Once the Middle School campers were finished with their individual master classes, it was time for the Dolan Band to come back together to practice what they have been learning under the baton and leadership of Stacey Dolan. Dolan has experience teaching students of all age levels, from middle school to graduate level music courses. She has been awarded the Barbara Buehlman Young Conductor Award as well as the Chicagoland Outstanding Music Educator Award, so it is easy to say these young kids are experiencing some of the best we have to offer here at the Music for All Summer Symposium.

It is important to teach middle schoolers like middle schoolers, and not like professionals. Some of these students have only been playing for a few years; that is why during their time together, Dolan made sure to break apart all the music they were playing and warm the students up as a group. The first warm up she had them do were breathing exercises as well as tuning together. As they started to play together, the music was broken down into smaller sections when they played. Practice makes perfect. Dolan made it clear to the students that the music they’re playing isn’t going to be the best it can be now, but they will get better by the end of the week.

As the students continued to learn the notes and rhythm, Dolan reminded them that tempo is also an important aspect of any performance. She then asked the band to see if they knew whose job it was to keep the right tempo. The most common answers included student’s yelling out “the percussion,” while others simply pointed back at Dolan herself. Even though Dolan has been teaching undergraduate and graduate students how to conduct for years and has a good amount of experience with keeping time, she reminded the students that it is up to each of them to keep the tempo themselves so the band can play together as a whole.

As the rehearsal was drawing to a close, she reminded the middle schoolers that “a good band starts together, and a great band releases together.” One student even asked her if she was saying they were a great band. “Not yet,” she said, but with all things, becoming good takes time, practice, and dedication.