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Dr. Alyn J. Heim is a past president of the MENC Eastern Division and a frequent presenter at state, division, and national conferences. His innovative “Singing Band, Orchestra, Chorus” approach was developed during his many years as a high school music teacher, and his Drum Class Method, published by Warner/Belwin, has become a “classic” for beginning percussion. His education includes a Bachelor of Science in Music from Juilliard, a Master of Arts in Music Education from Columbia Teachers College, and an Ed. D. in Music Education from New York University. Dr. Heim was an adjunct assistant professor at Columbia Teacher College where he served as co-director of the Artists in the Schools Program. He is currently the National Director of Ovation Music Festivals. Before beginning his teaching career, Heim was a member of the Houston Symphony Orchestra, and continued to perform with the New Jersey Symphony and others orchestras during his career.
Recent Conference Presentations
MENC National In-Service Conference, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1994
OMEA Conference, Columbus, Ohio, 1995
TMEA Clinic/Convention, San Antonio, Texas, 1995
MENC Eastern Division Conference, Rochester, New York, 1995
Mid-West International Band & Orchestra Clinic, Chicago, Illinois, 1995
Atlanta International Band & Orchestra Conference, Atlanta, Georgia, 1996
MENC National In-Service Conference, Kansas City, Missouri, 1996
MENC North Central Division Conference, Peoria, Illinois, 1997
MENC Eastern Division Conference, New York City, New York, 1999
ISME (International Society for Music Education) Alberta, Canada 2000
NOTE: At the recent MENC In-Service Conference these “Tune-Up” materials were included on a recommended bibliography for use in teaching to the National Standards.
Material Presented by Dr.Alyn J. Heim
International Society for Music Education (ISME)
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada July 17-22, 2000
The “Singing” Band/Orchestra: Tuning/rehearsal techniques to develop understanding through performance. Strategies include playing and
singing graphic solfege patterns to encourage a Listening
rather than a Mechanical response to notation.
Solfege has been, and continues to be, a mainstay of elementary classroom music education throughout the world. Historically, solfege also played an important role for instrumental instruction. At the present time, however, instrumental teachers do not take full advantage of the solfege skills that were learned at the elementary level. This workshop, “The Singing Band/Orchestra” presents an approach that enables instrumental directors to make use of this valuable tool to improve tuning, blend and musicianship in the small and large group instrumental ensemble at all grade levels.
We face three challenges in tuning the ensemble. Attention is the first. We know that a musical person will play or sing in tune with others - if - they are listening to others. For example, it is difficult and almost impossible to sing a musical phrase a quarter- tone out of tune with others. Yet a student with an out of tune instrument can do this with ease! Which leads to the second challenge: The instrument itself, which can be played mechanically without being aware of accurate pitch. The third challenge is Reading Notation which can be accomplished as a mind game related to decoding notation and responding on the instrument without carefully hearing the music.
Three learning modes are needed to develop a Listening rather than a Mechanical response. The Eyes - by using graphic notation to present a visual image of sound... The Ears - by temporarily eliminating the distraction of notation to focus on listening...The Mind - by using solfege, a language the brain uses to process and store pitch information.
The goals of this approach for instrumental music are: (1) To link instrumental and vocal performance with solfege singing, (2) To expand student’s awareness of the “other parts” in the musical score, (3) To use transposition as a tool for creative improvisation, and (4) to develop musical understanding through graphic visual patterns. The following examples outline the material covered in the workshop.
We tune three ways. The first is matching pitch in unison. With one memorized scale students play and sing many patterns that help them to explore the scale by ear while listening to each other. The students “read” from graphic patterns, not from printed notation. This helps to focus on listening. As they play and sing the patterns, they see and hear voices move.
The second way we tune is melodically by developing a sense of relative pitch which is the result of hearing each note in relation to it’s position in the tonality of the scale. Graphic melodic phrases with solfege syllables develop this skill as students SEE and HEAR the patterns supporting Kodaly’s theory of seeing with the ears and hearing with the eyes. By seeing and hearing these solfege graphs, the players/singers relate sound to melodic contour, helping them to recognize scale steps and skips in a melodic setting. Through the directors demonstrations, these are performed expressively and musically with Crescendo, decrescendo, and melodic contour applied to all examples.
Harmonically is the third way we tune by hearing pitches in relation to other notes in a chord. When students play and sing the harmonic graphic patterns they gain a sense of voice leading and common tone chord connection and they begin to realize how their single line relates to the whole. The visual graphics impact through the eyes as they “hear” a picture of the sound.
Solo/Accompaniment balance is introduced and reinforced by highlighting a solo voice in these harmonic examples. This carries over into rehearsals as the director strives to clarify certain lines in a composition
Dissonance is approached through the concept of tension and resolution. Graphic patterns illustrate why dissonant sounds have an “edge” that lead to a resolution. By ”seeing” the placement of the dissonance and the resolution, the students are better able to accept and understand the concept of tension and repose.
Sequential Scale Patterns improve music reading through pattern recognition. By seeing the essence of a pattern in a graph, the understanding can be applied to recognizing the patterns in music notation. Dissonance is also stressed in these patterns as one part moves through as a passing tone to resolve on a consonant.
Triad Construction on each step of the scale is excellent practice for balance and blend. This effectively transfers to rehearsals for tuning and balance of chords.
Conclusion: It is important to return to the practice of linking solfege singing to instrumental instruction.