they are working on.

On each piece, tempo markings, keys, tunes, transcriptions, and various patterns are all carefully noted.

Record Practice

A great way to gauge progress is to record what you are working on. I use audio and video at lessons and encourage the students to record themselves twice a week and more often as juries approach. This process aids self-evaluation. It also helps students become better listeners.

I like to remind my students that there are 168 hours in a week, and with an hour lesson, they are on their own for 167 hours, so they need to learn how to teach themselves.

Repeat and Repeat

Repetitive run-throughs are necessary the week of juries, and I tell students to work on the pieces at tempos faster than what they will be expected to play, so their comfort level will be higher when they come back to the assigned tempos.

My goal is to give students the greatest opportunity to succeed but also the greatest opportunity to progress musically, artistically, and as human beings who are deep in their own process of learning how to learn.

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