One of the first things we did after we won the Region 19 Quartet Championship is pull out the calendars and we set up our coaching schedule! We knew that we were going to want and need some really strong coaching in order to put our best effort on the stage in Houston.
Some quartets like to stick with one coach, others like to work with a wide variety of coaches who bring different approaches and different strengths. We tend to take a middle of the road approach. We work with two coaches who are in our local area, and then we also take advantage of out-of-town coaches who come into the area if we can work it out.
This summer, we had the great pleasure of working with Jean Barford, Betty Clipman, and Ruth Ann Parker, all of whom are legendary quartet coaches in the Sweet Adelines world and came in from across the country to work with SAI singers in the Baltimore area. We had Jean in June, and Betty and Ruth Ann in August. So that left us May, July and September to schedule our local coaches, Leslie Wodday and Michael Gellert. We also took advantage of our Region 19 educational opportunity, FLASH, and received coaching at that event. All told, we had eight different coaching sessions from six different coaches during the last five months.
Excessive? Some quartets would say so, but we say no!
We have learned something unique and something valuable from each of these people. And at the same time, they all have reinforced each others teachings so that each of our sessions builds on the others, and makes up a strong educational basis for us. Because SAI has such clearly defined judging criteria, the coaches are all able to work within the framework of those criteria to point out certain aspects and concentrate on certain areas of the musical performance without contradicting each other and without confusing us. (this last bit is very important!!!!)
After each of these coaching sessions, it’s then our job to take what they have taught us and put it into our regular performances in a consistent manner. We typically make digital voice recordings of the coaching sessions, and then individually play them back multiple times to make sure we have caught all the instruction, and to make sure that we remember the information as we continue to prepare our music. And we hold each other accountable for performing as instructed. Often during rehearsal, one of us will say something like, “Remember at this spot Jean wanted us to sing this phrase with more of a ballad feel,” or “Is this the place where Betty asked for more focused sound?”etc. We’re still learning this barbershop craft, that’s for sure. We’ve worked out a pretty good habit of doing our homework after coaching, remembering it from week to week, and incorporating the lessons into our new, better “normal.”
We imagine that all of the other quartets who will cross the stage at the International contest in Houston have had similar experiences this summer, with calendars full of coaching sessions and rehearsals that reinforce those coaching lessons. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again – this hobby has a WONDERFUL focus on education and growth that just can’t be matched in anything else we’ve seen. We are having a blast!
(Hey Leslie, we need to get a photo taken with you!!!!)